After long rounds of rumours and speculation, the first appearance of a console within the same generation but with better hardware is here. The PS4 Pro is not in the position to be replacing the PS4- the good old console is getting a refresh with a slimmer build- but the idea of having a console that can provide even better visuals that what is available currently can be tempting to some enthusiasts, especially those that have been envying the PC with its unlocked framerate potential and ability to run games up to 4K resolution with the latest set of CPUs and GPUs. In fact, Sony’s Andrew House made this the intent of providing the PS4 Pro, so that PS4 players won’t jump ship to PC just yet.
But is it worth getting one? Is it time to go Pro? Should you sell your PS4 right now? Or is it wiser to wait a bit before jumping into the PS4 Pro bandwagon? Here’s some details about the Pro from various sources for you to weigh in before making the decision.
It Sports Better Visual, Both On 4K And 1080p TVs
The PS4 first launched in 2013, and if you look at its hardware, it roughly stacked up to what a mid-tier PC circa 2013 would have. 8GB RAM (though shared with system and for the GPU), AMD’s architecture. The visuals of what the next generation of consoles could output was overestimated by many, look back at the first Watch_Dogs trailer in 2012 and various other trailers before both Xbox One and PS4 were officially announced. That’s why many games announced prior to the launch of both systems were “downgraded” when they finally released.
The PS4 Pro packs some better heat to be on par with the current PC specs. AMD’s new Polaris architecture provides the PS4 Pro more GPU power and faster clock speeds for the CPU. This upgraded spec is enough to get some games running in 4K resolution- either natively or not, more on that later- and can allow better performance on the default 1080p resolution the PS4 has been outputting before. That means you can expect better performance for games on the PS4 Pro if devs support it. If a game does not support 4K, the PS4 Pro will upscale it to 4K if you’re playing on a 4K TV. Otherwise, expect to see better performance, prettier visuals or higher framerates; some games can even go to 60fps in 1080p- or render in native 1080p- with the Pro when it was unavailable with the PS4.
So the PS4 Pro isn’t something you really need a 4K TV to be worth spending.
PS4 Pro Support Depends On The Devs, And Not Entirely Predictable
Another thing to consider about the Pro is how will developers support the new hardware. Sony emphasised that all games in the PS4 library can be played with the Pro- no PS4 Pro exclusive games- and devs can add a patch or update to make use of the Pro’s additional power.
There’s a reason why Middle Earth: Shadow Of Mordor, a game released back in 2014, was shown running with the Pro; It sells the idea that even already released games can make use of the Pro with just a patch, making it “forward compatible”. While many upcoming games already promising Pro support: Ubisoft’s For Honor and Watch_Dogs 2, Sony’s Horizon Zero Dawn, EA’s Mass Effect Andromeda, recently released games (like Deus Ex Mankind Divided) and past games can make use of this feature as well.
Here’s a short list based on the Playstation Meeting what games confirmed having Pro support. Interestingly, Jonathan Blow’s The Witness, an indie adventure puzzler, will have a Pro patch coming soon. So expect more indies to take advantage of Pro support as well.
As long as more games will be receiving proper Pro support, this could be a nice long term investment.
But the problem is, there is not set in stone feature list that entails what “Pro enhanced” or rather just Pro support means. Some games can be played in 4K. Some might just up the framerate to 60. Some might even just have small or slight tweaks to the graphics. Even 4K resolution might not be a native one- more graphical intense games running in 4K might have to use tricks- such as one called the 4×4 checkerboard to get it running in a similar resolution. Some games, like The Last Of Us Remastered offers options: turn on 30Hz (30fps) mode for better shadows and option to run in native 4K, or run in 1080p with the option to run in 30 or 60 fps, and the ability to turn on or off HDR- basically, just like how graphical settings on PC works. This is the ideal situation, though we are wary of the possibility that the options can be unclear or even worse, hamper the performance even more due to shoddy PS4 Pro support.
On the bright side, games that offer PS4 Pro support will be clearly labeled, but the disclaimer: “PS4 Pro Enhanced features vary by game. Select titles may have enhanced visuals, frame rate, HDR 10 support, or increases in resolution,” is not something convincing.
So at the moment, we can’t say Pro support is a strong selling point just yet. The idea is novel, let’s hope the devs lived up to it with the execution.
No Feature/Content Advantage Of The PS4 Pro Over The PS4
Sony is adamant that the PS4 Pro won’t be replacing the PS4, and they are not selling it as the half step towards a new generation of gaming consoles we all speculated. No PS4 Pro exclusive games, PS4 Pro players will play with PS4 players online in the same servers, no graphical or performance enhancements on the PS4 Pro over the PS4 for multiplayer mode to keep it fair for all, no additional features exclusive to PS4 Pro, PS VR working on both the PS4 and the PS4 Pro. The buzzword here is “interoperability”. The PS4 Pro is treated equally like a PS4, with the Pro in its denoted some slight improvements in graphics. This also means that you can carry all your existing library- digital or physical- to the Pro. So those who do not want to upgrade should not worry about the Pro’s existence, as everything you know and love about the PS4 will be the same.
Except the trailers. Note that trailers showing PS4 Pro has all the remarks and legal watermark indicating it is footage from the PS4 Pro, so don’t get fooled by the trailers’ amazing look, set up high hopes then complained about its downgraded graphics on the PS4. So just a head’s up.
Just Add RM400 For The PS4 Pro
The PS4 Pro’s expected retail price here is RM1799. That’s just RM400 more than the regular PS4, the current slim version retailing at RM1349. If you’re an enthusiast gamer who had yet to have a PS4, maybe the PS4 Pro is an attractive purchase. Plus, the increased performance and graphical fidelity in some games are the things that might be of your interest might be worth the RM400.
But is really worth RM400? That depends on how many games that will be enhanced with the PS4 Pro and how improved the experience is. Which is still up in the air right now.
You’ll Need An HDR TV For HDR, But The PS4 Will Support It Too
The other optional TV feature that the PS4 Pro supports is HDR. High Dynamic Range refers to more variation of colours to make the really bright and really dark images to have more colour in them, thus giving it more detail. To put it simply, it should in theory make the images captured to be in line with our normal eyes can see in really bright or really dark places.
However, this requires a TV that has HDR support before you can see any difference. Even the demo reels from downloadable sources can’t do it justice unless you see it with an HDR capable TV. As such, you’re going to need a 4K TV that also supports HDR to really utilise some of the other features the Pro has.
But HDR is not exclusive to the Pro. All PS4s will receive a firmware update to support HDR. So HDR is not the reason why you should buy a Pro.
The PS4 Pro Supports 4K Steaming, But Not 4K/UHD Blu-Rays
With 4K resolution, the PS4 Pro is primed to support additional media as games have yet to embrace 4K, but TV shows and movies are. You can Netflix and chill or watch YouTube videos in 4K. But the downside here is that the disc reader of the PS4 Pro won’t be able to read 4K/UHD Blu-Rays, only HD ones. To put into perspective, the Xbox One S offers 4K streaming and UHD Blu-Ray discs as well as HDR- the same selling points the PS4 Pro offers. Aside from the additional hardware bump, the Xbox One S is the better mulitmedia hub.
But if you’re not the person who buys Blu-Rays and just use the PS4 for gaming, which is what Sony is assuming, this should be a non-issue. A cheaper price point- just RM400 more from the PS4- for not including that support might be a worthwhile trade for gamers, but for those who want to compare features, this is a huge blow to the value of the PS4 Pro. Microsoft is using this very fact to take a jab on Sony with tweets like this:
— Xbox (@Xbox) September 7, 2016
These are all the arguments that can be used to decide whether you should go Pro or stick with the current PS4. But decide for yourselves if it’s worth it.
If you are an avid gamer that has yet to jump into the PS4, the Pro may be something to consider. If you already invested with the PS4 ecosystem with many games and saves the transition to the Pro should be easy. However, if you could care less for just a bit more graphics improvement and better framerates for some games, don’t care about 4K or HDR and not planning to have TVs that support that, you should not feel pressured or being left out for skipping the Pro. Or maybe you just worry about being an early adopter and afraid that devs can’t follow up with PS4 Pro support, then it is safe to give this a skip.
Sony did a great job of sending out the message of what the PS4 Pro is without triggering a backlash many speculated when the rumours were first heard. Maybe it was not bad after all to let some words slip and take advantage of that hearsay so they can nail the messaging. The PS4 Pro is not as destructive to the current PS4 ecosystem yet still has enough bells and whistles to entice new buyers and enthusiasts already invested in the PS4 to buy one.
If you wish to read on Sony’s take on the PS4 Pro, there’s an FAQ that has additional details of the PS4 Pro should you be interested.