For gamers, 2013 was an interesting year. The PS3 and Xbox 360, though commercial successes for Sony, Microsoft, and publishers such as EA, and Activision, were seen as waning stars. The popular notion amongst the decision makers in the industry was that mobile and PC gaming were in ascendancy and would take over consoles. Except no one - not even Sony - realised how successful the PS4 would be, despite having off the shelf components that many gamers and pundits in the business deemed as underpowered before launch.
After three years, 40 million PS4 units sold, and a seemingly infinite number of leaks, Sony launched the PS4 Pro in November. It’s not the start of new console generation, which is why the company hasn’t labeled it as the PS5. Rather, the PS4 Pro exists to give Sony a fighting chance against an increasingly fragmented gaming ecosystem that’s seeing the PC, Xbox One, Xbox One S, PS4, smartphones, micro-consoles, and handheld consoles jostling for a share of your entertainment expenditure.
And while a majority of these options range between low-end to to mid-range, the PS4 Pro is positioned as a high-end experience. There’s support for 4K 2160p resolution, high dynamic range (HDR), enhanced virtual reality, and the promise of higher frame rates. Yet it’s not meant to replace the PS4, but rather to exist alongside it. Is it worth bothering with?
PS4 Pro what’s in the box?
Since the PS4 Pro is not officially available in India, we bought ours from the grey market which had ready supply on release day. Our PS4 Pro unit came with an HDMI cable, a power plug that’s similar to what the original Xbox One (not Xbox One S) uses, a Micro-USB cable that many Android smartphones ship with, and Sony’s standard headset, which in our experience, should be replaced with something more substantial.
There’s a Quick Start Guide, and a leaflet for Horizon Zero Dawn. And in case you were wondering, yes, it does ship with the revised DualShock 4 controller we’ve seen with the PS4 Slim. The light bar on the controller has been modified so you can see what colour is emanating from it while playing, without having to tilt it. Though wireless, you can connect the revamped DualShock 4 to your PS4, PS4 Slim, or PS4 Pro via USB, making it ideal for games that require split second response times, such as Street Fighter V. The new DualShock 4 works with older PS4s as well.
This aside, it’s similar to the original DualShock 4. Hopefully its analogue sticks don’t wear out as fast as its predecessor's did.
PS4 Pro specifications
(Also see: Heres What You Get When You Buy a PS4 Pro)
The PS4 Pro has astoundingly good build quality and some thoughtful design tweaks such as clearer Eject and Power button icons. We covered this at length in our initial impressions piece.
How do PS4 Pro games play on a 4K TV?
Hooking up the PS4 to a 4K TV, in our case a Sony Bravia KD-65Z9D, the difference was evident, albeit in varying degrees. Titles like Shadow of Mordor and Rise of the Tomb Raider are sterling examples of games taking advantage of the PS4 Pro’s added horse power, allowing a higher frame rate and sharper visuals. What’s more is that they contain graphical options that allow you to choose which of the two you prefer.
Others like Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Dishonored 2, and Titanfall 2 are a step up from their usual full-HD performance but without any settings for you to tweak, particularly in Dishonored 2’s case. The PS4 Pro is the definitive version of this game due to a consistent performance and gorgeous aesthetics versus what it is on the PS4, Xbox One, and even PC.
As for older games? The likes of Infamous: Second Son and its standalone expansion, Infamous: First Light benefit as well. There’s a wider, vivid colour palette and traversing the streets of Seattle feel a lot more fluid. Ratchet and Clank - while being quite the looker on the PS4, makes full use of the Pro in the same fashion.
So far, so good. But as we said, the impact is felt in varying degrees. As we noted in our Watch Dogs 2 review, the game doesn’t look all that different on the PS4 Pro. Neither does Sony’s monster hit, The Last of Us. In fact, the latter runs a whole lot worse on the PS4 Pro in terms of frame rate. The same applies to Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, and Skyrim as well. Simply put, they aren’t as fluid as their PS4 counterparts, forget better performance.
Although Sony has stated it’s aware of this issue and is looking into it, at this point in time it appears that your mileage will vary.
Should you buy the PS4 Pro if you only have a full-HD panel?
The answer to this depends how sensitive you are to frame rate drops and clunkiness in games. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Dishonored 2, Titanfall 2, Shadow of Mordor, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Infamous: Second Son, and Infamous: First Light see gains for an improved experience, which make it worth considering the PS4 Pro if these are your preferred titles.
Perhaps the biggest beneficiary is IO Interactive’s stealth assassination episodic adventure Hitman, which is notorious for not running too well on any platform - except the PS4 Pro. It has an much needed performance benefit on the PS4 Pro. Final Fantasy XV’s Judgement Disc demo too is perceptibly smoother experience. Image quality, while better in all these games wasn’t a colossal step up from what they looked like on a standard PS4.
One difference is that the PS4 Pro ran without being as noisy as the standard PS4. Whether we were playing a game or installing it from a disc, the decibel levels never got to the point of being a distraction.
The biggest problem with the PS4 Pro right now
Sony and its partners need to elaborate the benefits of the PS4 Pro clearly. Right now, all we know is that games will support the console. But we don’t exactly know to what degree. Is it just better frame rate? Is it greater details with improved visuals? Or is it simply just enhanced VR? Be it patch notes, boxes of games, or even descriptions of the games on digital storefronts, there’s very little in way of explaining what PS4 Pro owners get. We won’t be surprised to see this being rectified with newer games hitting the shelves in months to come, but until then your best bet is researching if a game you want to play takes advantage of Sony’s hardware to the degree you need it to.
PS4 Pro India price
Internationally, the PS4 Pro costs $399 (approximately Rs. 26,500). Like we mentioned earlier, it's not available in India officially just yet. You can however, import it or buy it via the grey market at around Rs. 45,000 at the moment. You will however, lose out on warranty and after sales support. Sony India has not announced an India release date for the PS4 Pro, but if we were to take a guess, we'd say January is when it could be available, possibly at Rs. 39,990. This is because the standard PS4 had a price of $399 at launch in the US, which translated to Rs. 39,990 when it was made available in India in January 2014. Of course thanks to currency fluctuations and other reasons, the PS4 Pro price in India could well change.
PS4 Pro worth the upgrade?
The PS4 Pro is both a relic and a somewhat cutting-edge piece of hardware. While the reasons for the latter have to do with its specifications, the former is because it gives insight into Sony’s thought process when designing the PS4 and the time period it launched in.
As it stands the PS4 Pro puts consumers and Sony in an awkward situation. If you own a PS4, there’s no immediate reason to get the PS4 Pro. If you haven’t bought a PS4 yet, the PS4 Pro is the one to get. The PS4 is cheaper but outputs games at a lower resolution. Nonetheless, the difference isn’t exactly visible unless you’re on a 4K display in certain games and in some cases, it’s near negligible. Plus, better explanations on PS4 Pro specific game features would certainly help.
At the same time, the advantages of a higher frame rate on the PS4 Pro in supported titles are obvious and do alter the experience positively. It fits a niche between the already discounted PS4 and a semi-decent gaming rig which would set you back by around Rs. 60,000 or so.
With every game from Sony such as Gran Turismo Sport, The Last Guardian, and Horizon: Zero Dawn supporting the PS4 Pro, the future of the PS4 Pro is interesting. Depending on third-party developer support, you could end up with a machine with close to high-end PC performance in most popular games, along with the added bonus of boost in Sony’s own exclusives.
So if that’s what you’re looking for and don’t want to build a gaming PC or wait for something like the Xbox Scorpio, the PS4 Pro will suffice.
Rating (out of 10): 8