We're outside the Matrix
Sony loves codenames. Whether it's a software update for the PlayStation 4 or something bigger like PlayStation VR, Sony isn't afraid to give it an internal name. When PlayStation 4K rumors started circulating last month, it seemed odd that we instantly started calling it 4K as though it were the final product name. After all, we called PlayStation VR Project Morpheus for just under two years, so not having a codename for the rumored PS4 upgrade seems weird. Giant Bomb is here to save the day, reporting from multiple sources that the PlayStation 4K has an internal codename of NEO. As much as we'd like to add "seeker" to the end of that, it's more likely Sony picked the name for The Matrix given PlayStation VR's codename of Morpheus. Giant Bomb has gotten their hands on some documents that shed some more light on the upgraded PS4 system, including steps Sony is taking not to divide its PS4 install base.
Much like the rumors we've reported previously, NEO will feature upgraded hardware. The base PlayStation 4 currently features an 8 core CPU at 1.6 GHz, an AMD GCN GPU with 18 CUs clocked at 800MHz, and 8 GB of GDDR5 memory at 176 GB/s. PlayStation NEO will reportedly feature an 8 core CPU clocked at 2.1 GHz and an improved AMD GCN GPU with 36 CUs at 911 MHz. The memory will remain the same at 8 GB, but NEO will reportedly feature a faster clock speed of 218 GB/s. These improvements are aimed at more stable frame rates and better graphic quality at 1080p. Gamers looking to take their experience to the next level will be pleased to hear that NEO will support 4K output, but Sony isn't looking to have developers make games run at 4K natively.
Improved hardware may sound like developers will be jumping ship and leaving the original PlayStation 4 behind, but Sony is taking care to not let that happen. According to the documents Giant Bomb received, developers will be required to have two separate modes for games starting in October. One mode will be designed for the original PS4, but the second "NEO Mode" will be used to take advantage of NEO's new hardware. Much like PlayStation VR's 60 FPS requirement, Sony is harping on frame rate for NEO. The documents mention multiple times that NEO Mode must be at least equal to the base mode in frame rate, but they're certainly not going to mind if games get a few extra frames per second on the new hardware. Keeping in line with this train of thought, both PlayStation 4 systems will exist in the same environment. There aren't going to be any NEO exclusives, nor will NEO players have their own PlayStation Store or online spaces. Sony also refuses to allow developers to offer any options in NEO Mode that aren't available on regular PS4 systems.
If the information in these documents hold up, NEO is likely this generation's version of the PlayStation slim model. Previous reports claim the new system will maintain the PS4's $399 price point, indicating Sony may plan on phasing out the current PlayStation 4 model. No release date for NEO was mentioned despite mandating developers start adding a NEO Mode by October. Games with NEO support are allowed to and possibly will launch prior to the new system itself, so gamers won't have to worry about holding off on buying a game if they plan on upgrading their hardware. Older titles can also receive NEO support if developers patch it in, but doing so isn't going to be required. Sony continues to remain silent on the 4K/NEO rumors, but each new bit of information that slips out appears to remain consistent with previous reports. Until Sony decides to comment on the updated hardware, we're treating all of this information as a bunch of rumors.