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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 around November this year, it will be forced into retirement by the PS5. While we don't know all of the next-gen PlayStation's secrets yet, Sony's told us a lot already about the tech beneath the new console's black-and-white exterior, and what games you'll be able to play on it. 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)

With the PS5 announced in January, and the console itself revealed in June, we'll likely see the console finally hit shelves in time for the 2020 holiday season. Sony hasn't announced how much the PS5 will cost yet. But rumors suggest the price could be around $499 for the normal version, with the Digital Edition possibly costing $450 instead, which is considerably more expensive than the PS4 has ever been.

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 PS5.

(Image credit: Sony)

After many weird and crazy-looking concepts for the PS5, Sony finally revealed a pretty exuberant body for its new console in June. Breaking from PlayStation tradition by introducing white as the primary color was radical enough, but the curved design is also a big difference from the straight lines of the PS4, harking back to the PS3 a generation before.

There are rumors that the PS5 is a pretty large and heavy console, which raises concerns of people not being able to fit it under their TVs. This is something the PS4, particularly the Slim version, doesn't have any problem doing.

PS5 vs. PS4 specs

The PS5 employs an AMD Zen 2 processor, which will enable features like 3D audio, 4K video at 120fps and up to 8K video output. It's a direct improvement to the AMD Jaguar chip that is in the PS4.

As for storage, Sony has a custom-made 825GB SSD, which will apparently be the console's most potent weapon, according to developer testimony. The PS4 only has a slower HDD by default, but you can get a 1TB version of the console, which means more storage space than the PS5, plus there's the option to install an SSD yourself, something that doesn't look like the PS5 offers.

The PS5 uses 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 enables ray-tracing, among other graphical improvements

The PS4 used a Blu-ray disc drive for its physical media input, and the PS5 will likely do the same. However, the PS5 has changed this to 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. The PS5 Digital Edition doesn't have a disc drive at all, which should mean a cheaper pricetag, but a loss in versatility compared to the normal PS5 and the PS4.

PS5 vs. PS4 controller

(Image credit: Sony)

Sony has ended its DualShock line of controllers after four generations, presenting us now with the DualSense controller, a new design focused around haptic feedback.

Aside from the new color scheme and revised shape, the DualSense offers improved rumble feature and tactile triggers, which will allow for more immersive control of the game you’re playing. There's also a built-in microphone for in-game chat features, and a new version of the PS4's Share button, named the Create button, for taking screenshots, video clips and more.

The DualShock 4 that the PS4 uses is a great and familiar controller, just with fewer high-tech features. Its features, beyond Sony's usual suite of face buttons and dual analog sticks, include Sony's first trigger buttons, the introduction of the central touchpad (also present on the DualSense for more versatile controls), and the Share button that the PS5 has taken and iterated upon.

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 Horizon II: Forbidden West, Godfall, Watch Dogs: Legion, and Spider-Man: Miles Morales. 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)

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. Sony's kept tight-lipped for now though.

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.