We recently got some interesting news about a potential PS5 Pro and Xbox Series X refresh. TV manufacturer TCL gave a press conference in Poland, which contained a slide that discussed "Gen 9.5" of consoles. According to TCL, the "PS5 Pro" and "New Xbox Series S/X" would arrive in 2023/2024, and offer higher resolutions, better frame rates and a more powerful GPU than the consoles we have today.
Now that a few days have passed, it seems that TCL was simply theorizing that Sony and Microsoft might repeat their strategies from the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X days. The PS5 Pro and Xbox Series X refresh aren't confirmed, as far as we know. But it did get the Tom's Guide staff wondering: If Sony and Microsoft are working on console refreshes, do we even want them?
FYI: One person has made an unofficial PS5 Slim that looks pretty good, albeit with some heavy caveats.
We polled a handful of gaming writers and editors at TG, to see whether or not they think more powerful PS5 and Xbox Series X variants are worthwhile, particularly since no one can find the base models at present. The results were decidedly negative — but we did think of a few potential benefits that a mid-gen refresh might offer.
Marshall Honorof, Senior Editor
I should probably lay my cards on the table right up front: I don't think that the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X were especially good ideas. Putting aside how well they sold (which is not clear) and how much fans liked them (hard to gauge), they undercut the game console's most traditional selling point. PC gamers like frequent, piecemeal upgrades; console gamers like to buy one indivisible system that lasts a long time. Having to buy two expensive consoles during a single generation rather than just one also damages the "consoles are much cheaper than PCs" argument.
It probably won't come as a shock, then, that I don't see a terrific use case for either a PS5 Pro or an Xbox Series X refresh. TCL suggested that these systems might be able to pull off true 4K resolution at 60 - 120 frames per second frame rates, which would admittedly be impressive. (The current systems can kinda, sorta do that, depending on the game, but tend to vary the resolution, or the frame rate, or both.) These hypothetical systems could also run games smoothly in 8K, for the handful of people who already own 8K TVs.
The issue is that, to the best of my knowledge, gamers aren't really clamoring for even better graphics, smoother frame rates or shorter load times. They want next-gen games rather than optimized last-gen games — and they want to actually find a PS5 or Xbox Series X in a store, rather than having to fight for one like a hot concert ticket.
I have no doubt that Sony and Microsoft could make somewhat more powerful console refreshes, and that they would work as advertised. I just don't see how they would provide significant, tangible benefits over the two excellent consoles we already have — or that we would have, if we could find them anywhere.
Rory Mellon, Deals Editor
My resistance to a PS5 Pro primarily stems from the fact that Sony is still struggling to meet the demand for the standard PS5. Sure, Sony has recently promised investors that it will ramp up hardware production to levels “never achieved before." But as of right now, acquiring one still requires diligently tracking PS5 restocks, and that appears unlikely to change in the short term.
Assuming that the PS5 Pro launches in 2023 or 2024, as the current TCL rumor suggests, by then, we’d likely just be reaching the point where PS5 supply has caught up with demand. But then, Sony would instantly reset the board as gamers scramble to upgrade to a PS5 Pro. It would essentially make chasing restocks the entire focus of this generation of hardware. Let’s not forget that Sony plans to release the PSVR 2 at some point in the near(ish) future, which is almost certainly another gaming product that will suffer from supply issues.
Looking beyond potential stock headaches, the PS5 is not a console that requires a mid-generation refresh. It’s a powerful machine that is currently holding its own against even some of the best PC hardware on the market. I’ve been able to play incredible-looking games, including Returnal, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and Horizon: Forbidden West at a rock-solid 60 fps without my PS5 even breaking a sweat. What more would a PS5 Pro really add to my gaming experience? 8K? Better ray tracing? These are graphical innovations that can wait until the PS5’s inevitable successor down the road.
Around halfway through its lifecycle, the PS4 was starting to creak a little bit. In fact, my launch model sounded like a jet engine ready for takeoff whenever I played something particularly demanding. Furthermore, almost all games were locked to 30 fps. Because of these limitations, a PS4 Pro was a fairly attractive proposition, but history hasn’t repeated itself with the PS5. However, while I’m not clamoring for a Pro model, a redesigned PS5 Slim would tempt me. After all, the PS5 is a big ugly box that sticks out in just about any entertainment center. I’d love a unit with a slightly smaller profile.
Roland Moore-Colyer, Managing Editor, News
The PS5 hasn't been out for two years, and is still not easy to track down. For that reason, I don’t think we need a PS5 Pro. Given that Sony’s latest game console came out in the middle of a pandemic that caused global disruption, I’d posit that developers have had far less scope to really dig into the machine’s capabilities. And even in the best of circumstances, really extracting power from a game console can take some time. The most graphically impressive games on the Xbox One and PS4 came at the end of their respective generations, showing that time and mastery of development toolkits yield great results.
I think there’s a lot more to be had from the PS5 before a ‘pro’ version gets thrown into the mix.
Furthermore, aside from a boost in storage, and maybe better framerates at 4K, I’m not so sure what the benefits of a PS5 Pro are at the moment. The PS4 Pro came at a time when 4K TVs started to become more affordable, meaning there was scope for better-than-1080p gaming.
After 4K comes 8K, but prices of such TVs are beyond the reach of many consumers. I’m also not sure we're at a stage where the graphical benefits of such a high resolution will be significant. The same is likely true of high frame rate gaming, as you need a 120 Hz refresh rate TV to really benefit from frame rates beyond 60 frames per second, and those aren’t incredibly common.
I’m sure a mid-generation PS5 refresh is on a Sony PlayStation roadmap, perhaps for late 2024. But for the time being, I want Sony to concentrate on building out the PS5’s game library.
Tony Polanco, Computing Writer
I previously wrote an op-ed about why releasing a PS5 Pro would be a bad idea. My stance hasn’t changed, even in light of the TCL presentation. Mid-gen refresh systems during this console generation make little sense.
Almost two years after their November 2020 launches, it’s still difficult to procure a current-gen console. Although the Xbox Series S is somewhat easier to find, PS5 restocks end almost as soon as they go live. What’s the point of releasing a PS5 Pro if the standard PS5 is all-but impossible to find? PlayStation’s Jim Ryan promises that PS5 restocks could finally improve by 2024. That’s great, but it doesn’t help people who currently can’t find the system. I doubt a PS5 Pro will help the situation.
And what can the PS5 Pro offer over the PS5? 8K graphics? The PS5 has almost no games that run at true native 4K and at 60 frames per second. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart fluctuates between 1800p and 2160p, but that’s still not unqualified 4K. Also, how many people will even own 8K televisions next year?
And as I said in another piece, I’ve been playing the PS5 for a year — and it doesn’t feel like a next-gen console. This is mostly due to the abundance of cross-gen games available on both PS4 and PS5. Though Gotham Knights on PS4 and Xbox One just got canceled, I don’t see the industry completely abandoning cross-gen games any time soon. This means few titles will take advantage of the PS5 Pro’s power.