In the early hours of Thursday morning, the 8th of September 2016 Sony decided to announce their latest babies to the world. In a small event in New york, Sony finally showed their hand by confirming the worst kept secrets in recent memory in the Neo and the PS4 slim. The console known as Neo to anyone in the know has been named the PS4 Pro and is bringing the world of 4K gaming to consoles. Previously to get 4K gaming you needed to have a high end PC to enjoy the crisp graphics that this brings. On the other side of things the PS4 slim will now be known simply as the PS4.
So why should you care about the PS4 Pro and should you go out and buy one on the 10th of November 2016 for AUD$559. The answer to this has actually nothing to do with the PS4 Pro itself. It 100% has to do with the TV or Monitor that you are playing it or planning to play it on. If you have a 4k and HDR compatible display that you play the PS4 on then maybe this is worth a look. If you don’t have one of these displays or not planning to spend the money to get one in the future then please take my advice and this machine is not for you. It really is as simple as that, especially if you already have a PS4.
HDR and 4k displays can be complicated to explain but really come down to one thing, visuals. 4k is literally the next step up from a High definition 1080p display and simply adds more pixels to the screen and makes them look crisper and clearer. HDR is a feature for displays that makes whites and blacks on your screen have far more depth of colour to them. Think of a cloud in the sky that is white, with HDR that same cloud will have far more variations to that white and makes it look more realistic. This HDR support will be coming to all PS4 machines on the market or in houses with a firmware update next week.
Realistically, better graphics is what the PS4 Pro comes down to. Sony has said this console is being marketed at the high end PS4 user and not the regular Joe’s out there. As for the slimmer version of the PS4 which is now the standard, you can get it from the 15th of September for AUD$439 for the base 500GB version. It is slimmer and has better power management then the previous version of the console and comes with a slightly modified control. All in all for this version there is not a lot of different then the launch model except for the fact that it is smaller and cheaper. This is the console you get if graphics don’t matter to you and you don’t have a top of the line TV.
With this announcement we saw the first real shot fired in what is looming as a fresh console war. Straight after the announcement the official Microsoft twitter account had a post detailing the fact that the Xbox One S has a 4k Blu-ray player in built where the PS4 Pro does not. Also the head of marketing sent out a tweet claim that their mystery machine, Project Scorpio, that will not be out till later next year is more powerful. Things had got very “nice” between Sony and Microsoft for the past few years which I have liked, just worry about doing your own thing. With these two tweets however I think Microsoft is trying to poke the nest again. All I can say is that I hope they deliver on this promise or they may have some egg to wipe off their face.
As for the issue of no 4k Blu-ray player in the PS4 Pro it did shock me a bit. I can only think of two reasons Sony would leave this out of the machine and the obvious one is price. They could not sell the new machine for more than what the old one cost at launch and this is the first item to be cut. Secondly this speaks to Sony’s strategy from the start. Sony has backed itself in for its streaming technology. They believe as people slowly move away from physical media and move more to digital the need for a 4k Blu-ray player seems a bit redundant especially with the market they are aiming for being the higher end. I personally will not be missing it and it feels a bit like unneeded support in the Xbox One s to me, but I am a lover of this new age of digital media. The last point in the Official Xbox tweet is that it compared the Xbox One S to the pro and claimed to have the same capabilities for less already. This is straight out misleading as they did not mention the Xbox One S can not play games in 4K which is no small matter when it comes to price.
Only time will tell if this was a smart move for Sony or not. They have a machine on the market this christmas that supports the best technology on the market and is clearly the most powerful machine on the market. They now have a future proofed version of the PS4 on the market as well. The fact that the PS4 Pro is cheaper than building a PC to run 4k gaming on is another positive. All the boxes are ticked to say this should work but there are definitely some negatives coming out of this too.
If Microsoft delivers with Project Scorpio next year and it is more powerful than the PS4 Pro this could take the advantage away from Sony for the first time this Generation. The upside that I see for Sony is that how much difference can power make when both machines will be running at 4k and max frames anyway. I personally don’t think I will be able to see the difference or care about the difference at that level of graphics. Also this means Sony will have a machine that costs less to make then Microsoft and can undercut them whenever they want. What it will all boil down to in the end is how well developers support both these machines so I hope both don’t add too much cost or time to develop games.
The biggest positive I pulled out of the announcement is that Sony has made the choice for consumers simple. If you have a 4k display please spend the extra money and get the PS4 Pro, if not just get our standard PS4. It really is that simple people. If Sony had of added any extra features to this new machine it would have felt more like a PS5 and less like an upgraded PS4. This is smart because they really have not split the player base up too much and they are not punishing the early adopters that badly.
On a final note I feel this will be Sony’s last upgrade of the PS4 as all the boxes are ticked now and the life cycle will go on as normal. New Technology drives the need for new console generation and now the PS4 can handle VR and 4k there is no need to rush into a new generation anytime soon. I also see this as a sign that Sony will not be phasing out generations of the Playstations and fully look forward to a PS5 announcement in the about 3 years time. So I will leave you with all that to think about, it is not all doom and gloom from me, I see this as a good move but I am really excited to see how this next two or three years plays out now.