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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Sony PlayStation 4 Slim review:

This slimmed-down PS4 is for bargain hunters only

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The Good The newer PS4 has a smaller footprint, slick design, quieter operation and keeps intact all of the PS4 awesomeness it's offered since 2013. The slightly updated DualShock4 controller is a bonus.

The Bad The slim PS4 loses its optical audio port, which will be a bummer for third-party headphone users. The somewhat pricier PS4 Pro delivers a larger hard drive and the promise of better graphics.

The Bottom Line The PS4 Slim is a deja vu game console: great for gamers on a budget, not quite as good as the PS4 Pro and skippable for any existing PlayStation 4 owner.

CNET Editors' Rating

8.6 Overall
  • Design 9.0
  • Ecosystem 8.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Performance 8.0
  • Value 9.0

There are really only three things you need to know about the PlayStation 4 Slim.

  • If you already have a PS4, you can ignore this model. It's basically the exact same hardware, just in a smaller case.
  • If you're in the market for a new PS4, you should first consider the PS4 Pro, the step-up model with a larger hard drive and (potentially) better 4K-friendly graphics.
  • If you don't have a 4K TV and you're a first-time PS4 shopper on a budget, the PS4 Slim may well be a great option for you.

If none of that quite makes sense, don't worry. Here's why Sony currently has two PlayStations on the market, and how they differ from one another.

The PlayStation 4 Pro arrived in early November and retails for $399 in the US, £349 in the UK and AU$559 in Australia, though deals abound online.

The redesigned version of the baseline PS4, which everyone calls the "PS4 Slim" because it's even more svelte than the original 2013 model, sells for $300, £225 in the UK and AU$440 with an included game. You can find both PlayStation models with hefty discounts during the holiday shopping season.

Both new PS4 models run the same games and can use the same accessories, including Sony's PlayStation VR headset. But the Pro is designed to offer sharper graphics when connected to a 4K TV, if and when you play a specific title that's gotten a software patch to enable the better visuals. The problem? In the handful of initial 4K-friendly games we viewed, we didn't see a huge difference from the non-enhanced version running on an identical TV from an old-school PS4.

That may well change in 2017 when we see the first batch of games designed from the ground up to take advantage of the Pro's more powerful hardware. Early peeks at Horizon: Zero Dawn and Days Gone, for instance, looked promising. But even without the better graphics on day one, the PS4 Pro's larger 1TB hard drive and the knowledge that you're getting a degree of futureproofing might be worth that $100 extra for some.

Where does that leave the PS4 Slim? The internal hardware is basically identical to the earlier 2013 model, just crammed into a smaller housing. In other words, there are zero reasons for existing PS4 owners to get one. And the PS4 Pro should be the first stop for gamers looking to finally take a leap into the PlayStation realm (if you have have a 4K TV). But with sale prices as low as $250 -- with Uncharted 4 included -- the PS4 Slim is at least a great budget game system, and one that doubles as a solid Blu-ray player and video streamer to boot.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

What's different? Not a lot

So what's different about the PS4 Slim? For the most part, just the plastic body. It's rounded now instead of pointy at the ends and it's surprisingly thin. In fact, I wouldn't stand it vertically without the optional stand Sony sells. I also like the tactile power and eject buttons on the front left side. Sony had replaced the overly sensitive touch ones in later runs of the original PS4, but these are even better.

The console itself does run quieter than the original PS4, but I'm not sure it runs much cooler. The PS4 Slim seems to warm up just like its predecessor does, but it handles the heat just fine.

Thankfully, the Slim also lets you easily swap hard drives: any 2.5-inch laptop SATA drive (including solid-state models) up to 6TB should work.

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