Upgraded PlayStation 4 Rumored To Be A 4K Gaming Console

Microsoft has hinted at incremental upgrades with the Xbox One and it now appears Sony has the same idea with the PlayStation 4. A new report claims Sony is working behind the scenes with developers to bring more graphics and processing power to its console, possibly making it capable of gaming at 4K resolutions.

Sources with Kotaku claim a "PS4.5" is being discussed behind the scenes with developers that adds an upgraded GPU and more general processing power. This is to support 4K resolutions for games as well as to enhance games for the PlayStation VR headset, which Sony just announced will release this October.

The rumor comes from several different developer sources as well as from conversations overheard during the Game Developers Conference 2016 (GDC). "Kotaku UK EIC Keza MacDonald overheard some developers casually talking about the machine while on line at GDC. They mentioned the name 'PS4.5' and discussed its increased horsepower, mentioning both 4K resolution and PlayStation VR," the site reports.

PlayStation VR
The PlayStation VR [Image via Sony]Details on the upgraded PlayStation 4 are still vague and possibly even only "exploratory." A 2016 release for the device seems unlikely at this point.

Still, a graphical and processing boost to the console would be welcome to pixel counting gamers. The PS4 is capable of 1080p for most games, but there are still some that tax it enough to only reach 900p. Something powerful enough to support a 4K resolution would not only bring quadruple the number of pixels for extra detail, it would also support higher frame rates and added graphical effects.

This would also allow Sony to continue its focus on PlayStation VR. The first iteration of the virtual reality headset has a slightly more consumer friendly price, but isn't nearly as detailed as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, which both require powerhouse PCs to operate.

Unfortunately, that is the current downside when it comes to 4K and virtual reality gaming. The hardware needed to run them is expensive. On PC, 4K requires a graphics card that costs more than the PlayStation 4 by itself while the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive VR headsets require cards that cost approximately the same as the console. That doesn't even include the cost of the processor itself that would also need to be upgraded.

In short, an upgraded PlayStation 4 or PS4.5 would also be a more expensive console. The price for the PS4 just dropped to $350 this past fall, so it is possible Sony would likely continue selling the older model at a discounted price while selling the upgraded model for much more.

The release model would be similar to the one Apple uses for the iPhone. A new version of the phone is released and then the "S" model comes out a year later at the same price, while last year's model is still sold for less.

PlayStation 4
[Image via Sony]This incremental upgrade model appears to be the way the console industry is headed. Phil Spencer confirmed as much during a recent Windows 10 gaming showcase followed by clarifying remarks during a Major Nelson podcast. The fact both consoles use the same x86 architecture as PCs with some special tweaks should make the transition easier. Spencer's goal is to make games backward and forward compatible, much like apps.

As for a 4K capable PlayStation 4, cost will likely be a deciding factor on what direction Sony goes. An upgrade to the console to provide better support for PlayStation VR without trying to reach 4K seems possible in the near term. The costs associated with Ultra HD resolution put it out of mass consumer release until late 2017 or 2018 at the earliest.

Would you buy an upgraded PlayStation 4? Sound off in the comments below.

[Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images]