They share the same game library and peripherals, but the original PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro differ in more than just name and size.
As you might expect, Sony’s new Pro console packs in some seriously upgraded hardware, using an enhanced GPU to help drive graphics at 4K resolution, either natively or upscaled, and deliver more detailed, smoother-running experiences. In other words, your games can look extra-fabulous if you have the right TV for it.
However, the current PS4 isn’t going away: in fact, Sony recently released a slimmer version that replaced the original as the entry-level option. 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! Solid graphics boost
As the title implies, the PlayStation 4 Pro isn’t a next-level, next-generation console – and as such, we won’t see the kind of dramatic graphical shift we saw from the PS3 to the PS4. But it’s not nothing, either.
Thanks to the newer GPU at the heart of the PS4 Pro, the console can output games at 4K resolution, which is a pretty dramatic step up from the 1080p cap on the current PS4. Granted, it typically won’t be native 4K resolution, which is a mean feat that even strong gaming PC setups struggle with (at least at playable frame rates).
Some games, like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Special Edition, can handle native 4K, as can Rise of the Tomb Raider at a reduced 30fps setting. But many other games will simply run at a resolution higher than 1080p and then be upscaled to 4K to make up the difference. If you’re not a technical snob, you won’t know the difference: the games can look mighty spectacular on your 4K set, especially with HDR (high dynamic range) lighting equipped.
Other graphic advantages come with tweaks that add further texture detail, smooth out jaggies with enhanced anti-aliasing, or take the hitches out of the frame rate – it’s up to each developer to figure out how to use the system’s extra power to enhance their games. About 30 launch games have PS4 Pro benefits in tow, with more coming before long. And every other game will simply be upscaled to 4K, as well.
If you don’t have a 4K/HDR TV, then you won’t see as significant of enhancements – but you’ll still get the graphical flourishes mentioned earlier, and should see prettier, smoother experiences for Pro-enabled games.
Yes! Stream in 4K
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 extra 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.
(That’s the brilliant LG OLED55C6V running Breaking Bad up there, for reference.)
No! It’s the same games
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 we shouldn’t see significant gameplay differences between the way games play on either machine.
Games enhanced for the Pro will undoubtedly run smoother and/or look crisper and better, but we’d be surprised to see studios pump out games that run poorly on the standard model now that the Pro is here. After all, more than 47 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 in September 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 now available for each and every PlayStation 4 via a firmware update that came out earlier this autumn. So yes, the three-year-old PS4 you bought back at launch now has HDR support once you’re fully up-to-date – 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.
Maybe! VR gets a boost
Sony says that the PlayStation VR can 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 PSVR games 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 could be felt very strongly in VR – perhaps even more so than on your TV.
That said, the early batch of PS4 Pro-enhanced VR games don’t really show the potential of the Pro upgrade. Battlezone adds some improved lighting effects and such, and Rez Infinite brings in some particle effects, but we couldn’t see any difference with The Playroom. All told, the enhancements so far seem extremely minor.
With more time, we’ll hopefully see more of an advantage to the Pro experience when it comes to PlayStation VR, but right now, the tweaks are nice-to-haves rather than must-haves.
Yes! Share and stream better
If you’re big on the PS4’s social and streaming functions, then you might see some extra benefit from the PlayStation 4 Pro.
For example, the Share Play feature – which lets you bring an ally into a game like FIFA 17 by streaming a portion of the game you own to his or her PS4 – can now deliver a 1080p experience to the other console, whereas it’s limited to 720p on the regular system.
And if you don’t like to play without an audience, now you can enhance their viewing experience by streaming gameplay at 1080p resolution running at 60 frames per second to services like Twitch and YouTube. Even still screenshots can be grabbed at full 4K – that’s 3840 x 2160 – and flung out into the world.
Many PS4 players probably use these functions sparingly, if at all, but those who really love them could see real value in the Pro upgrade.
Verdict: Worth the upgrade?
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 and already have the TV for it? Will you spend months locked inside the PlayStation VR headset? If all of these things apply to you, then it’s probably worth trading up to get the Pro.
It’s out this Thursday, 10 November at a price of £349 (or US$399), in case price will sway your opinion. 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 is a really fun and worthwhile one for a lot of PlayStation aficionados.
Win a PS4 Pro!
Thanks to the fine folks at TP-Link, provider of reliable networking solutions, we’ve got a Sony PlayStation 4 Pro to give away as part of an ultimate gaming bundle worth £640. Fancy winning this competition? Of course you do.