Which PlayStation 4 should I buy?

Update 4/27/17: This article has been updated with new information on PlayStation 4 updates and new bundles available for the current models.

Anyone looking to buy a PlayStation for family now have three options that look very similar. You've got the original PlayStation 4, the new slimmer PlayStation 4 with the exact same branding on the box as the original, and the new PlayStation 4 Pro. Do they all offer similar experiences? Is there a downside to buying the original over the slim? There are a lot of unanswered questions here.

It's confusing by anyone's standards, so your best bet is to know what you need before you head into the store.

What's the difference?

PlayStation 4 Pro

Sony has a history of releasing a "slim" version of the PlayStation a couple of years after its initial release. In the past, those consoles have been labeled a little differently at launch to make it easier to tell the new version apart from the old one. These slimmer versions typically offer more a physical difference than a functionality difference, and this year is no different. The significant feature and performance difference comes with the PlayStation 4 Pro, and even then the difference isn't huge unless you own a 4K television with HDR support.

Category PlayStation 4 (2013) PlayStation 4 (2016) PlayStation 4 Pro
Price $349 $299 $399
Dimensions 10.83in x 12.01in x 2.08in 10.43in x 11.34in x 1.54in 11.61in x 12.87in x 2.17in
CPU AMD Jaguar 8-core (x86-64) AMD Jaguar 8-core (x86-64) AMD Jaguar 8-core (x86-64)
GPU AMD Radeon (1.84 TFLOP) AMD Radeon (1.84 TFLOP) AMD Radeon (4.2 TFLOP)
Storage 500GB / 1TB 500GB / 1TB 1TB
Optical out Yes No Yes
AV out AV/HDMI 1.4 HDMI 1.4 HDMI 2.0
Power consumption 250w max 165w max 310w max
4K Streaming No No Yes
USB USB 3.0 (x2) USB 3.0 (x2 ) USB 3.0 (x3)
PSVR support Yes Yes Yes (Enhanced)

The biggest functional difference between the original PS4 and the new slimmer PS4 is power consumption. Sony claims the new PS4 has a max power draw of 165 watts, which sounds impressive next to the original 250w max of the first PS4 until you see most benchmarks. The original PlayStation 4 had an average power draw of 150w during its heaviest gameplay sessions, and never pushed anywhere near that 250w max. It is slightly smaller though, so there's that.

PlayStation VR performance is something altogether different.

As you can see, Sony is using the same CPU and a GPU that's a little more than twice the performance in the new PlayStation 4 Pro. There's also an updated version of the HDMI standard in the PS4 Pro, but there's no immediate difference in performance out of the box for video output. Games that struggled in the past to maintain 30fps or 60fps on a standard PlayStation 4 will be able to offer a more consistent experience with the PlayStation 4 Pro through its "boost mode" feature. This basically means games that appear a to stutter a little on a normal PS4 will look and play smoother on a PS4 Pro.

PlayStation 4 Pro also offers 4K video streaming and enhanced graphics on supported titles. Game developers will have the option to offer higher quality graphics to PlayStation 4 Pro gamers, which will be clearly labeled with PS4 Pro Enhanced on the box. Not only are most new PlayStation games being made to support this Enhanced ability, many of the more popular games from the past year are releasing updates to look better through the more capable console.

Category PS4 (2013) PS4 (2016) PS4 Pro
HDR Output ✔️
4K Streaming ✔️
Remote Play 720p 720p 1080p
Share Play 720p 720p 1080p

PlayStation VR performance is something altogether different. PlayStation 4 Pro was built to better support PlayStation VR (You know, Project Morpheus and PlayStation Neo kinda go together and all that) but even here the differences is subtle.

Most titles that were available before the Pro was released look slightly better on the Pro, and those titles updated to support the enhanced graphics in the Pro are noticeably better looking than on the standard PS4. Because of the high focus on framerate in PlayStation VR, what you'll see in Pro Enhanced titles is more detail, not smoother transitions like you'd see on the television.

Which should I buy?

PlayStations 4

Now that you know everything you need to know about the differences between these consoles, lets break it down!

  • PlayStation 4 — This is the PS4 most likely to be available at a considerable discount, or the option you're most likely to find used or certified refurbished. If you're on a tight budget, this will get the job done.

See on Amazon

  • Slim PlayStation 4 — This is the PS4 you will see the most of on shelves this year, and it's the nicer looking of the three. This is also the most likely to be found in a bundle with free games and extra controllers if you're looking to get more than just the console.

See on Amazon

  • PlayStation 4 Pro — If you own a 4K HDR television, or you're interested in the best possible gaming experience from your PlayStation, this is the console for you. Also, if you're looking to go all in on PlayStation VR, you'll want this version of the console.

See on Amazon