It's become horrifically cliched to remark upon how quickly technology progresses, but it's an important point to remember when it comes to consoles, which become very outdated indeed by the end of their six year lifecycle.
This has prompted Sony to release what some are calling a 'mid-generation' upgrade, the PS4 Pro.
The downside is that not all of it will be native 4K, but Sony has also baked in a number of clever upscaling technologies to the new console to act as a stopgap.
But is it worth the upgrade? The answer to that question will depend entirely on what kind of TV you own.
- Need a 4K TV to go with your PS4 Pro? Check out the best 4K TVs in 2016
The Pro is like a 2016 model iPhone; it’s hands down shinier, faster and prettier than last year’s model. Likewise, the PS4 Pro is truly the best gaming console Sony has ever created. It’s capable of playing games in 4K HDR, sometimes at a higher framerate. And for that reason, if you haven’t purchased a PlayStation 4 already, the PlayStation 4 Pro is an excellent all-around system.
If you have purchased the PlayStation 4 already, you’ll need to ask yourself a few questions before buying Sony’s new wares: Will you buy a 4K TV sometime in the next few years? How about PlayStation VR? How important do you find higher framerates and 500GB of extra storage? The answer to those questions might be ‘no,’ ‘no’ and ‘not very,’ and if that’s the case then Sony’s high horsepower system might not make the most sense for you, especially if you’re upgrading from an original PS4.
Whether or not the new console will offer benefits for you will vary depending on whether you already own a PS4 system. Do keep in mind that Sony’s system, while being a better for the core gamer, might not make sense as an upgrade due to certain deficiencies in the hardware – home entertainment enthusiasts will cringe when they hear Sony forgot (or more likely forgoed) stocking the PS4 Pro with an Ultra HD Blu-ray player.
Also, like the Xbox One S that launched a few months back, the Pro’s launch is a good time to reevaluate Sony’s PS4 platform, now approaching its third birthday.
The platform has more games than it did three years ago, obviously, but new systems have also emerged: PlayStation Vue, PlayStation Now, PlayStation Music and, most importantly, PlayStation VR. We’ll take the time later to talk about how these systems shape the platform and help make the PlayStation 4 a great place to game.
Finally, at the end of the review, we’ll talk about your best course of action going forward, even if that means picking up an original PS4 instead of a Pro.
For now, though, scroll down to see the design of the PS4 Pro.
- Slightly bigger than standard PS4
- Additional 3.1 USB port on the rear
- Upgraded Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
While we wouldn’t say the PS4 Pro’s design completely replicates the PS4’s, there are a ton of similarities – the first and foremost of which is the decision to keep the console a flat parallelogram. When Sony first unveiled the PS4 Pro, there were jokes that the system felt like two PS4s stacked on top of one another, but the second you pull the system from the box that observation becomes less of a joke and more of the reality of the situation.
Compared to the original PS4’s 27.5 x 30 x 5.3 cm package, the PS4 Pro will take up a bit more shelf space – 29.5 x 32.7 x 5.5 cm (W x L x H), to be exact. Because it’s both wider and taller than the original PS4, you’ll probably have to put the original on top of the Pro if you plan on keeping both. Along the same lines, it’s a fair bit heavier, too. However, unless you constantly move your console from one house to the next, we can't the extra weight will be a massive headache.
The system is encased in a matte black shell, similar to the one used on the PS4 Slim released last month, however this time around you won’t find rounded corners along the edges. The PS4 Pro is sharp in every sense of the word.
Another difference is the silver PlayStation logo that sits in the center of the top surface that adds a nice touch of elegance. The other minor difference is the power cable that the PS4 Pro uses a bulkier female connector to draw more power instead of the generic two prong cable Sony has traditionally supplied with every PS4.
On the front of the console, you might notice that there are no touch-capacitive buttons. Sony’s decided to ditch the accident prone pads for a more traditional button that sits beneath the disc tray. The button is made from a sort of cheap plastic, which is scary, but it does the job just the same. The same is true for the eject button which sits in the same spot on the right side of the front face.
Let’s talk I/O for a second. There are two Superspeed USB 3.1 ports on the front panel and one in the back, used for syncing and charging controllers as well as connecting your brand new PlayStation VR if you’ve just bought one, and HDMI 2.0a, ethernet, optical audio and PlayStation Camera ports along the back next to the power connector. You won’t find an HDMI input port here like you would on the Xbox One, however Sony’s work around to its cable conundrum, PlayStation Vue, is an arguably effective one.
One final point here: While the exterior is nice, Sony has spent more time working on the inside of the console. Inside you’ll find a larger 1TB hard drive, which is 500GB more than you’ll find on the original PS4 or the base model of the PS4 Slim. There’s also an improved Wi-Fi antenna that uses dual-band 802.11ac wireless and Bluetooth 4.0 instead of 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth 2.1.
While the swapping out of a Wi-Fi antenna may not seem like a big deal, it helps the PS4 Pro download games faster. A 160MB game (Pac-Man 256) downloaded in under a minute on a 15Mbps connection – something that should have always been the case, but wasn’t, on the original PS4.
PS4 Pro controller
- Minor changes made
- Can be used in wired or wireless modes
- Light bar added to front of controller
But a new system needs a new controller, and Sony is more than happy to oblige here.
The controller that ships with the new PS4 Pro is the same one that will ship with all PlayStation 4 Slim systems going forward.
It is, essentially, a very small iteration on the DualShock 4 you’ve been using for years. There’s a light bar built into the touchpad – a nice feature when you don’t want to turn the controller over in your hand to find out what player you are – but more importantly the triggers have been tweaked and it feels a bit lighter in the hand.
Plus, as we pointed out in the PlayStation 4 Slim review, the controller can also switch seamlessly between Bluetooth and wired mode when it’s connected to the system via USB cable. While that might not sound like it’s a huge addition, for a pro gamer, that can be the difference between a win (and a pot of e-Sports prize money) or a loss.
Oh, and how does it stack up to the Xbox One S? Watch this video to find out!