Sony PlayStation 4 Pro: The Gizmodo Review

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

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.

All images: 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.

Comments

    Please, the PS4 Pro does not render games in full 4K, it simply upscales them. Even the highest-end of PC gaming cards can barely handle true 4K resolution. The PS4 Pro isn't nearly powerful enough to render at full 4K resolution, it can only upscale 1080 games to 4K. That's not the same thing, not even close.

      there are games that are running in native 4k. they arnt fps or high demanding games but to say it doesn't at all is very narrow minded

      I believe it was the same with PS3, only some game was in 1080P but majority of it is upscaled from 720P to 1080P

      The only thing I reluctant to pay the money for PS4 is because it's not supporting UHD Bluray like XBOX ONE S is

      I always prefer the PS than XBOX (even though I have both PS 3 and XBOX 360, but back then it's due to Live subscription on Xbox where PS is free)

      But now... Xbox One s looks like a better choice, however with Xbox everywhere... I could get some Xbox game that I want on PC....
      Killer Instinct
      Forza Horizon 3....q

      Last edited 09/11/16 4:22 pm

        Agreed. If PS4 Pro had UHD Blu-Ray I'd be buying one. Can't believe they didn't include that. I also have an Xbox One, so considering upgrading that the S to get UHD Blu-Ray instead.

          Not a lot of people watch physical media these days, so I guess that is why it is not included.

            Don't agree with you there as if people were not buying them and i for one prefer disk to all digital the movie industry would be panicking and two not everyone lives in the city where there is better Internet. One reason i like disks is for the extras and bloopers and all.

        Idk why the lack of uhd blu ray is such a deal breaker. I can't remember the last time i bought a physical disc to watch a movie, though if you don't have unlimited internetz i 'spose that would get pricey quickly.

          I agree with @smegw0lf. The world has moved-on from physical discs for movies. I have not bought one in years and doubt that I will ever again buy one.

            As I posted earlier. Look at sales figures. You may have but the world has not.

          Because really, what's the point of UHD streaming? It's just not very good. You have a UHD movie streaming down compressed to the same size as a bluray movie. Crushed blacks, awful surround sound. I stream TV because I don't expect TV to be the greatest quality. Movies I expect more.

          A push toward streaming is media companies just giving up on selling, because I and many other people wont give a cent to buy a lower quality digital product. I'll just pay for Netflix and everything else can gtfo.

          Last edited 10/11/16 6:45 pm

      Dude you are clueless AF. Open a frikkin book and don't just say random b*****t. Playstation 4 pro does not "simply upscales them" it uses much more sophisticated rendereing method, which renders some ps4 pro patched games with checkerboard rendering method essentially at 1800p aka 2x 1080p and interpolates between pixels "filling them" using special error correction algorithm and hardware imbedded in gpu. In other games like Uncharted 4 it uses essentially 1440p native resolution and reconstructs it into a 2160p framebuffer (upscale) and other less demanding games run at native 4K.

      Get your facts straight it does render some games in 4k and all games are not just upscaled from 1080p your thinking for the xbox one S which is simply up scaling everything usually from below a 1080 p resolution

      Depends on the game.

      There's more BS in this comment than facts.

      The PS4 Pro isn't nearly powerful enough to render at full 4K resolution, it can only upscale 1080 games to 4K

      Not actually true.
      Some games are true 4K, others use 4K textures, others have the visual elements that benefit most from 4K (text, UI, focus areas etc.) rendered in 4K with the other areas upscaled.
      The difference between this and just upscaled 1080P is huge. It has twice the render power of the old model, it does a lot more than just upscale.
      The Xbox One S just upscales, though I may pick one up as a 4K BD player.

      Skyrim, The Last Of Us, FIFA and Mantis Burn Racing all have native 4K modes.

        yup can do some games is native 4k, NBA is running at 4K 60fps (not that id ever play sport games)

        xboxone S is good if you are going to watch uhd blurays.. I even sold one xbox one elite to get one, then i checked the prices for uhd blu rays and thought its not really worth it, considering i mostly use netflix/ hulu for my movies now.

        only reason im considering ps4pro is 1. I have uhd tv, not that things looks bad on it,but would be nice..
        2. There are some games being optimized for VR which will come in handy

    How are the top images of the curtains captured? Was this a photo taken of the TV, or a screenshot captured through some other method? If its not a photo of a TV, then how are we seeing the differences on a standard monitor?

    Edit: In fact, even if its a photo of a HDR TV then why can we still see the differences on a non HDR screen.

    Last edited 09/11/16 2:35 pm

    This article is more over-view than re-view.

    Mine's about to be delivered.

      Mine too tomorrow morning looking to it just need a 4k tv which I see jbhi has a Samsung uhd HDR 55inch for $1248 down from $1448 so not to bad.

    I love HDR adverts. "This is a picture, now this is this picture looking worse in HDR". There's really no way to advertise HDR to people who don't already have it. Waiting for the false advertising like DVD's back in the day where they'd play an awful quality version of a scene, and then in full quality "THIS IS DVD", nope, it's still a VHS.

    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.

    The One S has the tiniest amount of extra grunt to upscale to 4K, the PS4 Pro has twice the graphics performance of the standard PS4. The difference between letting your TV upscale on the One S and letting the One S do it is basically nil. The PS4 Pro renders elements in true 4K and upscales some others, the difference is quite astounding to the standard PS4.

    The OneS has 4K BD support, but as far as games go in 4K , there is no comparison, the PS4Pro has a massive advantage in that area.

    It's getting a little pointless buying a console if you need a new one every 1.5 years.

      Then dont buy one, many of us are happy and love the enjoyment new consoles bring, hell you all enjoy your new phones every year why cant we all enjoy a new console.

      I think it's a good idea.. Maintain the same generation without having to fuck around with backwards compatibility. We all get to play the same games, if you have no interest in buying a new console then don't.. if others want better graphics/features then they can. Everyone wins. Sure beats stretching a generation out for 8 years.. but in saying that the last generation was way ahead in its time unlike now when they didn't want to lose money and released mediocre pieces of crap basically (compared to the gpu tech available) haha.

    errr.....the HDR on screenshots look worse. Am I really missing anything here? The non-HDR screens pop way way more. It seems like it's only the brightness and contrast is up a little bit on the non-HDR making it pop more but washing out definition in the whites. Big fuckin whoop

    Last edited 11/11/16 12:25 pm

      saw it at PAX for horizon zero dawn.. YUGE difference.
      its a great console, somewhat bigly improvement

      saw it at PAX for horizon zero dawn.. YUGE difference.
      its a great console, somewhat bigly improvement

    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.
    This is a weird claim...
    which is exactly what the game designers wanted when making the game?
    Those games are made with normal TV/Monitor without HDR...

    Im calling it now, up-gradable consoles next generation, RAM upgrades GPU upgrades - all proprietary of course.

    On another note, why haven't we got up-gradable graphics cards yet, i feel there is a big untapped market for this.

    Most of the subtly in these HDR scenes are completely lost and useless when saved as JPG for the web.

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