PlayStation 4 Neo: Is a mid-generation console hardware refresh a good idea?

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The new, higher-specced PlayStation 4 is almost a dead certainty. Likely to be revealed at E3 this year, the new system – apparently dubbed Neo – will sport a faster CPU, a beefier GPU and be able to output better visuals, and run games at higher frame rates. Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry has a typically excellent technical breakdown of the PlayStation 4 Neo and what it contains – and it seems the spec bump is significant.

According to them, here’s the increase you can expect:

Base PS4 PS4K Neo Boost
CPU Eight Jaguar cores clocked at 1.6GHz Eight Jaguar cores clocked at 2.1GHz 1.3x
GPU 18 Radeon GCN compute units at 800MHz 36 ‘improved’ GCN compute units at 911MHz 2.3x FLOPs
Memory 8GB GDDR5 at 176GB/s 8GB GDDR5 at 218GB/s 24% more bandwidth, 512MB more useable memory

The jump in graphics prowess is the most exciting bit, indeed – as it won’t be based around something available on the shelf right now. While the machine likely won’t be able to run games at 4K, it will be able to upscale to that resolution very nicely, running games at 1080p and 60fps with relative ease.

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The trouble here is that developers are restricted from using the new power to give games better features; games have to play the same – just with graphical upgrades or faster frames. The need for compatibility with the base or older PS4 model, which definitely puts a ceiling on what developers are able to do with the system.

Right now, it seems like it’s really just more of a headache for developers than it is a boon.

According to Eurogamer (whose full report you really should read), we could even see the PlayStation 4 Neo and games utilising it towards the end of this year.

And honestly, I still don’t know how I feel about this. On the one hand, the prospect of smoother, shiner gameplay experiences on a console sounds quite nice – but it on the other it just flies in the face of what consoles are about. They’re meant to be set hardware without upgrade paths. It also feels like a slap in the face to those who’ve spent a fair bit of money on their consoles, especially if there’s no trade-in program available.

What do you think? Is a mid-generational refresh a smart idea?

Last Updated: April 20, 2016

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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