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PS5 vs. PS4: Should you buy now or wait?

PS5 vs PS4
(Image credit: Sony)

The PlayStation 4 has done exceptionally well for Sony over the last six years. But by December 2020, it will be forced into retirement by the PS5, its soon-to-be-fully-announced successor. We're starting to hear enough rumors about the PS5 to get a good idea of what the new console will change, what it will improve, and what it will keep the same. That's why we've put together this PS5 vs PS4 showdown to help new buyers figure out whether they ought to wait for the new console on the block, or go with the older, more established machine.

PS5 vs. PS4 release date and price

In case you haven't been paying attention to console gaming since 2013: The PlayStation 4 is currently available in a Slim configuration with 1 TB of storage. The console costs $290 by itself, but you can also get it as part of a few different game bundles. Then there’s the 4K-capable PlayStation 4 Pro, which also includes 1 TB of storage, for $349.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

We’re expecting the PlayStation 5 to be revealed some time in the next few months, with preorders going live potentially in March, and the consoles finally hitting shelves in time for the 2020 holiday season. Sony hasn't decided how much the PS5 will cost yet. But one analysis (courtesy of Twinfinite) puts the price at $499, which is considerably more expensive than the PS4.

PS5 vs. PS4 design

The PS4, particularly the Slim variant introduced in 2016, is a shrinking violet in its standard black plastic chassis. It doesn't draw much attention to itself. The same cannot be said about the rumored designs we’ve seen for the PS5.

(Image credit: LetsGoDigital)

Patent designs show that the console could adopt a new V-shaped design, so that the console can keep cool while operating. It’ll still have the usual disc drive and ports, but with a new, much more brash shape. Renders by artists such as those at LetsGoDigital (see the image below) have given us an idea of how these sketches might translate to real life.

Further strengthening this rumor are alleged images of the PS5 devkit consoles, which look like the patented designs.

PS5 vs. PS4 specs

The PlayStation 4 runs on an 8-core AMD x86-64 Jaguar CPU, which has a frequency of 1.6 GHz for the basic console, and 2.13GHz for the PlayStation 4 Pro. That’s joined by 8 GB RAM, and 500 GB, 1 TB or 2 TB of storage, depending on the model.

The PS5 is rumored to employ a custom AMD Ryzen processor, which will enable features like 3D audio, 4K video at 120fps and up to 8K video output. As for storage, we’re expecting a new kind of "customized ultra-fast SSD." Needless to say, this will create a big gap in PS5 vs. PS4 performance.

The PS5 may also get a custom version of the AMD Radeon Navi GPU: an upgrade of the AMD GCN Radeon GPU found in the PS4. This new graphics card should enable ray tracing.

The PS4 used a Blu-ray disc drive for its physical media input, and the PS5 will likely do the same. However, the PS5 will likely have a 4K-compatible Blu-ray drive, allowing for UHD gaming and multimedia, as long as you have a 4K TV or 4K monitor to support it.

PS5 vs. PS4 controller

(Image credit: Future)

Sony’s been refining its DualShock controller for almost five generations now (counting the PS5), so don’t expect any changes to be too drastic. The PS5 controller should look like a more refined version of the DualShock 4. Based on leaked images, this seems to be true, other than port placements and the controller's overall size.

There could be some new toys on the DualShock 5 though. Wired has claimed there will be a microphone built into the next PlayStation controller, as well as an improved rumble feature and tactile triggers, which will allow for more immersive control of the game you’re playing.

PS5 Devkit Cleaning from r/PS5

PS5 vs. PS4 interface

Sony made a big jump in interface design when moving from the PS3 to the PS4, but a leaked image from Slashleaks suggests a much smaller series of changes incoming on the PS5.

(Image credit: Slashleaks)

We'll probably still get a horizontal main bar with vertical sub-menus. The only major difference seems to be that Sony will split apps and games into separate sections. On the PS4, you have to sort through a single menu to split up your games and media apps. If this leaked info is reliable, it would be a nice quality-of-life change.

PS5 vs. PS4 games

Before looking to the future of games, we should look at the existing ones first. The PS4 can obviously play all of the best PS4 games and beyond, but will the PS5 do the same? Well, according to Yves Guillemot, CEO of Ubisoft, “almost all” PS4 games will work on the PS5. That's good news for early PS5 adopters, since consoles don't usually launch with many dedicated titles.

As for PS5 games, we can look forward to titles like Godfall, Watch Dogs: Legion, Rainbow Six Quarantine, and eventually The Elder Scrolls VI. Some of these may come to the PS4, too, especially if they come out within about a year of the PS5's launch. The overlap won’t last forever, but it’s not like you’ll be starved for great games to play if you stick with the PS4. You just won’t be able to enjoy the latest and greatest experiences with all the graphical bells and whistles.

PS5 vs. PS4 special features

The PSVR headset will work with the new console as well as the PS4, so there’s no reason to stick with the old console if you’re a VR fan. There may be a new version called the PSVR2 however, which will likely only work at its full potential with the PS5.

Cloud gaming is growing in scale. While the PS4 has PlayStation Now, the announced partnership between Sony and Microsoft to improve their cloud streaming capabilities could hint at something bigger on the PS5.

The PS4 Slim and PS4 Pro

The PS4 Slim and PS4 Pro (Image credit: Mike Andronico/Tom's Guide)

One rumor claims that the PS5, as well as the rival Xbox Series X, will both feature built-in cameras. Unlike previous camera peripherals sold alongside Xbox and PlayStation consoles, which were made for gaming purposes, these cameras will be there to aid in game streaming: a pastime that has exploded in popularity during the PS4's lifespan.

Similar Xbox's compatibility with Alexa and Google Assistant, PlayStation has patented a digital assistant called “PlayStation Assist”. This could come to the PS5 as an expanded method of controlling the console with your voice. (This feature already exists in a limited capacity on the PS4.)

Outlook

There will be some strong enticements for you to buy the PS5 once it launches, even if you already own a perfectly good PS4. There won’t be anything wrong with the PS4, per se, but with the hardware advancements, new features and some exclusive games on the way, the reasons for holding off on a PS5 are limited to price, total game library size and any potential holes in backwards compatibility. These drawbacks should all diminish in size or importance as time passes.

If you're desperate for a new console right now, then obviously your only choice is a PS4. But if you're prepared to wait for some more powerful hardware and endure a slightly smaller game library, then saving your money for the PS5 might be the smarter bet.