Midway through this console cycle, Sony has opted to upgrade the already fantastic PlayStation 4 by adding some more horsepower to push 4K gaming forward. The result is the triple-decker PlayStation 4 Pro ($400), which promises to make good use of your new 4K and HDR ready display. Many have already wondered whether this is a necessary upgrade, or if this is simply for tech-heads who need to get their hands on the newest, shiniest piece of hardware. Let’s dig in.
This is a beefy console; it looks like an extra layer was added to the PS4 Slim with the same matte finish. Like before, the new power and eject buttons are on the front of the hardware, but this time around they’re pretty thin and even harder to see, making it difficult to hit the first few times. As for the back, it adds a new USB port and even includes the optical port that was ditched in the Slim console. The Pro still uses an internal power supply, though the cable used is now different. Aesthetically, I wouldn’t call this one of Sony’s best designs, but it’s fine and stays with the same eraser-like design seen in the original PS4.
The Pro will also come installed with a 1TB HDD, doubling the standard hard-drive space of the Slim and will also support faster Wi-Fi, making it that much easier to download your games from online. The new DualShock 4 is also included in the package. It’s very similar to the previous controllers, except this one adds a little slot on the front of the touchpad that shows the lightbar, making it easier to know which character you are when playing multiplayer.
What’s important, however, is what comes on the inside. The biggest improvement comes in the GPU, which incorporates features from AMD’s “Polaris” architecture. That gives developers more processing power to work with. The CPU also gets a minor boost in power. What this all means is that those who create our favorite games will have a bit more to work with in the graphics department. Developers can use this to produce a smoother frame rate, native 4k graphics, 4K upscaling, and other graphical upgrades.
As many have already discussed, the jump from 1080p to 4K (2160p) visuals isn’t as noticeable as it was the first time televisions went from standard to HD visuals. So don’t expect a massive improvement. For the most part, gorgeous games still looked gorgeous. And really, I think most people will feel the same way when they try the Pro out. But it would be silly to ignore the fact that 4K gaming is the future, and something that makes the PS4 Pro somewhat future-proof. At the moment there are 40+ titles that are enhanced for this new hardware, with more coming. I actually think the support of High Dynamic Range technology is more noticeable to the average gamers. This makes colors look much more natural, and even pop off the screen.
The best use of this processing powers comes with the upgrade in Rise of the Tomb Raider. Within the game’s menu, you can choose between three different visual settings, ranging from 4K visuals to a smooth but graphically wanting 60 frames per second. I found myself sticking with 60 fps just to get the ultimate smooth experience, but getting these sort of options is really nice. There’s even a visual mode that adds enhanced foliage and that sort. This will even make some of the visuals on a 1080p display better depending on how the developer chooses to use the processing power—just don’t expect anything drastic. I can definitely get used to more games doing this. Otherwise, the other games that I checked out like Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare looks great as well, but again, it already looked pretty stunning beforehand.
As for other media, you can stream 4K content from YouTube and Netflix. This to me is much more important because with videos you’re only focusing on what you see, whereas with gaming gameplay mechanics are much more important. That’s why it’s strange that Pro doesn’t support 4K Blu-ray discs (something the Xbox One S does). Because of that, this console falls short of being a great media hub.
An upgrade that may go unnoticed for some is the addition of an extra USB port in the back of the console. For those of you who own the PlayStation VR along with the original PS4, you already know that the processing unit takes up a USB slot, which unfortunately has to sit at the front of the console. That is, until now. It might seem minor, but it makes everything tidier. No one likes a bunch of cables sticking out in front of their console.
More importantly, however, is that a more powerful PS4 will also improve some of the VR experiences. Unfortunately the PSVR headset has a set resolution, so that won’t change, but developers are saying they’ll be able to add more detail to the worlds thanks to the extra processing power of the console. That to me is a huge reason to warrant the upgrade. As we already know, VR gaming is all about immersion, and if developers can add more foliage, decrease the jaggies, and push for smoother frame rates, that’s absolutely fantastic for VR gaming.
The PS4 Pro is a nice upgrade, but not a necessary one. Unlike the original Xbox One, which started to show some of its limitations early on, the PS4 is still a stellar console. So those thinking of getting the Pro need to know that despite all of the bells and whistles, this is about 4K gaming. For those that really care about frame rates and high-definition gaming, this is the console for you. Still, it’s hard to give a full endorsement of the product at this point, simply because it depends on how future games take advantage of the upgrades. That said, it is the most powerful home console on the market at the moment. If you don’t own a PS4 and are looking at getting one, this is absolutely a winner. Even if you don’t own a display that will take advantage of the new power, you’ll at least get a future proof console that’ll be ready whenever you decide to upgrade your television. So at $400, it’s not a bad deal, even when comparing it to the $300 Slim.
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