Which PlayStation 4 should I buy?

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, and the new PlayStation 4 Pro. 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 60fps on a standard PlayStation 4 will be able to offer a more consistent experience with the PlayStation 4 Pro, but it's unlikely most will notice that small improvement. PlayStation 4 Pro exists to offer 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. While the list of games that support this new enhanced mode is increasing every week currently there aren't many available.

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. Games available now look slightly better on the Pro, but game developers over time will use that added power to create more compelling VR experiences and that's going to be a much bigger deal.

Bundles and sales

The default pricing for these consoles can and frequently are augmented by sales and bundles. Each of the PlayStation 4 consoles comes with a single game, usually marked with a giant photo on the packaging, so you have everything you need to get started. Many retailers have already placed the original PlayStation 4 on sale, so it's just under the $299 slim PlayStation 4 in order to help get rid of the older stock. The standard $399 PlayStation 4 Pro does not currently ship with a game, but does offer some free trials of popular titles.

PlayStations 4

Is the PlayStation 4 Pro $100 better than the PlayStation 4 or its slimmer brother? Only if you have a 4K television or are planning to purchase one soon, and even then only if that 4K television supports HDR. If you're happy with your existing television and have no plans to upgrade, you aren't going to see any significant difference between the PlayStations 4 aside from how much space they take up on your entertainment center.

Many retailers like to create their own bundles as we get closer to the holiday season, combining extra gamepads or recently discounted games to the package to help you feel like you're buying everything you need. A big part of this year's offering will no doubt include PlayStation VR. There are plenty of people who already own a PlayStation 4, but if you're looking to go all in for the first time and get everything you need, expect those same retail stores to have everything you need to get going.

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 included in some kind of extra bundle with more accessories and games. This is also the only PlayStation 4 that comes in white right now. If you're looking for a PS4 and price is a big point of concern, you probably want to stick with the original.

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. If you care about that sort of thing, or you're just rushing in to grab a PS4 and nothing else, this is the version you want.

See on Amazon

  • PlayStation 4 Pro — If you own a 4K television, or you plan to own one before long, this is the PlayStation 4 you want. It'll last the longest, and be able to offer the most over time.

See on Amazon