Skip to main content

Hands-On: PS4 Pro Supercharges Your Gaming with 4K HDR

The PlayStation 4 as we knew it is dead and gone. In its place, rises the PlayStation Slim ($299, available September 15) and the PS4 Pro ($399, available November 10). For all intents and purposes, the Slim is the thinner resurrection of the PS4 while the Pro is the bigger, stronger brother.

I had the opportunity to get a demo of the system, and from what I saw, the console wars are about to get a whole lot more interesting.

Design

The PS4 dropped the weight and the PS Pro picked it up. Measuring 12.9 x 11.6 x 2.2 inches with a weight of 7.3 pounds, the new PlayStation looks like someone took a half of the PS4 and stuck it on another console. And yet, with its slightly rounded corners and blue sliver of light running along the bottom front of the device, it manages to look oddly modern.

To the right of the light, you'll see a pair of USB 3.0 ports. Toward the back, there's another USB 3.0 port, HDMI Out, an AUX port, Digital Out, a LAN port and the power port. Noticeably missing from the lineup is an optical 4K Blu-ray.

MORE: PS4 Pro Top Features

Mystery Specs

There's... something powering the PS4 Pro, I'm just not sure what. The most info I could glean from the press conference was that Sony has raised the CPU's clock speed and doubled the GPU power. The company mentioned that the nascent system is still using an AMD GPU, so there's that. The storage also go bumped up to 1TB. Thanks to the more pumped-up specs, the PS4 Pro will have the power to support High Dynamic Range (HDR) and 4K.

HDR and 4K

The second battle in this console war is being fought on the 4K front. Similar to the Xbox One S, the PS4 Pro will have the ability to stream 4K content. Sony has teamed up with Netflix to run its 4K content, even going so far as to launch a new Netflix app, which dedicated to aggregating UHD content.

That's all well and good for those of us that prefer to stream our ultra high-def movies. However, fans of physical discs are out of luck; Sony, the company that helped push Blu-ray into prominence, has dropped it like a bad habit.

The PS4 Pro will also have HDR, and I've got to say, console games have never looked so good. HDR injects vividness that allows the human eye to detect a wide range of colors and luminescence. In layman terms, it can turn a pretty picture into a stunning work of art. I discovered this during the Infamous: Second Son demo.

Without HDR enabled, the protagonist looked like she was surrounded in a circle of glowing cotton candy. Once the effect was turned on, I could see a myriad of pinkish lights swirling around and through her.

Keep in mind that Infamous is a two-year-old game upscaled to 4K. Upcoming titles like Ubisoft's For Honor was a cornucopia of lush reds, blues and yellows. The dev playing through the title stopped hacking and slashing his way through enemies to check out the surrounding foliage. I could see every individual dark green pine needle on a nearby conifer, as well as the rough bark.

If you don't have a 4K TV to play on, the Pro will still add some of its HDR goodness to your old HD display, but it won't be nearly as pretty. Seriously, it might be time to start looking for a UHD television.

According to a Ubisoft rep, thanks to the extra power needed to support 4K HDR gaming, you won't see any noticeable difference between the PS4 and the Pro in terms of frame rates. He also noted that some developers could choose to to tweak the frames instead of going whole hog on the graphics. But looking at the near-PC quality graphics I saw at the demo, I can deal with 60fps.

MORE: Here's Every PS4 Pro Game You Can Play in 4K

What About VR?

Outside of crisper graphics, you won't see any real difference between the PS4 Siim or Pro when you're using the PlayStation VR headset. This goes back to what the Ubisoft rep said about HDR 4K gaming. Most titles are going to use the Pro's power bump to make prettier games, which means we're not going to see any titles going above the 60Hz refresh rate anytime soon.

Outlook

It's an exciting time to be a console gamer. With the impending launch of the PS4 Pro, console gamers are entering an era of near-PC graphics, without requiring that you spend a fortune on a desktop. For a mere $399, gamers get a system that offers 4K streaming and stunning HDR gaming. There's also the PS VR to look forward to. Until Microsoft launches Project Scorpio, the PS4 Pro is the console to watch.