Sony this week announced two new PlayStation 4 versions: the slim makeover we’ve come to expect after three console generations; and a bold new model with more powerful hardware.
Sony insists the upgraded PS4 Pro complements rather than replaces the current console generation, but it’s worth exploring whether it makes sense for current PS4 owners to upgrade. And while Sony calls the slimmed-down PS4 simply the PlayStation 4, let’s call it the PS4 Slim here for the sake of clarity.
The PS4 Pro represents a significant upgrade in power over the original PS4, at least in terms of GPU. The PS4 Pro uses a Radeon-based 4.20-TFLOPS graphical processor, a huge jump over the 1.84-TFLOP CPU used by in the original PS4 $299.00 at Amazon and PS4 Slim.
The PS4 Pro’s CPU also gets a clock boost, but Sony didn’t specify just how much faster it is than the PS4’s processor, as both systems use an octa-core x86-64 AMD “Jaguar” CPU. Sony also doubled the storage on the PS4 Pro to 1TB, though the PS4 Slim will have a 1TB version available, too. Curiously, the PS4 Pro has the same 8GB of GDDR5 RAM as the original PS4 and PS4 Slim; this is a surprise, considering Sony’s emphasis on 4K video capability with the PS4 Pro.
Sony hyped up the benefits of ultra high definition (UHD or 4K) and high dynamic range (HDR) television and what the PS4 Pro can do with it. The new system can output in 4K resolution, while the PS4 and PS4 Slim cannot. All PS4s will get a firmware update that will add HDR support to their 1080p output, but we’ll have to see how it’s implemented.
This doesn’t necessarily mean the PS4 Pro will render games in 4K. In fact, that seems very unlikely. Sony’s own specs state that the PS4 Pro’s 4K video output can be from either game rendering or upconversion after rendering at a lower resolution, and most games will likely use the latter. Rendering games natively at 4K provides consistently superior graphical fidelity than upconversion, but it also taxes the hardware on gaming PCs that cost several times that of the PS4 Pro. The much beefier GPU will probably help, but considering the system isn’t getting a major boost in CPU speed or memory, expect most games to be upconverted.
This is where distinctions get tricky. All PS4 games will play on the PS4 Pro and PS4/PS4 Slim. Sony was clear about total compatibility for all systems. However, some games will take advantage of the PS4 Pro’s greater processing power to improve graphics or performance. This includes upcoming games like Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, For Honor, and Horizon: Zero Dawn.
However, patches are being developed for many games that have already been released in a feature Sony calls “forward compatibility,” which lets current games improve graphics or performance on the PS4 Pro. They include Shadow of Mordor and Infamous: First Light.
Sony was relatively quiet on the PS4 Pro and how it will work with PlayStation VR. The company has been adamant that PSVR will work with the standard PS4, so any difference with the PS4 Pro will likely be performance rather than compatibility. You’ll be able to use PSVR with any version of the console.
Size and Price
The PS4 Pro is bigger (pictured above, right) and $100 more expensive than the PS4 Slim (left).
The PS4 Pro is clearly a superior system based on the specs. It’s more powerful and has a higher storage capacity, but the big benefits will only be seen if you have a 4K TV that supports HDR. If you don’t, there isn’t much reason to get a PS4 Pro. We’ll give the Pro and the Slim full reviews once we get them in to PC Labs. The PS4 Slim ships Sept. 15 for $299, while the PS4 Pro ships in November for $399.