The more powerful version of the PlayStation 4, currently called PlayStation 4K or PlayStation 4.5, will be announced shortly before PlayStation VR’s release in October, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. The publication’s sources indicate that Sony will not stop production of the original PS4 with the release of the new, more powerful version, while also noting that “it is likely” that both consoles will share the same software catalog.
Sony’s goal with the console, according to those same sources, is to compete with high-end, PC-based virtual reality experiences like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, which offer higher graphical fidelity than the current PS4. While it’s possible that a more powerful PS4 could increase the sharpness and graphics effects of PS VR games, the headset itself only has a 1920×1080 OLED screen, which equates to 960×1080 per eye, compared to the high-definition 2160 ×1200 screens of the Rift and Vive.
For those not interested in PS VR, the new PS4’s greater processing power means it can output UHD (4K) resolution, says the WSJ‘s sources. However, it is not yet clear whether this only applies to new games or whether older software will also be scaled up.
The Wall Street Journal report follows numerous industry rumors about a new PS4, which emerged last week with a Kotaku article. The article was corroborated by Digital Foundry, which has “independently determined that [the PlayStation 4K] is real and that Sony’s R&D labs have prototype devices.” That same article speculated about what hardware the new PS4K might have thanks to chipmaker AMD’s hardware roadmap, which provides the CPU and GPU for the existing PS4.
Notably, AMD will move its GPU architecture from a 28nm process to a much smaller 14nm FinFET process. The company will also release its new Zen CPU architecture sometime in October, which will also be based on a 14nm process. Should AMD make a new APU (a combination of GPU and CPU on the same chip) for Sony based on those new architectures, the chip would theoretically be about twice as powerful as the current PS4 chip at the same size and power consumption.
Given the low-level access to the hardware that PS4 developers have, the introduction of a new CPU and GPU architecture, even if it remains x86-based, could cause compatibility issues for older games.
While reports of a new PS4 will remain mere speculation until Sony confirms – it refuses to comment on the rumors – that so many publications have independently published stories on the subject, it’s a strong indication that a PS4K is indeed on the way.
The implications for PS VR are also noteworthy. It’s pretty unlikely that Sony would make the new PS4 a requirement for PS VR, but those looking for the absolute best experience will want the new hardware. This will significantly increase the overall cost of the PS VR – although it will likely remain much cheaper than an Oculus Rift and a high-end gaming PC – and will split the developer base between two different sets of hardware. At such an early stage of development, that’s not ideal for consumer and developer adoption of VR.