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No Ultra HD Blu-ray for the PS4 Pro? WTF, Sony?

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OPINION Sony has officially unveiled the PS4 Pro, but there was no mention of one key thing that many of us were expecting: the ability to play 4K Blu-rays. "What the hell, Sony?" says Home Technology Editor, Ced Yuen.

Like countless other tech announcements, the Sony keynote about the new PS4 Pro had a very low-key start. It began with a tease, some brief chatter about 4K Ultra High Definition and High Dynamic Range (HDR).

Then Sony elaborated a little, explaining why 4K and HDR are things that you want. Greater sharpness. Better contrast. Then some game footage, showing off some very lovely graphics. Saving the best for last, Sony? I like your style.

But no, that was it. Not a word on the one thing that would make it worth spending money now, rather than waiting for the proper next generation: 4K Blu-ray playback.

Related: What is UHD Blu-ray?

What's the big deal? Well, Sony bangs on about the importance of 4K and HDR, and stresses how those two technologies will make the most of the latest TVs. You know what would make the most of the latest TVs? 4K Blu-ray.

In Sony's world, anybody who has bought the latest TV and wants to enjoy both games and movies in 4K and HDR would go and buy two separate machines. Dedicated 4K Blu-ray players aren't cheap – especially if you've just shelled out £349 for a PS4 Pro. The alternative is to buy a Microsoft Xbox One S, which is technically the cheapest 4K Blu-ray player on the market. Is that what you want, Sony?

Unsurprisingly, Microsoft has been quite vocal since the Sony announcement. Among all the PR speak, this line caught my eye: "The [Xbox] hardware available now and next year was designed to give gamers a choice in how they play." In this age of multimedia devices, people should be able to choose what they do. Incompatibility with the latest video format takes choice out of the equation.

PS4 Pro and slim

Related: PS4 Pro: All you need to know

To be fair, the PS4 Pro promises twice the power of its predecessor, while the Xbox One S has roughly the same amount of grunt as the three-year-old Xbox One. But Sony's extra oomph is really about shinier graphics. I'd argue that the existing PS4 already does a great job, and if you want more money from me, you'll have to give me some extra functionality. Without that, the PS4 Pro is essentially a facelift. What’s ‘Pro’ about that? The Xbox One S does offer new tricks, and for less money too. It starts at £250.

The PS4 Pro does offer 4K streaming, and Sony is using this to downplay the lack of 4K Blu-ray support. PlayStation boss Andrew House told The Guardian, "Our feeling is that while physical media continues to be a big part of the games business, we see a trend on video towards streaming. Certainly with our user base, it's the second biggest use case for people's time on the system so we place more emphasis on that area."

Nice try, but that's not good enough. Firstly, 4K streaming is no longer something to boast about. Every decent 4K TV already has that built in. It's not like the PS4 Pro is doing gamers a favour by including 4K streaming – that's simply keeping up with market demands. Secondly, it's not an either-or situation, and the popularity of streaming should not take away from people who want to stick with physical media. Maybe people don't want to watch Marco Polo season 2. Maybe people don't have the internet speeds required for 4K streaming.

To say that a streaming app is a viable alternative to full on disc-spinning functionality is not only arrogant – it's misguided. The people who live on Netflix are not necessarily the same crowd who owns a UHD Blu-ray collection, so Sony is making a conscious choice not to cater for AV enthusiasts. 'Pro', you say?

This omission is more disappointing in the light of Sony's past consoles. The PS2 was the first console to feature a DVD player. At a time when DVD players were still very expensive, this was the only way that teenage me could watch movies. Then there was the PS3, which was single-handedly responsible for preventing the premature death of Blu-ray. With Ultra HD Blu-rays still in their infancy, Sony had a chance to make a difference.

Related: PS4 Pro vs Xbox One S

ps3PlayStation 3: Sony in more ambitious times

You can't tell me that Sony doesn't have the means to offer 4K Blu-ray playback, either. Just earlier this month, Sony showed off a dummy prototype UHD Blu-ray player in Berlin. The prototype wasn't playing anything, but it's clear that these discs are a part of Sony's grand plan, and it's not a stretch to assume it is possible to cram that into a new PlayStation.

So why no 4K Blu-ray? The most obvious argument is cost, that adding 4K Blu-ray playback would drive the price too high. I don't buy it, because Microsoft managed it just fine, and I'd bet the upcoming Xbox Scorpio will have that ability too. A cynical person might say that Sony doesn't want to undercut the sales of its own shiny UHD Blu-ray player. I'm inclined to agree.

Related: Xbox Scorpio vs PS4 Pro specs comparison

Stu

September 7, 2016, 11:14 pm

Not including 4K Blu-ray playback by means of hardware will channel more users through the Playstation store to purchase 4K content. It is disappointing, I've not purchased a console since the early days of PS3 and the PS4.5 (which is a better name than "PS4 Pro") was going to be my next but I'm not so sure now.. It's definitely not a done deal.

BelAirBoss

September 8, 2016, 12:14 am

I was excited for the ps4 pro until I heard this mess. It's a pass until Sony gets their act together and puts a 4k disc drive in the damn thing. It's embarrassing, really. As someone who has a 4k tv with hdr and was waiting on this device to use as my default blu ray player, it's definitely a disappointment.

I don't particularly care for any of the 4k blu ray players on the market at the moment, and I thought this was an easy slam dunk for Sony. Terrible. I have no use for the Xbox One S. Too bad the Scorpio is more than a year away.

BelAirBoss

September 8, 2016, 12:15 am

The point of a disc is that the quality is better, plus you get extra features you don't get streaming or downloading.

Dominic Feltoe

September 8, 2016, 12:26 am

As someone who likes physical media, whichever console provided the cheapest means for me to start collecting UHD Blu-rays was the one that was guaranteed to be bought by me. So, much as it pains me, I think I'm going to have to get an Xbox. Very disappointed in Sony.

Stu

September 8, 2016, 1:10 am

Indeed... It seems physical media and high quality has become a bit of a niche in the last 10 years, the majority of people are happy with the relative quality of streamed or downloaded content and Sony probably recognise this so in a bid to keep costs down (remember the damaging misjudgment of the PS3 pricing on release) they have omitted the drive. If you're going to release a Pro product though.. make it pro!

Mark Belanger

September 8, 2016, 1:36 am

What a stunning turn of events. The PS3 is going to be the last Sony product in an entertainment cabinet that years ago was filled with ES-line components and topped by a giant Sony XBR high-def TV.

What happened to you, Sony?

David Weinehall

September 8, 2016, 6:54 am

Since the disc format is the same, and the necessary ports (HDMI 2 with HDCP 2.2) exists, it *should* be possible to add support for UHD post-release, *if* the hardware either has a HEVC-decoder, or is powerful enough to decode HEVC in 4k without a dedicated HEVC-decoder.

I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that the system software currently lacks playback support for UHD, and that Sony have been told by their lawyers that promising playback support if it isn't there from day one is bad mojo, but that they plan to add it later on. Let's hope that this is indeed the case.

Zubeir

September 8, 2016, 8:45 am

Very disappointing from Sony. I'm no longer interested in upgrading, happy with the PS4 C Chassis. I have a feeling that they will change their mind and offer a PS4 pro version with a UHD drive at a higher cost down the line. I hate to say it, but Xbox 1 S is the way to go if you have a 4K tv and you want it for home entertainment.

andyvan

September 8, 2016, 8:59 am

This definitely isn't the case. UHD Blu-ray requires different drive hardware, i.e. lasers to read to the disk. If it had them already, Sony would say.

andyvan

September 8, 2016, 9:01 am

If an when it offers 4K digital downloads. Nothing there at the moment, afaik.

MattMe

September 8, 2016, 10:25 am

The phones they released the past two years have been trash as well.

pseudo

September 8, 2016, 10:48 am

I wouldn't say trash just not very competitive within a highly saturated market.

At the end the day, very few tech companies now release completely rubbish products. It's just a matter of, well there's a better alternative.

MontyMole

September 8, 2016, 11:42 am

Gutted.

DaveMc36

September 8, 2016, 11:52 am

Total dealbreaker. Did not anticipate making the switch to Xbox, but now it's a no-brainer.

Evan

September 8, 2016, 11:58 am

Very good point. They're not bad, just not as good as similarly priced competition.

Marc

September 8, 2016, 3:53 pm

I was looking forward for the PS4 4K to go along with my 4K television, but now I will cancel my order. I have a lot of bluray movies. I will most likely get me a PC that plays bluray to connect to my 4K. Games are free online for PC, anyway.

Amanda C Hunter

September 8, 2016, 4:57 pm

Not that I watch 4K Blu ray movies, but if X1S can do it, why not the PS4P? Wow, you fucked up there, Sony. Nobody is going to be buying that shit, unless they don't already have a PS4 or have money to burn. Microsoft still has the "Project Scorpio" thing and Sony has zilch.

Phil

September 8, 2016, 6:40 pm

Excellent rant. Sony doesn't want to undercut their own business so they just hand the business to Microsoft instead. How daft.

Dean Thomas

September 8, 2016, 8:30 pm

Just get a XB1S. Even if you don't use it for gaming, it's the cheapest UHD-BD player around.

Chuck North

September 8, 2016, 9:01 pm

A complete swing and miss on Sony’s part not to include a 4k player in the PS4 Pro. The Xbox One S does it for $299. Absolutely the worst business decision possible. They’re basically trying to get you to pay $400 for a Roku that plays games! All 4k Tvs already have 4k streaming apps as does stand alone streaming units already on the market that does HDR now and or will with the next release wave coming anytime. The leading manufacturer of 4k Tvs, projectors, UHD discs and a 4k streaming service. They’re all in on the 4k bandwagon but yet refuse to include a player with the premiere product in their 4k lineup that has the potential to give them the majority of the market share and push the 4k format to the next level which would bring millions of consumers still on the fence to adopt the format exponentially! Not everyone has the internet speed to even push 4k streaming to their homes. Streaming can never match the picture quality of a physical disc. To top it off, they’re adding HDR capabilities to all current PS4’s and to the PS4 Slim disqualifying any need for the more expensive option of the Pro.

Dave R

September 9, 2016, 3:30 am

I saw an earlier post that said the Pro would not have a UHD DVD. I said no way, Sony would not be that stupid. Well here we are. I was all set to trade in my PS4 for the Pro now I’m not interested. What are they thinking? 4K streaming is no better then Blu Ray because of the compression, the audio isn’t even as good as Blu Ray & you better have a damn solid, fast Internet connection with a very high Data Plan. Sony could have helped 4K become mainstream much as they did with PS3 and Blu Ray ,they really blew it. l guess l better take a second look at the One S. It’s $100 less and IT INCLUDES A 4K DVD but the game graphics are weaker. Sheesh, what a cluster bleep! Thanks Sony.

Ced Yuen

September 9, 2016, 9:01 am

How many of you are actually switching to Xbox over this? I'm tempted, but as an owner of both first-gen Xbox One and PS4, I'm not sure I can bring myself to buy another console from this generation. Bring on Xbox Scorpio I say.

Dave R

September 9, 2016, 5:15 pm


Good question. It has caused me to hit pause button. I don't want to buy a separate player but l don't want to compromise my game graphics with the XBOX either . Few people buy DVD's it's true but a lot of people still rent from kiosks. This greedy screw up could do much to "kill the baby in the crib" with regards to UHD DVD's and leave us with over compressed video and medium quality audio via streaming. I'll probably stay with the PS4 and switch to the Scorpio l as soon as l can & hope UHD DVD becomes more viable in the meantime although Sony has damaged that possibility.

Terry Lewis

September 12, 2016, 6:43 pm

Not adding an ultra blu ray drive to the PS4 "Pro" is like apple removing the headphone jack from its phones... Oh wait.

radical_supermassive_blackhole

October 24, 2016, 4:32 pm

Agreed!
I was actually waiting for the next gen PS as I want a 4K UHD bluray, streaming 4k is pants, I have compared amazing superman on native 4kUHD on netflix, 1080p, and bluyray 1080p [upscaled to 4k-, and the comparison shows a stark advantage for bluray on my OLED 4k UHD HDR TV.
This is frankly moronic decision by Sony, and i guarantee this will impact their sales; unlike Apple, Sony don't have hundreds of billions of spare ca$$h in reserves to fund failed projects of this scale.

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