As Apple’s big event came and went yesterday, Sony was holding their own special press meeting in New York. At the meeting the two rumored PlayStation 4 redesigns, the PlayStation 4 Pro and Slim, were officially revealed. Firstly was the PlayStation 4 Slim model. The Slim is just a smaller version of the current model already available on the market. Spec wise it is basically the same console. So there isn’t a whole lot to go into. The slim model of the PS4 will be released on September 15th, and will be a beneficiary of the recent price drop putting it at $299/£259.
What is the PlayStation 4 Pro?
Along side the PS4 Slim Sony showed off the long rumored, all but confirmed until now, PlayStation Pro— formally subtitled “Neo.” Behold, in the video below, the PS4 Pro in all its glory.
In a nutshell, the PlayStation 4 Pro is a beefier, faster version of the current PS4. It’s able to output 4k video with HDR support, it will offer a higher and smoother frame rate for various games already out, and it doesn’t play Ultra 4k Blu-ray disc. Which is a strange thing to type seeing as how Sony was pretty much responsible for bringing the format to the masses.
HDR, What’s That?
While boasting about its 4k output capabilities, Sony also tossed around the acronym HDR. A lot. Many people may be asking themselves what exactly that is and how does it affect the games we’ll be playing on the Pro? They’d be right to do so if, like many console gamers, they don’t game a ton on PC, deal with the technical aspects of cameras, or don’t yet have a television that already supports the feature. To most, HDR is just something that makes things look prettier. It’s a technology that has to be seen to truly be understood.
HDR stands for high-dynamic-range. The gist of what it does is gives darker shadows and brighter lights a greater visual contrast, in a way much like the human eye. The technique gives the appearance of depth and adds to the realism of a scene.
It’s difficult to convey if you don’t have a 4k display or one capable of HDR, but these trailers of Horizon Zero Dawn do give a decent enough comparison. Take note of how the light is hitting objects, how the clouds appear more three dimensional and the shadows have more realistic variations in their opacity.
This first video is of Horizon Zero Dawn running on a PS4 Pro.
Next is the game running on a standard PS4.
As I said, the difference is hard to make out without the proper equipment, but even in these two videos there is a subtle difference in the lighting and the overall smoothness. One thing to note is that this game will work on all versions of the PS4, as will all games already released or coming soon. There won’t be two versions of Horizon Zero Dawn to purchase. The game will activate and shut off features based on what version of the console it is slid into.
Is HDR a game changer? Is it going to change the way we game? Probably not, but it doesn’t hurt anything either. It’s all for looks, and at this point I’d argue that it hasn’t reached that ultra impressive, must have level yet. HDR isn’t a household term, most people probably don’t know their TV might already support the option.
Is the Pro Viable Without a 4k Display?
According to Sony, yes. Here is a handy graph from the official PlayStation Blog:
What does all that mean you ask? It means many, many things, and those things all depend on what certain developers want to use the extra horsepower in the PS4 Pro for. Some may choose to decrease load times. Others may opt to give us higher and more consistent frame rates. Still more could use the power to improve character models or draw distance. Basically, your version of Mass Effect: Andromeda (slick video in link, but it’s basically just a tech demo) may look notably different than the version your friend is playing simply based on the television you have in your home.
Thankfully this only applies to single player experiences. As for multiplayer and the performance differences there Sony said:
“Generally, no. Playtesting and balancing is up to each game developer, and while it’s true that PS4 Pro’s more powerful hardware can drive smoother or more stable frame rates in supported titles, developers have many tools and processes they can use to prevent imbalances.”
So, just because your buddy got the latest “Call of Duty” and is rocking the Pro it doesn’t mean that you, still on your OG PS4, will be at any sort of disadvantage due to him/her having a higher frame-rate and better visual fidelity. Online play should be even across the board.
4K displays are expected to be in just over 20% of American homes by the end of 2016. The growing, impressive technology hasn’t gained too solid of a foothold on the nation yet. It is well on its way however as, according to ihs, the 4k market has seen substantial growth over the past few years.
Other Forms of Entertainment
Above I mentioned that the PlayStation 4 Pro is not supporting Ultra 4k Blu-ray. I also mentioned how strange that was, but Sony doesn’t seem to think so. Just to note, both new versions of the Xbox, the One S and project Scorpio, do support Ultra 4k Blu-ray playback. Here is what Sony says about the format:
“No, PS4 Pro’s internal Blu-ray drive does not support the new Ultra 4K Blu-ray Disc format. It supports the same Blu-ray Disc specs as the standard PS4. The Blu-ray Disc Player application, however, will support high-quality upscaling of DVD and Blu-ray Disc content.”
So, if that’s a make-or-break deal for you, sorry. Otherwise Sony did go on to mention that both Netflix and YouTube will be updating the apps available on the PS4 to include 4k streaming. Which is all fine and dandy for those without ISP data caps and the like.
Another strange bit from Sony is that there will be no 4k movies or TV shows available on the PlayStation Store at launch and that their network team is “looking into it.” Sony claims their focus was on the gaming side of the console, but it is mind boggling that they aren’t supporting the higher end Blu-ray market. For many, this is a deal breaker. Below are just a few comments on Sony’s blog:
Guess we’ll have to wait and see how many people do or don’t buy the new PlayStation Pro when it’s released later this year.
PlayStation 4 Pro: Is it Worth the Price of Admission?
The PlayStation 4 Pro will be released on November 10th for a price of $399. Which isn’t a lot to spend on a new console. However, there are those that may have recently spent money on the current model that may be questioning if they just wasted their money. In short, no, those people will not be left in the past. Any and every game coming out, according to Sony, will be compatible on any version of PS4 system. It is also worth pointing out that PlayStaion VR is compatible with all versions of the PS4.
Even if you do not have a 4k television, or one capable of HDR displays buying/upgrading could still be viable. With the promised upscaling, faster load times, and better FPS, it’s hard to see a true geek passing this up. We love upgrades and improvements. We love staying ahead of the curve and being early adopters. So, chances are, most of us geeks my already have the equipment necessary for optimal performance of the Pro.
Ultimately it will come down to how important things like HDR and 4k gaming is to you. Both are features one simply has to see in order to appreciate. Will that appreciation lead to you buying a PlayStation 4 Pro? Only you can say.
What are your thoughts on the PS4 Pro? We want to know. Head on over to the comments and lets geek out over this new tech.
*Images From PlayStation Blog*