When Sony burst into the console market back in the mid-90s, many thought their ambitious plan to dominate the gaming landscape would fail. After all, at that time it was Nintendo and Sega who ruled the roost – and they had already seen off challenges from Atari’s Jaguar and Trip Hawkins' 3DO (remember those?)
But Sony hit the market at exactly the right time, ushering in a new era for graphics, gameplay and sound. And over the last quarter of a century, the Japanese giant have gone from strength to strength, pushing the envelope by delivering four massively successful games consoles and a range of spectacular first-party titles.
The PlayStation 5 is expected to launch before Christmas this year, bringing with it even more eye-popping visuals and deeper, more immersive games – and a cracking looking new controller in the shape of the DualSense, which wouldn’t look out of place on the belt of an Imperial Stormtrooper.
But Christmas is still a long way off and if you’re looking for a gaming fix or simply interested in updating your console after buying a shiny new 4K TV, now’s a great time to grab a PlayStation 4-shaped deal.
And let’s not forget Sony’s PS VR headgear, which simply has to be experienced to fully appreciate. I could bang on for hours about how amazing No Man’s Sky, Skyrim and Tetris Effect are – and it’s a smart bit of kit that is only compatible with the PS4, PS4 Slim and PS4 Pro.
Best PS4 deals: what to look out for
The price of a brand-new PS4 can vary depending on the retailer, whether the console comes bundles with any games or if it’s a special edition console. When the PS4 Pro and the PS4 Slim were launched back in 2016, they were priced as follows (approximate prices; console only):
- PS4 Pro 1TB - £349/$458
- PS4 Slim 1TB – £310/$407
- PS4 Slim 500GB – £259/$340
Best PS4 deals: What makes the PS4 so good?
For a start, the PS4 is made by Sony. Not only has the Japanese company got a well-earned reputation for building brilliant tech in general, it’s now one of the world’s biggest console manufacturers.
Released to much excitement in November 2013, the original PS4 delivered significant upgrades on previous iterations, including a sleeker chassis; a removable 500GB or 1TB internal drive; a 1.6GHz, 8-core AMD Jaguar CPU (described by AMD at the time as its “most powerful” CPU to date); and a 1.84-teraflop AMD Radeon GPU. When the PS4 was launched, it was said to be roughly ten times as powerful as the PS3.
Complementing all this extra power, speed and storage was a revamped controller called the DualShock 4, which boasted a more ergonomic design, a two-point capacitive touchpad, a built-in speaker and LED lights, and enhanced motion tracking.
With the PS4, Sony ramped up the sociability factor, enabling gamers to customise their menu interface, link Facebook profiles to PlayStation Network accounts, and view new content from their friends in real time.
The PS4 is also compatible with PlayStation VR, meaning you can put on that space-age headset and immerse yourself in amazing virtual adventures, all from the comfort of your living room.
Unfortunately, the PS4 is not backward-compatible, which means that anyone upgrading from a PS3 has to buy all their favourite games again. This doesn’t seem to have put people off, though. As of December 2019, more than 106 million PS4s had been sold, making it the fourth most popular games console in history – behind the PlayStation 2, the Nintendo DS and the Nintendo Game Boy.
Best PS4 deals: Which versions of the PS4 are available?
In 2016, Sony launched two new PS4 models – the PS4 Slim and the PS4 Pro. The former was effectively a replacement for the original console and, as the name suggests, was slighter (11 x 10 x 1.5 inches as opposed to 12 x 10 x 8.2 inches) and lighter (4.6lb instead of 6.2lb) than the 2013 model. Not a huge amount changed under the hood, with support for faster 5GHz Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and USB 3.1, and better power efficiency, being the key improvements.
The differences between those two consoles and the PS4 Pro are far more noticeable. Slightly bigger and heavier than the original PS4, it boasts a faster processor (2.1GHz, 8-core AMD Jaguar), a much better GPU (4.2-teraflop AMD Polaris) and 1TB of internal storage as standard, making for a generally smoother gaming experience.
Most significantly, though, the PS4 Pro enables you to play supported games, and stream video from PlayStation Plus, in glorious 4K HDR (– providing you have a 4K television, of course. While the original PS4 and the PS4 Slim offer 4K support, it’s for video streaming only.
Best PS4 deals: What titles have been released for the PS4?
To date, well over 2000 PS4 games have been released, meaning you won’t run out of options any time soon. The biggest hitters right now include Red Dead Redemption 2, Death Stranding and Call Of Duty. The PS4 supports both physical (Blu-ray disc) and digital titles, the latter of which can be downloaded or streamed from PS Plus or PS Now.
New titles can cost up to about £50/$65, but you can get your hands on some pretty awesome older titles for much less if you shop around. If you’re not keen on shelling out those kinds of prices for one game, explore the aforementioned subscription services, which offer all-you-can-eat streaming – for a monthly or annual fee – discounted purchases and early access to demos and betas.
Digital versions of games are regularly put on sale through the PlayStation's online store, meaning you can always grab a bargain.
Best PS4 deals: What other consoles are available besides the PS4?
Much like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in the football world, the PS4 has shared the spotlight with the Xbox One ever since the latter was launched in September 2014. Just as the original PS4 has morphed into the PS4 Slim and the PS4 Pro, so Microsoft has augmented its range with the One S, the One S Digital Edition and the One X, all of which offer powerful performance at a similar price to their Sony counterparts.
Another option is the Nintendo Switch. Released in 2017, this versatile device can be used either as a handheld, a table-top or a TV-based console, and boasts an impressive library of titles. However, its resolution tops out at 1080p, and we would argue that its performance doesn’t quite hit the heights of those rival offerings.
There's also the portable Nintendo Switch Lite which comes in cheaper than the original console. However, this version can't be hooked up to a TV and is for portable use only – but it's ideal for gaming on the go or, indeed, while lounging about on the sofa!
Which console should you go for? Until Sony and Microsoft launch their new gaming machines – the PS5 and the Series X respectively – before Christmas 2020, you simply won’t find better than the PS4 – especially the PS4 Pro. And with those new launches imminent, retailers are sure to start dropping the price on current models. Game on!