The potential release of a PlayStation 4.5 is no longer the surprise that it was a few weeks ago; indeed, it now seems a certainty. After Kotaku revealed that this stopgap video games console definitely exists within the walls of Sony, and attention from the video gaming community has shifted to precisely what we can expect from the PlayStation 4.5.
PlayStation 4.5: 4K question marks
The first thing to note is that the specs being linked with the PlayStation 4.5 may be insufficient to deliver 4K gaming. Indeed, this is the conclusion of some analysts, although elsewhere the console is still being referred to as the PlayStation 4K. But there are serious doubts whether it will be possible to provide enough native power within a console-sized package to deliver 4K gaming of the same quality level as existing 1080p titles.
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Perhaps this machine is instead to be positioned as one that is capable of playing 4K media, while offering upgrades on the gaming experience that PlayStation titles can deliver. This assumption is based on the fact that the PlayStation 4.5 is expected to utilize an evolved version of the APU technology that is already used within the existing PS4 console.
So what options are available to Sony? Here are some of the possible specs that this mid-generation reboot console could ultimately feature.
The souped-up PlayStation 4
The current console processors used in the PlayStation 4 are standard AMD components with some minor customization requested by Sony. Advancements in technology since this console was first released mean that Sony can now produce a microprocessor the same size as the existing PS4, but approximately twice as powerful.
The arrival of 14nm and 16nm microprocessor manufacturing technology is critical in this process, as existing consoles and PC graphics card manufacturers are currently using 28nm technology. This new innovation could provide a massive improvement over previous technology, with 65 percent higher speeds and 70 percent less power consumption feasible.
This means that it could be possible to produce a PlayStation 4.5 processor that is capable of handling 4K resolution at similar frame rates to the existing PlayStation 4. There will undoubtedly be some technical wizardry required at the Japanese corporation, but there is no doubt that Sony will have been working on this for sometime already.
A challenge for Sony with this particular configurations of the PlayStation 4.5 would be delivering enough memory to ensure that 4K gaming has enough pop. Faster RAM would be required in order to service the significantly more potent GPU unit, and, aside from the technicalities, cost could be a serious issue here.
It is probable that the PlayStation 4.5 will support HDMI 2.0, which would enable Sony to deliver 4K video output at 60Hz. So this would open up the possibility of the PlayStation 4.5 streaming Netflix at 4K, a move that would be attractive both to the manufacturer and the movie streaming site.
Considering the previous policy of Sony, it is also possible, if not probable, that there could be a Next Generation 4K Blu-ray player included in a unit of this denomination as well. Although the demise of the disc has been predicted many times, physical media continues to remain popular, and it seems almost certain that the 4K disc standard will eventually establish itself, despite a multitude of streaming options being available.
A steady evolution
Another possibility is that the PlayStation 4.5 could be viewed as an evolved model of the existing PS4. While Sony must justify the existence of the PlayStation 4.5, it is also important to note that the corporation is in something of a quandary.
The incentives for Sony to produce this more powerful console are obvious, with the consumer electronics giant wishing to support both the 4K resolution standard and its forthcoming PlayStation VR headset. But the existing 40 million user base for the PlayStation 4 cannot be abandoned completely, and thus Sony has some tricky decisions to make with the makeup of the PlayStation 4.5.
This is particularly significant because Sony is in an extremely strong position in the present console generation. The PlayStation 4 has enjoyed a significant lead over the Xbox One since pretty much day one of this console generation, and there is no need for the Japanese corporation to take risks at this time. And the production of such a state-of-the-art PlayStation 4.5 could necessitate such a risk.
Manufacturing a PlayStation 4.5 that differs too greatly from the existing PlayStation 4 would result in developmental resources being segregated. This would run the risk of resulting in a demarcation between the software quality achievable for the two Sony consoles. Sony surely cannot risk compromising the standard of games released for the PlayStation 4, particularly considering the fact that the PlayStation 4.5 may never achieve the same level of installed user base.
So Sony could instead decide to stick with the existing PlayStation 4 architecture, and somewhat increase the clock speed of the device. Perhaps switching to another processor such as the 7970 Tahiti could enable the Japanese corporation to increase the processing power of the PlayStation 4.5 by around 60 percent, while also maintaining the basic internal nature of the existing console.
The slim route
Finally, there is an outside possibility that the PlayStation 4.5 could simply be a PS4 Slim, with the existing internals shrunk to a 14/16nm production processor, and enhanced functionality included. This would enable Sony to modernize the console with the release of the PlayStation 4.5, while keeping the unit affordable and ensuring that existing fans are not alienated.
Additionally, Sony would then have the opportunity to modernize some of the internal components of the PlayStation 4.5, in order to ensure that 4K displays are more adequately supported. This would enable HDMI 2.0 to be included more easily as well, while other features could also be added to the existing APU.
Each of these options has different pluses and minuses for Sony, and it is now up to the Japanese corporation to decide what fits its future strategy most appropriately, ahead of the release of the PlayStation 5.