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PlayStation 4 Pro Review

The PlayStation 4 Pro isn't for everybody, but there's a niche of consumer who will absolutely love it.

Review by Mike Williams, .

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It's a brave new world and the PlayStation 4 Pro is here to define it. The game industry has had hardware updates before, but now we're diving fully into the iterative hardware style that's become standard on mobile. Instead of a generational step, Sony has decided to beef up the existing internals of the PlayStation 4.

With the additional power, the PlayStation 4 Pro takes aim at standard 4K resolution (3840x2160). 4K is seemingly the next step in digital video technology, but the mainstream isn't quite there yet. The average consumer doesn't have a 4K television yet and even if they did, they would generally be bereft available content.

For Sony, the PlayStation 4 Pro solves a few problems. One, the system is meant to bring existing games to 4K resolution and developers can use the additional hardware power to improve visual presentation, which helps with the lack of 4K content. Two, folks who are interested in the Pro will likely pick up a 4K television set, thus further growing the market. Three, once you sell more PS4 Pro systems, 4K becomes more enticing to content creators, bringing you right back to point one.

That's why the PlayStation 4 Pro makes sense for Sony, but does it make sense for you?

What The PS4 Pro Is

The PlayStation 4 Pro is a high-end model of the existing PlayStation 4. If the PS4 is the economy car everyone buys, the Pro is the Sport model. Same basic idea with an upgraded kit. The CPU clock speed has increased, the graphics processor is essentially doubled, and there's more RAM under the hood. For all the additional hardware, the Pro is only a little larger than the original PlayStation 4, coming in at a pound heavier than the PS4 and over two pounds heavier than the Slim. I was sort of surprised how light the system felt in my hands.

The system shares the same matte design aesthetic as the PlayStation 4 Slim model, albeit with an extra slab on top that makes it look like a hard plastic sandwich. Like the Slim, the Pro ditches the touch-sensitive Power and Eject buttons of the original PS4 for physical ones. Those buttons are molded into the front of the system in a more elegant manner, above the LED light strip that serves to let users know the system status and below the motorized Blu-Ray disc drive. The Pro shares the same ports as the existing PlayStation 4 models - HDMI Out, Optical Out, Ethernet, and the Auxiliary port - with the addition of another rear-facing USB 3.0 port to round out the two front USB ports.

The power supply is still internal, though the plug is much larger than the one on the Slim or Classic PlayStation 4. The system launches with 1 TB of hard drive storage, running at 5400 RPM. If you want to replace the drive, you still can, as long as you stick with 2.5-inch, laptop-style hard drives. As a bonus for veteran tweakers, the PlayStation 4 Pro finally supports SATA III.

The system supports 4K resolution output (though it sort of fakes it via checkerboard rendering, upscaling, and other techniques - for more on that, head over to Digital Foundry's more technical review) and more importantly, high dynamic range (HDR) color. HDR allows games and other content to display a richer and more robust color palette. This can lead to a more vibrant or more realistic image, depending on how the colors are used by developers. HDR can also improve contrast, allowing viewers to see details that were once missing.

The DualShock 4 has been slightly tweaked. There's now a thin strip on top of the Touch Pad that lets the lightbar colors shine through. This means you can see your controller color without tilting the controller in your direction or seeing the glow on other objects. Otherwise, it's the same DualShock 4 and the new version still works on older systems.

When you hook the PlayStation 4 Pro up to your TV, you'll be greeted with the same PlayStation 4 operating system you already know and love (or hate?). There's a few more options hidden in system settings dealing with video output, but otherwise the transition from OG/Slim to Pro is seamless. You either sign into your PlayStation account and redownload your content, or you can do a data transfer of data from one system to the next over your home network. Transferring 617 GB of data from my original PlayStation to the Pro took around 3 hours.

What the PS4 Pro Has Going For It

4K and HDR

I can't deny the additional clarity that 4K and HDR add to my general gaming experience. I wouldn't necessarily call it mind-blowing, but the more time you spend gaming on the Pro, the more the original PS4 starts to look old and quaint. I missed the sharpness provided by both features when switching back to my original PS4. The visual transition in screenshots and video may seem slight, but the longer you play on Pro, the harder it is to go back. Rise of the Tomb Raider in particular is stunning.

It's worth noting that the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Slim now support HDR as well, if you have a television that can support it.

Full Compatibility

Everything in the system OS just works. Put in a game and it acts just like it would on any other PlayStation 4, no particular changes or bugs to be found. For the games with Pro patches, the patches download as a simple update. The PS4 Pro automatically detects the display it's hooked up to on the fly. Switching the HDMI cable between my new 4K set and my older 1080p saw the system's output change dynamically. There's a strong sense of continuity in the PS4 Pro.

More Visual Presentation Options

While the system can upscale on the fly, there's also room for developers to use the additional power to target other visual enhancements. Rise of the Tomb Raider, The Last of Us Remastered, and Infamous: Second Son/First Light all have visual options allow you to choose between enhanced visuals or higher framerates (generally, unlocked). These are the kinds of options that PC players have had for a long time, but the Pro brings them to us in a simple, console-like way.

1080p TVs Work Too

The PlayStation 4 Pro upscales most content to its version of 4K. When that signal is passed to a 1080p television, the result is still slightly clearer than a native 1080p image. The technique is called supersampling. Here's the idea explained by Guerilla Games technical director Michiel van der Leeuw:

"For players who still possess standard 1080p HDTVs, we're able to offer far better image quality. We've got a number of techniques at our disposal," he writes. "The most logical one is supersampling. This is a very high-quality anti-aliasing technique, which basically means we internally render at a higher resolution (close to 4K) before shrinking it down to the final 1080p resolution. As our internal calculations are done at a resolution much higher than 1080p, more detail survives before we shrink it down to 1080p, resulting in smoother edges - virtually no jaggies - and a more stable image."

Developers have to implement it in their games, but it seems like a number of them are, making the Pro a winner even if you lack a 4K TV, but still care about improved image quality.

The Extra Rear USB Port

If you're the owner of a PlayStation VR headset, the extra USB port on the rear of the PlayStation 4 Pro will be a boon. The PSVR takes up a USB slot; on the other models, it sticks out of one of the front-facing USB ports. That's ugly and destroys the clean line of the system's front. Now, you can use the rear port to keep those unsightly cables out of your way.

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Comments 29

  • Avatar for Ralek #1 Ralek 9 months ago
    "4K televisions with HDR support are comparatively cheap these days, but you're still looking at at least $600-700 for the right set."

    That's really bad 'advice' though, because you won't get a quality 4Kh/HDR display at this price point, and by quality I mean a display adhering to the MINIMAL specs published by the UHD Alliance for example. On top of that, input lag in HDR mode is still something anyone who wants to use their display for gaming, needs to look into before making a purchase. In short, in the $600-700 range, you will always be far better served with a standard 1080p device.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #2 MHWilliams 9 months ago
    @Ralek The Sony X800D will do most people just fine. Damn good 4K set for $650.

    http://www.rtings.com/tv/reviews/sony/x800d

    If you don't think that's a quality set. I'm at a loss.Edited November 2016 by MHWilliams
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  • Avatar for Ralek #3 Ralek 9 months ago
    @MHWilliams Define "fine" please :-) That's why I was trying to be specific. Obviously, anything can be "fine" if your expectations are low enough or unspecific enough.

    Anyways, when I said quality, I meant - like I said - specific specs, e.g. in terms of contrast and peak brightness. According to the UHD Alliance:
    "A minimum brightness of 1,000 nits, along with a black level of a maximum of 0.05 nits (20,000:1 contrast ratio), or a minimum brightness of 540 nits, along with a black level of a maximum of 0.0005 (1,080,000:1)."

    (The latter is aimed at OLEDs, the former at LCDs.)

    As you can see, the Sony X800D falls short of those minimal specs. It can still be "fine" for many users of course, esp. seeing as the input lag is apparently really low even with HDR enabled, but by my 'definition', it is not a 'quality' set.

    Final note: Seeing as the X800D is not (like most current TVs) equipped with Dolby Vision, it is at least questionable if it supports (or will support via future patches) dynamic metadata, which I admit sounds very technical, but is nevertheless very important.

    A bunch of stuff regarding HDR is still in flux at this point, so I think being cautious and doing proper research (it really amounts to that, I'm afraid), is not only smart but necessary, esp. if you are on a budget.

    If someone has jumped on a set, and enjoys it's peforms, that's great - nevermind me then :-) For everyone else, I would still recommend really digging into this stuff, and thinking long and hard, if they really want to make the jump on this tech right now.
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  • Avatar for drawfull #4 drawfull 9 months ago
    Good review, thanks. Just a point on the PSVR lead-swapping debacle: If you have a spare input on your TV, you need only swap one cable (the PS4 one to the PSVR) and plug that into the spare slot on the TV. Still a pain, agree, but not as bad as multiple cables.
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  • Avatar for NateDizzy #5 NateDizzy 9 months ago
    Yeah...I think I'll stick with my vanilla PS4. Even with the power upgrade, developers still aren't offering me what I really want out of an iterative console: OPTIONS. I'd like to choose between higher resolutions or higher frame rates.
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  • Avatar for manny_c44 #6 manny_c44 9 months ago
    It's kind of a weird product because cutting edge will always be on PC. I have a 5k PC monitor-- actually if the PS4pro would do a miniDP-out I could just connect it straight to the monitor but it doesn't do that.

    Lots of compromises for a prosumer box, especially leaving out the UHD bluray drive...what were they thinking?
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  • Avatar for ethanprater50 #7 ethanprater50 9 months ago
    Re: controller. I thought with the new controller, the signal traveled over the cable when connected via USB, theoretically giving better response than the wireless connection. 1) Is that true? And 2) If that's true, is that capability specific to the new *controller* alone, to the PS4 Console, or does it require both a new-gen controller and a PS4?
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  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #8 cldmstrsn 9 months ago
    @manny_c44 I think they were thinking ahead. I cant member the last time I put in a blu ray and obviously thats not everyone but if you look at the push for digital only in games it makes a lot of sense.
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  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #9 cldmstrsn 9 months ago
    @ethanprater50 the new update makes it so if you have your controller plugged in via USB it will have faster response time no matter what PS4 you have.
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  • Avatar for himuradrew #10 himuradrew 9 months ago
    I'm not really jumping on the PS4 Pro bandwagon. I'm perfectly happy with my OG PS4 and I play most of my games on the Vita via Remote Play anyways...

    ... with that being said, I'm sort of curious. Does the PS4 Pro make any improvements to Remote Play functionality?
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  • Avatar for Ralek #11 Ralek 9 months ago
    @cldmstrsn Digital games and digital movies are different though, for one afaik most if not alll digital movies are streaming, while games are download. This in itself would not be that much of an issue if streaming did not also mean compression (esp. in terms of audio). In short, while a digital game will have the exact same quality as a retail game, digital movies are inferior.

    I completely agree that most people do not care about stuff like uncompressed audio, but then again, this is not an average-Joe consumer product either, and it's not meant to be hooked up to an average TV. That is what makes it weird to me. Why would I want to watch 4k movies with shitty bitrate and compressed audio (possibly limited to 5.1), when I don't absolutely have to, and why in god's name would I buy a PS4Pro to that end.

    Again, I understand that the majority could not care less, but is that really the target audience of a PS4Pro/Scorpio + 4K/HDR TV? I'm not sure ...
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  • Avatar for rottendevice #12 rottendevice 9 months ago
    Deleted November 2016 by rottendevice
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  • Avatar for ethanprater50 #13 ethanprater50 9 months ago
    @cldmstrsn Cool - thanks for the info on new benefits of using a wired controller. Any idea if the new update works for OG DualShock 4s, or just the new controller?Edited November 2016 by ethanprater50
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  • Avatar for manny_c44 #14 manny_c44 9 months ago
    @cldmstrsn But have you even tried watching compressed 4k video? It's like: what's really the point of this? Macro-blocking in 4k is nonsense.

    These days (maybe I'm becoming a quality-glutton) but I just want the audio or video in as close to uncompressed format as possible. Usually that means physical media, either that you then rip yourself or play straight from the media.
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  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #15 cldmstrsn 9 months ago
    @ethanprater50 it works for all controllers.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #16 MHWilliams 9 months ago
    @Ralek I agree to a point, which is why I pointed out in the review that getting into 4K and HDR is an expert's path right now.

    That said, I think more people will end up with TVs like the X800D and be perfectly happy. I went with a Samsung XS8000 myself, but that's a pricier option.
    @drawfull Yeah, it's mostly annoying for me since the Processing Box is on the middle shelf and reach down there to switch is somewhat difficult.
    @ethanprater The new DualShock 4 does support USB communication now, but I didn't notice a major difference in play.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #17 MHWilliams 9 months ago
    Deleted November 2016 by MHWilliams
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  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #18 cldmstrsn 9 months ago
    @manny_c44 you and@Ralek make very good points but for me it all comes down to that price. 399 is an amazing price for a machine that can do 4K and pseudo 4K. If they did add that drive you are looking at a lot less appealing price tag of 499 with a medium that in the next 4 or 5 years is going to be practically obsolete. Also unless you have a 4K TV this console just isnt for those peeps just yet.
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  • Avatar for gigantor21 #19 gigantor21 9 months ago
    "The PlayStation 4 Pro is for those gamers who want just a little bit more performance from their games. It's the same folks who likely have gaming PCs, but realize that games like Uncharted 4, The Last of Us, and Horizon: Zero Dawn aren't ever making the jump to PC."

    That's me, LOL.

    Seriously, though, after trade-ins and the like I only spent 50 bucks on the upgrade from my base machine. It's a small price to ensure I get console exclusive games at their best--especially since I plan on getting a 4K screen soon anyway.
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  • Avatar for Ralek #20 Ralek 9 months ago
    @MHWilliams I think as far as the 'mainstream' goes, you are definitely right. And just for perspective, even 5 years ago, LCD was not really a 'valid' option for me personally, so I went with a top-of-the-line Panasonic Plasma, and I don't regret it, because it has served well and still does, but it has indeed spoiled me - so to speak.

    I just can't go back to some kind of LCD-based device, even if it features local dimming, full-array backlight and whatnot. Which basically means, I have to wait until OLEDs have matured and come down in price, which in turn means for me, 4K and HDR is not an option right now.

    Obviously, that is just me though, and plenty of other people will absolutely have a blast with some of those entry-level 4K/"HDR" (again, HDR is only loosely defined right now, which makes it hard to call any device "HDR") displays.

    The thing is, that 2-3 years from now, we will look at a situation, where the same money might buy a much, much, much more refinied device than today. I'd argue we are still in an early-adaptor phase here and now, certainly as far as HDR is concerend (the HDR10 stanard itself is still be expanded upon as we go).
    @cldmstrsn Frankly, I have no idea how much a UHD drive would add to the cost (economy of scale and all that), but not having it is just odd. Maybe it will be obsolete in 5 years, but honestly, I very much doubt that. If that really turns out to be true, I wonder if "local" gaming will not be obsolete as well, thus making Playstation, as a hardware brand, obsolete.
    Aside from the question if that is likely or not, I do not understand the appeal this would have to Sony. Likewise, I do not understand the appeal of replacing UHD with streaming, from their perspective. What do they have to gain by it? Like I said, I just don't get it, to me it's weird.

    The PS3 pushed blu-ray to enthusiasts, and it seemed only logical that the PS4 would be used to push UHD blu-ray to enthusiasts once again. After all, Sony sells TVs, other players and Sony pictures makes and sells movies. I think that is what business folks call synergy ^^

    Anyways, their strategy is obviously to focusing solely on gaming (I mean NOBODY is going to buy a PS4Pro to stream 4K netflix) with the PS4, and they are sticking with that, and I can respect that. I'm not going to go 4K anytime, so it does not really matter to me personally either way. It was just strikingly odd.
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  • Avatar for moroboshi #21 moroboshi 9 months ago
    @Ralek Very true. Most TVs don't support HDR in Game mode, meaning crazy levels of lag if you want to play games in HDR. Even LG's top end OLEDs have 70ms of lag in 4K HDR mode.

    High end Samsungs are the best bet, as long as you don't mind washed out murky blacks due to it being an old school LCD.
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  • Avatar for BigPrimeNumbers #22 BigPrimeNumbers 9 months ago
    Looking forward to getting my hands on one. I'll take improved visuals/performance any day :)
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  • Avatar for LK4O4 #23 LK4O4 9 months ago
    I was in the market for a new TV a few months back, so I wound up getting a Samsung KS8000 since the input lag is decently low even with HDR (21ms in Game Mode with HDR), but it was definitely much more expensive than $700.

    Even if I never decide to upgrade my PS4, I'm still really excited for all the HDR patches that've been starting to show up. (Though I agree that it mostly leads to a lot of TV settings tweaking.)
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #24 SatelliteOfLove 9 months ago
    "The DualShock 4 has been slightly tweaked. There's now a thin strip on top of the Touch Pad that lets the lightbar colors shine through. This means you can see your controller color without tilting the controller in your direction or seeing the glow on other objects."

    Oh good, now it's got a glow on the television AND my eyes!
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  • Avatar for link6616 #25 link6616 9 months ago
    @himuradrew That's super good question! Although I can't imagine anything the pro improved will help the vita much at all.
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  • Avatar for tvsadam #26 tvsadam 9 months ago
    I admit it bothers me that my existing console is now essentially the PS4 Junior, and that I already need to drop an additional $400 just a couple years later in order to have the actual current-gen experience.

    But I have a 4K TV, so I guess I'll just be the strange man grumbling to himself at a Best Buy checkout counter sometime in the next few months.

    Sure, it may SEEM like money is money regardless of how resentfully it's spent, but everything is connected: later that day, a Sony employee will cry briefly in the restroom and have no idea why.

    I'll know why.
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  • Avatar for Ohoni #27 Ohoni 9 months ago
    I don't own a 4K TV and don't plan to get one any time soon, but I am likely to get a PS4 of some type for Kingdom Hearts and Horizon this season, and am really pondering which the best option will be. If it's just about eking out slightly improved visuals, as is the case with current games, then I'll do fine with the cheapest version I can find. On the other hand, I worry that fall 2018, or even 2017, they'll be launching games with actual practical benefits to the Pro, like they'll abandon their stance of only allowing games that work on both, or the PS4 Slim version of a game will have less units on screen, less flashy effects, etc. even in 1080p mode than on the Pro.
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  • Avatar for The-Challenger #28 The-Challenger 9 months ago
    400 plus dollars and I still have to put a piece of duct-tape over that obnoxious glowing light.
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  • Avatar for airbagfin51 #29 airbagfin51 9 months ago
    @drawfull Are there two HDMI out slots on the PS4 Pro?Edited November 2016 by airbagfin51
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #30 MHWilliams 9 months ago
  • Avatar for Smartmiltoys #31 Smartmiltoys 6 months ago
    Hopefully by the time my white destiny ps4 dies 4k tvs will be cheaper as will the pro. Then I'll upgrade. Right now I'm happy with what I have and don't see the point shelling out 900 bucks to fully upgrade...
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