Let’s face it - the PS4 is basically a gaming PC inside a console-sized box.
And as anyone with a gaming PC will tell you, the creeping urge to update grows stronger over time until there’s nothing else to do but upgrade. It’ll happen to Microsoft next year with Project Scorpio, but Sony’s already there - and the PS4 Pro is that upgrade.
Substantial hardware updates under the hood include a faster CPU, more powerful graphics chip and extra memory for game developers to play with. It means the PS4 Pro is much more powerful than the standard console, outputting games at higher resolutions, at faster framerates, and with more detail than before.
Sure, the PS4 Pro hits higher frame rates and squeezes more detail out of some 1080p games such as the excellent Rise of the Tomb Raider. But this console is really meant for 4K TV owners looking to make the most of their pixel-packed screens.
Is that you? Time to make some room under the TV - your games will look sharper, with more detailed textures and more stable frame rates. What’s not to like?
Sony PlayStation 4 Pro design: Pro Evo
There’s not much in it between the PS4 Pro and original PS4. The new console is a few centimeters bigger in every direction, but it’ll still slot into the space left by your old PS4 if you’re upgrading.
That all-over matte finish might look slick, but like a lot of mid-cycle console upgrades, the whole thing is made from more plastic this time around. Expensive touch-sensitive buttons have been ditched for physical ones, too - they’re tactile, so easier to tell when you’ve actually pressed them, but they do feel a bit cheap and plasticky.
It’s a similar story around the back, with the same HDMI, Ethernet, digital optical audio and PlayStation Camera ports. The HDMI port does get a boost to support 4K, and the figure-of-eight power loop has been replaced with a kettle-lead though.
The WiFi chipset has also been boosted to 802.11ac, so you’ll get better wireless speed and range if your router can handle it.
New to PS4 Pro is a third USB3.0 port and more obvious hard drive access, if you want to replace the 1TB drive.
You get a power cable, a wired headset for online chat, a new HDMI 2.0 cable that conforms to 4K standards, and a USB cable to charge the controller in the box - so pretty much the same as the original console.
That controller is of course the slightly tweaked model we first saw bundled with the PS4 Slim. Light now emits from the top of the controller, and the buttons are grey instead of black.
Personally, I prefer the Xbox One controller (particularly in its Elite form), but then I’m weird like that. I know plenty of people who prefer the PlayStation model, but if you’re like me, check out our guide to using an Xbox controller on your PS4.
UHD Better Believe It
Setup on a 4K TV is a bit more fiddly than on a 1080p screen, as not all TVs support 4K HDR on all HDMI inputs. If the bundled 3ft cable isn’t long enough either, make sure to pick up an HDMI 2.0-compatible one.
We tested the PS4 Pro on Samsung’s UE65KS9500 (RRP: £3500, S$6040) and the Philips 65PUS7601 (RRP: £2,000, S$3450), but neither TV supported HDR out of the box - we had to dig around in the settings menus to enable it.
After that, though, getting it all running was a breeze. Sony lets you transfer data from another PS4 locally using a network cable, or you can sign into PSN to download your games (and save files if you’re a PS Plus subscriber).
1TB should be enough for most people to store their digital library, but with many games coming in at 50GB (and over), that soon starts filling up. Thinking of an upgrade? No problem.
It was far easier to upgrade the PS4’s internal hard disk than the Xbox One’s, and that’s still true on PS4 Pro. In fact, it’s even easier than before: Sony has made it really obvious where the drive is, rather than covering it up.
Switching the interface from SATA2 to SATA3 effectively doubles data transfer speeds, too. Go crazy and install an SSD, and you can expect faster load times in games. It’s not a cheap upgrade, though: a 960GB SSD costs around S$370 at time of review.
But hey, performance never comes cheap.
Sony PlayStation 4 Pro output: Hi-res loveliness
Have you somehow managed to buy all 700+ PS4 games released so far? No, thought not. But whatever is currently in your collection will play nicely on PS4 Pro. It’ll upscale all of those games to 4K resolution, too.
The real difference comes with games that have been optimised for PS4 Pro. There are 30 at launch, and that number should hit 45 before January.
It’s one major advantage that the PS4 Pro has over the Xbox One S. Because the Pro has more power as opposed to just gaining 4K capabilities as the Xbox did, those fully optimised games will look better than anything you can play on Microsoft’s console. The One S does have a handful of its own ‘optimised’ games, but these are optimised only for HDR rather than performance.
Developers can choose how they take advantage of the improved performance, either bumping the resolution, increasing frame rates, adding more detailed textures, or a combination of all three.
Highlights at launch include inFAMOUS: First Light, where the PS4 Pro ups the rendering resolution to 1800p, adds HDR support and improves anti-aliasing (which smooths out jagged edges). Uncharted 4 gets HDR and a resolution bump too. Both look fantastic as a result - a real, tangible improvement for anyone with a 4K HDR TV.
Rise of the Tomb Raider goes for a more customisable approach. You can play in 4K at 30 frames per second, 1080p with high detail, or 1080p at 60fps. Personally, I value frame-rate over everything else, but you can change your mind at any time from the settings screen.
While 30 PS4 Pro-optimised games out of 700-plus total PS4 games isn’t a great ratio, there is at least a good mix of classic, budget and brand new games to choose from.
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and The Last of Us: Remastered are fantastic games that don’t break the bank, and this year’s Christmas big hitters are covered too, with FIFA 17, Battlefield One and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare all on the list.