After my trusty old HDTV decided to blow it’s back light, I decided to make the move the to the 4K generation of TV sets. With this decision I decided it was the correct time to upgrade to the Playstation 4 Pro model. Now I have spent a good bit of time with the console, do I think the upgrade was worth it?
But, before I start to talk about the console itself, I would like to offer some tips if you are going to go for the upgrade and also get a 4K TV to go with it. This is something I am glad I investigated first before jumping in and getting my TV. I already knew beforehand that HDR (High Dynamic Range) support on the TV was essential to get the best out of the product, however, there was some things I wasn’t clear about. It is recommended what you get a TV with a high motion rate and a low lag input. I would highly recommend using UK RTNGS to help you make your decision – here you can find out the best TV set’s for 4K gaming.
Now to the console, in order to give a full opinion of the product I decided to give myself around a month with the console. This was because I wanted to play both games I have already played on Playstation 4, and not only games where my first experience of them was on this updated console.
The first thing I was surprised with (with not really looking at the comparison table fully) was that the console was actually bigger in size than the standard PS4 in width. I understood it would have an extra wedge on the top of the console, but I thought that the width would be the same – so this is something to take into account, is your gaming set-up big enough to take the extra width of the console, luckily mine was. Other than the wedge on the top the design is actually very similar – which personally I don’t mind because I like the design of the console.
Anyway, the main question is does it actually make that much of a difference? Like previously mentioned I have been using it both with games I played in Full HD previously, and then some I jumped straight into on the 4K upscaling. Meaning for the purpose of this article I will be looking at both, and will talk about some of the games now. All of these games have the support of HDR, which means the colours will pop a little more, than without the HDR support.
I will start with the ones I have played prior to the getting the console first, and the is no better place to start than Rise of the Tomb Raider – the only difference with this one being that I originally played this one on its release on the Xbox One. Now for this reason you may think this doesn’t fall as a fair comparison, but the difference really was staggering. One thing the game has done will is implement a number of options around how you want to use the extra power, meaning it offers you a number of experiences – 4K resolution, enriched visuals, and High Frame-rate. For the 4K resolutions Crystal Dynamics have used checker-board rendering to give the upscaled image that extra crisp feeling, but where it falls down in this mode is the frame-rate drops below the 30fps in the more demanding areas. Enriched mode will give players a higher quality 1080p rendering, and will hold the stable 30fps. Finally your High Frame-Rate gives you an uncapped frame-rate, but this will lessens to visual enhancement, and in parts still fails to hold 60fps. But, I played it mainly in the 4K resolution setting, and it did push out some impressive visuals – also personally I did not see massive effects from the frame-rate drops.
Next let’s have a look at a more colourful title in Ratchet and Clank, for me this re-boot/movie tie-in did look nice bright and colourful originally in the 1080p. In order to improve how it looks on the Pro, the guys at Insomniac Games have used something called temporal injection. This allowed them to increase the resolution, but remove jaggy edges. So, what does this mean other than the improvement in the resolution size, it will also smooth around all the edge, and makes the animation run smoother. Add this to the extra detail the extra pixels can offer, and the strong use of HDR, Ratchet and Clank does look great on the PS4 Pro, and you can see how colourful games like this one will use the technology to make their game more appealing moving forward.
When it comes to Uncharted 4, again even on the Full HD version of the game Naughty Dog had seemed to pull the best out of the consoles power, and it is clearly one of the best looking console games of the current generation. Given their track record with games, I was hoping that this would really blow me away, unfortunately after some short time with it, I got the feeling it looked the very much the same. But, I am not saying that is a problem, because it really is still one of the best looking games available on console. The reason this doesn’t look much different, it’s because Naughty Dog have opted for a 2K image, and just upscaling it to 4K with no checker-board rendering in place. But, with the number of rendering and graphical effects in place already, would this have been too much drain on resources?. The one thing that surprised me was the game was still only running at a locked 30fps – meaning personally given the upscaling technique, I would have much preferred this one running 1080p and 60fps.
I would now like to take a look at a game I have only played on the PS4 Pro, and that is none other than Horizon: Zero Dawn. This again offers different modes to gamers in Performance and Resolution. First thing I noticed when booting this up is how great the visuals were, and the world sucked you in. I have only seen it running on a PS4, I have not played it on one, but from the parts I have seen the colours offer so much more through the PS4 Pro. When playing on the PS4 Pro the game will use checker-board rendering to improve the resolution, and the visual fidelity – and believe me playing it on a 4K TV brings an unchallenged image quality. Now adding to this the HDR support from your TV, and the game it really does make the colours that much better,. Given the use of the colours in the game to make it pleasing to the eye, the 4K resolution and the best HDR use on the PS4 Pro so far, it really makes this game hard to beat. Performance mode just makes sure the frame-rate of 30fps is kept, although even in performance mode this will drop slightly below this in demanding areas.
Obviously looking at Horizon: Zero Dawn, its been one of the games Sony have informed us will show what the PS4 Pro can do, and in my opinion is has a strong argument for it. But, this will hinge on if you have adopted 4K or not. Given what Horizon: Zero Dawn has shown, I think moving forward if studio’s take into account the extra power and what can be done with it then it could be a success.
It was also mentioned that it would enhance the Playstation VR experience, I know that PSVR games are pushed to meet 60fps really needed for VR gaming because of the refresh rate, and has caused games to drop visual clarity in some cases to reach this goal. On the PS4 Pro this is improved on some games that have received the patch – the only one I own that has been patched is Robinson: The Journey. For this game Crytek has taken the extra power and boosted the resolution, I know you are wearing the headset and the pixels are right in front of your eyes, but what using the resolution boost has achieved is a better image quality, every thing looks a lot more smoother, there’s less visual noise and a lot less shimmer. What this means is there’s a lot less sharp edges, but, other improvements it brings are smoother textures and a better draw distance.
There was a massive issue I found when using the Playstation VR, this was the lack of HDR support in the HDMI splitter, considering these were being made side by side you would have expected this to be supported. This means when you are not using the Playstation VR, you will needed to switch out the cables on your TV to take full advantage of the HDR on the non-VR games. Really this should have been taken into account when doing this, because swapping cables between your splitter on the processing box to your TV whenever you want to use the HDR on these games really is an inconvenience.
The Playstation 4.50 update added ‘Boost Mode’ to the Playstation 4 Pro, what this means games that have not been patched can effectively use the consoles extra power – however, this does not mean it will work on every game. What Boost Mode does is gives a chance that games without patched updates have improved frame-rates, and can reduce loading times in some cases. Meaning that it offers a little extra with last weeks system update.
If you have opted to get it for the use with the 4K TV, you will also get the benefit from YouTube’s 4K videos, now this is something I have spent a lot of time on when the games I wanted to replay for this article, and others games have been installing. I really love this feature, I was so pleased to get the watch the Mass Effect: Andromeda gameplay they first showcased saying ‘if your not watching this on a 4K screen, find one and come back’ later citing ‘this video is meant to be experienced in 4K’ – and now I have I can say it definitely was, the image is so much more detailed (now just a few weeks to do until I can experience it myself). I have also utilised it not just for gaming videos but watched 4K movie trailers, and some amazing wild-life 4K test videos.
As well as YouTube there is other video applications available on the Playstation that can make use of the 4K side, but the only service I use is Netflix, and after looking over the titles they have in 4K it really wasn’t worth their additional cost each month to have the service. Meaning, unfortunately for the purposes of the article I can not really comment on these – but, keep in mind if you have these services this is some further support for the Pro.
So, do I think the upgrade is worth it? In my opinion there is a number of things you have consider, these are;
If you have not yet moved onto getting a 4K TV, then maybe you should wait. Unless your original PS4 has given up and gone to console heaven, then you might as well get yourself future proofed, if you can afford the additional cost. I understand it may be tempting now that ‘Boost Mode’ is out, but Sony has warned not all titles will work, so it may be the case your favourite games (that haven’t been a patched) wont support it.
If you haven’t currently got a PS4, and are looking at getting one, even without the 4K TV, like above I would go with the Pro just to future proof yourself, in case you do get a 4K TV.
However, as mentioned previously I moved to it because I got a 4K TV, and if this is the case it is really worth considering – again if you have the money to upgrade or even buying your first console. With the experiences I have had with some of the games I already own, it shows what games can achieve with the extra power. Then moving on down the line, every new game is likely to implement the extra power from the Playstation 4 Pro in some way, so its library of supported games is going to be ever-growing. Also, as discussed at the end of the article there is other outlets that support the use of 4K, and I expect more will come over time; meaning if you have a 4K TV there’s plenty coming in the future of 4K gaming.