The holidays are over, and we are all very grateful. Still, there are some things that still need to be crossed off our lists. If the PlayStation Pro is on yours, you came to the right place.
In my last post, I discussed Microsoft's new Xbox One S and what made it stand out from the original, so this time around I thought I'd go ahead and give Sony an equal chance by giving my thoughts on their recent release. While some of the topics are a little different, the guidelines are pretty much the same. I'll go over and review any changes they have made and suggest whether or not the machine is worth purchasing. So let's get started!
Aesthetically, this is probably the change that that stuck out the most. Sony decided that they should add an interesting third layer to their console. While this attracts attention to the machine, it doesn't offer much towards function like the Xbox One S' design change did with ventilation and mobility. In fact, it turns out that the PlayStation Pro is heavier than the original PS4 by a little over a pound, which makes it somewhat less enticing when one considers lugging it around, but not considerably so.
As for the ports, the Pro is nearly identical to its predecessor, but Sony did decide to add an extra USB 3.0. This was a wise decision considering PlayStation VR requires a USB port when it is in use and this addition allows users to have a charger and the VR plugged in simultaneously. The only other changes made were reintroducing an optical audio output that the original PS4 had during its launch, and the decision to go from HDMI 1.4 to HDMI 2.0, which allows the PlayStation Pro to have a 4K output.
While the casing definitely stuck out, the changes Sony made to the PlayStation Pro's internal hardware were easily the most significant. They decided to clean house and upgrade the GPU, CPU, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and RAM.
Both the PS4 and Pro use an AMD Jaguar x86-64 8 core CPU, but the Pro's clock speed went from 1.6 GHz to 2.1 GHz allowing a 30% increase in performance. The Wi-Fi was upgraded to include 802.11 ac and the Bluetooth received an update from v2.1 to v4. It should be noted that owners of the PS4 Slim have these specs for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi as well.
What really changed the game was the GPU's performance increase. Instead of opting for a new GPU altogether, Sony decided to use a larger version of the original so that it essentially acts like two GPUs working together as one. Its clock speed has also been boosted from 800MHz to 911MHz, essentially doubling its processing capabilities. Overall, the PlayStation Pro's GPU performance moved from 1.84 TFLOP to 4.2 TFLOP in order to comply with the console's 4K functionality.
Lastly, Sony also included an additional 1 GB of DDR3 RAM to go along with the 8GB's of GDDR5 RAM already within the machine. This extra GB will be used for non-gaming applications to free up space for the quicker and more efficient GDDR5. It's also worth mentioning that the PlayStation Pro only comes with 1 TB of storage compared to the Xbox One S, which gives users a choice between 500 GB or 1 TB respectively.
We know what changes Sony has made, but how does it all translate into performance? Well, it's not that simple, to be honest. The console's performance differs depending on what we are discussing: whether it is TV, video games, or virtual reality. So let's see how it stacks up in each department.
Television and Movies are a double-edged sword for the PlayStation Pro. While it stacks up well against competition in the 4K department when it comes to streaming services such as Netflix, HBO Go, or Hulu, the PlayStation Pro struggles to keep up with physical media such as Blu-Ray, much like the original PS4 before it. Considering all of the work Sony put into the machine, and the fact that the recently released One S is able to play 4K Blu-Ray media, this decision is a little confusing. Although to Sony's credit, this could have been a financial decision, allowing the average consumer the ability to afford the product without giving up an arm or a leg.
When it comes to gaming, Sony sets the bar as usual, but the Pro's 4K abilities come at a price due to the console coming in just short of being able to provide 4K gaming at its fullest potential. The type of sacrifice depends on the game and developer, but 4K resolution is accomplished by either lowering frame rates or through upscaling. That being said, there is one positive takeaway from all of this: developers have a choice on whether they want their games to run at a limited 4K or at a lower resolution of their choice. This gives them an option to have games run at a higher fps or avoid upscaling altogether if their game cannot handle it. In either case, it's probably safe to assume that developers will eventually manage to find a blend of upscaling and rendering techniques that will compliment each other and bring out the best of the Pro's abilities.
Playstation VR didn't go through as much of a change, and any changes that did occur are pretty difficult to point out. In some cases, games actually improved their resolution overall due to developers using super-sampling techniques, but most of the time there wasn't much to go on when discerning performance between the PS4 and the Pro. That being said, it's safe to assume that improvements could occur in the future much in the same way that I suggested that gaming will after developers figure out how to work with the hardware the Pro provides.
In the end, regardless of whether you're buying your first console or just upgrading from the original PS4, I think the PlayStation Pro is worth its salt. Sure, it has its downfalls: the failure to upgrade the Blu-Ray player to 4K, and the unnoticeable changes with the VR system, but you could also argue that the Blu-Ray upgrade along with everything else would have made the Pro too expensive, or that the VR being indiscernible isn't exactly a downfall. Especially considering how much time there still is for developers to find room to improve.
No matter how you measure the pros and cons, one thing is for sure, the PlayStation Pro either matches or beats its competitors in almost all of the presented criteria. So, if it's something you've had on your list, go out and pick one up! Giving it a chance won't do you any harm. Hell, you might even love it.