It’s finally arrived. Thanks to Sony’s PlayStation meeting event held in New York on September 7, we finally know the PlayStation 4 Pro (previously known as the PS4.5, or the PlayStation Neo) is coming, and that it’ll be a 4K/HDR-equipped version of the PS4.
The new console will offer a significant upgrade over the existing PS4, but will crucially do so while being fully compatible with its existing library of games, and will not carry any exclusive releases.
What this means is that instead of just slimming down the hardware and putting it in a redesigned box, the Pro is updating the PlayStation platform to support 4K output and enable better playback of virtual reality content.
These upgrades will mean that the PS4.5 will be Sony’s first 4K console, a true landmark for the company.
So read on for all the details of how the PS4 Pro will sit alongside the existing PS4 and the newly announced PS4 Slim.
So … why create another PS4?
The PlayStation 4 is the most powerful game console on the market today, but after two and a half years on the market, it’s handily beaten by a capable gaming PC. As tech advances at an increasingly rapid rate, Sony is eager to offer an enhanced version of the PlayStation 4 that will offer a bit more processing power and speed to enable even grander and better-looking experiences.
One reason is to support 4K Ultra HD resolution for gaming. While the PS4 can run HD video footage, it’s not able to handle interactive games at that incredibly crisp resolution. The PlayStation 4 Pro will be built to allow games to run at 4K – for people who have a 4K television, of course. That might be a small number now, but it’s growing steadily; and an upgraded PS4 might help sell Sony’s 4K sets like the Sony XBR-X930D/KD-XD9305, to boot.
Unfortunately while the PS4 Pro will support 4K content from Netflix, the console will not feature an Ultra HD Blu-ray player, which is a perplexing omission from a company that supported both DVDs and Blu-rays with its consoles very early in the respective format’s lifetimes.
The new console will also support high dynamic range content, too. For full details on what exactly this means, check out our full guide to HDR.
Another reason Sony wants to put a little more power on the table is for the PlayStation VR headset, which will release on October 16, 2016. Both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive headsets require a high-end PC to operate, but the PS4 does VR with comparably less power. However, in a VR world, silky-smooth performance is crucial to ensure full immersion. With the PS4 Pro, developers should be able to tap into the newer hardware to enhance their VR experiences.
These suspicions were further fueled when in an interview with EDGE magazine an industry insider said that PlayStation VR was going to be “terrible” on launch PS4s, creating the need for an enhanced console to offer a better VR experience.
AMD has opened up to TechRadar about the specs inside the PS4 Pro. Here’s what we found out:
- Main processor: Custom Chip Single-Processor
- CPU: x86-64 AMD “Jaguar”, 8 cores
- GPU: 4.20 TFLOPS, AMD Radeon-Based Graphics Engine
- Memory: 8GB GDDR5
- Storage: 1TB x 1
- Dimensions: 295 x 55 x 327mm (W x H x D)
- Weight: About 3.3Kg
- Optical drive: BD 6-speed CAV, DVD 8-speed CAV
- I/O: 3 x Super Speed USB 3.1 ports, 1 x AUX port, Ethernet (10Base-T, 100Base-T, 1000Base-T)
- Connectivity: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0 (LE)
- Power supply: AC 100V, 50/60Hz
- Power consumption: Up to 310W
- Operating environment temperature: 5 – 35 degrees Celsius
- A/V output: HDMI 2.0a (4K / HDR), optical audio
The 8 Jaguar Cores are reportedly running at 2.1 Ghz apiece (as opposed to 1.6 Ghz in the original PS4), while an upgraded AMD GPU should offer extra graphical muscle with 36 compute units at 911 MHz compared to 18 CU at 800 MHz in the earlier model.
The transfer speed on the 8GB GDDR5 RAM will also bump up to 218 GB/sec from 176 GB/sec. Don’t know what that all means? Don’t worry: more processing power and faster speeds mean the PlayStation 4 Pro will be able to handle higher-resolution output, manage more textures and details onscreen, and generally provide a smoother play experience overall.
What’s the deal with the 4K HDMI port? The PlayStation 4 Pro will allow for 4K gaming output, however, Sony won’t require it to be natively supported. In other words, if a developer opts to stick with 1080p and put that processing power into other graphical or performance areas rather than resolution, that’s fine: the image will be upscaled for anyone with a 4K set anyway.
Frame rate is apparently a larger concern for Sony, with a mandate that games on the console must have an equal or higher frame rate than the standard PS4 version. That way, developers don’t sacrifice visual fluidity in favor of a sharper resolution.
How will games work?
Here’s the reportedly good news: while there’s no word of any sort of upgrade kit for the current PlayStation 4, at least existing owners don’t have to worry about two separate game libraries.
This was first rumored in the Giant Bomb report, which claimed that Sony has mandated that all games for the PlayStation 4 platform must work on both the new and old consoles. This functionality was later confirmed on stage at the PlayStation Meeting.
Games for the new hardware can feature enhanced graphics, of course, as well as some expanded functionality, but they cannot feature exclusive play modes or split the online servers between consoles. Furthermore, the system’s interface should look and act exactly the same on the new box.
The report noted that Sony will require games to feature a “Base Mode” for the original PS4 console and a “Pro Mode” for the PS4 Pro, both of which you’ll find in the same release. You’ll get the same core play experience on either console, although with the Pro Mode on the new hardware, you’ll see enhanced graphics and perhaps other perks as well.
Andrew House further elaborated on this functionality by saying that “all or a very large majority of games will also support the high-end PS4.” This suggests that while all PS4 games will run on the Pro, a smaller number will support the additional 4K functionality.
PS4 Pro Release Date and Price
The PS4 Pro will be available on November 10 for $399 (£349 / AU pricing tba).
This matches up with what we’ve heard previously about Sony requiring that all games released from October 2016 forward offer support for both console versions out of the box, and that games shipping in late September must have a day-one patch to add in the functionality.
This release date makes sense when paired with the PlayStation VR since it makes Sony’s VR offering seem a lot more capable compared to the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, as well, even if those are PC-based options.
Releasing an upgraded PlayStation 4 so soon after the original might rub some fans the wrong way – we’ve even speculated as much – but at least the rumors suggest that Sony isn’t abandoning the original buyers – just tempting them with something even better.
Will it be worth the cash? Stay tuned for our official review once we get our hands on our own console.
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