[Update] Rumor: New Details On More Powerful PlayStation 4 Emerge

by Brian Shea on Apr 19, 2016 at 03:34 AM

UpdateFollowing last night's report from Giant Bomb, another site has stepped up to say it has seen the alleged spec sheet. This comes along with documentation related to devkit and certification timing related to the upgraded "Neo" spec.

Eurogamer says it was waiting on a second source (which it still has not received) related to the spec sheet. The site also says that first-stage devkits are rolling out to developers right now, with second-gen test kits in June. Notably, Eurogamer says that code submissions for Neo spec software will be accepted beginning in August.

If accurate, this points to an upgraded console release this fall alongside PlayStation VR. If true, this leaves us to wonder how the marketing strategy will account for two big ticket items in the same holiday period.

If Giant Bomb's report is accurate, Sony is requiring developers to code for both specs (a "base" and "Neo" mode for each game). This has direct impact on development costs.

We've reached out to Sony for comment on all of this. We don't expect the company will comment, but we'll update should we receive a response.

Original Story (April 18, 2016 @ 10:12 p.m. Central):

For the past month, reports have surfaced that Sony is planning to release an upgraded version of its PlayStation 4 console. The reports have stated that players can expect improved performance and graphics, even pointing toward achieving 4K resolutions – a feat to this point reserved for the most high-end PCs. Giant Bomb is now reporting the most specific details on this rumor yet, including a return to the notion that the system will support 4K resolution.

According to Giant Bomb, the new model of the PlayStation 4 is allegedly codenamed "NEO." If true, NEO would improve on the launch PlayStation 4's performance by including a better CPU and GPU, while increasing memory. According to the site, NEO will bump the CPU's GHz from 1.6 to 2.1, while the GPU is set to jump from an AMD GCN with 18 CUs at 800 MHz to an improved AMD GCN with 36 CUs at 911 MHz. On top of that, the memory in the system will reportedly leap from an 8 GB GDDR5 at 176 GB/s to an 8 GB GDDR5 at 218 GB/s. These bumps will reportedly help stabilize frame rate and improve resolution.

Once again, the notion of the suspected PS4 upgrade supporting 4K output surfaces through this article, but the report states that games will not be required to support 4K resolution. In addition, the document Giant Bomb says to have acquired reportedly featured tips to developers from Sony on how to upscale games to reach 4K. 

Giant Bomb's source indicates that Sony is intent on not splitting its PS4 user-base, with a rule reportedly going into effect in October that requires all developers to include a "base mode" and a "NEO mode" to account for the variable performance levels at players' disposal, though that is not necessarily the launch window since the documents also allegedly tell developers they can implement NEO mode before the NEO launches. In the report, it's stated that developers will not be allowed to create games that only run on NEO, nor will they be allowed to add NEO-exclusive modes or gameplay features. In addition, PlayStation 4 and NEO players will reportedly have access to the same online environments and the same PlayStation Store.

While this new report is the most in-depth we've seen to this point, it's important to take these rumors with a grain of salt. Sony is in the lead this generation and banking on a more expensive console could prove to be an unnecessary risk from a business perspective, particularly when looking at a potentially close launch window to that of the PlayStation VR headset. This report in particular does not settle on a price outside of citing previous reports that claimed it would be the same price as the current PS4 model, but it's difficult to imagine an affordable 4K solution in the living room. As stated earlier (and as our own Jeff Cork pointed out), 4K resolution is only obtained by high-end PCs, which cost significantly more than any console on the market today.  

[Source: Giant Bomb]


Our Take 
While it seems an extremely safe bet that Sony is working on a PlayStation 4 hardware refresh, there are still aspects of this recurring rumor that remain extremely confusing. First, Sony is in the lead this generation. There is no overwhelming need to woo users that have strayed with drastically improved hardware.

A refresh that offers significantly different specifications than the "core" model would create confusion at retail. It would also breed hesitation about PlayStation VR. Why purchase a peripheral that's more expensive than the console you own only to find out it you aren't getting the best experience? Why put consumers in the position to choose between PSVR and a better PlayStation 4?

And, as mentioned above, price is an issue. Sony doesn't have a strong history with expensive hardware. Getting even upscaled 4K running with comparable frame rates seems like it would strain gamers' wallets. 

We still believe Sony (and Microsoft for that matter) are likely to release intermediate hardware before the next generation (as both have done before). If it pans out as Giant Bomb and others have reported, it would be truly baffling, though.