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Sony PS4 Pro review: Beats the PS4?

Written by  Nov 23, 2016

It's been three years since the launch of the PS4, and it would normally be around now that we'd start looking toward what Sony has in store for its next gaming console.

As the name implies, it’s still a PS4 at heart. It plays all the same games and comes with exactly the same software interface. It even shares a similar slanted design; in fact it's, despite its looks, only a touch larger than the original PS4, measuring 295 x 327 x 55mm (WDH).

So what does “Pro” stand for? That is derived from its enhanced graphics, which make use of AMD's new Polaris architecture to provide superior performance, support for higher, 4K resolutions, more stable frame rates and an improved VR experience for PSVR owners. It's essentially been designed to make your PS4 games look even sharper in Full HD, and, if you have a 4K TV, do its absolute best to take them beyond that 1080p threshold.

ps4 pro

Is the PS4 Pro a true 4K gaming machine?

Unfortunately most games won't actually have full, native 4K support. Instead, most PS4 titles with PS4 Pro support will be upscaled to 4K using a technique known as “checkerboarding”. This effectively doubles the size of each individual pixel block to reach higher resolutions, such as 3,840 x 2,160, and allows games to run at higher resolutions. Which is mostly good but it does mean some games run better on the standard PS4.

The depth and scale of PS4 Pro support will vary from game to game, which means that on some you’ll see a difference but not so much. You can see a full list of supported titles on Sony's website, but the extent of how each one's improved will very much depend on individual developers, making it hard to give a definitive verdict on whether the PS4 Pro is a worthwhile investment over the new PS4 Slim, which is £100 less, or an original PS4 secondhand.

It's also worth noting that, while the PS4 Pro also supports HDR for richer colours and improved contrast, it only supports the HDR10 specification rather than Dolby Vision, so some 4K HDR TVs, such as the Dolby Vision-compatible models made by LG, won't be able to make the most of Sony's new console. At the time of writing, Sony has said it doesn't have any plans to introduce support for Dolby Vision.

Also see: Xbox One X vs PS4 Pro: Which one is the best?         

 

Do I need a 4K TV for the PS4 Pro?

No you don’t have to own 4K TV. From the handful of games I've tested with the PS4 Pro, it's clear the console offers a marked improvement in terms of overall sharpness and clarity and also looked better at 1080p.

On a 50in 4K TV, Rise of the Tomb Raider looked fantastic. Not only did it look much sharper than a standard PS4, but the level of detail in Lara's clothes and her surrounding environments was superb.

PS4-Pro-635750

While some games such as Ratchet and Clank simply “support” the PS4 Pro and adjust to the new output settings automatically, others, such as Rise of the Tomb Raider, have a multitude of different options available. While a little confusing at first, I found the games that provided different graphics options actually gave me a clearer idea of how I was using the console compared to the titles that adapted automatically.

ps4-back

Should buy a 4K TV specifically for the PS4 Pro? the answer is debatable. Yes, it looks stunning, but in Rise of the Tomb Raider at least, I wouldn't say the difference between the 4K mode and lower resolution Enhanced Visuals setting was actually that different.

If anything, the Enriched Visuals was slightly easier on the eyes, as the softer edges did a better job of hiding signs of motion blur and jagged edges. Plus, it was also able to render a lot more environmental detail than the 4K mode, giving it a fuller, more PC like appearance.

Consequently, I don't feel the need to rush out to buy a 4K TV just to take advantage of the PS4 Pro's higher resolutions. You'll still get plenty out of it on a normal Full HD TV, it's hard to say how much benefit you'll actually see on a 4K TV compared to the Full HD one you already own. Sony are not making anything clear about future games and their graphics capabilities.

Also see: Xbox One S Review (UK): 4K Blu-ray at it's best         

 

Is it worth upgrading to the PS4 Pro?

The PS4 Pro brings improvements, but they're not particularly significant in the grand scheme of things. A few visual improvements here and there do not justify a £350 upgrade for PS4 owners. Sony has long since confirmed there will be no PS4 Pro exclusive titles, so you don’t need to worry about missing out on any particular games, either. I'm certainly not tempted to pay an extra £350 for the privilege.

ps4 pro dual shock

On the other hand, for those who already own a 4K TV which is in ever increasing numbers, it’s an easier choice. Games look a little better and as time wears on developers will begin to develop for the PS4 Pro ahead of the PS4, which is really what needs to happen. If you want that little bit extra at the extra cost then go for it, enjoy.

Sony PlayStation 4 Pro 1TB at Amazon for £332

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