Sony PS4 (Slim) review

PlayStation 4 sheds some weight – and some notes off its price tag

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Our Verdict

An excellent console with a great catalogue of AAA games, the slimmer, smaller PS4 is better in almost every way compared to the original, barring one notable exception.

For

  • Great games
  • Good value
  • Improved power efficiency
  • PS Plus still a great deal
  • DualShock 4 better than ever

Against

  • Optical audio removed
  • No 4K Blu-ray player

Sony's 4K-equipped monster, the PS4 Pro , has established itself as the first Ultra HD console on the market, but if you're not ready to upgrade to a new television just yet then the original PS4 is still an excellent machine, especially now that it's been shrunk down into a new slimline form factor. 

It's meant as the budget option, so there are a couple of compromises. You naturally won't get any form of 4K output, and you'll have to do without an optical audio output. 

But if you're willing to put up with these limitations you'll find the PS4 slim to be an exceptionally capable machine. 

After all it's smaller, it runs quieter, it's more power efficient and – if you live in Europe or Asia – it's available in Glacier White, but is it worth upgrading to? Moreover, if you're looking to buy the console for the first time, is this the one to go for? 

It'd be an easier decision if Microsoft's Xbox One S hadn't significantly raised the bar by packing a 4K Blu-ray player into the Xbox One, as well as adding 4K upscaling and HDR functionality to its games. 

Meanwhile, further complicating the decision, the 4K PS4 Pro has just launched, bringing improved performance to the PS4 ecosystem. The slim PS4, meanwhile,  works more or less identically to the existing console.

The slim retails at £259 / $299 / AU$599.99 for the 500GB model, with a 1TB model expected further along down the line.

The PS4 Slim might have entered the fray as Sony's budget PlayStation offering, but that doesn't mean it's scrimping on its specs. In all key areas it matches the original PlayStation 4 console, and at many points outperforms it too.

It's also a far smaller console, shrinking the machine down by almost a third in volume, knocking 16% off the original's weight and offering notable improvements in both power draw and noise output.

  • Want to know how the console stacks up against the PS4 Pro? Check out our guide to the PS4 Pro vs PS4

The best PS4 games are among the finest available on any platform at the moment, with showstoppers like Uncharted 4 and Bloodborne the envy of PC and Xbox One gamers alike. They'll all be compatible with the new PS4 Slim, as will every game going forward – Sony made it explicitly clear that every game for the PS4 Pro will work here, too.

On top of the games themselves, the PS Plus network offering is as good a deal as it's ever been, allowing you to partake in competitive or cooperative online multiplayer play and offering up a selection of three free games on a monthly basis too.

In terms of competition, the PS4 Slim really only has two rivals – the existing PS4 and the Xbox One S. Nintendo can't really compete with its Wii U (though it'll be interesting to see what the so-called Nintendo NX brings to the table).

And it's against the Xbox One S where the PS4 Slim has its toughest fight. Only a tad more expensive, the Xbox One S looks great, has a fine selection of its own games, and comes packing a killer 4K Blu-ray player built in, making it a far more rounded media player than the PS4 Slim. For the time being, the Xbox One S has the edge with HDR color support too, though a firmware update will bring this to all PS4s shortly, levelling the playing field.

But what's on show here is still very, very cool. Should you buy the PS4 Slim? Read on to find out.

Design

It may be hard to remember now, seeing how much joy gamers have gotten out of the original PS4, but its off-kilter shape was met with some raised eyebrows when it was first revealed three and a half years ago.

2016's slim PS4 more-or-less retains the core visual identity of the first PlayStation 4, but shrinks everything down into a more dinky parallelogram package, with newly-rounded edges.

Whereas the original PlayStation 4 measured 27.5 x 30 x 5.3 cm, the PS4 Slim is just 26.5 x 26.5 x 3.8 cm. That's roughly a third smaller than what the original measured up as, and its weight is comparably lighter, too.

PS4 Slim

Whereas the first PS4 had a finish that mixed shiny plastics with matte ones, the PS4 Slim goes with a simple matte black finish all over. It also drops the top-mounted colored light bar indicator - showing sleep, wake and off statuses - in favor of small illuminated dots over the power button. These are more difficult to see, so be careful to check them carefully before unplugging the console from the wall, or risk corrupting your data.

The disk drive slot remains front-facing, sitting above small, physical power and eject buttons. More recent revisions of the PS4 also featured physical buttons on the console, but it'll be a marked difference for gamers used to the launch edition PS4, which favored touch-sensitive controls instead.

Two USB ports sit on the front of the console, as was the same on earlier PS4 models. But they're now spaced much further apart, making them slightly easier to plug into.

PS4 Slim Front

Both 500GB and 1TB versions of the PS4 slim are available. If you opt for the smaller of the two you might find your hard-drive fills up surprisingly quickly thanks to the console's reliance on mandatory game installs, but thankfully it's fairly easy to upgrade the internal hard drive or you can even install games to an external hard drive thanks to a recent update. 

Also on the back you'll find the power plug socket (no need for an external power brick here), a HDMI port, the PlayStation Camera's expansion port (an essential part of the PlayStation VR's setup) and an Ethernet network jack socket.

The only casualty of the slimmed-down design is the Optical Out port on the rear. While HDMI will suit the needs of many gamers when it comes to carrying audio signals, the Optical Out port will be missed by those hooking up older home cinema receivers, or souped-up gaming headsets.

PS4 Slim Rear

The slim PS4 has lots of nice design touches dotted around its chassis though. The iconic Square, Triangle, Circle and Cross symbols of the PlayStation brand are stamped into the side of the console (with the Circle acting as a fixture for those wishing to stand the console upright with a base accessory). And those same symbols are found stuck to the bottom of the new PS4, acting as feet to raise the machine off a surface for improved airflow.

All in, it's a well considered design the complements the existing range, markedly justifying its "Slim" street name.

Setup

Setting up the slim PlayStation 4 is very easy, especially if you're upgrading from the original PS4, or even a PS3 since you can use the same cables, removing the need to stretch behind your TV.

Simply plug in the included HDMI and power cables and connect to the internet to download the console's various patches and updates.

Alternatively, you are able to skip Wi-Fi or ethernet altogether and just pop in a game. Unlike the Xbox One, you can get to the homescreen without initially connecting to the web and patching.

Once you do connect to the internet, you'll need to let the PS4 update before you can make purchases from the store or play online.

Media

Since the very first PlayStation, Sony's home consoles have led the charge when it comes to media playback support. The PS One made for a great CD player, the PS2 was many gamers' first DVD player, and the PS3 their first Blu-ray deck and USB playback device.

The PS4, while not introducing a new format of its own, picked up the baton passed by the PS3, offering wide-ranging streaming service support, Blu-ray and DVD playback, USB media functionality and even banging out the tunes with its own Spotify player.

What the PS4 Slim doesn't do, however, is offer an answer to the Xbox One S's 4K Blu-ray player. It instead sticks with the original PS4's standard full HD Blu-ray player. It's still a strong deck, but anyone looking to show off their 4K TVs with the new PS4 will be disappointed. It's a feature that's set to be notably absent from the PS4 Pro, too.

You could argue that, with 4K TVs a relative luxury for gamers at the moment and streaming increasingly used to watch media content, it's not a desperately needed feature, especially if it keeps the overall cost down. But it will age the console, preventing it from being fully future-proofed. What's perhaps more annoying is the complete removal of the optical out audio socket, which could cause headaches for those with older AV equipment.

However, one upgrade that is coming to the entire range of PS4s along with the PS4 Slim is HDR support. It adds greater detail to light sources in an image, and is considered the next big thing in TV tech.

All other streaming services and apps featured on the PS4 return for the PS4 Slim. They include (but are not limited to) Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, as well as BBC iPlayer and TV from Sky in the UK, and HBO Go and Hulu in the US. Sony's own movie rental platform is available too if you're looking for the latest Hollywood releases. YouTube is available, as is Twitch game streaming, and a Spotify Connect-enabled version of the popular music streaming service, letting you control tunes on your telly from the comfort of your smartphone.