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article imageSony building an updated 'PlayStation 4.5' with 4K games support

By James Walker     Mar 20, 2016 in Technology
Sony is working on a significant mid-life refresh for its PlayStation 4 games console, according to a report that claims to have knowledge of the company's plans. Currently dubbed the 'PlayStation 4.5,' the updated model will support 4K games.
Sony will up the graphics power of the PlayStation 4 to allow the console to run games in 4K during this generation, Kokatu wrote this week. Citing unnamed "developer sources" and conversations with developers "who have spoken with Sony," the new console will feature an upgraded graphics processor (GPU) capable of playing very-high resolution games smoothly.
4K images have four times as many pixels as a 1080p full HD display, typical for the current generation of consoles. In effect, this means the console has four times as much work to do to keep the game running smoothly if it is targeting a 4K resolution.
The current PlayStation 4 has insufficient power to do this smoothly. It can output 4K content but is restricted to only images and videos. A hardware revision with a more powerful GPU would make it possible to play 4K games, letting it refresh the output quickly enough to maintain a stable frame rate.
Such a mid-life refresh would be a significant departure from Sony's traditional model of selling consoles. Today, only high-end computers can play 4K games and consoles can struggle to run 1080p titles with the same performance as a gaming PC. Launching a 4K-ready variant of an existing console could let Sony offer gamers a low-cost path into 4K gaming, allowing a console to rival PC and potentially undercut them on price.
It is currently unclear how Sony will market the upgraded console. The 'PS4.5' branding may be just a nickname that developers are using to refer to the new edition. Kokatu has also heard "PS4K" used to describe the console.
As may be expected, details of the release date are vague. One source told Kokatu that the hardware is currently in an "exploratory" state and may not make an appearance this year. Pricing is likely to be significantly higher than the existing PS4, now available for $350, due to the higher-performance internals being used for the new version.
If the rumours are correct then both major console manufacturers, Sony and Microsoft, are working on ways to extend the life of their current products. Microsoft recently suggested gamers may be able to upgrade their Xbox One in the future, saying "you'll actually see us come out with new hardware capability during a generation."
The PlayStation 4.5 could be launched using this model, an upgrade for the PS4 that existing owners could buy to expand their device's capabilities. Alternatively, it may be a standalone variant that replaces the PS4 entirely, incrementing over it without radically altering the fundamentals of its design or architecture.
There is still much uncertainty surrounding the console that will remain speculative for months or even years. Sony seems to be following Microsoft on its long-term hardware plans though, releasing a heavily upgraded PlayStation 4 to increase its lifecycle before the PS5 comes along.
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