Sony's PlayStation 4 Pro: Faster, Larger, Louder

Image: PlayStation Australia

There's a moment playing Infamous First Light, as the heroine made of light climbs up a wall in pitch black darkness, that I fully appreciate the hype around the PS4 Pro. The woman is a multicolored bundle of light particles and thanks to HDR, I can make out each particle and note the way they each cast their own vibrant glow on on the red brick wall. Normally, she'd be a big blob of light, but high dynamic range gives you details in moments of extreme brightness and extreme darkness. I'm watching the next big step in video games, and it is extraordinary.

Images below: Alex Cranz/Gizmodo

But Infamous First Light is just one of a handful of games that takes full advantage of what the $559 PS4 Pro can do. The new system from Sony features higher powered guts than the original PS4, and game designers can take advantage of those guts just as they would on a PC with a high-end video card. It means that games on the PlayStation platform have never looked prettier, but it has also introduced a complicated element of PC-like fragmentation that the consoles have normally avoided. Depending on the game it will now look dramatically different on a PS4 versus a PS4 Pro.

It's not the first console to offer a minute upgrade that further fractures the console market. Back in August, Microsoft released the Xbox One S. Like the PS4 Pro the Xbox One S was very much a mid-cycle stab at relevance designed to take advantage of all the 4K tvs in the world now. Besides games in 4K with HDR, the Xbox One S, included a UHD Blu-ray player to entice buyers. The PS4 Pro is banking on fans just wanting considerable visual upgrades to their games.

PS4 Pro Is the Most Powerful Console Ever Built, But You Might Not Notice

The PS4 Pro is larger (and louder) than the old PS4 or the new Xbox One S.

And the upgrades are substantial if your TV can handle them — though it's not the 4K upscaling that makes the Pro worthwhile for hardcore Sony console fans. The real difference is in the colour and HDR the PS4 Pro churns out. The PS4 Pro is capable of outputting an expanded colour gamut, which means you are closer to seeing the reds and blues and greens of the real world versus the muted versions you normally watch on a TV. If your TV can handle more colours (look for a claim of "wider colour gamut" in its marketing), then it's such a difference that you noice it as soon as you flip on your PS4 — the blue screen is just a bit bluer on the PS4 Pro.

The Last of Us Remastered stands out as a particularly good example of what the Pro can do, and where its improvements aren't so great. It's a world 20 years into a zombie apocalypse and ivy and weeds have overrun civilisation. All that ivy and those weeds looks lusher and greener on the Pro compared to on the PS4. The look better approaches the "true" green of plants in the real world — a green most games, and older TVs, are incapable of reproducing. Meanwhile Meanwhile, the HDR is basically only noticeable on the game's start screen.

PS4 Pro Is the Most Powerful Console Ever Built, But You Might Not Notice

The HDR effect is immediately noticeable in the start screen for the game. The curtain is just a blob of white fabric with HDR off, but a gorgeous pattern with HDR on. Also note the sky. Why HDR on you can see it is actually blue. PLEASE NOTE: Because both images are saved to a JPEG file this is more an approximation of how the images appear on a UHD set.

And that's a problem you're going to run into with a lot of games released before the PS4 Pro. While many have been patched for the upgraded console, and more patches are on the way, most titles simply weren't designed with the PS4 Pro in mind, and in particular aren't built for its HDR capabilities. So the rare games that do take advantage of HDR do so in subtle ways. You can see the lace of a curtain as sun streams through it in Last of Us, or you can better see a reflection off a window in Ratchet and Clank. HDR is most noticeable, thus far, in Infamous First Light. The game makes substantial use of light design — most of which was lost when playing on the old PS4.

PS4 Pro Is the Most Powerful Console Ever Built, But You Might Not Notice

It's a much darker game with HDR on, but the details are also more realistic to the way light functions in the real world — which is exactly what the game designers wanted when making the game.

Unfortunately most of the games getting a PS4 Pro boost aren't seeing an HDR patch. The improvements are more subtle. Some games will simply render in true 4K now, while others will just take advantage of the improved guts of the PS4 Pro to provide more shading, wider colour gamut, and improved textures. The key point is the game has to be patched in order to do any of that. Some games, like last year's Witcher 3, will just be a little crisper and smoother. That's the kind of improvement only really noticeable to people who regularly tweak effects on their PC video cards.

And it's the kind of thing I personally hate to see in my console gaming. The beauty of console gaming has always been its simplicity. You plug it in and you have an experience identical to your friend's. Doesn't matter what TV they have, or where they bought the console. All consoles for a particular platform have, until now, been created equally. Even the Xbox One S only provided minor changes for the very few compatible games. The difference between Gears of War 4 on the One S versus the One is difficult to see unless you're really hunting for it.

PS4 Pro Is the Most Powerful Console Ever Built, But You Might Not Notice

The eject and power buttons are no longer right next to each other and indistinguishable sans microscope.

But when I play the PS4 Pro I'm mindful of all those tiny changes. I'm also mindful of just how damn difficult it is to experience those changes first hand. 4K, HDR, and a wider colour gamut are, collectively, referred to as UHD. Both the Xbox One S and PS4 Pro are capable of it, and in order to enjoy UHD you must have a UHD TV (you can find them for as low as $1000 in Australia), your HDMI cable must be fast enough (both systems ship with the right cable), and they have to plug into a TV port with HDCP 2.2 — which is almost never labelled on TVs. You will have to go on a random home theatre forum to figure out which port on your TV works.

PS4 Pro Is the Most Powerful Console Ever Built, But You Might Not Notice

But I have to admit, that when the PS4 Pro is plugged into the right port on a TV that can handle UHD, and when it's playing a game patched for PS4 Pro support, then it's a wonderful experience — One that nearly rivals that of the much, much more expensive PC gaming experience. A PS4 Pro capable of 4K costs $559. A video card capable of the same 4K output at 30fps or higher (like Nvidia's GeForce GTX 1070) starts at $569 — and that's just the card itself. If you really need to take full advantage of your nice new UHD TV, or you long for having the best visuals a console can possibly provide. It will give you the best looking experience on a console right now — as long as the game is patched for it. If not, save yourself a hundred bucks and buy the PS4 Slim.

README

  • Does full UHD, which means 4K resolution, a wider colour gamut, and HDR. It's gorgeous if your TV can handle it.
  • Only some games have been patched to take advantage of the PS4 Pro and each game takes advantage in different ways. Improvements are not universal.
  • Unpatched games don't look noticeably different unless you sit up close and squint.
  • The PS4 Pro's best features don't work when plugged into PS VR.
  • The power button and eject button are now visible to the naked eye. Fumbling to eject a game should be a thing of the past.
  • Its quieter than the PS3, but a little louder than the PS4, particularly when playing discs.

This story originally appeared on Gizmodo


Comments

    Speaking of loud PS4s - the fan in mine has broken now. It squeals like a banshee when the action ramps up. Has anybody had experience with this, and the best (cheapest) way to fix this? Or should I just use this as an excuse to trade in for the pro version...?

      Sounds like a good excuse for a trade it ;)

      I've had mine since just after launch but haven't experienced those problems. Is it possible it could be a dust build up? Maybe vacuum it out and see what happens?

    Louder? I've heard many reports on it being quieter too. I guess the only way to truly know is to pop one next to the other.

    Personally, while I don't see it as a 'must upgrade', I don't see the harm in bringing out mid-cycle updates...as long as both consoles play the same games.

    It's not that different to Nvidia bringing out a 1080 and a 1070...and then 20 other cheaper iterations? The main difference is, console games are designed to run on one piece of hardware (2 now that the Pro is here), not 100's of different variations of graphics chips, mother boards, memory brands, CPU's etc.

    For the consumer, I think it's a win. Do you want great looking games? Buy a PS4, do you want even better looking games? Spend a little more and get a PS4 pro. Either choice, all you have to do is hook it up and play.

      I too have seen a few videos saying it is quieter, a couple of Aus owners on Whirlpool also saying it is quieter.

        Let's get in to summer before we make that call.

        Both my 3 and 4 sound like they are trying to take off lol

        For the most part mine is quieter than my launch PS4. It's almost silent when playing games that haven't been patched for the pro. On games that have beeen patched, mileage varies. TLOU Remastered makes it sound like a hairdryer in 60fps mode. Most of the updated games are quieter than they were on my launch PS4, which admittedly was annoyingly loud. Was hoping it would be a quieter to be honest.

      Quieter for me and my Ps4 wasn't a launch console, I wouldn't say its very noticeable, maybe 20% quieter. My Ps4 would make this "galaaaaaaaaaaaagh" sound, I liked it though. Ps4 Pro sounds like a different console, its obviously bigger but I don't think its louder, it sounds bigger but not louder, not sure if that makes sense. The reviews that claimed its whisper quiet are dead wrong though.

    The comparisons between the PS4 Pro and Xbox One S are a bit misleading here. Sure they're the best that each company is offering now, but the Pro is not a minute upgrade that further fractures the console market - it's a substantial upgrade in capabilities. Where the One S was only 7% faster on average, the PS4 Pro has 2.2 times the GPU power and 31%ish CPU power.

    It mightn't be enough for native 4K gaming and it looks like it will be eclipsed by the Scorpio next year, but for now the Pro is the most powerful console that you can buy. The author's dismissal of 4K Some games will simply render in true 4K now is overly brusque and not a small achievement for the console. 4K (or close to it) gaming is a huge leap in quality over 1080p.

    The only real reservation for this machine, right now, is the lack of a 4K blu ray player, but I suspect people are making a mountain over what is to most people a very small molehill.

    Last edited 10/11/16 12:05 pm

    So, why are people so excited over minor graphical upgrades on console?

      People that choose to play on console are allowed to choose better graphics. Jumping from 1080 to 4k isn't minor, its the difference between a lot of PCs being able to run a game properly. Skyrim runs in native 4k and has boosted draw distance to foliage.
      I'm not going to say its some huge technological leep but its not minor, insignificant or worthless to any console user who is pleased by graphics. Sony will be eating the costs on this, its worth more than the price.

      Go and fuck around on your PC and buy some parts that sound like final fantasy boss battle names if you cant understand why people get excited over a console upgrade.

        I clearly hit a nerve. It's not real 4K resolution, it's upscaled.

        The graphics card in a PS4 pro isn't anything special (it's significantly weaker than a GTX1070), and it sort of defeats the purpose of the whole 'i don't have to upgrade my console', that people always cite as a reason to get a console.

        It just seems that people may as well spend the money on a good PC at that point and not have to buy 2 PS4's if you want better graphics?

          Multiple titles are running in native 4k, Skyrim and The Last of Us being the two shining examples. Anything that's upscaled using the checkerboarding undeniably looks better than 1080.

          People don't buy PCs over consoles because they want a certain level of simplicity, PCs cost more eg graphics card alone capable of decent 4k is the price of the Ps4 Pro, console ecosystem is different etc. Ps4 Pro is good value, I doubt Sony would be making any profit from the console sales.

          Ps4 Pro isn't a PC just because its a slightly more complicated machine to own, I respect PC players, I grew up playing on PC. PC will always be at the front of pushing hardware, I don't want to be at the front dropping thousands of dollars, updating drivers and solving problems, I'm not smart enough. I want to be ahead of where I was with my original Ps4. I'm happy for PC players and all the exciting things that happen in that space, it has no negative effect on me at all, it just seems like the PC community is pissed off and trying to recruit people into its space coz how dare Sony make a more powerful console

            I think you have made a lot of assumptions and harbor quite a few misconceptions about the difficulty and cost of a PC, but that's alright.

            I just find it odd that for people who want to buy something because they believe it is more simple and that they never have to upgrade it, are now dropping more money on it and upgrading it...

              It is objectively more simple to run games on a Ps4 Pro compared to a PC. It is objectively easier to buy a new console compared to upgrading a PC. Might be hard for you to understand but I don't have to upgrade like you would a PC. There is no BELIEF, there's fact. Ps4 Pro is far cheaper than an equivalent PC, its easier to run, easier to use and there's no effort in maintaining it like a PC.

              PC users lead hardware, they're always going to be more powerful and they will always push technology, the benefit of having a powerful PC is its not just limited to games and movies, you can run all kinds of programs. If you're going to argue against consoles, particularly Ps4 Pro on the basis that you might as well just get a PC, you're out of touch. You can have all your tech pushing shit but you will never have the simplicity that consoles have, you cannot argue that you "might as well get a pc" just so you have more steam friends. You might as well get a fucking console, a clue and actually do some research to save you from being the out of touch games guy jacking off to civ 6 with your radeon nvdiadia robotic scorpion fan cooler

                I have consoles and pc. There is no difference in how easy it is to update drivers then it is to do software updates on a console.
                How is it any more difficult to run games? I log in to steam or b.net and hit play? Or.. console.. I do the same thing?

                You are overly defensive. Upgrading parts on a pc is literally opening a case and clicking a part into a connector.

                Maintenance is clicking, update drivers....
                If you want to spend $600 every few years to upgrade a ps4, and spend more on the cost of each individual game, go for it. But it ends up costing about the same for no real benefit.

                Jesus man. So angry. I don't know where the steam friends etc. Rant comes from but good luck. Enjoy your ps4 pro.

    One side question - the original PS4 got an update to allow for HDR yeah? So in theory, assuming you have the right setup with a 1080p screen, you would get the same benefits of the wider colour gamut with a regular PS4?

      Provided you have an HDR capable 1080p screen.

    SUPER IMPORTANT CAVEAT:

    If you have a PSVR connected to it, regardless of whether it's a Pro or not, HDR will be disabled. The PSVR breakout box does forward a 4K signal to your TV correctly but does not support HDR passthrough. You need to unplug the PSVR breakout box completely and plug your PS4 straight into your TV / Receiver to get HDR to work.

    It's a stupid oversight on Sony's part since HDR makes way more of a difference on a good TV than 4K does.

    I don't see how the gpu of the pro is comparable to a gtx 1070 no matter how "capable" of 4k it is.

    I stopped taking this review seriously on the graphics aspect, when the entire beginning of the article is an e-boner over HDR and wider color gamut (while not knowing anything about it) and how they are so gawjus. And then we have:

    The difference between Gears of War 4 on the One S versus the One is difficult to see unless you're really hunting for it.

    Really. Because the only difference between Xbone and Xbone S is HDR.

    Also, it DOESN'T RENDER ALL GAMES IN 4K. STOP PROMOTING BS FFS.

    Last edited 10/11/16 4:06 pm

    I don't usually comment on this kind of thing, but there are a few factual problems in this article that might be misleading for [pro]spective consumers who might read this, especially since this review seems to be targeted to people who are figuring out what to pick up this holiday rather than the hardcore neogaf / digital foundry crowd.

    With that in mind, I understand the language is tricky around 4K and checkerboarding and such and, even if it's not technically correct, suggesting these games run in true 4K is a shortcut for saying "these will look better on your 4K TV." But unpatched games (like the Witcher 3) should be absolutely no different in their effects or graphical fidelity from the base-model PS4, since the Pro's designed so that half of the gpu shuts down and the other half runs at a lower speed while playing unpatched games so that it has an identical performance profile to the original PS4.

    The other problem is comparing the Pro to the Xbox One S - maybe the language is a bit confusing, but reading this it sounds like the S also offers an upgrade to graphics, which it doesn't aside from HDR support to titles that choose to support it, whereas mostly what it's offering is an upgrade in media functionality in 4K streaming and UHD Blu-Ray playback. Obviously comparing these two is really relevant for someone figuring out what they want to buy, but the S is not to the original Xbone what the Pro is to the original PS4.

    Anyway, I don't want to come across as an outraged comment-leaver, but those are my concerns with this article in regards to who this article seems to be targeting.

    Glad I picked this up, simply having 1tb and a new controller feels great but the slight upgrade is satisfactory. There's a feeling of excitement I haven't felt since getting my Ps4, I'm looking forward to little tweaks and improvements.

    Sony needs to make it clearer on the console what games are doing what, rather than leaving it to the internet. I'm confident the changes will be clearer in game/on console soon, it will be simplified. My tv tells me what resolution I'm seeing but it would be nice to see it in the info for my games, I know its in the Unchartered menu but I can't see it in Tlou.

    Consoles have always been simplicity but this generation in particular has seen a rise in complaints about graphics, frame rates and the consoles being underpowered. Generally there has been an interest online in consoles reiterating to become more powerful, I can't help but feel a lot of those that wanted this are complaining.

    Thanks Sony, I'm glad this happened. I don't care about the scorpion being more powerful next year, I'm happy with what I have now not to say I wasn't before.

    Last edited 10/11/16 10:08 pm

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