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Reports are Sony will launch a PlayStation 4 capable of 4K, Microsoft might too

by: John -
More On: PlayStation 4

One of the things that consoles are known for is the stability of the platform per generation. There's been a few times a company has tried to push something in the current gen to make it a little more powerful (Atari's StarPath SuperCharger, Sega CD), but for the most part, you knew your console could play all the games released for it during its life cycle.

Well, this generation might see a slight change to that plan. Reports are coming out from all over the place that Sony will be launching a PlayStation 4K in the coming months that's capable of outputting 4K content and would be a much better console to use with the upcoming PlayStation VR than the current one. The increased horsepower would make VR games run much smoother and the architecture should also allow it to play 4K Blu-Rays as well as stream 4K content to a capable TV.

If this is true, we're going to have a fragmented console generation. Developers are going to have to account for one set of customers with a more powerful machine. Would they increase a game's graphics for those with the 4K system? In theory, it's just like the PC world where those with better graphics cards get better images. If it's just on a graphical level, disparity between the two consoles might not be so bad.

Not to be outdone, there were rumors and Netflix has even predicted that Microsoft would release an Xbox One variant that would be 4K capable as well. Microsoft doesn't have a dog in the VR fight, but it would help the stigma of being a console with less graphical horsepower than the PlayStation 4.

The move to the x86 architecture for both Sony and Microsoft really makes this simple though in terms of games compatibility. You don't have to do any recompiling or more work to get a title to run on a newer, more powerful console. Which, if they are going to this route, should make things much smoother on the software side of things. AMD would provide a much more powerful GPU and CPU given that what we have today is heads and shoulders above what was available when the two consoles launched a few years go. 

Both current consoles have the outputs necessary for 4K as both have HDMI 1.4. They aren't powerful enough though to handle it. I've read that the Xbox One had troubles playing a 4K version of The Hobbit so if Microsoft wants the Xbox One to be a home media hub, then having a console to display 4K content for all those cheap 4K TVs now available would be something that they definitely would want to look into.

All reports are saying they are due out this year, so do they announce the new consoles at E3? Seems like a good time to do it as it's a few months away. 

The question now is for owners of a PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, would you go and pick up a new one that's more powerful should they release it this year? And all signs point to both companies launching them this year.