Well now we know. The PlayStation 4 Pro is incoming. It’s not, as Sony are quick to point out, a PlayStation 5 – as it features the same underlying architecture as the (now) vanilla PS4. More a PS4.5, then?
It doesn’t seem that long ago when I was standing in my local EB Games at midnight to pick up my shiny new PS4. That’s because it wasn’t long ago- it was only three years ago, in November 2013.
What are you trying to pull, Sony?
Let’s be honest, here, neither Sony or Microsoft really managed to thrill us with this generation of consoles. Neither device was ever able to hold a candle to your average gaming PC. Both the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 felt like half measures, designed with a price point in mind rather than longevity. The consoles were under-powered from the start, barely able to move pixels at a sensible frame-rate across a 1080p screen.
Whilst I don’t expect Sony to say, “we screwed up”. That’s exactly what they did. And the PlayStation 4 Pro goes some way to prove that.
Sony and Microsoft both underestimated their consoles’ accelerated rate of obsolescence, but it is we, the consumers, that will be picking up the tab this time.
Why do we need a PlayStation 4 Pro? From Sony’s point-of-view they’ve just fractured their player-base. We now have three type of PlayStation 4 owner. The casual vanilla player the doesn’t care what PS4 they own, the alienated serious gamer that wants a “Pro” but wasn’t expected their console to be out of date so quickly, and the “pro” gamer that put a deposit down the moment the PS4 Pro was announced.
Way to go.
Sony would have you believe that the PS4 Pro is mainly about 4K and HDR. Whilst it wouldn’t surprise me for Sony to use the PlayStation brand to punt their 4K and HDR TV division (they’ve done it before with 3DTV and Blu-ray). But I think it’s more than that.
I think it’s all about PlayStation VR.
I’ve been arsing around with the HTC Vive for a few months now. I even built a new PC to maximise my VR experience. My PC is a significantly more powerful than a PlayStation 4. It’s significantly more powerful than a PS4 Pro, as well.
Whilst 99% of the time my VR experience is pretty wonderful, virtual reality needs a ridiculous amount of power to deliver an immersive experience. My Vive cranks out an equivalent picture of 2160×1200 (one 1080×1200 screen per eye) at 90 frames per second. The relatively low resolution still means that it suffers from a screen-door effect. For comparison, the PlayStation VR resolution is 960 x 1080 per eye (single 1920×1080 screen). Yeah, see where I’m going?
The high refresh rate, that all-important 90fps, is what gives you the immersion. It the frames skip or, even worst, the image lags as you move your head, you are heading for vomit-city and VR sickness is a bitch- it can take you out of the game for hours.
I put my money on the fact that Sony realised that, with the existing PS4, any VR game more technical that your average N64 is going to grind the system to a halt and have PSVR fans puking everywhere.
I’d say that Sony are hedging their bets that the same nutters early-adopters prepared to shell out A$550-odd dollars on PSVR will also front up the cash for a PlayStation 4 Pro. Job done; crisis averted.
But wait. Let’s take a look at this PlayStation 4 “Pro”.
8-Core Custom x86-64 AMD “Jaguar”
AMD Radeon 4.2 TFLOPS
Now, I don’t know what an 8-Core Custom x86-64 AMD “Jaguar” actually is, but apparently the clock speed has been “boosted” for the Pro. I’m betting it’s not on par with a 4.6Ghz Intel i7 6700K.
Whilst the GPU power in the pro has almost doubled to 4.2 TFLOPS, compare that to the 9 TFLOPS of a GeForce GTX 1080 for a minute. The PlayStation 4 “Pro” is nothing of the sort. Even the poxy 1TB of hard drive space screams pedestrian. The lack of a 4K Blu-ray player is another WTF?
On the subject of 4K, the PlayStation 4 Pro’s specs do not really equate to the processing power required in the equivalent PC to output 4K graphics with decent detail settings and at a reasonable framerate. No doubt some proprietary software-based efficiencies will help bridge this gap, but I remain unconvinced that the PlayStation 4 Pro is going to bring us proper 4K console gaming.
Of course, extra processing power is extra processing power. As long as developers choose to utilise the Pro’s extra juice, and the suggestion is that they will, the PlayStation 4 experience will definitely improve for those well-heeled gamers that pick up a PS4 Pro.
No matter what actual performance the PS4 Pro gives us in November, it should tide us over until 2019 when Andrew “Car Salesman” House and Mark “Crazy Eyes” Cerny try and flog us the NEXT BIG THING™.
Until then, see you at the PlayStation 4 Pro midnight launch in November!