Sony May Have Shot the PlayStation 4 in the Foot

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Back in June the Wall Street Journal reported that Sony planned to release a slimmer PlayStation 4 this year in addition to their upgraded “Neo” hardware. People mocked the report, claiming that there was no way Sony would “confuse” gamers by releasing a smaller PlayStation 4 right before the Neo. Despite reducing the size of the hardware being a normal thing in the lifetime of a system, something that even happened with the NES, people claim it confuses a consumer when a company does it.

Well now that PlayStation 4 Slim is a reality. Over the weekend a seller on a UK auction site got their hands on actual retail hardware of the smaller PlayStation 4. He didn’t just get the system, but the full packaging right out of a warehouse somewhere. The images originated from a user on the NeoGAF forum who convinced the seller to open the box. We won’t host them here, but they’re online here (packaging) and here (system). And there’s a couple problems with this new PlayStation 4.

The first is a cost-saving measure, and that’s the removal of the optical-out port on the hardware. This becomes a problem for some people with older A/V systems that need that optical-out for surround sound. Also many high-end gaming headsets require an optical-out to function. There are HDMI adaptors you can buy to add an optical-out port, but it sucks that you’ll have to go and buy an additional piece of hardware for something that current PS4 offers by default.

However the biggest omission isn’t 100% confirmed just yet, but based on the packaging for the system there doesn’t appear to be any 4K streaming support and no UHD Blu-Ray playback. This is a big deal because Microsoft recently released their slim Xbox One with the “S” model, which supports 4K Netflix streaming, UHD Blu-Ray playback, and also will allow some HDR content in upcoming games such as Gears of War 4 and Forza Horizon 3. The Xbox One S is available in models ranging from $299 to $399 depending on the size of the hard drive in the system, and this $500GB PS4 Slim will likely run for the same $299 price as Microsoft’s system.

The problem with Sony not offering 4K streaming on this slim PS4 is that it’s 2016. For the last year 4K adoption rates are going up, and a majority of televisions on the shelf now are becoming 4K. Even the price of 4K HDR sets are dropping rapidly, and this Black Friday will see sub-$1000 HDR sets on the shelf for very low prices.

It’s apparent that Microsoft realized this, which is why the new base model of the Xbox One supports those 4K TVs and will play the new 4K Blu-Rays. When someone buys their new 4K HDR TV on Black Friday, they’re also going to be able to pick up a Xbox One S system bundle for a low price and will be well primed for 4K. On the other hand, the matching PS4 model won’t support 4K Netflix or those 4K Blu-Rays, which makes it look like a really dumb decision on Sony’s part.

Those claiming that 4K is only for high-end consumers are living in a dream world and are trying to make excuses for the system they fanboy for. 4K is experiencing the same type of adoption this year as 1080p did four years ago. When the PS4 and Xbox One launched, 1080p sets were becoming the standard. Now the same is becoming true for 4K.

Either Sony wasn’t aware that Microsoft was planning to put 4K support in their Slim Xbox One, or they are purposely holding all 4K support for the upgraded Neo hardware. But as that system is going to cost a lot more than either slim PS4 or Xbox One, it doesn’t make much sense to keep it away from the $299 version of the hardware especially when Microsoft has 4K capability at the same price point.