Sony’s PlayStation 4 Pro is now officially available, but who’s it for?

Sony’s mid-season console update finally launched yesterday. The PlayStation 4 Pro, an update to the original PlayStation 4 (PS4), is now available for sale in the US and other countries at $399.

Sadly, India isn’t yet included in that list.

But what is the PS4 Pro? What’s new and why would I want to buy one?

The PS4 Pro is essentially an upgraded PS4. It features a new and improved AMD chipset, a faster clock-speed, more RAM and a larger hard disk. It’s also larger than the original PS4.

Specs PS4 PS4 PRO
GPU 18 Radeon GCN compute units @ 800 Mhz 36 improved GCN compute units @ 911 Mhz
CPU 8 Jaguar cores @ 1.6Ghz 8 Jaguar cores @ 2.1Ghz
RAM 8GB GDDR5 @ 176GB/s 8GB GDDR5 @ 218GB/s (plus 1GB DDR3)
HDD 500GB / 1TB 1TB
Compute Power 1.84 Tflops 4.14 Tflops
Official Price $299 plus free games $399

When the PS4 and Xbox One launched, they came with a promise of smooth 1080p gaming and vastly better visuals. Overall, the consoles did deliver on the latter, but hardware limitations restricted resolutions to the 720p to 900p range. There were exceptions, but not many.

The PS4 Pro (and Microsoft’s upcoming Xbox Scorpio) comes with the same promise, but this time, the promised resolution is 4K. The PS4 Pro does seem to deliver on that promise, but with some caveats.

For starters, the PS4 Pro doesn’t actually have the grunt to render most games at 4K resolutions. Instead, Sony uses a technique called checkerboard rendering to fool you into thinking that 2K is 4K. The system does seem to work as a number of people who’ve actually experienced it claim to be impressed by the system’s capabilities.

Secondly, Sony doesn’t expect developers to create games in 4K. Developers actually have three options at their disposal. They can render their game either at 4K, at 2K with better visuals, or at 1080p with much better visuals and a higher frame rate.

Either way, the PS4 Pro promises vastly improved visual quality and more stable frame-rates.

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PSVR should also benefit greatly from the PS4 Pro’s updated hardware. I had a chance to try the PSVR on a PS4 myself, but the visuals were disappointing and it wasn’t a fun experience. The PS4 Pro, on the other hand, should have the grunt to churn out the visuals that the PS4 Pro deserves.

At 1080p, the resolution required for the PSVR, developers can use techniques like supersampling and anti-aliasing, along with improved textures, to improve fidelity.

One drawback of the PS4 Pro is that it doesn’t actually support 4K Blu-Ray video playback. It’s a strange omission on a system that claims to be 4K-ready. That said, the console does support 4K playback from YouTube and Netflix and the audience for Blu-Ray is admittedly small.

So who’s the PS4 Pro for?

  • You’re a console gamer who demands the best visuals
  • You have a 4K TV and want a 4K gaming experience
  • You plan to invest in the PSVR platform
  • You’re buying a new game console and don’t want the Xbox One

Whom the PS4 isn’t for:

  • You’re happy with your PS4
  • You don’t have a 4K TV
  • You’re not planning on getting a PSVR
  • You’re not a PlayStation fan

If you’re on the older PS4, don’t worry. Sony has reiterated its commitment to gaming on the platform and have stated in no uncertain terms that all games developed for the PS4 platform, including VR titles, will be compatible with all variants of the PS4.

Not to be left out, Microsoft has already unveiled their plans for Project Scorpio, an upcoming console that will best the PS4 Pro by offering “true” 4K gaming. Sadly, we won’t see Scorpio till around this time next year.

If you’re desperate for the PS4 Pro and have the cash to burn (Perhaps literally?) you can get the console now on eBay and a few other sites at a whopping Rs 60,000 (excluding customs duties).