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Hands-on review: 4K gaming with the Sony PS4 Pro console
Fri, 16th Dec 2016
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Sony this year has released the PS4 Pro console out on the market. It's a mid-generation upgrade catered to those that own a 4K television.  Historically, consoles never had a significant upgrade midway through a gaming generation. With technology advancing at a fast rate, Sony had to keep up and decided to release the PS4 Pro. Is the console a necessary upgrade? The main purpose of this new console is to make gaming look good on 4K televisions. In order to test this out properly, I had to go to a friend's house who owns a 40 inch Samsung 4K television. I am impressed with what I have seen so far. What's inside the box? First, let's talk about what you get with the PS4 Pro. It has a larger 1TB hard drive which is good since game sizes are getting bigger these days. You can choose to convert your old save files onto the PS4 Pro if you already owned the vanilla PS4. Not to mention you can swap out the hard drive entirely if you want something bigger than 1TB.  Rounding out the pack is the somewhat newer DUALSHOCK 4 controller, an HDMI cable, the mono headset plus an AC power cord. Setting up the PS4 Pro is easy and you can adjust to the 4K setting by going to the video settings. The UI is exactly the same as a normal PS4 so you won't get lost.  Console and controller The PS4 Pro console itself is roughly around the same size as a normal PS4. It looks a little bulky, but it's still way smaller than the original Xbox One. They also designed it so that the power and eject buttons aren't so small and fiddly like before.  The USB ports are also easier to get to.  It's worth mentioning that the PS4 Pro console is louder when it's playing video games and it also heats up faster too. It's not a huge problem, but it's something I noticed as my normal PS4 is usually quiet and doesn't heat up that much.  The new-ish DUALSHOCK 4 controller is an improvement. The analogue sticks feel better to grasp and the shoulder buttons are easier to press. The rubber on the analogue sticks have also improved and won't wear down as much as the original controller. Other than that, it's essentially the same controller.  4K gaming I was sceptical at first when Sony and many other technology companies were advertising how 4K is so much better than 1080p. I was under the notion that the human eye cannot see any differences past the 1080p resolution.  Boy, was my assumption wrong. 4K looks pretty good in comparison to 1080p. It's not just gaming as 4K videos that I watched on the PS4 Pro looked awesome too.  It's hard to describe in words how much different 4K is to 1080p, but I noticed the colours and picture quality to be brighter as a whole. Not to mention HDR changes the colours of what you will normally see on a standard 1080p screen.  1080p to 4K is not a big leap in picture quality compared to say watching a DVD over a Blu-ray, but noticeable differences are there. Like I said before, it's hard to describe in words as it's something you just have to see for yourself to fully appreciate.  The first game I tried out on the PS4 Pro was Uncharted 4: A Thief's End. The game looked great on my own 1080p TV at home, but playing in 4K at my friend's house made the game look even better. Small things such as the vegetation on the ground or the faces of non-playable characters appear more detailed and shinier than before.  Ratchet - Clank is arguably the best game that I tested on the system. Again the game was already phenomenal looking on a normal PS4, but the PS4 Pro takes it to another level. It's almost as if you are looking at an animated film by Pixar as the quality is that good.   The other three games I played were Final Fantasy XV, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 and The Last of Us Remastered. Final Fantasy XV is gorgeous already, although playing it in 4K is not that big of a jump compared to the normal PS4 version. This might because Square Enix didn't have enough time to develop the 4K upgrades.  Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 on the other hand was silky smooth on the PS4 Pro. Both playing in 4K or at home on my 1080p TV, the framerate was stable throughout and I didn't experience any slowdowns in gameplay. Sadly, I didn't notice any differences playing The Last of Us Remastered. The 4K upgrade looks nice, but it's similar to Final Fantasy XV where the changes are too small for me to notice any differences.  4K video Aside from games, the new PS4 Pro console can also stream 4K videos via Netflix and YouTube. 4K videos look just as good as the video games do and I noticed a lot of differences again. Again, 4K renders pictures to look brighter and prettier than 1080p screens. I watched a lot of 4K videos on YouTube including movie trailers, other video games (like Battlefront), and even nature videos.  Sadly, the one thing that Sony's new console cannot do is play 4K UHD Blu-ray discs. It's quite surprising Sony doesn't allow its console to play 4K Blu-ray discs because Microsoft's Xbox One S console can. It's slightly disappointing because you need a good internet connection to stream videos in 4K. This might hinder several Kiwis since internet speeds aren't the best here in New Zealand... 1080p owners After testing out the console for several days on my friend's 4K TV, I went back home and played it on my own 1080p TV. I must say, the PS4 Pro doesn't really have too many improvements over a normal PS4 if you are playing on a 1080p TV. Sometimes it depends on the type of game that you are playing.  Some games (like Rise of the Tomb Raider) offer multiple viewing modes such as 1080p and 60fps. However, most other games don't have the 60fps option for you so 1080p TV owners won't see any significant visuals differences. This goes to show us that the PS4 Pro is only really beneficial for 4K TV owners.  Is it worth it? Yes, the PS4 Pro is totally worth getting if you own a 4K TV. Both gaming and streaming videos in 4K have noticable visual improvements over 1080p. It's worth mentioning future games are going to look even better in 4K as Spider-Man PS4, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Gran Turismo Sport and more will all support the Pro console.  The console currently costs $639.00 and it is able to produce 4K gaming at a fraction of the cost of the 4K Omen laptop I recently reviewed. It's the most affordable way you can jump into 4K gaming at the moment.  The only downsides to the console is that it's not worth getting if you don't own a 4K TV yet and the lack of 4K Blu-ray support is disappointing. Other than that though, the PS4 Pro is an excellent machine as it can do things some PCs can do at a much more affordable price point.