When we reviewed the Xbox One S we thought Microsoft had Christmas in the bag. We’d heard of a new, more powerful PlayStation on the horizon, which went by the codenames PS4 Neo, PS4K and PS4.5, but didn’t in our wildest dreams think it would be available this year.
However, during a dedicated media event in New York City in September, Sony blew our socks off. Not only is the PS4 Pro real, not only is it capable of 4K HDR gaming, but it’s going to be available from next week, 10 November. And at the staggeringly low price of £349/$523.5 – some standard PS4 models cost that until very recently.
At the New York event we got to see some cool demos of the PS4 Pro in action, get up close to the console itself, and ask further questions about its capabilities. We then also got to play some of the games during a London showing more recently. Both times we’ve been impressed.
So here are our initial impressions of the new king of gaming ahead of a full, in-depth review at the start of next week.
The main processing unit is effectively the same and the existing PS4 and PS4 Slim models, but the GPU has been dramatically improved. That’s why it is capable of 4K HDR gaming.
There’s now an AMD Radeon graphics engine capable of 4.20 teraflops of processing power. That’s more than twice as powerful as the standard graphics chip. Sony also told us that it’s not just the hardware boast that makes the machine capable of higher resolutions and high dynamic range but clever architecture and software techniques, designed specifically for gaming, open up more potential for developers.
That’s why the PS4 is as capable of a graphics card costing anywhere up to £1,000/$1,500, it claims.
It has a 1TB hard drive and comes with the new version of the DualShock 4 controller, as also found in the box with the PS4 Slim. It has an additional light strip along the top of the touchpad.
The controllers were all hardwired for the event, but that was to avoid them going missing and maintain battery life than anything else. We’ve used one plenty with the slimmer PS4 and it works excellently.
Aesthetically, the box is slightly odd looking. It is styled just like the recently refreshed PS4 model, but has an additional slice to its sandwich effect. A glow bar lights around the circumference of the machine – mainly at the front.
We had a demo of Days Gone, which showed us comparative effects between 1080p and 4K resolutions, and HDR and non-HDR. It is simply superb with the Pro’s extra processing power at work. If you have a 4K HDR TV you will get some incredible gaming experiences.
Perhaps more impressive though was our lengthy session with next year’s Gran Turismo Sport. The final game will run at 1800p and in 60 frames per second. We were also told that it is capable of HDR wide colour standards that most 2016 TVs aren’t even capable of. It certainly looks the bees-knees, that’s for sure.
What’s more, they won’t cost you extra. Not only are plenty of existing games, including Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and FIFA 17, coming with 4K HDR support, you can use the exact same discs as the standard PS4 version.
There will also be patches available for many other existing games too, to up the graphical fidelity.
Gaming isn’t the only thing to benefit, video streaming in 4K HDR is also possible on the PS4 Pro. Both Netflix and YouTube will be launch partners.
But one alarming caveat is that the Pro will not ship with a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player. So while you can play 4K content over the internet, you cannot spin UHD discs. Maybe the Xbox One S still has a chance after all.
4K Ultra HD Blu-ray playback aside, the PS4 Pro is an amazing games console which will rule the roost until Project Scorpio arrives next year. 4K HDR gaming is quite simply stunning, but its the price that impresses us most.
Sony has pulled something magical out of the bag and we have no doubt that it will be the console to buy this Christmas.