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This week Sony shared some information on their next Playstation 4 system software update, and the beta program is up and running. There’s an NDA in place so if I was in the beta program I couldn’t tell you.

So far this looks like a good update. The biggest feature for me, a heavy user of the Playstation 4, is support for external hard drives (finally). You can connect a drive of up to 8 TB to your PS4 and store your games and apps on it. For some reason save files, screenshots and video clips still have to live on the internal drive.

If you’re a casual PS4 owner, your best bet is to just upgrade your internal hard drive if you’re concerned about space. It’s easy to do and it means one less bit of clutter in your entertainment center. I think the biggest drive you can get that’ll fit in the PS4 (2.5″ drive that is no more than 9.5 MM thick) is 2 or 2.5 TB. Don’t hold me to that, I haven’t shopped for a new drive for a while, but that’s how things were last time I looked.

For heavy PS4 users (particular those of us who prefer digital to plastic disks) the external option is nice. Personally I have a 1.5 TB drive in my PS4 and a 1 TB drive in my PS4 Pro and both are full (with different content). I’m going to attach a 5 TB drive to the Pro, put everything on it and send the launch PS4 to storage (or maybe the TV in the bedroom). Since I can also use the internal drive, in total I’ll have 6 TB of space which should be sufficient for a while.

Another new feature is “Boost Mode” for the PS4 Pro. Sony has been a little coy about this. They didn’t mention it in their blog post but as soon as folks got their hands on the beta they started talking about it. Boost Mode is an experimental system that lets all games take advantage of the additional power of the PS4 Pro. Prior to Boost Mode, a game needed to be patched in order to get any benefit from the Pro. Now, in theory, every game will run better.

I’m still waiting to see some quantifiable data on this, but I would advise you to moderate expectations. Boost Mode probably isn’t going to take a 30 FPS game and make it into a 60 FPS game, for two reasons. First is that the game is probably locked to 30 FPS, and second is I don’t think we’ll get that much of a boost. I think the more reasonable expectation is that games that run at 30 FPS but sometimes drop to 20 FPS will now stay at 30 FPS. Ditto 60 FPS games that might drop to 50 here and there. Basically my hope for Boost Mode is that it’ll smooth out the gameplay of older games.

YouTube has some videos but they’re all done by amateurs. Hopefully someone like Digital Foundry will do some tests, and pump out some of those cool videos with frame rate and frame pacing indicators on them. Show us numbers with and without Boost Mode.

PSVR owners are getting support for 3D Blu-rays, which has some folk really excited.

You can now share stuff to the PS4’s activity feed directly, which is nice. It used to be that you had to share to Twitter or Facebook or something just to get a clip or screenshot into the activity feed. That was pretty silly.

They’ve tweaked Notifications and the Quick Menu. We’ll see what that means.

You can now use a screenshot as your “Theme” which is a nice feature that should’ve been there since Day 1. Better late than never.

That’s everything I’ve seen reported so far. Generally it seems like these system betas run for about a month before Sony launches to everyone so with luck we won’t be waiting too long for these new features.

Of course you STILL can’t change your PSN name, something folks have been clamoring for. PSN is old enough now that idiot kids who picked offensive PSN names are now responsible adults and are a little embarrassed by their PSN name and they want a way to change it. Heck I’d change mine (Dragonchasers) just to get something shorter for when my name is on-screen and blocking all the scenery!



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