When Sony unveiled two new versions of the PS4 during its special PlayStation Meeting in New York it rather glossed over the new, slimmer version of the console, dubbed the PS4 Slim - but which will become the de facto PS4.
The company understandably put greater focus on the higher specified 4K gaming powerhouse that is the PS4 Pro, which is due out November 2016. And as the PS4 Slim had been leaked in full a couple of weeks before the event there was little left to reveal that hadn’t already been published across the entire internet.
There could be another, even more obvious reason why, though. For all intents and purposes, the PS4 Slim is just the standard PlayStation 4 in an all-new body.
PlayStation 4 Slim review: Design
The new shape and build of the PS4 Slim looks like the console has been on the Atkins diet for a while. But although other consoles have benefitted from trimming down in the past, such as the PS3 and, more recently, the Xbox One S, the new PS4 aesthetic makes it look cheaper than the last, despite its £259 asking price.
The new matte and mottled exterior looks more Primark than premium. And the rounded corners give it an air of Fisher Price over flagship device.
Still, it is a PS4 – the latest iteration of the fastest selling console of all time and something that continues to bring a smile onto millions of faces on a daily basis. As soon as you load your first game you realise that its superficial looks are irrelevant, and at least some of the new design decisions make sense.
The physical power and eject buttons are easier to use than the weird touch-enabled strips on the original. And the glowing strip that indicates whether the PS4 is switched on or in standby mode has sensibly been reduced to a single LED under the buttons. It won't bother your eyeline so much when sat under a TV.
The slimmer build is also better suited to standing on its end using an optional stand, if that's your bag. The footprint is also designed to better hide it away in an AV cabinet as it is dinky – smaller even than the latest Xbox.
There is one caveat. For some reason unbeknownst to us, the optical digital audio output on the rear has disappeared. That might not affect many, but is bad news for those who would rather feed sound directly into separate speakers that don't accept HDMI.
All other ports, including two USB 3.1 sockets, Ethernet, the aforementioned HDMI and an AUX hole for the PlayStation Camera are still present.
PlayStation 4 Slim review: HDR incoming
As for gaming, its primary function, the PS4 Slim is superb – as good as the original for sure.
System software 4.0 was recently made available as a download for this and former PlayStation 4 models and it really enhances the machine in terms of functionality.
Since its original launch, Sony has regularly updated the console, adding new features all the way. But the most recent gives the experience a new coat of paint in the form of a refined, better looking user interface and High Dynamic Range (HDR) support.
The latter feature is only relevant for those with a HDR-enabled television and requires games to support the wider colour gamut and deeper contrast it affords. Sadly, there are no titles available as yet, but when the PS4 Pro launches in November, you can expect to see a flood of enabled games, including many existing titles that will add the video feature through downloadable patches.
PlayStation 4 Slim review: New software
The latest user interface is similarly laid out as before but vastly superior in many ways.
You can now create folders to store groups of games or apps, and a tidier on-screen design looks sharper and neater. While it isn't quite as complex as the Xbox One dashboard, we find it is easier to navigate and get to the most important aspects – namely playing games.
This is where any PS4 excels and the Slim is no different. Thanks to better graphics processing, it soon became apparent after the launch of this generation of console gaming that the PlayStation 4 was superior than the Xbox One, often attaining better resolutions and/or frame rates on comparable games.
Microsoft recently responded with the superb Xbox One S, which upped the hardware ante somewhat, and while the slim version of the PS4 hasn't been tweaked in the same fashion, it is still highly capable of up to 1080p gaming at 60 frames per second.
Three years of heritage also means that developers are wringing more out of the hardware than ever before. The Sony PS4 plays host to some incredible games these days, not least Uncharted 4: A Thief's End and the new Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. We're not sure they'd have been possible a few years back.
PlayStation 4 Slim review: New controller
Such games also play well on the new DualShock 4 controller, which comes in the box and has an added, player-facing LED light strip along the top of the controller's touch panel.
This, we were informed, is so players can see it without having to flip the gamepad over, to see which colour they are during multiplayer games or the like.
The new pad also adds the ability of communication through the USB port. This means you can use it with a PC, for example, without any complicated set-up processes.
PlayStation 4 Slim review: No 4K UHD Blu-ray
We've found that the new PS4 is less noisy than our regular beast, at least when playing games off the hard drive. There were times this summer that our original PS4 sounded like an industrial leaf blower (probably down to the accumulation of dust in its vents over time), but we've had no such issues with the PS4 Slim. The disc drive makes a little noise when turning, but it's nothing in comparison.
That's with both game discs and Blu-rays or DVDs. It's a crying shame that Sony decided against upgrading the drive to one that can spin 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays, something Microsoft added to the latest Xbox One, but the HDMI port isn't 4K compatible anyway, so it's irrelevant in this case.
Another disappointing decision, we feel, is that the new PS4 only comes with a 500GB hard drive. A 1TB model of the existing PlayStation 4 was released to cater for those who want to build large games libraries and it seems stingy to revert back to half that capacity. We were told it was a cost issue, to keep the price down to £259, but we'd rather have the option, much like Microsoft offers with the Xbox One S, which comes in 500GB, 1TB and 2TB flavours (at increasing price points, of course).
You can upgrade the PS4 hard drive, though, and it's even easier on the new model with a slide-out HDD caddy hidden under a flap near the rear. We swapped ours for a Samsung 2TB 2.5-inch drive and, as long as you have the right screwdriver to hand (a Phillips #1), it's very easy going. It cost us an extra £80 for the drive, but that's well worth it.
There's little doubt that when viewed on its own terms, with little comparison to rivals or the former model, that the PS4 Slim is an excellent games console. It might not be as pretty as its older brother, but it is as capable. And considering the PS4 currently reigns supreme as the king of consoles, it is a no-brainer for those who have looked longingly at the PlayStation games line-up and couldn’t afford to join in previously.
However, Microsoft has recently upped its game with the Xbox One S, which has a lot more to offer than the PS4 Slim, thanks to 4K upscaling and a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player built-in. Both consoles now have HDR gaming capabilities, which is a great leap forward, but Sony's omission of the physical UHD Blu-ray format (one it is heavily pushing itself) means the Xbox One S is more attractive at the same price point.
Then, of course, there is the PS4 Pro. Coming in November, the Pro is a far more capable version of the PlayStation 4, with the potential of 4K gaming (albeit with clever upscaling techniques by developers). It has more powerful processing and greater RAM so it is better futureproofed too. And as it's only £90 more expensive than the PS4 Slim with a 1TB hard drive as standard, we can see many opting to save up a little extra cash for that monster instead.
So while the latest iteration of the PS4 is a great console – and very well timed considering PlayStation VR is just around the corner too – we wonder what kind of impact it will make.