Why The PlayStation 4 Pro Doesn’t Go Far Enough

Pro-fits over performance.

For the last few years we’ve had a refreshed and reinvigorated Sony, one that has nailed the gaming zeitgeist with its powerful hardware, high-quality games, and consistent and convincing interaction with its core audience. However, this week’s PlayStation Meeting, and the deathly dull announcement of both the PlayStation 4 Slim and PlayStation 4 Pro, saw a Sony that was overconfident, lazy, and placed more value on simply being first rather than being better.

4K with HDR is of course the new visual promised land, though arguably it would have been nice not to have seemingly merrily skipped past 1080p at 60fps. In practice, of course the 4K output is a cheat, a lovely sharp cheat, but a cheat nonetheless, and the clear benefit of HDR as a selling point is somewhat muted by the fact that every PS4 will apparently be able to utilize it following the next firmware upgrade. Anyway, all but the most expensive HDR enabled TVs simply aren’t that great for gaming thanks to the processing going on under the hood, and that’s not likely to change in the next twelve months.

Realistically we’re going to see more games that have multiple graphics options, just as the forthcoming PS4 version of Rise Of The Tomb Raider does, giving console gamers a new balancing act that PC owners have been playing forever. As it stands it still doesn’t look like Rise Of The Tomb Raider can hit 1080p at 60fps, which everyone will have hoped the Pro was capable of.

But that’s not what we’re getting. We’re also not getting a 4K Blu-Ray drive, something that Microsoft seemed to think was worthwhile putting into an Xbox One S. Of course, in this age of streaming, that’s likely to only be a problem for serious movie nuts – at least that’s what Sony have decided. Judging by some of the responses to the omission perhaps it’s not totally niche, and those wanting to get the most out of their expensive display set-up absolutely won’t be best served by streaming.

What actually concerns me more is that PS4 Pro is coming out within a few weeks of PSVR, and that the enhanced internals will be most beneficial there. All of the games have to run at 60fps for the virtual reality magic to work, but that’s at the cost of visual clarity, something that PS4 Pro’s extra oomph can clearly help with. While of course PSVR is going to work with our original PS4’s, it’s a bit of a kick in the pants that our brand new £350 unit isn’t going to be at its best without another new £350 box to plug it into.

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Has PS4 Pro been rushed out in order to ensure PSVR reaches its full potential? Possibly, but then that doesn’t help the nearly 40 million PS4 owners that are out there already, and indeed those that have PSVR preordered. Trying to find a clear message for customers from a company that is releasing three new products within two months is going to be tough, and for those who are slightly out of the loop Sony is offering the opportunity for Wii/Wii U levels of confusion.

The PS4 Pro’s aesthetics slavishly try to retain the fantastic look of the original PS4, by literally expanding on it. The larger casing is clearly necessary in order to ensure that the more powerful innards don’t overheat, but it’s lost the effortlessly-cool svelte looks of the original, and edged closer to the monolithic Xbox One. We can only hope that it is at least quieter.

Of course it’s worth considering what Microsoft is doing, and for the last few years Sony has had the power and price advantage. That will continue to be the case now for the next twelve months, and those who already play multiplatform games on Sony’s console due to their improved performance could happily make the jump knowing the differential will be even greater.

However MS’ Scorpio, whose promised specs may well be able to achieve true 4K gaming, or at least nail 1080p at 60fps, boasts the next iteration of chipset and will certainly be more powerful than the PS4 Pro. That multiplatform advantage will be lost, but by then will it be too late for Microsoft anyway? It’s still likely to gall many to see their ‘Pro’ console superseded by a rival within twelve months, and more power for the Pro would at the very least have ensured better longevity.

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By then, though, it could well be that PS5 will be on the horizon, which still begs the question – are console gamers ready for an upgrade cycle like this? Microsoft’s “no gamer left behind” mantra looks to carry over to Sony’s plans, but how many will begin to feel burnt that their very capable gaming machine is no longer the best place to experience the games being released for it.

It’s too early in the console cycle for either the original Xbox One or PS4 to have genuinely been ‘maxed out’, and you only have to look at Uncharted 4 to see what’s already achievable on the base hardware. I fear that we’ll no longer see spectacular, generation-ending titles like The Last Of Us or God Of War 2.

Despite the mid-generation upgrades, it’s inevitable that PS4 will eventually be left behind, at which point the whole thing will reset once more, and two or three years of the Pro – or indeed the Scorpio – may have people questioning their investment. Of course, if you’re reading this then you’re most likely the kind of person who needs the latest edition of a console, who needs to be able to play a game at its fullest potential.

I’m that kind of person as well – hell, I write about games for however many hours a week so I’m fairly invested in them – but having placed a pre-order I can’t help but feel a nagging sense of disappointment and trepidation. Not only is it not quite the machine I wanted, but I’m not sure that Sony know exactly where they’re taking us, or console gaming.

Written by
TSA's Reviews Editor - a hoarder of headsets who regularly argues that the Sega Saturn was the best console ever released.

44 Comments

  1. We’ll just have to see the improvements in person on a suitable screen. Tough sell, like VR in many ways I guess. But then someone, somewhere, said what I’m saying about 4K and HDR when it came to HD once, and that was adopted by the masses.

    I also don;t think 4K Blu-ray will be a big selling thing, like 3D Blu-rays. Sure, there was a market, but with 4K I feel streaming services such as Netflix, YouTube and upcoming Amazon shows have got the public mindset of where 4K comes from. Let’s see, I’m probably wrong but hopefully not.

    • Sony have said 4K consumption is all about streaming. I’m disappointed personally (I like physical copies of things), but I expect I’m in the minority.

      • I’m with you Voolar – I tend to buy physical copies of its a film/TV show I’ve seen and enjoyed or know I’ll like. I prefer to know it’s always available to watch no matter what…

    • I agree with your comments and love 4 k streaming but i feel lucky that i have a connection fast enough but Sony have singled out the countries with poor internet connections, for 4k you need at minimum 10mb connection to achive a steady bit rate not many countries have that outside of their major cities.

      • I still buy 3D Blu Rays bout Civil War recently. Was very disappointed that there was no 3D of Deadpool and Star Wars…..
        I still enjoy 3D Blu Ray films

      • The 3D release of Star Wars is coming next month.

        With extra bonus features included deleted scenes not on the original blu-ray release. Disney are proper money-grabbers.

      • Yes Del, so I saw. I get it. But the sales are small in relative terms and I have a feeling 4K Blu-ray will be similar in terms of market share.

      • Even a good 4K stream is going to look worse than a UHD Blu-ray, because the bit rate is worse. Odd that they haven’t gone this way, particularly as it helps to drive other aspects of their business.

  2. Nice article, yesterday I didn’t think the Pro was disappointing but I’m leaning towards that opinion now. I think it should’ve been launched after VR, maybe this time next year would’ve been better, three new PlayStation products coming out in as many weeks might dilute the VR buzz. I also think that Sony should’ve taken the opportunity to sell us a 4K drive, as a film company they have the power to push the format hard and forcing it into success. I guess Sony has had to change direction rather than making every laptop, camera and console a media powerhouse, but it’s hard not to compare this more sensible strategy with their previous PS3-does-everything golden era.

  3. If I ever need to buy a new ps4, for example if my current one breaks, then I’ll get a pro. I don’t think the differences are large enough though to warrant the purchase when I’ve already got a ps4 sat in my home.
    Maybe if I went and spent a fortune on a new TV capable of getting the best from the pro, but again I’m perfectly happy with the TV I’ve got.
    Another maybe, if they started producing games only for the pro, then I’d take the jump, but they’ve promised that won’t happen, haven’t they?

    • Yup that’s how I’m feeling. No need to upgrade.

    • I’m leaning that way the more I dwell on it too.
      I’ve got a 4K HDR TV and its mightily tempting to upgrade just so I know I’m getting the most of my TV but on the other hand it’s not native 4K, there aren’t going to be any Pro exclusive games (allegedly), and games running on my day one console still manage to impress me at times.
      Not to mention the Pro looks hideous compared to the original!
      It just feels like they’ve rushed out the most affordable high spec machine they can as soon as possible to properly accommodate VR… Shame.

  4. One thing I think is a massive factor in all of this is price. The Pro is the same as the retail price the standard PS4 was not too long ago, which is really impressive.
    However powerful the Scorpio turns out to new it would amazing if it got anywhere near close to £350/$399.
    By that point Sony would have a year’s head start in the 4k (ish) world and they would also have wiggle room in terms of price.
    Personally I’m ok with a quicker refresh cycle because of this approach of forwards and backwards compatibility. For me I’m going to try holding out for the next PS unless something happens to my current model.

    • Scorpio is likely to be around a grand, and won’t be available for another 16 months. PS4 Pro is affordable, available soon and doesn’t fragment userbase.

      Microsoft have lost the plot her again.

      • A grand, you can’t be serious? Half that figure maybe.
        Not sure whether it will come with an elite controller and/or Kinect. So I say between £400-450.

      • Do the math with the specs. A grand for Scorpio is conservative, which is why Microsoft have lost the plot. It’s going to bomb, like Xbox always bombs, they simply don’t understand the market. If you want high end console PS4 Pro is here soon. If you want to go higher, a PC is also here now. A £1000 upwards console is 16 months time is just a joke.

      • Many sources and suggestions (even from ms execs) of just under $1000, which will translate to just under £1000 this side of the pond….

        If you think it’s going to be to close to PS pro price, dream on. Not possible with the specs and supply chain. Sony are a hardware manufacturer, with SCM and can do much more with much less. Also by the time Scorpio is out, PS pro will be ready for a price drop.

        70/30 rule will apply. 70% of the performance at 30% of the cost and a huge install base for PlayStation, meaning games are primary developed for PlayStation and the Xbox is an afterthought. Say goodbye to any performance advantages in anything but 1st party exclusive titles.

        This story has been played out so may times before. Scorpio will be the next 3DO

      • A grand! You seriously don’t believe that?! If the Scorpio is a grand I’ll buy you one.

      • Just realised after reading all your posts – yep, it’s Mr Blighty back again. Saying the 360 bombed is ridiculous and you know it. It won last gen on game sales and led on hardware right until the end. It was a success no doubt.

      • Console manufacturers will get parts much cheaper than someone building a PC as they buy in bulk.

        Wouldn’t surprise me if the Scorpio was the equivalent of a $1000 PC (prebuilt, they like to hype up how things are, think $800 if you built it yourself) but Microsoft could get those parts for much less than that.

        Might cost them $500 to make the console. Sell it for that, or as is common for consoles, at a loss (make money through licensing games, exclusive games and Xbox Live subscriptions) and you can sell a console at a somewhat reasonable price.

        That said, the Scorpio and the PS4 Pro are horrible ideas, blatant consumer exploitation and a large middle finger to the people who already bought an expensive console from them. I hope they both flop.

      • A grand? Lmao. Sony just doubled the power of PS4 and ask the original £350. An extra 1.8tflops for £650 – not a chance. MS are probably already getting the AMD tech cheaper due to bulk purchase and AMD will welcome the contracted business to supply xyz chips. In a years time it will be much cheaper still. £450/500 and it will come with UHD drive.
        MS have not lost the plot. Play anywhere, buy once get 2 copies, portable storage allowed, EA Access, near same day US/EU releases, better online, no increase in LIVE subscription, back compatible free if you already own the game…..sure, MS are brain-dead.

  5. To me this looks an ok upgrade for people who want a pro console, and that’s what it is, and what it’s correctly named. It is the PS4.5, and expectations beyond that will have to wait for next gen. The timing looks right, as it improves PSVR close to its launch and not some years later, risking the PSVR being hampered too long by sub-par performance of the console.

    The price is more than acceptable too. Other companies manage to build up billions with gadgets that people are willing to spend more than twice as much for on an annual basis, and these have more mediocre upgrades, or even features like headphone jacks are being taken away from them. And don’t even get me started about the pricing of gaming PCs.

    MS, however, totally missed this gen, and Scorpio will be much too late to make any difference. It is the console that should’ve been there at the start of this gen, but so far we don’t know price or release date or anything more specific than a promise about the performance of parts that haven’t even been produced, as far as I know. Even worse, it may soon be competing with rumours of a PS5, and that’ll kill it off for good. As much as I wished it was otherwise, as Sony desperately needs some competition, MS messed up their relevant role in the game console business for years.

    Whether I buy a Pro and a PSVR, I’m still undecided, but if I go for the latter, I might for the former to get the most out of my gaming.

  6. PSVR is fine without Neo. All Neo will do is add polygons, its not going to increase the frame rate or resolution.

    • I hope so… I am very excited about the PSVR… but I’d rather not have to pay an extra £350.

    • Not sure how that works, TC. PS4 Pro will be able to up the frame-rate or at least keep it at the intended frame-rate (and resolution) whilst retaining the detail of the non-VR based equivalent.

    • All PSVR games are 60fps as standard, they have to be that fast. I suppose you could argue they could go up to 120fps but that is a bit silly. Yes, you can add a few more polygons here and there but its not really going to be doing much.

      • Seeing how the frame-rate affects the PS4 Pro options on that article for Tomb Raider – I think it might be quite a bit. Then again, it still gets divided by two (what with us having two eyes/screens for VR). I reckon the detail will be far nearer the original title. Driveclub is a good example. We’ve seen the graphical sacrifices made to get it working in VR and the Pro version goes a good way to close that gap.

        I think.

        I hope! :D

      • As the games can be rendered at a higher resolution on the Pro then it’ll add a nice bit of supersampling AA when viewed on PSVR and that might make a big difference to your experience.

      • I thought 60fps wasn’t fast enough? 90 or 120fps was required?

        But then they’ve developed that framerate doubler tech.

  7. If they are going to change the generational cycle then mid-usual seems the best time to do it (which is where we are). Price has to be key and sticking to a £350/$400 price point is essential to success. So within those boundaries they’ve actually done really well haven’t they? Put it in context it’s only ~£50 more expensive than a 1TB XBox One S.

    My biggest disappointment is I don’t have the cash to spend on all this gaming goodness and upgrade my TV.

  8. I can see two possible advantages to this change to mid-gen upgrades – backwards compatibility and a consistent UI – ie no more consoles launching with basic UI features missing. Other than that i won’t be ready to upgrade until the next-gen games arrive.

    Whatever about PS4 Pro being ‘better’ for PSVR, they’ll need to ensure that standard PS4 owners who adopt PSVR won’t feel they are getting an inferior experience.

    • If Sony signed a magical bit of paper that said “our consoles will always be backwards compatible henceforth” I’d be so happy. If that happened because of mid-generation upgrades, sign me up. However, outside of that, the Pro is a nice option for people who want it. I, personally, don’t have much reason to go for one.

  9. I really don’t like the idea of the Pro or Scorpio.

    The consoles definitely haven’t been maxed out yet. This is pure exploitation of the console gaming market. I haven’t actually hoped a console would fail before, but I certainly wouldn’t care if the two upgrades failed to sell.

  10. Who remembers when gaming was about games? I couldn’t care less about PSVR and super powerfull consoles when the fact of the matter, is that there has literally only been one essential game come out this year, Uncharted 4.

    • That’s a bit of an oversimplification, surely? I remember when Amiga games required 1MB of RAM which meant you needed to upgrade your half a meg. Hardware has always been part of the deal. Thankfully, the consoles made it easier. Oh, wait. Now I get it. yeah… we’re seeing the world of consoles getting a bit muddy with regards to what to choose – or not.

      To a certain degree, I see what you mean. :D

      • From my point of view, my PS4 has barey been turned on this year due to a severe lack of games. Even the most hyped games turn out to be crap or broken these days. So there is absolutey no way I’m spending any more money on hardware.

    • I know what you mean with lack of decent games. My PS4 has only really been used for Spotify or Netflix lately.
      I know there’s some good games to look forward to next year, but this year, as far as I’m concerned has been awful. I didn’t even really enjoy Uncharted 4 much either apart from the multiplayer – which I can’t no longer play as my Plus subscription has ran out, and for the first time, I can’t be bothered to renew it yet.
      I was hoping BF1 was going to grab eye, but I can’t get on with the WW1 theme. The weapons are just all annoying.

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