PS4 Pro review

Sony’s souped-up PS4 Pro is amazing for 4K TV owners

TODO alt text

Our Verdict

Nearly two years after its launch, the PS4 Pro is still an easy buy for newcomers to the world of PlayStation, early PlayStation VR adopters and 4K HDR TV owners. For everyone else, though, there’s a chance the Pro’s benefits aren’t worth the extra cost.

For

  • First 4K HDR Sony console
  • Larger 1TB hard drive
  • The best Pro Mode games look great

Against

  • No 4K Blu-ray player
  • Pro Mode support varies

Two years since the PlayStation 4 Pro first hit the shelves, if someone asks us for the cream of the crop when it comes to gaming consoles (and have the budget to match) then we still recommend the PS4 Pro as one of the best options money can buy. 

Notice that we said one of the best, not the best. That’s because, depending on who you speak to, Microsoft's Xbox One X could beat the PS4 Pro to the top spot as the best console currently available. Let’s face it, Microsoft’s premium gaming offering does pack in significantly more power under the hood, as well as a 'true' 4K-ready offering.

But if you're a fan of Sony’s line-up of consoles, the Xbox's difference in power shouldn't be too much of a concern. As it stands, both perform at similar levels, and for many the Playstation's great VR offering and accompanying peripherals may be enough to tip the scales in Sony's favor for good. 

Until the PS4 Pro came along, Sony's new gaming consoles (excluding hardware refreshes like the PS4 Slim) represented a clean break from their predecessors. But, as you can tell from the fact Sony just bolted a 'Pro' on the end of the name, the mid-cycle PS4 Pro is a much smaller step forward and very much an enhanced version of the PS4 rather than a console that’s been redesigned from the ground up. But you guessed that from the name, right? 

When it comes to gaming, the PS4 Pro has the same huge back catalogue of titles as the existing PS4, and all of the games that are released for the PS4 Pro will continue to work on the existing PS4 too, so you won't be caught short when opting for the more advanced console.

So this isn't exactly a PS5 – but it is a significant upgrade over the previous PS4 in a few key ways. The biggest change amongst the upgraded specs is its support for new technologies, like 4K and HDR, which will allow you to make use of the newest generation of TV hardware.

But it’s worth noting that although Sony has baked in a number of clever upscaling technologies to the new console, it won’t all be native 4K. 

The key question is: is it really worth the upgrade just for the Pro to be bolted on to the end of its name? Well, that's actually quite easy to answer because it'll depend on what kind of TV you own and what kind of console you currently have too. 

  • Need a 4K TV to go with your PS4 Pro? Check out the best 4K TVs

It’s easiest to compare the Pro to a new iPhone model: its hands-down shinier, faster and prettier than last year’s version, but it's not a totally different type of device, not even slightly. 

Likewise, the PS4 Pro is truly the best gaming console Sony has ever created. There’s no dispute there. It’s capable of playing games in 4K HDR, sometimes at a higher frame rate. And for that reason, if you haven’t purchased a PlayStation 4 already, the PlayStation 4 Pro is an excellent all-around system to go for.

But if you have purchased the PlayStation 4 already, you’ll need to ask yourself a few questions before buying Sony’s new wares: do you own, or will you buy a 4K TV sometime in the next few years? How about the PlayStation VR headset? 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.

PS4 Pro review

PS4 Pro review

It’s also worth bearing in mind that Sony’s system, while the console of choice 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.

The PlayStation platform's game library is solid, and new services and devices have emerged since it's first launch: 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 a PS4 Slim instead of a Pro.

For now, though, read on to see the design of the PS4 Pro.

PS4 Pro: design

  • 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 say 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 in September 2016. However this time around you won’t find rounded corners along the edges. The PS4 Pro is sharp in every sense of the word.

PS4 Pro review

PS4 Pro review

Another difference is the silver PlayStation logo that sits in the center of the top surface that adds a nice touch of elegance. Another tweak 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.

PS4 Pro review

PS4 Pro review

Let’s talk I/O. There are two Superspeed USB 3.1 ports on the front panel of the PS4 Pro 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). HDMI 2.0a, Ethernet, optical audio and PlayStation Camera ports line up along the back next to the power connector.

You won’t find an HDMI input port here like you would on the Xbox One, but Sony’s workaround 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 review

PS4 Pro review

PS4 Pro: controller

  • Minor changes made
  • Can be used in wired or wireless modes
  • Light bar added to front of controller

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 now 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 esports prize money) or a loss.