On Nov. 10, a new model of the PlayStation 4 — the PlayStation 4 Pro — will sit on shelves beside the standard model that's dominated the competition for years.
The big question on consumers' minds is a simple one: Is the PS4 Pro worth its $399 price tag? Let's discuss!
PS4 Pro vs PS4 specs
First, a quick rundown of exactly how the PS4 Pro differs from the standard PS4.
It's important to note that the PS4 Pro will play all the same games as the regular PS4. This isn't a new console generation; think of it as being more like a PlayStation 4.5.
The PS4 Pro comes standard with a 1TB hard drive, whereas the regular PS4 typically comes equipped with a 500GB hard drive — a 1TB hard drive is available for the newer iterations of the PS4, though. In both cases, you can swap out the included hard drive for something bigger if you'd like, but that requires a bit of elbow grease and technical know-how.
The other biggest difference is that the PS4 Pro can render games in 4K resolution — also known as ultra-high-definition — whereas the standard PS4 maxes out at 1080p. There are some very important caveats to that, though.
Exactly how sharp, pretty and detailed a game looks is hugely dependent on the company that develops the game, not just the hardware Sony packs into its consoles. So, even though the PS4 Pro can render games in 4K, there are lots of games that likely will just output at 1080p and upscale to 4K — which basically means it stretches the picture to the bounds of your 4K TV and uses some magic to make it look a bit smoother, but it's not rendering natively at 4K.
All this 4K talk is really only relevant if you have a 4K television — otherwise, games will render at 1080p just as they already can on the regular PS4.
That's not to suggest that the PS4 Pro is only a good fit for those who have a 4K TV, though. The PS4 Pro also has a bit more horsepower under the hood, allowing games to load a bit quicker and to run at higher frame rates more consistently. Again, this varies wildly based on whether the developer of the game has programmed an option for PS4 Pro owners to enable a special PS4 Pro mode.
For example, Rise of the Tomb Raider gives PS4 Pro owners several different options as to how to allocate the console's additional power: One mode prioritizes the 4K resolution; another mode maintains high frame rates; and another mode, nebulously called "Enhanced Visuals," supposedly "enhances graphical features of the game for a lusher and more realistic experience." Many other games, however, offer no such additional graphic options for PS4 Pro owners.
If you want to see exactly how each component of the different PS4 models compares, Polygon has a great comparison chart you should look at.
If you're still not sure whether the PS4 Pro is worth it, let's check in with what critics have had to say about it so far.
PS4 Pro review roundup
The general consensus on the PS4 Pro is that it's a no-brainer for those who don't already own a PS4, but for those wondering whether they should upgrade, it's a little less clear.
Over at IGN, Vince Ingenito praises the machine itself overall for being a competent and powerful piece of hardware, calling it "a premium-looking machine that offers a lot of extra power for developers to exploit," but the inconsistency with which game developers have leveraged the power of the PS4 Pro thus far makes it harder for him to recommend.
Here's what he had to say about those inconsistencies:
Even with the games that leverage the PS4 Pro well, the lack of consistency and clarity regarding what enhancements you are getting from game to game, and even from mode to mode, shakes my confidence. Some games let you change video settings on the fly, others don't. Some offer high frame rate options while others stick to enhanced visuals or higher resolution. Where higher resolution games are concerned, it's unclear what resolution they are actually rendering at and what type of upscaling they might be using.
Ingenito seems to be a fan of the machine itself, but he doesn't consider the differences between the PS4 and PS4 Pro to be "stark enough to make standard PS4 owners jealous." If you don't already own a PS4 and have some extra cash to throw around, a PS4 Pro certainly wouldn't be a bad decision, though.
For Eurogamer, Richard Leadbetter echoed many of the same sentiments, especially regarding the somewhat uneven implementation of 4K upgrades across various title. "We should expect to see variable results in the launch period and based on what we've seen so far, that's exactly what we get," Leadbetter wrote. "At its best though, the results can look stunning."
Leadbetter gives it a thumbs up over the standard PS4 for those who have yet to buy a PS4 at all, but he's more hesitant to recommend an upgrade for someone who already owns a regular PS4:
If you don't already own a PlayStation console and you're looking to invest, the Pro is a no-brainer. You're getting over twice the GPU power, a faster CPU, future-proofed display and streaming media support - and twice the hard drive space. The price-point is keen enough that it's going to take some seriously aggressive bundling deals to make the standard PlayStation 4 look appealing.
The other big downside to the PS4 Pro, which TechRadar and Polygon both touch on, is the PS4 Pro's lack of a 4K Blu-ray player. The regular PS4 doesn't support 4K Blu-rays either, but Arthur Gies at Polygon says this oversight is incongruent with the PS4 Pro's branding as an elite console.
"UHD Blu-rays offer guaranteed 4K and HDR support at bitrates that are often six times that of modern Blu-rays, with much more efficient video codecs," Gies wrote. "The picture quality, even compared to streamed 4K content, is drastically better — but the PS4 Pro will never support the format. The drive inside the console cannot be upgraded."
Whether the PS4 Pro will start to outsell the standard PS4 this holiday season is anyone's guess, but we'll have a better idea once it finally launches on Nov. 10.