The PlayStation 4 Pro Preview: To buy or Not to buy and the many benefits of a Pro?

With the release of the PlayStation 4 Pro only a week away (11 Nov) many people are wondering what all the hubbub is about and if they should put down their hard earned cash to join the 4K gaming revolution? And while the 4K revolution may not be for everyone there are benefits under the hood that every gamer could enjoy but does the extra pizazz justify the extra cost? Ah if only we could all afford to just buy them all!



Known early on as Project Neo the PlayStation 4 Pro has generated as much confusion as it has enthusiasm. Sony’s marketing machine has been hard at work in the lead up to the launch pushing the Pro as the high fidelity PS4, while also highlighting that both the PS4 Slim and the Pro will exist side by side, both playing from the same catalogue of games.

The Benefits

highpants-playstation-4-pro-horizontalThe technological benefits of the Pro come down to two main upgrades; the PS4 Pro’s HDMI 2.0 port which allows it to run at the native resolution of a 4K TV, 3840 x 2880. Also the upgraded silicon provides increased graphics power, improved colour fidelity with HDR and also improved smoothing with higher anti-aliasing settings. This extra processing grunt also benefits 1080p gamers with new double (60FPS) framerate modes available.

The new features show up in the settings screens of games upgraded to take advantage. Typically, when playing these games on a 4K TV you will have 4K modes (30FPS/60FPS) available, on 1080p screens players would see a number of extended modes over the original PS4, typically higher framerates and improved detail options.

While there was much chatter early on in the development of Project Neo that the GPU would never be capable of driving 4K resolutions Sony begs to differ. Recent demos of the Witness in 4k (1440p) have garnered comments like gorgeous and spectacular which seems to suggest Sony and AMD have it covered. Check out the Tomb Raider 4K preview below.

To buy or not to buy, that is the question on everyone’s mind.

With twice the pixel pushing power of the Slim and native 4K support the Pro entices gamers to cough up their cash but with both consoles playing the same games many people are wondering if the extra cash is really worth it? A question that comes down to two important factors, do you already own a PS4 and do you own a 4K TV?

Now the most important factor in the decision is the type of TV you will be plugging the PlayStation into. If like most you own a 1080p LCD TV then the appeal of the Pro is diminished a little. Both versions of the console will look great, the Pro just slightly more so. The performance improvements of the Pro are enough to allow games to render at 1080p instead of lower resolutions, as many gamers do now. Anti-Aliasing also runs at higher levels on the Pro and games that take advantage of the Pro will typically run at 60FPS versus 30 on the Slim. Throw in HDR colour and you  realize there are some real advantages, although to be honest HDR will be rolled out to all PS4’s in the coming weeks and the graphics improvements may not be enough justify the extra cost.

However, the difference when connecting the Pro to a 4K TV is like the difference between great and spectacular (see ExtremeTech article). A PS4 Slim will always send a 1080p signal to the TV which will cause it to upscale to 4K. Whereas a Pro will internally deal with any scaling and send a full resolution 4K picture to your TV. Add the extra processing power and the Pro is a no brainer for 4K TV owners, especially those of us new to the PS4.

The trickiest ‘To buy or Not to Buy’ decision belongs to gamers who have a 1080p TV’s and already own a PS4. It’s a fair wad of cash for a slight graphics update. To these people I say at least wait till I have mine before creating a shortage or getting in line in front of me.


The Architecture

The performance improvements of the Pro stem from the upgraded AMD APU at the core of the console. The graphics processor received the most attention during the upgrade with the latest generation Polaris GPU core shoe-horned in. Sony and AMD also doubled down on the number of graphics compute units, 32 versus 16 in the Slim. Faster APU and RAM clock speeds round out the performance upgrade.

These are the new PS4 Pro specs (TechRadar+):

  • highpants-playstation-4-pro-standingMain processor: Custom-chip single Processor (CPU+GPU)
  • CPU: x86-64 AMD “Jaguar,” 8 cores (2.1Ghz up from 1.6Ghz)
  • GPU: 4.20 TFLOPS, AMD Radeon™ Polaris based graphics engine (Double Performance, 36 compute units @ 911Mhz up from 16 CU’s @ 800Mhz)
  • Memory: GDDR5 8GB 1GB of VRAM (memory speeds improve to 218 GB/sec, up from 176 GB/sec)
  • Storage size: 1TB
  • External dimensions: Approx. 295×55×327 mm (width × height × length) (excludes largest projection)
  • Mass: Approx. 3.3 kg
  • BD/DVD Drive: BD × 6 CAV, DVD × 8 CAV (No 4K-DB, dooh)
  • Input/Output: Super-Speed USB (USB 3.1 Gen.1) port × 3, AUX port × 1
  • Networking: Ethernet (10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX, 1000BASE-T)×1, IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth® 4.0 (LE)
  • Power: AC 100V, 50/60Hz
  • Power consumption: Max. 310W
  • Operating temp: 5ºC – 35ºC
  • AV Output: HDMI out port (supports 4K/HDR) DIGITAL OUT (OPTICAL) port

highpants-playstation-4-pro-in-the-box 

The Games

So with all of this upgrade work complete it is all for naught if the games don’t take advantage. Just imagine if the games looked basically the same, LOL, Samsung would finally have someone to laugh at! So which games will be ready to take advantage of the new hardware?

Sony’s upcoming games enhanced for the PS4 Pro:

  • Days Gone
  • Gran Turismo Sport (Ow Hell Yeah)
  • Gravity Rush 2
  • Horizon Zero Dawn.

Other upcoming PS4 Pro enhanced games:

  • Days Gone
  • Dishonored 2
  • Farpoint
  • Final Fantasy 15
  • For Honor
  • Horizon: Zero Dawn
  • Killing Floor 2
  • The Last Gardian
  • Mass Effect: Andromeda
  • Nioh
  • Resident Evil 7 Biohazard
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider
  • Spider-Man
  • Titanfall 2
  • Watch Dogs 2

Currently released games being patched to include PS4 Pro support:

  • Battlefield 1
  • Battlezone
  • Bound
  • Call Of Duty: Black Ops 3
  • Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered
  • Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
  • Dishonored 2
  • Driveclub VR
  • EA Sports FIFA 17
  • Firewatch
  • Helldivers
  • Hitman
  • Hustle Kings
  • inFAMOUS First Light
  • inFAMOUS Second Son
  • Knack
  • Mafia III
  • Mantis Burn Racing
  • Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
  • NBA 2K17
  • Neon Chrome
  • Paragon
  • PlayStation VR Worlds
  • Ratchet & Clank
  • Rez Infinite
  • Ride 2
  • RIGS Mechanized Combat League
  • Rise Of The Tomb Raider
  • Robinson: The Journey
  • Smite
  • Super Stardust Ultra
  • The Elders Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited
  • The Elders Scrolls: Skyrim Special Edition
  • The Last Of Us Remastered
  • The Last Of Us: Left Behind
  • The Playroom VR
  • Thumper
  • Titanfall 2
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
  • Until Dawn: Rush of Blood
  • Viking Squad
  • Wheels of Aurelia
  • World Of Tanks
  • XCOM 2

Conclusion

With the 4K revolution moving much slower than the previous transition to HD LCD displays Sony may have made a very wise decision in releasing the Pro along-side the Slim. The only really disappointing fact being the lack of a 4K-BluRay player. Whinning aside Sony have covered their bases with an each-way bet and who knows it may be the extra buzz Sony needs to really get developers on-board with the PS4. Will the bet pay off? Has the gaming market grown large enough to support two PS4’s? Only time will tell of course but my money is on playing Gran Tourismo in 4K on an OLED TV.

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References

TechSpot – Sony reveals which games will be optimized for the PlayStation 4 Pro on launch day
TechRadar – PS4 Pro: Release date, news and features of the new PlayStation 4
VR-Zone – These are the PlayStation 4 Pro games you’ll be able to play on launch day
ExtremeTech – The Witness, Nioh get PS4 Pro upgrades, show how developers can use Sony’s updated console