Closing in on 50 million units sold, it’s safe to say Sony’s PlayStation 4 has been a huge success, significantly outpacing its closest competition, Microsoft’s Xbox One.
The PlayStation 4 Pro represents a new move for Sony. While the company has refreshed many of its consoles before, the PS4 Pro marks the first time a mid-generational design has received a significant boost in processing power. Sony says that the Pro was primarily designed to take advantage of burgeoning 4K TVs, but is it powerful enough? More importantly, is it worth it? Let’s find out.
The PS4 Pro promises to deliver better, smoother graphics than its predecessor. You’ll only get that graphical upgrade on titles with a free downloadable software patch installed. The most noticeable improvements will also likely require TVs with support for 4K resolutions and HDR, the high contrast mode that can offer bright whites and more gradient blacks.
The PlayStation 4 Pro is essentially a PS4 with better hardware inside that’s designed to improve the performance and visuals of what’s currently possible on a standard PS4. Not every PS4 game can take advantage of the Pro, but no matter what it will play any PS4 game you throw at it.
A regular PS4 game will need a downloadable patch to support PS4 Pro’s upgrades, but it’s still unclear what exactly each patch will provide. For any given title, a Pro update will bring some or all of the following enhancements: Better performance and/or framerates, higher output resolution and/or textures as well as HDR support. That latter feature, however, is also available on the non-Pro PS4 consoles following a September software update. Judging from the updates we’ve seen so far, there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason in regard to which games get what.
Only a small number of games with Pro patches were live for us before review time, but Sony promises that 30-plus games will have Pro patches at launch, totaling 45 by the end of 2016.
Physically, the PS4 Pro looks like a beefier PS4 Slim. Its footprint is a bit larger but it’s not much bulkier than the original 2013 PS4. It casts a thin, horizontal LED light (blue, orange and white) from the front of the unit when in different modes of operation.
The PS4 Pro will launch with Netflix support at 4K resolution in addition to a YouTube app with 4K and HDR compatibility. More apps will open up support for 4K and HDR features as the platform matures.
Also exclusive to the PS4 Pro is improved bandwidth for the Remote Play and Share Play options, that let players stream gameplay over the internet to other locations. Both modes will be able to share, stream and play at 1080p, which is a bump up from the standard PS4’s 720p cap.
Of course we need to bring up the most glaring of missing features: 4K UHD Blu-ray playback. For whatever reason, the PS4 Pro cannot play these discs (unlike the Xbox One S). Standard Blu-rays will be upscaled to fit 4K screens, however.
Should you buy a PlayStation 4 Pro? If you have a 4K HDR TV and are looking to buy a console, I’d definitely recommend the PS4 Pro. Even if you have a 1080p TV and are looking to buy a PlayStation, I’d still lean more toward the Pro. Yes, it does cost $100 more than the Slim model, but you get more ports, twice the storage space, more future-proof hardware in the event that you ever decide to get a 4K TV, and some games can look slightly better at 1080p.
If you already have a PS4, however, I wouldn’t make the upgrade unless you have a 4K HDR TV and the extra cash lying around. Graphics enthusiasts may appreciate the improved anti-aliasing and more vibrant colors, but the differences likely won’t blow most people away.
Regardless, the PS4 Pro is priced fairly, offers a plethora of features, and is the most powerful console you can buy today.