Sony PS4 Pro full review

Sony’s PS4 Pro provides PS4 gamers with a high-end console experience, but what makes it so special, and why is it more expensive than the standard PlayStation 4 console?

As well as providing enhanced graphics for supported games, the console was the first on the market to offer 4K gameplay - although it has now been joined by Microsoft's 4K-enabled Xbox One X. It also improves the PlayStation VR experience, so it’s worth the extra cash, right? We’ve spent some time with Sony’s PS4 Pro, and here’s our PS4 Pro review.

PS4 Pro: UK pricing and availability

Following a November 2016 launch, the PlayStation 4 Pro is available to buy in the UK and will set prospective buyers back around £349 with a bundled game, around £100 more than the standard PS4 but £100 cheaper than Microsoft's 4K console. So, where can you pick up Sony’s high-end console?

For those of us in the UK, we have a few different options to choose from. Excited gamers can head over to GAMEArgos or Amazon right now and order the PS4 Pro for around £349.99, although we'd also recommend keeping an eye on our best PS4 deals for the best bargains - especially around this time of year.

PS4 Pro: Design and build

Before we get into the graphical enhancements of the PS4 Pro, let’s first discuss the design and build. The first thing you’ll notice is the change in design when compared to the launch PS4 – Sony has decided to step away from the angular design of the launch model, and much like with the new slimline PS4, opted for curved edges that give the console a much more elegant look.

It’s 20mm wider than the launch console, measuring in at 295 x 55 x 327mm compared to 275 x 53 x 305mm, but isn’t much taller, despite featuring the extra ‘slice’ on the PS4 Pro sandwich. It’s heavier though, weighing in at a rather hefty 3.3kg.

But it’s not all about the big changes – as well as overhauling the overall design of the console, Sony has made a few smaller changes to the new console. One such improvement is the use of the PlayStation symbols (Square, Circle, Cross and Triangle) as feet on the bottom of the console. The eject button is now a physical button too, rather than a touch-sensitive one, negating any accidental disc ejection issues. While these aren’t ground-breaking changes, they’re great examples of Sony’s attention to detail when designing the console.

Ports

With regards to ports, the PS4 Pro is near-on identical to the standard PS4, apart from one extra USB 3.0 port at the rear of the console. This should come in handy for those looking to buy a PlayStation VR headset, as the headset requires a USB port to be used.

For audiophiles and home cinema system users, the PS4 Pro has an Optical Audio Output – while this may seem standard, it’s worth pointing out that while it was featured on the launch console, it isn’t offered on the new slim PS4. The HDMI port has also been upgraded from HDMI 1.4 to HDMI 2.0 to allow for a dynamic 4K output – but we’ll come to that in more detail below.

New DualShock 4 controller

Along with the redesigned PS4 Pro comes the redesigned DualShock 4 controller. However unlike with the console, the controller redesign isn’t at all dramatic – in fact, the only difference is the addition of a mini lightbar on the touch-sensitive panel.

Many PlayStation 4 games use the lightbar as a way of indicating what is happening in-game – the lights will flash blue and red being chased by police in GTA 5, while other games will use the red light to signify being damaged/killed. The issue is that due to the lightbar facing away from the controller, many gamers miss these prompts. This change looks to rectify the issue, allowing gamers to see any change in colour at a glance.

Read next: PS4 vs PS4 Pro – what’s the difference?

PS4 Pro: Features and performance

The PS4 Pro has been described as offering a ‘premium’ gaming experience when compared to other consoles, so what can it do that other consoles can’t? The headline feature of the Pro model is that supports a 4K output, meaning those that have a 4K TV can finally take advantage of that higher resolution. The outcome? It’s gorgeous. But how is it done?

PS4 Pro specs

The PS4 Pro shares the same AMD Jaguar x86-64 8-core CPU as the launch PS4, with the Pro seeing a 30 percent boost in clock speed, going from 1.6GHz to 2.1GHz. However, that’s a minor upgrade when compared to the GPU – the power has been doubled, while the clock speed has also been upped from 800NHz to 911MHz.

Overall, the GPU has gone from 1.84 TFLOP to 4.2 TFLOP when compared to the launch console – quite the jump, although it’s needed to provide users with 4K gameplay. There’s also an additional 1GB of DDR3 RAM that can only be used by non-gaming apps, allowing the faster GDDR5 RAM to be used exclusively for gaming performance.

Storage has been upped compared to the launch console too, with 1TB on offer from the PS4 Pro. However, it’s still an HDD and not an SSD so it’s not the quickest ever, although it’s fairly easy to swap it out if you require the extra speed.

Along with 4K output, the PS4 Pro offers HDR capabilities, but only for TVs that support it. However, it’s worth mentioning that Sony rolled this feature out to all models via a software update, and isn’t a feature specific to the PS4 Pro.

PS4 Pro gameplay

Before we go into any more detail about the graphical power of the console, it’s worth noting that not all of the 700+ PS4 titles will be able to take advantage of it right away. It’s down to the developers on how to use the extra graphical power of the PS4 Pro – whether to add high-quality textures, a higher resolution or a better frame rate – but it's worth noting that users can enable a Boost mode to generally boost the quality of unsupported games. 

So, what does it look like when running a Pro-supported game, like Red Dead Redemption 2 or the latest Call of Duty title? In a word, stunning. The resolution has been upped and textures look much crisper, especially when viewed on a 4K TV – the difference between the launch capabilities and Pro capabilities really is night-and-day. In fact, it’s not just obvious in-game – the 4K resolution stretches to the PlayStation home screen, providing crisp text and game icons and an overall cleaner look.

The frame rate is much smoother on the Pro console too, but even the extra power couldn't completely negate frame rate drops - especially in graphically demanding games like Assassin's Creed Origins. 

However, not all games have been upped to 4K – other developers have decided to use the extra power in other ways. Take InFAMOUS: First Light for example: the PS4 Pro ups the rendering resolution from 1080 to 1800p and improves the anti-aliasing (which helps smooth out jagged edges). The result is much more life-like look in game with smoother edges and improved graphics.

Some games even offer you a choice – Rise of the Tomb Raider is a good example of this. Sure, you can play in 4K at 30fps, but you’re also able to play in 1080p @ 30fps with high detail, or at 1080p @ 60fps.

If you're looking for PS4 games to play, why not check out our selection of the Best PS4 games of 2018

4K media playback

Games aren’t the only feature of the PS4 Pro to get some 4K love, as apps like Netflix and YouTube also offer 4K playback – although Netflix requires a more expensive subscription to access its 4K content. But what if you have a bunch of Blu-Ray UHDs you want to watch? Unfortunately, you’re out of luck – unlike Microsoft’s Xbox One S and One X, Sony’s high-end console doesn’t feature a Blu-Ray UHD player.

Sony claims this is because it saw a trend in streaming vs physical disc sales which we largely agree with, but it also means that for those that do have a Blu-Ray UHD collection, the PS4 Pro isn’t the perfect device.

PlayStation VR

In addition to improving PS4 games, the PS4 Pro also enhances PlayStation VR games. While the resolution can’t be upped like it can with standard PS4 games, developers can provide higher textures, better lighting and more, to make PSVR experiences more immersive.

We’ve tried PlayStation VR when powered by a PS4 Pro and we were impressed with the results – edges looked less jagged, text was clearer and everything looked a little more real. So real in fact, that at one point during a VR experience we leant on a virtual table and almost fell off our chair!

However, much like with the rest of the 700+ PS4 titles, PSVR games aren’t automatically enhanced – developers must offer Pro support before the graphics are improved. Those interested in PlayStation VR can take a look at our full PlayStation VR review.

Verdict

PC gaming has always been considered the best option for those looking for the best gameplay experience possible, but thanks to the PS4 Pro, that’s no longer true. For the cost of a mid-range gaming PC, users have access to high-quality textures, dynamic 4K output and a generally high-end gaming experience.

While the 4K output is the headline feature of the console, those with regular HDTVs also see the benefits in-game, and it’s a similar story with PlayStation VR users. For us, the PS4 Pro is a winner, but it can't quite compete with the true [email protected] performance of the £450 Xbox One X. It's still a great premium gaming experience though – even without a Blu-Ray UHD player.

Specs

Sony PS4 Pro: Specs

  • x86-64 AMD Jaguar octa-core processor
  • 4.2TFlops, AMD Radeon based graphics engine
  • 8GB RAM GDDR5
  • 1TB storage
  • BD/DVD drive
  • 3x USB 3.1 Gen.1
  • Ethernet (10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX, 1000BASE-T)1
  • Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • HDMI
  • digital out
  • 327x295x55mm
  • 3.3kg