Xbox, One – PlayStation, Zero: why PS4 Pro's lack of 4K Blu-ray is such a bummer

Why PS4 Pro's lack of 4K Blu-ray is such a bummer

We've been looking forward to it for months – originally codenamed Neo, Sony's PlayStation 4 Pro has now been officially announced, promising to usher gamers into the 4K gaming and media future.

However, while the company's excitement over the console's 4K and HDR capabilities is evident, it comes with one particularly huge caveat – the console will not include Ultra HD Blu-ray playback functionality.

I know what you're thinking: "But it's a gaming console; its gaming functionality is all that should matter." That's all well and good, but we're long past the point where consoles are singularly designed to play games – they're now the entertainment centrepieces of our living rooms.

Let's take things back to the great HD DVD vs Blu-ray war of the mid-2000s, in which Sony's decision to make every PS3 console a Blu-ray player would change home entertainment to this day.

The HD wars

In a bid to get its console out long before the arrival of the highly-anticipated PS3, Microsoft opted to release the Xbox 360 with only standard DVD player functionality built into it. Sony, on the other hand, chose to hold its ground, releasing the PS3 the following year and simultaneously putting a Blu-ray player in the homes of every person that purchased the console.

Though Microsoft would eventually release an HD DVD player accessory for the Xbox 360, it couldn't hope to compete with the built-in support that the PS3 was offering, ultimately swaying studio support over to the Blu-ray format.

Cut to present day, and the situation has been flipped in regards to how the console giants are approaching Blu-ray's successor, Ultra HD Blu-ray.

Rather than wait for its own mid-generation console update, which is set to arrive next year in the shape of Project Scorpio, Microsoft has launched out of the gate with built-in Ultra HD Blu-ray functionality in its new Xbox One S.

Slim chance

Though the One S is essentially just a slimmed-down version of the console it launched almost three years ago, the addition of 4K and HDR support adds an incredible amount of value to Microsoft's console. It also practically guarantees that next year's beastly Scorpio console, which promises true 4K gaming, will also support the Ultra HD Blu-ray format.

Sony, on the other hand, is now in the same situation the Xbox 360 was in last-generation. With Sony eager to get there first, the PS4 Pro will be released this year without Ultra HD Blu-ray functionality.

While we can forgive its omission from the barely-updated 'slim' PS4, the decision to release a 'Pro' version that's unable to play Ultra HD Blu-ray discs is utterly baffling, especially when the Xbox One S has already brought that functionality to market months ago.

Sony has placed a great amount of emphasis on its upcoming console's 4K and HDR capabilities, making its decision not to support Ultra HD Blu-ray even more glaring.

I'll be missing you

While it's too early to tell if Ultra HD Blu-ray will become as popular as its predecessor, or whether people will even care about it in a year's time, leaving this functionality off the PS4 gives customers another reason to consider purchasing an Xbox One S or Scorpio console instead.

With hardcore gamers heading back to the PC gaming scene in droves, increased media functionality has turned consoles into all-in-one entertainment solutions for the living room. People now rely on their consoles to play and stream movies, TV and music as much, if not more so, than they use them to play games.

If it's Sony's intention to bring core gamers back to the living room, then releasing a console that will be significantly underpowered by the time the Scorpio arrives doesn't seem like a great plan of attack.

Sony's had a stunning run in this generation's console war, putting nary a foot wrong since the PS4 was released in 2013. Could this misstep be enough to help turn the tables in Microsoft's favor?

Stephen Lambrechts
Senior Journalist, Phones and Entertainment

Stephen primarily covers phones and entertainment for TechRadar's Australian team, and has written professionally across the categories of tech, film, television and gaming in both print and online for over a decade. He's obsessed with smartphones, televisions, consoles and gaming PCs, and has a deep-seated desire to consume all forms of media at the highest quality possible. 

He's also likely to talk a person’s ear off at the mere mention of Android, cats, retro sneaker releases, travelling and physical media, such as vinyl and boutique Blu-ray releases. Right now, he's most excited about QD-OLED technology, The Batman and Hellblade 2: Senua's Saga.