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

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

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.

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