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Forget the PS5 — here's why I’m waiting for the PS5 Pro

PS5 vs Xbox Series X: Which console wins?
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

If nothing else, Cyberpunk 2077 has provided a vital service with all its bugs and other mishaps — it’s proof that next-gen isn’t here yet.

The game and its elaborate vertically layered open world is taxing even high-end gaming PCs. When it comes to the PS5 and Xbox Series X where at the moment it’s only possible to play last generation versions via backwards compatibility — both systems struggle to play the game at consistent frame rates and currently lack ray tracing. 

Now some of those problems can be chalked up to developer CD Projekt Red’s poor optimization of the game’s console iterations. But even games like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla run at less than 4K resolution. More bespoke titles like Spider-Man: Miles Morales have players choosing between quality and performance modes, each offering tradeoffs. 

All this suggests that the 4K 60fps future isn’t quite here yet. It’s made all the more fleeting thanks to computationally expensive ray tracing graphics technology, which brings more realistic lighting. But as it currently stands, both the PS5 and Xbox Series X need more horsepower to meet the demands of technically elaborate next-gen titles. 

4K resolution, almost

The PS5 and Xbox Series X have given gamers some strong titles to test out their new systems. From Demon’s Souls to Yakuza: Like a Dragon, there’s a lot to play during a holiday quarantine. Unfortunately, not all games can hit that 4K 60fps ideal.

Insomniac Games, the developer behind Miles Morales, did a tremendous job in delivering a next-gen experience with little compromise. On PS5, the game showcases enhanced textural detail and new ray tracing depth. The added ray tracing gives the city that next-gen realism, where the world is dynamically reflected in real time on the shiny glass obelisks towering over Manhattan. Miles himself features greater skin detail, with realistic translucency as neon lights dissipate over his pores.

spider man miles morales

Spider-Man: Miles Morales (Image credit: Future)

Even then, gamers are forced to compromise between two modes: quality and performance. The former prioritizes ray tracing and a consistent 4K resolution while the latter focuses on frame rates. John Linneman of Digital Foundry reports seeing resolution in performance mode go as low as 1512p.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, on the other hand, has had to make greater compromises. With the added performance of both the PS5 and XSX, the team couldn’t brute force 4K 60fps with ray tracing. 

According to Alex Battaglia of Digital Foundry, both the PS5 and Xbox Series X versions of the game never hit a full 4K resolution. Instead, Assassin’s Creed opts for a dynamic resolution that changes on the fly depending on the situation. On the high end, users will see a resolution of 1728p, while on the low end, the game will drop to 1440p. That’s 67% of a native 4K resolution. 

Will there really be a PS5 Pro?

As technology continues to improve, graphics technology will soon be able to achieve that ray traced 4K 60fps future. When that happens on PC, fans will too be clamoring for a mid-cycle refresh that can offer similar gains. But demands on Twitter might not translate to a new system.

ps4 pro ps4

PS4 and PS4 Pro (Image credit: Mike Andronico/Tom's Guide)

The PS4 Pro has been difficult to find these past two years, either due to high demand or low production. For those wanting to get a PS4 Pro, it was likely that they would need to find one secondhand or wait for a special edition bundle, like the ones featuring Spider-Man or Death Stranding. 

Sony has never officially released numbers for PS4 Pro sales, which could suggest that they paled in comparison to the base PS4. Sony also recently discontinued production of the PS4 Pro, likely to prioritize PS5 production.

At the moment, it’s still hard to say if there will be a PS5 Pro or Xbox Series X2.

When would we see a PS5 Pro

The PS4 Pro and Xbox One X systems came out in 2016, three years after the base systems’ release. If that timeline holds true for the current generation, then we could see a mid-generation refresh in 2023.

Before that happens, new graphics advancements need to be feasible for manufacturing before either company can make orders with chip maker AMD. 

At the moment, AMD is pushing its latest Ryzen processors and RX 6000 series graphics cards featuring RDNA 2 technology. The Xbox Series X delayed manufacturing systems until AMD could fold RDNA 2 into Xbox’s production line. PS5, on the other hand, does not have RDNA 2 baked into the hardware.

AMD Radeon RX 6000

AMD Radeon RX 6000 (Image credit: AMD)

Because AMD just released its RX 6000 series with its new 7nm process, the new year will likely see an upgraded iteration, while 2022 will introduce new technology altogether. 

Assuming this timeline is true, then it’s quite possible that by 2023, technology will exist for a PS5 Pro.

Give game developers more time

As a console generation ages, developers find new techniques to exploit hardware. The original Uncharted, which launched in 2007 on the PlayStation 3, was considered a technical marvel at the time. But developer Naughty Dog commented that the game only utilized 30% of the system’s performance. It wasn’t until Uncharted 2 that the team was able to tap into the full power of the cell processor.

But Uncharted is an extreme example. On the PS4, Uncharted 4 and The Last of Us 2 — both of which were released three years apart — did not see the same graphical leap. That’s because the architecture of the PS4 was more familiar and PC-like than the PS3. It was easy for developers to quickly learn the ropes and start exploiting the console’s hardware. 

According to architect Mark Cerny, the “time to triangle,” or the ability for developers to get up to speed on the hardware, decreased dramatically between the PS3 and PS4. For the PS3, it took developers 6 to 12 months. PS4 greatly reduced the time to triangle to 1 to 2 months. The PS5, given its similar architecture, has reduced it to less than a month.

That means Naughty Dog will almost immediately be able to tap into the full power of the PS5. Even then, I suspect its first PS5 game might also have users choose between quality and performance modes.

Can deep learning fix the need for mid-gen refresh?

Even on a $1,500 RTX 3090 graphics card, Cyberpunk 2077 struggles to maintain a consistent 60fps with ray tracing on at a native 4K resolution. What PC gamers have opted to do is instead use Nvidia’s DLSS, or deep learning super sampling with some tweaked settings.

Cyberpunk 2077 review

Cyberpunk 2077 (Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

DLSS, to put it simply, uses AI and Nvidia’s supercomputers to predict what a higher resolution frame might look like. So, players can run a game at 1440p on their computer and DLSS will use AI to interpret a 4K image. It works surprisingly well.

AMD’s equivalent of this is FidelityFX Super Resolution. It hasn’t launched yet, but AMD has said it’s open source and cross-platform, meaning that it can jump to PS5 and XSX/S.

At the moment, Microsoft is touting that the processor on the Xbox Series X/S has hardware baked in to allow for Super Resolution and other types of AI learning, hardware the PS5 lacks. The PS5 still can use AI super sampling, but not as fast or effectively. 

Earlier this year a patent surfaced from Sony that suggested the company is working on AI technology equivalent to DLSS. If it comes to fruition, then both the Xbox Series X/S and PS5 might forgo needing a mid-gen refresh.

But the packaging for both the PS5 and XSX touts 120fps and 8K resolution. If stronger hardware in a pro model can deliver proper 120fps gameplay at a 1080p or 1440p resolution, then AI-based supersampling can display that on the latest feature-rich televisions.

Should I wait for a PS5 Pro?

If I weren't a tech reporter, it’s likely that I would have waited before jumping into next gen, either for a mid-cycle refresh or for both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X to implement AI super sampling. 

For the interim, I might have instead considered investing in a gaming PC, one that can take advantage of next-gen ray tracing features along with Nvidia’s DLSS. But I understand that many cannot afford to own a gaming rig and a next-gen console. 

In an instance where budgets are constrained, I would opt to stick with a PS4, or consider selling it for a used PS4 Pro. Games will continue to release on last-gen systems for the next two years. If by E3 2022 there are no rumblings of a mid-cycle refresh, then I would consider buying PS5 or XSX. And if both Sony and Microsoft do announce the launch of AI-based super sampling, it decreases the likelihood.

Either way, both units are sold out everywhere. There still aren’t a ton of must-have games yet. If you do decide to wait a few years, at the very least you’ll be able to buy a suite of games at discounted prices.

  • dejavvu
    Geez, what the hell did you expect? Even today's high end graphics cards cant play at 4k properly(Ray traced, without DLSS), anybody expecting $500 consoles to play 4k(with high quality visuals) is deluding themselves. And no, PS5 Pro won't play it either.
    Reply
  • Apple Jackson
    I only got a few lines in and already have to comment. The PS5 doesn't struggle AT ALL with framerate in CP77. There are a million issues it does have due to the state of the game, but fps is VERY consistently pinned at 60, maybe occasionally dropping as low as 55. If you're having trouble with framerate, I have to believe it's user error or your TV/monitor that is the culprit there.
    Reply
  • cldmstrsn
    Forget the PS5 Pro! This is why im waiting for the PS6.......
    Reply
  • Popa2caps
    Apple Jackson said:
    I only got a few lines in and already have to comment. The PS5 doesn't struggle AT ALL with framerate in CP77. There are a million issues it does have due to the state of the game, but fps is VERY consistently pinned at 60, maybe occasionally dropping as low as 55. If you're having trouble with framerate, I have to believe it's user error or your TV/monitor that is the culprit there.
    It's still just a 1188P screen though. It shouldn't dip at all being that low res on that hardware.
    Reply
  • Popa2caps
    This post is bad if I'm being honest. It screams reaching just for views / reads. Why would anyone care if you " Imad Khan " waited for the PS5 Pro? I'm waiting to go to the bathroom, what to read about it? Also who in the world writes this type of article a month after the release of the new consoles? Just a side note, you shouldn't write everything you think.

    Don't let anyone fool you if you plan on getting one of these next gen consoles. They are not weak at all. The Series S is the lowest in terms of power, but still has a fast CPU. If should be able to hold at 1920 x 1080 just fine. For those who want 2560 x 1440 120 FPS and /or UHD (close to 4K), get a PS5, Xbox Series X. PC will be a bottleneck for years to come.
    Reply
  • Mundus6
    There won't be a PS5 pro. Only reason why there was a PS4 pro was 4k TVs. 8k wont take off and these consoles are already powerful enough for 4k 30 with RT. Or 4k 60 without RT. Cyberpunk isn't even on PS5 yet so it is a bad example. PS4 version doesn't count and that game could easily run in the 100s on PS5 on that low resolution if it wasn't capped at 60.
    Reply
  • Mundus6
    Popa2caps said:
    This post is bad if I'm being honest. It screams reaching just for views / reads. Why would anyone care if you " Imad Khan " waited for the PS5 Pro? I'm waiting to go to the bathroom, what to read about it? Also who in the world writes this type of article a month after the release of the new consoles? Just a side note, you shouldn't write everything you think.

    Don't let anyone fool you if you plan on getting one of these next gen consoles. They are not weak at all. The Series S is the lowest in terms of power, but still has a fast CPU. If should be able to hold at 1920 x 1080 just fine. For those who want 2560 x 1440 120 FPS and /or UHD (close to 4K), get a PS5, Xbox Series X. PC will be a bottleneck for years to come.
    My PC is already better than Series X. And you can't really run anything on PS5 on more than 60 fps. Nor does it support 1440p. Native 4k 120 is never gonna be a thing on these consoles...
    Reply
  • OnePhatKatt
    PSX is what I'm waiting for.
    Reply
  • Anodyne4k
    This is just really short-sighted writing. Sorry to the author but how can this be written when we know that it's not the console's problems. Well, maybe it's the PS5's because it's the inferior console in terms of raw power and design vs. the Series X but still - these games were derailed by a pandemic while the consoles were not delayed the same way the games were. That's a serious and irrefutable fact that means everything in this context. Cyberpunk 2077 was built for the Xbox One and PS4 systems and then they realized that people were going to be wanting this game on the SX and PS5 and had expectations that it would be something transformative on those spaces, all devs panicked because they knew that they didn't have these new consoles available to test and optimize on. That's a huge problem. No ramp time to adapt to the new hardware and optimize. This kind of journalism comes from a perspective that simply doesn't understand that.

    Here are the facts: there's a lot of good power in these consoles. They're never going to sniff 8K gaming that has any satisfactory detail but they are definitely more than capable of big games in 4K with 60 FPS. Maybe it's not always ultra settings graphics but they'll be so pretty to look at. Case and point: no console generation has ever proved its capabilities in the early months. Maybe the original Xbox did because it sort of came out of nowhere with a killer app and a chipset that was identical to the PCs at the time and made it easy to ramp up and launch with little expectation but that was a long time ago. We may never see that kind of impressive launch again. Until we have a console generation or chipset that finally allows something like photorealism at good frame rates we'll never be all that impressed with the technology. I believe that 8K is probably that opportunity and getting graphics chips to do 8K @ 60-120 FPS with outstanding quality and lighting is where we'll be blown away. I think we're still technically 2 console generations away from something like that, unless we can find a way to offer incredible and somewhat affordable technology that dramatically increases performance from current generation tech to the next (e.g. going from 12 TFLOPs to 36 TFLOPs from Series X to its successor).
    Reply