Sony PlayStation 4 Pro vs PlayStation 4: Should you upgrade?

Is this half-next-gen enhancement really worth your holiday cash?

Sony PlayStation 4 Pro

Months after we all heard the surprising reports that Sony planned to release a more powerful PlayStation only three years after the PS4's debut, it was all confirmed yesterday – and it's true.

The PlayStation 4 Pro really is an upgraded version of the existing console, running the same games and using the same peripherals, but the enhancements can't be ignored. With the Pro, you'll see crisper and more detailed graphics, with 4K resolution support for both games and streaming video.

However, the current PS4 isn't going away: in fact, Sony just introduced a slimmer version that will replace it as the entry-level version starting next week. But if you already have the PS4 and you're weighing a Pro upgrade, here's what you need to consider – and what could push you to buy another PS4 this generation.

Yes! Big graphics boost

As we saw in Sony's streamed presentation yesterday, the PlayStation 4 Pro's upgraded GPU means that PS4 games will look significantly better on the new box, with much more detailing, thanks to the resolution bump and processing power increase.

Whether a game is running natively in 4K or has been upscaled (there's still some confusion on which-was-which during the event), you'll get a much crisper visual experience on the Pro. It might not be considered a whole new console generation, but there are very obvious benefits to the Pro hardware above and beyond what the regular PS4 can handle.

Granted, you'll need a 4K TV to get the most out of the Pro, but even if you have a 1080p set, developers will be able to pack in more detail, better lighting and shadows, and other visual enhancements that show in standard HD as well.

Yes! Stream in 4K

Breaking Bad on the LG OLED55C6V

If you do have a 4K TV, then game visuals aren't the only enhancement you should look forward to. The PlayStation 4 Pro will also support 4K video streaming from services like Netflix and YouTube via new apps coming at launch, and Sony says that Netflix will have 600+ hours of 4K content up by the end of 2016.

Weirdly, the PS4 Pro doesn't play 4K Blu-ray discs, which is very surprising considering this is from big Blu-ray backer Sony. It was probably a cost issue, and keeping a 4K disc drive out of the box likely helps keep it fairly affordable. Still, given that the Xbox One S has that support, it's an unexpected oversight here.

No! It's the same games

Uncharted 4: A Thief's End

Let's say you're not insistent on cutting-edge graphics, don't have or want a 4K TV, and just want to play the latest and greatest games at a solid quality level. Fair enough! That probably means that you don't need the PlayStation 4 Pro, then.

Why? Because the two hardware models will run all the same games, whether they're discs or downloads, and it seems like we shouldn't see significant gameplay differences between the way games play on either machine.

Games will probably run smoother on the Pro, but we'd be surprised to see studios pump out games that run poorly on the standard model now that the Pro is coming. After all, 40 million people have the regular PS4, and that number will continue to grow in the years ahead. Leaving those players behind would be a really bad move for any developer.

No! There's HDR for all

One surprising twist that came out of the PlayStation Meeting is that the addition of high dynamic range (HDR) lighting support won't be solely limited to the PlayStation 4 Pro, and it won't just be built into newer PS4 hardware (like the slim console).

In fact, it's coming to each and every PlayStation 4 via a firmware update out next week. So yes, the three-year-old PS4 you bought back at launch will have HDR support in a week - you'll just need the right kind of TV to take advantage of it.

Talk about a slap in the face to Microsoft, which just introduced the Xbox One S with HDR support while the original Xbox One isn't slated to get it. Still, that means that HDR won't be an exclusive perk to the Pro, and you'll still get the benefits on an older PS4.

Yes! VR gets a boost

PlayStation VR

We haven't really seen this one in action yet, but Sony says that the PlayStation VR will benefit significantly from the PlayStation 4 Pro, allowing games to run at higher and smoother frame rates, as well as with more details packed within their immersive worlds.

All of that is super critical for virtual reality. While we expect that PSVR games will look pretty good and run solidly well with the standard PS4, frame rate stability is absolutely crucial to enjoying VR and not getting sick in the process. Boosting the frame rate and enhancing the visual experience will be felt very strongly in VR – perhaps even more so than on your TV.

And it may put the PlayStation VR experience closer to that of the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, both of which require high-end gaming PCs, and make it easier for developers to port over their PC VR games with fewer sacrifices.

Initial verdict: Worth the upgrade?

Sony PlayStation 4 Pro

Your initial reaction to the PlayStation 4 Pro is probably a strong one to follow. Are you a die-hard PlayStation fan who needs to be on the cutting edge? Do you care about 4K? Will you spend months locked inside the PlayStation VR headset? If any of these things apply to you, then it's probably worth trading up to get the Pro.

While there's no word on a launch date or price for India, it's out internationally on 10 November for $399 (about ₹30,000). In our eyes, that seems like a sweet spot for a system that offers pretty major enhancements over the previous model.

On the other hand, if you play casually, are fine with your 1080p set or aren't yet sold on VR, then the upgrade might not be as important for you. The PlayStation 4 will live on for years and continue receiving great games, regardless of the Pro and how well it does, and there's plenty of awesome gaming ahead for the console.

The Pro is for the super-fans and ultra tech-savvy and if that's not you, then don't sweat it – and certainly don't feel bad about it. This isn't an essential upgrade, but it should be a really fun and worthwhile one for a lot of PlayStation aficionados.