The worst-kept secret in video games is now official: Sony is launching not one, but two, new PlayStation 4 consoles this year, just in time for the holiday shopping season.
The first, merely dubbed the PlayStation 4, is the new baseline model. It’s really just the same PlayStation 4 that’s been on the market since 2013, but smaller and sleeker. It will sell for $299 starting on September 15.
The second new console, the PlayStation 4 Pro, is a powerhouse of a console, selling for a pricier $399 starting on November 10. Under the hood, the PS4 Pro sports all kinds of new graphical wizardry that will enable your games to look prettier — provided you have a TV that can really take full advantage.
It means you’ll have lots of options if you’re looking to get into the world of PlayStation 4. Here’s why you should (or shouldn’t) buy the slim PlayStation 4 instead of the PlayStation 4 Pro.
Don’t sweat it too much
Seriously, don’t stress out here: Sony has promised that PlayStation 4 Pro and all other iterations of the PlayStation 4 will share a games library.
That means it will play all your PS4 games, past, present, and future. All your PlayStation 4 controllers will still work with it, too. In fact, the new PS4 comes with an upgraded Dual Shock 4.0 controller, much like the one we have today, but with some subtle tweaks like a light bar on the front.
So no matter which PlayStation 4 you choose, you will absolutely not miss out on forthcoming PlayStation-exclusive blockbusters like “Horizon: Zero Dawn” or “The Last Guardian.”
Going by Sony’s specs, the PlayStation 4 Pro definitely has the major edge in graphical horsepower.
What this means for you is that you’ll be able to play (certain) games in glorious 4K/UltraHD resolution, the next huge step up from our modern and more common HD technologies. And in general, the PlayStation 4 Pro will be able to support yet more gorgeous graphical effects than we see on the modern PlayStation 4.
Thanks to a software update coming soon, Sony says all PS4 consoles past and present will support high-dynamic range, or HDR, a technology available on certain newer TVs for displaying super-vivid colours that Business Insider’s own Antonio Villas-Boas thinks is actually better and more noticeable than UltraHD.
And both consoles will support PlayStation VR, Sony’s forthcoming $399 virtual reality headset. Presumably, the PlayStation 4 Pro will run virtual reality games like “EVE: Valkyrie” more smoothly and at higher resolutions, but Sony didn’t confirm that on stage this week.
But not everybody will be willing to drop the $500 or so for a quality 4K/HDR television, or $399 for the PlayStation VR. Without one or both of those things, the PlayStation 4 Pro is $100 extra for not a lot of return.
Which brings us to the next point…
Price is wrong
The new PS4 is clearly the value option here, priced at $299. Meanwhile, PlayStation 4 Pro is being positioned as the higher-end unit for the power gamer, starting at $399.
If it helps, you can think of the new PS4 as the iPhone SE of the PlayStation line: Powerful enough and cheap enough to be attractive to a lot of people, but not necessarily right on the cutting edge.
So, bottom line here is that if you really need that cutting-edge aspect, and you’re already willing to invest heavily in the world of 4K and virtual reality, waiting for PlayStation 4 Pro in November is the thing to do. If you don’t care about any of that stuff and just want to play the latest games for cheaper on the latest PlayStation available, you can’t go wrong with the new, slim unit in September.
Microsoft is experiencing this kind of divide for itself, with a new Microsoft Xbox One S console that launched this past August, and a new beefed-up Project Scorpio slated to launch in the holiday of 2017. At least you won’t have to wait that long to make a choice for your PlayStation 4.