Smaller, sleeker design. Supports the full PS4 game library, including PS VR. 1 TB hard drive.
No PS4 Pro-like hardware improvements. No optical audio output. Online multiplayer requires a PS Plus subscription.
- Bottom Line
The slimmer, redesigned PlayStation 4 Slim has all of the features of the original, with a lower price and twice the storage capacity.
Sony regularly updates its game systems with new, sleeker designs, and the PlayStation 4 is no exception. Besides releasing the larger, more powerful PS4 Pro last year, Sony also rolled out a smaller, thinner version of the original PS4. This PS4 Slim replaces the first PS4 as the default model, with a lower $299.99 price tag and a 1TB hard drive (though 500GB models are still available in bundles with games). Considering it's smaller, has more storage, and less expensive than the original, the PS4 Slim earns our Editors' Choice for home gaming consoles.
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The new PS4 Slim design is downright svelte compared with the original PS4 and the chunkier PS4 Pro. It's a 10.5-inch square that measures just 1.6 inches high, trimming over half an inch from each edge compared with the launch model. It shares the same parallelogram profile with angled front and back panels as the PS4 and PS4 Pro, along with a similar prominent groove running lengthwise around the front and sides of the system. It is now entirely matte black plastic, with slightly rounded corners to make it look a little friendlier and less stark than the sharp-angled, three-tiered PS4 Pro.
The PS4 Slim works perfectly well out of the box laid flat on any surface, but like the original and the PS4 Pro, you can optionally stand it up vertically with a $29.99 accessory stand.
Sony has been shying away from touch-sensitive controls with its new console iterations, just like Microsoft has between the Xbox One and Xbox One S. Instead of touch-based power and eject buttons like on the original PS4, the PS4 Slim has two simple, mechanical buttons placed on the left edge of the front panel's protruding lip, under the slot-loading optical drive. Two USB ports sit to the right of the slot, though now they're nearly three inches apart instead of right next to each other.
The back of the PS4 holds the power connector, an HDMI port, an accessory port for plugging in the PlayStation Camera either for use on its own or as part of a PlayStation VR setup, and an Ethernet port if you want a faster, wired network connection instead of relying on Wi-Fi. The only port missing from the original PS4 is an optical audio output. This isn't a big omission, since audio usually goes out to the TV through the HDMI cable anyway, and most TVs have their own optical audio outputs for integration with sound systems.
The most stark visual design change in the PS4 Slim is the lighting. While the PS4 and PS4 Pro have prominent light bars that run either along the front or across the side of the system, the PS4 Slim has a tiny LED strip built into the power button. It has the same multi-color indicators as the other consoles' light bars (white for on, orange for resting, blue for booting), but is much less obtrusive. It also means you'll have to look closely at the power button to check the system's status if it's set up in a bright area.
Hardware and Accessories
The PS4 Slim comes with the same accessories as the launch PS4: a DualShock 4 gamepad, a monaural wired earpiece, a power cable, an HDMI cable, and a micro USB cable. The DualShock 4 is the newer design, distinguished by a light strip set just above the touch pad that lets you see its connection status without looking at the light bar on the front of the system itself.
The system comes with a 1TB hard drive, though 500GB versions are still available as part of bundles that include games like Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and Uncharted 4: A Thief's End for the same price. While pack-in games are always nice, we recommend getting the 1TB version. The extra storage goes much further than any one game.
Besides the possible difference in storage, the PS4 Slim is identical to the original PS4 in hardware specs. You won't get 4K gaming or enhanced graphics like on a PS4 Pro with compatible games, but the system can still run PlayStation VR software in addition to all standard PS4 games. The PS4 Pro is very impressive for certain games, rendering at resolutions up to 4K or otherwise adding enhanced graphical effects or improving frame rates. However, games need to be developed to specifically take advantage of the PS4 Pro's extra power, and whether the added visual flair justifies the PS4 Pro's $100 premium is a matter of your own gaming preferences.
Connecting a PS VR to the PS4 Slim is the same process as the original PS4 and PS4 Pro: Plug the PlayStation Camera into the back, run the HDMI output in the back and a USB cable in the front through the PS VR control box, and run the HDMI pass-through from the control box to your TV.
Since its launch a few years ago, the PlayStation 4 has developed a very compelling library of both exclusive and cross-platform games. All major game franchise releases have hit the PS4, including every significant Battlefield, Call of Duty, Final Fantasy, and Madden game of the current generation. Several genre and niche favorites are also available, including Bloodborne, Dark Souls 3, Nier: Automata, Persona 5, and Yakuza 0. While no PS4 is backward compatible with previous PlayStation system discs, many PS3 games can be played streaming over PlayStation Now, though streaming games requires a very fast, reliable network connection for a good experience.
Online multiplayer requires a subscription to PS Plus at $9.99 per month or $59.99 per year. PS Plus membership also includes a small selection of free games that rotate on a monthly basis, along with discounts for game purchases. Live television is also available on the PS4 through the PlaySation Vue subscription service, and major streaming video services like Crunchyroll, Hulu, Netflix, and YouTube all have PS4 apps. The PS4 Slim can play Blu-ray discs, but like the original PS4 and PS4 Pro, it doesn't support Ultra HD Blu-ray disc playback.
As a home console, the PS4 Slim competes directly with the Xbox One S. $250 to $350 One S bundles include a 500GB hard drive and can also come with a game, while more expensive bundles can upgrade the storage to 2TB. The Xbox One S has the media benefit of playing Ultra HD Blu-ray discs in addition to standard Blu-ray discs, letting you watch 4K HDR video on physical media. Beyond that, the two systems are very similar in terms of power. As with all game consoles, you need to consider what exclusives are available for each system. If you want to play Halo 5, for instance, you'll need an Xbox.
The Nintendo Switch is the same price as the PS4 Slim, but it's a more unique case. It's only on par with or slightly less powerful than the PS4 and Xbox One in terms of graphical processing, but it can function as both a home system and a handheld with its dockable tablet design, and we've been very impressed by how well it works in both roles. As a Nintendo system, the Switch has several notable games you can't play elsewhere, including The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. On the other hand, it will also miss out on many major cross-platform releases, like Star Wars Battlefront II and Call of Duty: WW2.
More for Less
If you already have a PS4, you don't need to upgrade to the PS4 Slim. It doesn't offer the extra power of the PS4 Pro, though the 1TB of storage available does give it extra capacity if you plan to download a lot of games. The sleeker design is nice, and less prone to accidental power-ons and disc ejections thanks to its mechanical buttons, but is not reason enough to trade in your old model.
If you don't have a PS4 yet and aren't swayed by the (uneven) graphical benefits of the PS4 Pro, the PS4 Slim offers the same excellent gaming experience in 1080p, and all of the storage, for $100 less. It remains an Editors' Choice as one of the best home game consoles available. While it's much newer and currently has far fewer games, the Nintendo Switch stands as an intriguing alternative with its ability to function portably as a handheld game system, and the Xbox One S has some nice media playback benefits. As always, the first thing to consider when buying a console is whether it has the games you want to play. If the PS4 Slim does, it's easy to recommend.
By Will Greenwald Senior Analyst, Consumer Electronics
Will Greenwald has been covering consumer technology for a decade, and has served on the editorial staffs of CNET.com, Sound & Vision, and Maximum PC. His work and analysis has been seen in GamePro, Tested.com, Geek.com, and several other publications. He currently covers consumer electronics in the PC Labs as the in-house home entertainment expert, reviewing TVs, media hubs, speakers, headphones, and gaming accessories. Will is also an ISF Level II-certified TV calibrator, which ensures the thoroughness and accuracy of all PCMag TV reviews…. More »
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