Sony's smartphone business might not be in the best shape ever, but the firm is still kicking ass and taking names when it comes to the console space. Keen to capitalise on its popularity in this not-so-niche-any-more sector, word has emerged that the Japanese gaming titan is hard at work on a brand new edition of its PlayStation console; there's a handful of possible names floating about for this updated device, including the PS4.5 and the internal working codename of NEO, but at the moment the most popular moniker seems to be PS4K.
It's believed that rather than being a ground-up rebuild of the PlayStation, this new edition is an upgraded model of the existing PS4, but with that said, the rumours would have it that there's quite a lot of flashy new tech and features onboard, so it's not an incremental update by any means.
It's interesting that Sony is looking to issue a new model already, as in terms of console releases the PS4 is still relatively new - console generation life-cycles tend to be much longer than smartphones and tablets and draw out over several years. However, it may be that the firm is looking to up its competitive chops against its main rival in the space - Microsoft. We have seen Sony introduce rapid update schedules for its smartphone products (as little as six months, very unconventional), so it may be taking a similar approach here where it actually already has an edge over Microsoft anyway. Industry analysts generally agree that in terms of sales, revenues and popularity, Sony pretty much won the last round of the console wars, with the PS4 out-performing the Xbox One on most fronts.
Sony PS4K: Spec UPGRADE
Gaming website GiantBomb dished the dirt, with details allegedly originating from multiple sources. Straight out the gate there's mention of a big boost to processing power, with the PS4K upgrading to a 2.1GHz Octa-core SoC using Jaguar cores, up from the existing PS4's clock-speed of 1.6GHz. The GPU has also been replaced, the old AMD GCN chip with 18 CUs at 800MHz being swapped for a newer version of the same chip with 32 CUs at 911MHz. Meanwhile, RAM has changed from 8GB of 176GB per second GDDR5 to a faster 218GB per second suite (still 8GB GDDR5). Onboard storage is reportedly the same as the existing PS4.
Sony PS4K: Backwards Compatiblity
In addition, it seems that Sony is continuing with its bid to stay ahead of Microsoft in terms of competitive features that gamers want - most notably it seems to have learned from Microsoft's backwards-compatibility controversies of yesteryear and has a rather interesting feature in mind to tackle the issue. According to GiantBomb's sources, Sony is now requiring game developers to implement two modes in new PS4 games, the first is a regular mode or "base mode" for use with the existing PS4, while the second is a "NEO Mode" for the new console. This requirement will reportedly kick in as compulsory for any developer wishing to publish on Sony consoles from October 2016 onwards.
"Games running in NEO mode will be able to use the hardware upgrades (and an additional 512 MiB in the memory budget) to offer increased and more stable frame rate and higher visual fidelity, at least when those games run at 1080p on HDTVs. The NEO will also support 4K image output, but games themselves are not required to be 4K native," reports GiantBomb.
The report also states that Sony is being very clear that there will be NO NEO-exclusive games, gameplay features or otherwise, essentially Sony wants to make absolutely sure that it doesn't pee in any of its existing PS4 customers' puddings. The PS4K will also have compatibility with PS VR, but won't leapfrog the regular PS4 on this functionality - it'll be the same on both devices, except of course the PS4K will probably run it faster at higher quality.
Sony PS4K: Price & Release Date
At present we don't have any concrete details of a price or release date, although with Sony's alleged development guidelines kicking in from October that gives us some indication of a possible time-frame - our guess is that this means a launch in the first half of 2017 to give developers some time after this deadline to develop new titles, but that's just our thoughts and nothing more. Again, there's no price rumour at this stage but industry analysts have tentatively suggested it could retail for around $399, which sounds about right compared to launch prices of previous PS generations.