The big news from this week has been the leak of the PlayStation 4 Slim, Sony’s revision for the PS4 console that keeps things as they are (rather than bumping up the specs like the NEO will), but repackages everything into a smaller case, with presumably cheaper components and higher profit margins for Sony as well. The PS4 Slim is in general an exciting announcement- it’s rumored to be out next month right after it is announced, and in general, Sony have had a great track record with ‘Slim’ revisions of their consoles in the past.
The problem, then, has been in the leaks of the device- there are no two ways to say this, so let’s just get it out of the way. The PlayStation 4 Slim looks, and especially at first glance, ugly. The console looks cheap, almost like an unauthorized Chinese knock-off, and the design is at best inoffensive and at worst, just outright unpleasant. Next to especially Microsoft’s just launched slim revision of their Xbox One console, the Xbox One S – which is a slim, svelte, and extremely good looking piece of kit – the PS4 Slim seems amateurish in comparison.
As would be the case with just about anything else in this cycle of the fanboy wars, fans on all sides have decided to take this issue and run with it, with Sony fans insisting that the PS4 Slim actually looks good, and so what if it doesn’t, anyway, it’s still the more powerful console, and with Xbox fans trumpeting the Xbox One S’ superiority as a revision, and especially just how much better it looks. It’s actually a bit amusing, because it represents a turnaround from the launch of both these systems (the PS4 is considered, in general, to be a better looking console than the comparatively uglier Xbox One), and also because, as I do want to point out: who cares?
"Most people put their consoles in their entertainment centers, where they stay, and are almost never noticed again while they engage in the act of, you know, playing games."
I’m going to, just for a minute, entertain the notion that the PS4 Slim is an ugly machine (it’s not, we’ll get to that part in a bit, but let’s assume that it is for now). The question is, does it matter? Most people put their consoles in their entertainment centers, where they stay, and are almost never noticed again while they engage in the act of, you know, playing games (or really, using your console for anything else). The console is not the part that you see a lot of in your usage- the controller, sure, and the images the console outputs to your TV panel, definitely. The console itself, no one cares about. As long as it doesn’t look atrociously out of place, like a purple lunchbox or something, who cares?
All of which is also missing the larger point that the PS4 Slim isn’t even that ugly to begin with. Yes, I saw the leaked images, and yes, it looked terrible in those, especially next to how great the Xbox One S looks in its images. I can’t argue with that. But you know something? It looked bad because those were leaked images, not official ones. Anything and everything would look bad in unofficial, blurry, leaked images. Even the PlayStation 3 Slim, generally considered to be a really good looking machine, as well as a good revision of the original PS3, looked horrendous in its first leaks.
The truth of this statement can be gleaned from the fact that when Digital Foundry went to verify the existence of the PS4 Slim themselves, with professional grade photography equipment, the pictures they took actually made the PS4 Slim look rather attractive– and this was, in fact, the exact same PS4 Slim in question that had earlier looked so ugly in the leaked images. What changed? Nothing did. The framing of a photograph matters- the camera you use, lens quality, focal length and aperture, ambient light, angle, depth of field, all of this matters. Taking a few quick photos from your smartphone is all well and good- but these are not the pictures that end up on official marketing material, like the really sexy Xbox One S image we keep referring to. Professionally taken and enhanced photographs do.
Thanks, DigitalFoundry for the image.
"The truth of this statement can be gleaned from the fact that when Digital Foundry went to verify the existence of the PS4 Slim themselves, with professional grade photography equipment, the pictures they took actually made the PS4 Slim look rather attractive."
In such a case, jumping on a bandwagon to call the PS4 Slim ugly is facile and puzzling – and I admit that this is something I did myself at first – because you would think most people would be smart enough to pause and say, ‘wait a minute, these grainy and blurry, terribly taken photographs are probably not the best representation of the console, you know?’ It is even more puzzling because Sony, especially, have an incredible track record with their system revisions- the PS2 slimline models are probably the gold standard that all similar revisions in the future were judged by, the PS3 Slim might be one of the most dramatic and popular ‘slim’ release of a console ever, and even the PSP and PS Vita revisions were net gains on the whole. The only miss Sony have had with their console revisions is the PS3 Super Slim, which was a budget priced revision of the PS3 released near the end of its life cycle, and which would, by definition, have been pretty bad- so should that even count, when the revision in question here will be Sony’s flagship product going forward for the next few years?
None of this is to say, then, that the PS4 Slim is ugly- because it is not. It is probably at worst an unremarkable looking machine, and at best, even an attractive looking one. All of which misses the point that in the end, what it looks like certainly does not matter- it’s innocuous enough to blend into its surroundings, and it’s its ability to run games and software that will determine its worth as a platform, not what its external casing looks like.
Of course, I don’t think the PS4 Slim looks better than the Xbox One S, which I truly believe is one of the best looking consoles ever made. But the question is, does it need to? And does it matter? And are we, as console fans, really that desperate for something to discuss that we have made what a console looks like such a major point of discussion?
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.