Sony’s PlayStation 4 Pro sits in a difficult place. Unlike many other consumer tech devices, this affordably priced souped-up PS4 isn’t here to appeal to the mass market. It’s made for a world that only a few of us live in, and solves fundamental problems that most console owners don’t even know they have – providing 4K, VR and PC-class gaming.
Many general consumers aren’t even aware of the benefits of 4K, Sony has a monumental task to prove the Pro is worth its £350 price tag, especially as the PS4 Slim (now just “PS4”) remains in the line-up and is around £100 cheaper. However, after seeing the glory of 4K gaming, improved 1080p play and silky-smooth VR experiences, I think the PS4 Pro is undoubtedly the best thing to happen to video games since the Nintendo Wii.
PS4 Pro review: No, it’s not the PS5
One thing to note upfront: this is not the PlayStation 5. Sony isn’t coming out with true next-generation hardware just yet. The PS4 Pro is a tweaked and tuned PS4 made to sit at the forefront of console gaming until it’s time to gear up for another generational leap.
PS4 Pro review: 4K is a-OK
If you already have a 4K TV, you’ll love Sony’s 4K debut. Well, I say 4K but for the first wave of PS4 Pro-compatible titles, many games don’t actually run in native 4K at all. Instead, thanks to some clever Sony trickery, they create a 4K picture from a high-resolution image upscaled to 4K.
I can already hear the “PC Master Race” guffawing about this limitation, but don’t let that put you off – Sony’s method for creating 4K gameplay on the PS4 Pro is incredible. Games really sing in 4K, and it’s impossible to see the difference compared to native 4K from afar. At nose-touching-the-screen distance, Sony’s Checkerboard upscaling technique is only slightly blurrier compared to native 4K and, from the normal sofa distance, the difference is unnoticeable.
Not all games get this glorious 4K treatment, but any game that has been updated to work with the PS4 Pro will. You also have the option to turn off 4K output, and instead enjoy a 1080p stream on your TV running at a higher frame rate than the 30fps that 4K content is locked to. Games without Pro updates run the same way they do on a standard PS4.
PS4 Pro review: Taking Full HD to the fullest
Those of you with Full HD TVs won’t miss out on the benefits of the PS4 Pro either. Sony knows that the 4K market is actually quite small right now, and the PS4 Pro seems like it’s been built with Full HD gamers in mind.
Not every PS4 game will play better in 1080p on the Pro – it must have received an update to support the extra power of the Pro. If a game hasn’t received an update (currently 45 titles are due to have an update on launch), it will run exactly the same as it does on the standard PS4.
However, updated games, such as Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Shadow of Mordor, make use of the PS4 Pro’s ability to Supersample, allowing for truly sumptuous visuals at Full HD. Supersampling allows the PS4 Pro to render at 2K, scaling it down to 1080p for a dramatically sharper image and 60fps gameplay. Deus Ex feels like playing an entirely different game than on a standard PS4, more comparable to playing on a high-end PC than a console tucked under your TV.
PS4 Pro review: Virtually the best
The PS4 Pro also has added benefits for PlayStation VR players, even if they are only small gains compared to the headline-grabbing 4K and 1080p performance boosts.
Obviously Sony’s new console isn’t capable of upgrading the PlayStation VR’s physical display or hardware capabilities, but there are noticeable improvements from the user-experience point of view. Thanks to the PS4 Pro’s extra power, games such as RIGS Mechanized Combat League, Driveclub VR and even the likes of Rez Infinite and Thumper all run at PlayStation VR’s maximum 120Hz refresh rate.
Friends watching you play in PlayStation VR via its TV output also get an improved experience thanks to the PS4 Pro outputting a far higher-resolution image.
PS4 Pro review: The Pro sheen
Using the same design aesthetic as the PS4 Slim, Sony has added a few nice touches – such as a chrome “PS” logo and the return of the PS4’s light strip. More importantly, the optical-out port has returned to the PS4’s rear, and Sony has added an extra USB 3 port so you can stop unplugging cables just to charge your controller.
You’ll also get a larger 1TB HDD as standard. Just like on the PS4 and PS4 Slim, this is fully upgradable. The extra storage space is a welcome addition but, with “Pro” game patches coming in at up to 10GB a game, you’ll still go through that space rather quickly. You’ll also get a tweaked DualShock 4 with extra battery life, more rugged thumbsticks and the ability for wired USB play.
PS4 Pro review: The Sony PS4 Pro-blem
The PS4 Pro is a baffling proposition for many. It runs in 4K –but only on select titles, and even then they aren’t all native 4K. It can also run 4K video via YouTube and Netflix, but has no 4K Blu-ray player. So, you’ll still need a 4K Blu-ray player. Confused? Good, because it’s a mess of a message.
In reality, the PS4 Pro isn’t a media machine – it’s about games first and foremost. It’s a machine intended to woo people away from the PC, as Sony is already outselling and holding its own against its competitors in the console market.
We totted up a PC of comparable spec to the PS4 Pro at around £710 on PC Specialist, excluding Windows 10, yet Sony’s device is £350 and sits more comfortably under your TV. The PS4 Pro also comes with a set of highly appealing first-party exclusives and the convenience of a clean and simple interface and hassle-free setup.
PS4 Pro review: Is the PS4 Pro really worth it?
Sony’s PS4 Pro is truly an incredible machine. Anything that can produce smooth and stunning 4K gameplay, along with notable improvements to both PlayStation VR and Full HD, gaming is worth the price tag. I, however, am not everybody, and the truth is – as a current PS4 owner – I won’t be rushing out to buy one.
If you’re buying a PS4 for the first time, and you’re serious about getting the most out of it, then there should be no hesitation in your mind about buying the PS4 Pro – even with the £100 price gap between it and the PS4 Slim. If, like me, you’re already happy with your PS4 and what it can do, picking up a PS4 Pro can probably wait a little bit longer.