Sony’s upgraded PlayStation 4 console, dubbed the PlayStation 4 Pro, launched last week, and many have taken to the new, more powerful console. But is the new PlayStation 4 Pro really worth the upgrade? Many are claiming that it is, but some examples of the PS4 Pro in action should give some consumer still on the fence pause. Why should or shouldn’t you spring for the PS4 Pro?
Most of the games aren’t actually 4K
When the PS4 Pro was first unveiled earlier this year, the large selling point was its ability to do 4K. This was meant to include both streaming 4K media and 4K capable gaming. However, it’s missing two major components: a 4K Blu-Ray player as well as the technical prowess to do true, native 4K in most games. Don’t misunderstand that statement: some games do offer true, native 4K, but the vast majority of PlayStation 4 games that have received the PS4 Pro update simply do not. A spreadsheet, compiled by tech YouTuber ShanktheTank, points out all of the current titles with the PS4 Pro update and whether or not they’ve received native 4K as their output resolution. The source for these resolutions come from analysis by Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry, which has been posting video after video dissecting the PS4 Pro and its performance and visual upgrade next to the base PlayStation 4 model.
Most of the titles rely on a checkerboard upscaling solution to give the image its 4K boost. However, it’s important to note that this is not native 4K, and as a result looks softer and blurrier than the 4K pixel count would. 1080p screen users do get the benefit of super-sampling, as the system takes the resolution of the game and downsamples it to fit the 1080p screen, but there are no visual upgrades as a result, simply a higher pixel count. That does make a difference, and if you’re a 1080p user it does give some credence to owning a PS4 Pro. However, not all is well for 1080p players. To truly take advantage of the system as a whole, including the media capabilities, you need to invest not only in the Ps4 Pro, but also a 4K, HDR-capable screen, a purchase that can run starting at around $600.
Some games perform worse on the PlayStation 4 Pro
You read that right. The system that costs you more will sometimes run your games worse than the base model PlayStation 4. Digital Foundry has discovered that a few games — not all, but certainly some games people buy consoles for — run at a significantly lower clip than the base hardware. This goes against the mandate set by Sony themselves, decreeing that PS4 Pro games must run at least the same resolution and frame rate as the base model PlayStation 4. This means that Sony is essentially saying that PS4 Pro version of a game cannot run worse than its base counterpart. However, in the case of Skyrim: Special Edition and the newly released Watch Dogs 2, this isn’t so.
It seems the same thing affects both games: alpha transparent effects. These are effects that draw a lot from the graphics processor, and in both Skyrim and Watch Dogs 2 we see them take their toll on the users’ frame rate. And since these games are prioritizing 4K over frame rate (Watch Dogs 2 is a game that doesn’t run at a full native 4K, either) your frame rate is low by 2016 gaming standards. Thirty-frames-per-second locks on both games don’t give you much room to fluctuate. In the case of Watch Dogs 2, the response time, especially during scenes with police chases, can certainly affect your experience negatively. Couple in rampant screen tearing and you could make the case that Watch Dogs 2 is one of the low performers on the upgraded system. It’ll be interesting to see how this irons out moving forward, or if this will be a trend we continue to see. Some games, such as Battlefield 1, see a substantial performance boost over the base PlayStation 4, but it’s still nowhere near where it should be for a shooter. While it hits 60fps more than the PS4 version, the Pro version still spends too much time in the low 40 frames per second. When compared directly with the PlayStation 4 version, this is an improvement, but not really one to be celebrated.
Is it worth it?
For current PlayStation 4 owners, I would caution you before buying a PS4 Pro. There simply isn’t enough of a tangible upgrade — and in some cases it’s a downgrade — to justify the money. However, if you’re someone who is looking at a PlayStation 4, the Pro model isn’t a bad place to start. Keep in mind, the $399 system is still a slouch when compared with even gaming PCs in the price range. A gaming PC, one cheaper than the combined cost of a Ps4 Pro and the 4K, HDR TV needed, can still outperform the PlayStation 4 Pro. And while it may not be able to do true 4K gaming, the same can be said for Sony’s new console with so many games using the upscaler versus a true native pixel count. Couple in the lack of paying for an online gaming subscription and the fact that many games are sold for less money on PC (via Steam sales and constant discounts on Green Man Gaming), it’s not a bad proposition. Also, keep in mind that to use many of the PS4 Pro’s features, you need to invest in a 4K HDR TV, which considerably adds to the cost. A $399 upgrade that requires another device to take advantage of it should give you pause when making a purchasing choice.
Thinking about or already own a PS4 Pro? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
[Featured Image by Sony]