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PS4 Pro review

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Summary

Our Score:

8

Pros

  • Stunning graphics with 4K and HDR
  • Quieter
  • Games load more quickly
  • Enhances some PS4 and PSVR games

Cons

  • No 4K Blu-ray
  • Power and eject buttons feel cheap

Best Deals for Sony PS4 Pro

  • amazon
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Key Features

  • 4K and HDR
  • 1TB storage
  • Release date: 10 November 2016
  • Manufacturer: Sony
  • Review Price: £349.00

This article was first published on November 7th as a review-in-progress. After spending more time with the console, I've updated it with more findings and a verdict. I first tested this console at a Sony event in the company of PlayStation representatives and developers. I then took it home to test for a week.

What is the Sony PS4 Pro?

The latest PlayStation 4 had a few nicknames before Sony settled on ‘PS4 Pro’. “PS4 Neo” was a popular one, as were “PS4K” and “PS4.5”. I feel the last one is the most appropriate: this is an upgrade, not a proper level up like the PS5 would be.

That means you’re not getting a next-gen console, but rather the best possible version of a three-year-old machine. Sony calls it “the super-charged PS4”, which seems fair. It’s bigger than ever, with more power under the hood, and it can handle 4K and high dynamic range (HDR) video.

Sony’s biggest problem is Microsoft’s Xbox One S, itself a 0.5 upgrade. But while Microsoft generously added UHD Blu-ray playback during the refurb, Sony hasn't. The PS4 Pro is completely focused on gaming performance and fidelity.

The PS4 Pro is a bit familiar, but it’s also the most powerful gaming console you can buy in 2016. While it doesn't do enough to make existing PS4 owners rush out to upgrade, anyone about to join #teamSony is in for a treat.

Watch: PS4 Pro – video review

Sony PS4 Pro – Design and Features

The PS4 Pro is a beast. It’s a little taller than original PS4, and clearly wider and deeper. The overall effect is more of a slab than a box.

I'm okay with this. The Xbox One S could afford to go smaller than its predecessor since the core specifications are the same. The PS4 Pro has a bigger engine – you can't stick a V12 in a Mini. Well you can, but that would be ridiculous.

In other design news: the parallelogram shape remains but the sharp corners have been rounded off. A chrome-effect PS logo at the top is the only thing that really stands out from the matte black plastic. It adds a premium vibe, which is just as well as the very thin power and eject buttons don’t feel luxurious at all.

The original’s two-deck design is now a three-deck. There seems to be no functional point to this extra deck, besides maybe confusing people into inserting games where there is no disc drive.

Sony PS4 Pro 13

As before, two USB ports hide in a gap at the front, but Sony has – at last – added a third to the back. It makes me very happy to know that I can finally charge my controller without a cable sticking out the front.

The other connections are as before: Ethernet, HDMI out, Aux (for the PS4 camera), optical out, and power. Note that the power lead is no longer a figure-of-eight cable, but a kettle lead.

Under the hood, the PS4 Pro promises twice the power of its predecessor. That means the Pro can run games faster, with fewer framerate drops in intensive games. Most importantly, the PS4 Pro supports 4K and HDR.

A quick word on these, for the uninitiated: 4K refers to the picture resolution, and is roughly four times the number of pixels you get on a regular Full HD picture – about eight million pixels. Theoretically, that means finer detail and greater clarity.

HDR, or high dynamic range, means a wider range of brightness, contrast and colour. This technology has come along because traditional production and display technologies don’t show nearly as much information as our eyes can see. A higher dynamic range means a more realistic picture.

Related: What is HDR?

Sony PS4 Pro 1

The fact that the PS4 Pro can handle 4K and HDR simply means better looking games. New PS4 games will have a ‘Pro’ option for enhanced visuals, and some older games are getting patched too.

Don’t worry about compatibility, because all PS4 games must work on standard and Pro consoles. That’s the rule – nobody gets left out in the cold. Otherwise, it’s entirely up to the developers how they make use of the extra power on the PS4 Pro.

For a list of PS4 Pro supported games, check out our PS4 Pro vs PS4 feature.

The PS4 Pro is noticeably quieter than the original PS4. There is inevitably more noise when the disc drive is spinning and the fan speeds up, but once everything is installed and you’re gaming normally, it’s barely audible from the sofa – and almost impossible to notice if you’ve got the TV on.

I downloaded a sound meter app on my phone. It’s not the most scientific measurement but good enough to provide an idea. I placed it over the console’s disc drive and recorded the measurement at the loudest point. The PS4 Pro measured 49dB, while my C-chassis (fairly recent) PS4 measured 53dB. For reference, the coffee table in my living room (to check ambient noise) measured 33dB. What this all means is that console’s sound won’t interrupt your gameplay.

This thing is also fast. The PS4 Pro boasts SATA 3 hard drive, an upgrade from the PS4’s SATA 2. Without going all technical, this means the Pro can transfer data at twice the speed. Big games such as Grand Theft Auto V and Hitman jumped into action noticeably faster, which is brilliant because loading screens kill happiness.

Related: How to transfer data from PS4 to PS4 Pro

Sony PS4 Pro 21

SONY PS4 PRO – CONTROLLER

There’s a new controller. Well, a slightly tweaked one. It’s the one released with the new slim PS4, so if you’ve seen that, you’ll know exactly what to expect.

Functionally it remains very much the same. The analogue sticks, face buttons, Options/Share buttons and D-pad have been given a new grey tone to contrast with the black of the controller. It reminds me a little of the PlayStation 20th Anniversary Edition controllers, but that grey a couple of shades darker.

The touchpad is also now translucent at the top, which lets through a little of the light bar on the back of the controller. It’s an odd move, considering the general apathy (or even disdain) towards the light bar, but it does make it easier for players to see which colour they are in multiplayer matches.

It seems the tweaks are merely aesthetic – another point for the Xbox One S, which added tougher joysticks and a grippier texture. At least PlayStation has licensed third parties, such as Razer, to make ‘Pro’ controllers. Ironically, those look a lot like Xbox pads.

Related: PS4 Pro vs PS4: Which should you buy?

SONY PS4 PRO – NO UHD BLU-RAY PLAYER

Since its announcement, plenty of people have raged about the fact that the PS4 Pro doesn’t have a 4K Blu-ray player. I was one of those people, and my stance hasn’t changed: I think it’s a mistake. Without UHD Blu-rays, you’re left with streaming, which I’m told is the future. That argument doesn’t hold up right now, because, at least in the UK, the average internet connection is not fast or stable enough for 4K HDR streaming.

Then there’s the matter of content. Your favourite streaming subscriptions only give you TV shows to stream in 4K and HDR. The 4K films must be paid for separately – at the same prices as UHD Blu-rays – and they don’t even offer HDR.

Basically, the only source for 4K HDR movies is UHD Blu-ray, which means the PS4 Pro will not scratch that particular itch. Your only option is to get a dedicated player, or an Xbox One S.

Sony argues that the omission of the UHD Blu-ray component is down to the popularity of streaming, but this conveniently ignores the fact that Sony has made its own 4K Blu-ray player.

So why no 4K Blu-ray player? The only compelling argument for this omission is the price. The Xbox One S sports a 4K player but is fundamentally the same machine that launched three years ago. Sony, meanwhile, has piled in the upgraded components, and they're not cheap.

For the equivalent graphics on PC, it’ll cost you a lot more than the £350 Sony wants for the 1TB version. Suddenly the lack of 4K Blu-ray is more forgivable.

For this argument to hold up, the gaming experience would need to be significantly enhanced – and it is.

Related: The PS4 Pro doesn't need a 4K Blu-ray player – head to head

Sony PS4 Pro 9

Sony PS4 Pro – Performance

I played Gran Turismo Sport, Uncharted 4, The Last of Us Remastered, Rise of the Tomb Raider and Horizon Zero Dawn, all on 4K and HDR-compatible TVs. The results were very impressive, but differed depending on the game.

The Last of Us Remastered looks better than ever in 4K and HDR. Textures on the clothing are finer. Colour shading is more subtle. There’s much more of a kick to sun beams and shadows are both murkier and yet contain more detail. Revisiting Joel and Ellie on the PS4 Pro is almost like playing the game for the first time.

Then there’s Rise of the Tomb Raider, a newer game and already a stunner. This game’s PS4 Pro mode ignores HDR entirely, and instead focuses on detail and framerates. You get to choose between visual fidelity and stability. Stick with 1080p and you can run the game at 60fps. I chose the 4K option, which is capped at 30fps. That slight drop in smoothness was worth it for the lush scenery.

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I was most blown away by Gran Turismo Sport, which runs at 4K (using 1800p checkerboard rendering) and HDR at 60fps. Ferrari red is accurately rendered, which is a big deal because it wasn’t possible until now, and always appeared a little too orange. It’s a subtle thing, but when everything looks a little more realistic, it all adds up.

Less subtle is the matter of contrast. Sun glinting off a shiny bonnet ought to make you squint, and here it definitely does. Combined with the fine bumps and scratches on the metal, that’s the most lifelike video game rendering of cars I’ve ever seen.

All this, and the PS4 Pro is only just getting started. I’m really looking forward to the flood of games that will make full use of all this extra power.

Related: Xbox Scorpio vs PS4 Pro

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SONY PS4 PRO – VR

The standard PS4 is perfectly capable of handling PlayStation VR, but it does sacrifice visual fidelity for framerate stability, which is important to protect users from nausea. The PS4 Pro has more power, and with great power comes great VR. That’s the theory anyway.

Sony says you’ll benefit from more detail and better rendering in the headset. One of the “Pro” patched VR titles is Battlezone, which is supposed to have enhanced resolution and in-cockpit lighting and reflections. In practice, I’m not sure I noticed any difference. Then again, it’s not really a game that lends itself to visual critique.

For a bigger visual challenge, I tried Batman Arkham VR. This game didn’t get a patch but I was curious anyway. I didn’t notice any improvement in definition, but I did notice fewer texture pops, as the game benefitted from the Pro’s faster rendering. Loading times were better, too.

The problem with these titles is that they were built with the standard PS4 in mind. I’m certain that upcoming PSVR or PSVR-compatible games will benefit from the extra power.

After trying Gran Turismo Sport on a 4K HDR TV, I tried it in PSVR. What I experienced was detailed and stable – way better than the blurry mess that is DriveClub VR.

The annoying thing about using PSVR with the PS4 Pro is that the VR’s processing box doesn’t pass through HDR. It has no problem with 4K, but if you have that processing box connected, the image on your TV will not be HDR. You’ll have to unplug the VR and connect the PS4 Pro straight into your TV. Every time. That’s very annoying, especially for anyone with a nicely integrated entertainment centre, built to hide away cables.

Related: PS4 Pro vs PlayStation VR – which should you buy?

Sony PS4 Pro 7

SHOULD I BUY THE PS4 PRO?

The PS4 Pro has some niggles, but it also offers the power that you’d struggle to find out of a high-end gaming PC. If you’ve yet to adopt a console of this generation, I’d say it’s a no-brainer. You won’t find better graphics on a games console this year.

But what if you already have a PS4? That’s a less obvious choice, considering the PS4 also gets HDR – without the 4K – which narrows that gap quite a bit. As an original PS4 owner, I am sorely tempted to upgrade, but then again I'm an AV geek.

Then there’s the Xbox One S, which doesn’t have the sheer grunt of the PS4 Pro, but does offer a 4K Blu-ray player. If you want an all-round media machine, Microsoft has a distinct advantage in that arena. Another thing to consider is the proper next-gen consoles. Microsoft has its next Xbox in the pipeline, codenamed Project Scorpio, and that’s bound to be a clear step up.

Ultimately, it depends how much importance you attach to that extra step towards realism. While I don’t feel the PS4 Pro is an essential purchase, it is the best games console on the market.

VERDICT

The super-charged PS4 is the best games console right now.

Overall Score

8

Best Deals for Sony PS4 Pro

  • amazon
  • ebay

cheese king

November 7, 2016, 1:45 pm

with xbox now also getting ATMOS and DTS there is now a very good reason to buy XBOX over PS4 for media center use. Sony has given 4k bluray owners the finger and they'll lose sales for this mistake. People who already have a Ps4 probably wont buy for for a few extra pixels, they just get the xbox and have both consoles. Those who havent made the minds up and current have a 3rd gen consolve, I think we likely migrate towards the free UHD player.

Mark Collins

November 7, 2016, 3:47 pm

Not bothered about the exclusion of a UHD player, I'm in the process of getting rid of all physical media...I've also ditched my PS4 for a PC, only had it a month but being able to play a wider variety of games has instantly validated what was a difficult decision after so many years of console gaming.
The PS4 Pro seems like a desperate attempt to squeeze more money out of the console market which, once internet speeds increase, will inevitably disappear in favour of remote play devices. Add to that the fact that developers have to write games for both consoles and I can't help thinking this will be completely pointless, as with the cross over between PS3/4, when developers write for multiple platforms the results were uninspiring to say the least, it was only when the PS3 was ditched that we saw any sort of noticeable improvement in graphics on the PS4.
Potentially the only benefit from this could be improved VR graphics as from what I have read the PS VR kit runs smoothly with high frame rates but sacrifices resolution, have Sony rushed out their VR kit only to find their console isn't powerful enough???

Zubeir

November 7, 2016, 3:56 pm

Hate to say as I'm a PS fanboy but missing out on a UHD player was the wrong decision. I'm out.

Purplewain

November 7, 2016, 4:32 pm

Really keen to see what a difference it makes to VR. Low res on that is jarring at the moment and I'm hoping for an upgrade

Living While Alive

November 7, 2016, 5:04 pm

Sony can talk all the crap they want about UHD drives and people not buying physical media like they used to.

However, given the simple fact that you are Sony and are apart of the Blu-ray coalition.

Furthermore, as well, you have a standalone Blu-ray player with a built-in AV-converter makes your point moot.

Henceforth, a UHD Blu-ray player should have been added but no!!!

Sony wants customers to double dip!

Buy a PS4 Pro and a Sony Blu-ray player.

It's crazy and asinine considering that the PS3 had a Blu-ray. Yes, more data space for games I understand but seriously, it wouldn't hurt to add a UHD player.

Period!!!

Vodkapls

November 7, 2016, 5:53 pm

add an uhd player and raise prise by 20-50 $ for millions of people who dont use physical media or try to sell a cheaper console hmmm difficult question or not. the ps4 pro is twice the power of the ps4 for only 100 $ more. I think they did well to keep the price low.

Vodkapls

November 7, 2016, 5:55 pm

its funny how people focus on xbox as a media center now when it was one of the reason most people moved away from xbox 1 in the first place when it was first announced with the ps4 being focused on gaming.

LeeTronix

November 7, 2016, 10:04 pm

I have the first PS4 edition and I will just keep it until there is a real reason to upgrade. I am happy with the performance, the graphics and general game play. I just do not see the point in upgrading in the back end of this year, I would wait till a next gen finalized product is ready.

Many people will no doubt buy a new system most likely because they feel their PS4 original console is dated and that is sad.

Bugblatter

November 7, 2016, 11:26 pm

Most people ditched the XBox One because in addition to gaming it also worked well as a media centre?

That doesn't sound likely. Are you sure it wasn't more to do with the PS4 being more powerful?

And have you seen how the XBox One S, with its UHD bluray player, is flying off the shelves?

Bugblatter

November 7, 2016, 11:29 pm

And while they're at it why don't they get rid of the USB ports, because not everyone uses those. And that S/PDIF port, most people get their audio over HDMI. And that LAN port, what's wrong with wifi? Or get rid of the wifi and keep the LAN, no-one needs both. I'm sure they could knock another $50 off...

Vodkapls

November 8, 2016, 12:29 am

nope even ms boss admitted that which is why they went for the gaming oriented phil spencer to lead xbox, clear that image and reverse the situation.

Vodkapls

November 8, 2016, 12:34 am

how about you get rid of the console too ? All those stuff were already in the ps4 unlike uhd then usb how about i need those to connect my gamepad or backup my saves? spdif I need that to play sound on something else than my crappy tv speakers, lan ? I need that for low latency reliable online play, all that can be related to gaming. Uhd isn't and wasn't in the ps4 before so they don't need to remove it and is more expensive to implement than any of those.

Ton

November 8, 2016, 3:06 pm

the one s has both a uhd br player and hdr, it has a smaller amount of extra power than the 4 pro though

but it looks better, the pro looks like it fell of my airco

Ton

November 8, 2016, 3:10 pm

on the other hand sony is also a movie company and that 20 -50 would be an easy way to generate sales for that

if ms can do it, you can buy the one s for 275 euro here, incl 1 game while the 4 pro will prob cost 399 euro (not sure about game) so i doubt if the extra power (it is on a smaller process so the cost of it should be not much higher than the original) cost about 120 150 euro to produce

Ton

November 8, 2016, 3:11 pm

it might help a bit, but the hardware in the vr stays the same so not that much

Ton

November 8, 2016, 3:12 pm

it might have more to do with it being more expensive, too big and with that nasty powerbrick

Vodkapls

November 8, 2016, 4:56 pm

Why do you think sony tried to push so hard that their console was for gamers first even though they barely had any good games? That was probably because of ms focus as a media center rather than a game console and they saw that as a mistake.
Price was definitely an issue. I see the rest of that as positive as it allowed the console to fit a bigger fan making the x1 more silent, moving the power out allows for the console to run cooler = less noise as well. forcing kinect on the other hand was a pretty bad idea, it allowed for some control as a media center but in games it was mostly useless and it raised the price of the console. A bit like uhd drive would have done on ps4 pro but uhd drive is even more useless in games.

Anyway do people care that much about the appearance of a console?

Vodkapls

November 8, 2016, 5:01 pm

And make the same mistake as the super expensive ps3 at release with bluray and xbox 1 at release with kinect? I think they are dumb sometime but they had multiple recent example of similar failures. lower price > media center features.

KevinCormier

November 8, 2016, 6:22 pm

why is that sad, many people wanted this and its great that they have the option.

Edward Turvey

November 8, 2016, 6:25 pm

The Xbone S UHD player is subpar according to What Hi-Fi.
It has fewer HDR games available than the Pro and standard PS4 and it uses less power because it's far, far weaker.

Looks are subjective but the Xbox One S looks like something i'd grate cheese with.

Bugblatter

November 8, 2016, 9:29 pm

I'm guessing you haven't heard of ARC then, but anyway that's a red herring. My point was that just because you don't feel the need for something doesn't mean it shouldn't exist.

You may not find the prospect of a UHD bluray player useful but many many people who have a 4K TV definitely would, and that seems to be the primary target market for the Pro (although personally I think the extra horsepower would be better spent on superior 1080p visuals and framerates).

Does the 4K output itself also not interest you?

Bugblatter

November 8, 2016, 9:31 pm

And that's how they ended up including a UHD bluray player that's of no use for gaming, and selling boatloads of them?

Vodkapls

November 8, 2016, 11:08 pm

I highly doubt most people are buying the xbox s for the uhd player. And last I heard the sales are only higher in the us probably due to stronger marketing focus there, nothing changed much anywhere else.

Vodkapls

November 8, 2016, 11:39 pm

And you really think that most people would have been happy paying 20-50$ more for a sony console that is supposed to be focused on gaming just because they added an uhd player that has nothing to do with gaming and most of them would have no use of?
4k in gaming is the whole point of the ps4 pro so i see no reason to question that.

Bugblatter

November 9, 2016, 12:24 am

Ok, so 4K gaming is the point of the Pro. So most people who buy one will have or will be planning to get a 4K TV, which are clearly at their best playing UHD blurays.

But those people would rather spend £450-600 on a stand-alone UHD bluray player and have an extra box in their AV cabinet and use up a precious extra HDMI slot on their TV or amp? All to save $20-50 on the PS4 Pro?

I'm one of those people who paid £600 for a very disappointing Panasonic UB900 and I'd rather have a PS4 Pro if it had a UHD bluray player. As it is I'm thinking of selling the UB900 and buying an XBox One S.

The main reason the PS3 sold so well early on was because at the time it was an absolute bargain as a bluray player and did a great job of it too.

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