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19th September 2016

Does anyone need the PS4 Pro?

At an event held in New York on the 7th September, Sony unveiled two new versions of the PlayStation 4

At an event held in New York on the 7th September, Sony unveiled two new versions of the PlayStation 4. The first of these was a slightly slimmer version accompanied by a price cut to £249, and the second being the long rumoured ‘PS4 Neo’ which turned out to be the not as excitingly titled PS4 Pro. These two consoles represent a slight shift in Sony’s thinking for the gaming market, without changing their underlying focus that consoles are made to play games and are primarily for gamers. Looking at the hardware and relative cost of these two products, a target audience can easily be found.

Firstly, the PS4 ‘Slim’ is to be seen as the new standard PS4 model when it releases on the 16th September. Apart from the outward design essentially nothing has changed internally and Andrew House, CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment, spent very little time covering the Slim during the conference. Within the first five minutes it had been announced, demonstrated and accompanied by a price drop to £260 for the 500GB model. This price drop is probably the most important part of the announcement as it has lowered the entry barrier for those who don’t already have a PS4 and have been considering picking one up.

Secondly the Pro model has been designed as an iterative upgrade rather than an entire new generation of console, similar to how every other year Apple releases an S model iPhone rather than jump straight to the next number. The existence of the Pro has been confirmed for a while as Andrew House stated as much in an interview with the Financial Times from June of this year, just before E3. This is the first time a new console has been introduced during a single life-cycle, instead of ushering in a new generation. The PlayStation 5 this is not.

The Pro is capable of playing all the games that run on the PS4, but with some extra processing power so that games can run smoother and have some increased fidelity if connected to a 1080p screen or running on PS VR. If you are one of the small but growing number of 4K HDR television owners, then the resolution can be increased to near 4K resolution and displayed in HDR. Numerous games were shown off to promote this upgrade such as the recently announced Days Gone and Spiderman (PS4), but the most exciting was perhaps Mass Effect: Andromeda, not because it looked good, but because gameplay had never been truly shown before this point. These demos however were underwhelming to most viewers not at the event, as the livestream had to be compressed and the only way to actually view the 4K images would be on a 4K screen – which most people currently do not own.

If you are considering purchasing or upgrading to this new hardware however, there are a few others facts you should consider: HDR has been made available to all versions of the PS4 through the recent system software update (Version 4.00), so if you already have a PS4 you can already get those extra colours if you own a HDR TV. Next is the fact that not all games will truly be running in 4K; if higher resolution is that important to you it is possible, at this point, that Microsoft’s Project Scorpio (to be released at the end of 2017) will run in native 4K, and by that time the price of 4K TVs will have dropped as well. One of the few games confirmed so far to run in native 4K is Elder Scrolls Online and while not a bad game, it isn’t exactly a system seller as it is available on most platforms already.

By looking at these points, it begs the question of who exactly is this console for? As this is the first occurrence of an upgraded console no one is exactly sure. Most people don’t currently own a 4K TV, so that would add a lot onto the price tag from the start, and for that amount of money you could get a more than decent PC setup that could run better and handle tasks such as Microsoft Office and good internet browsing that consoles have never been designed for. Sony have released this in part, as House mentioned in an interview with the Guardian earlier this month, that “there’s a dip mid-console lifecycle where the players who want the very best graphical experience will start to migrate to PC, because that’s obviously where it’s to be had”.

A number that has recently been thrown around a lot in parts of the gaming press is from the specs of both the Pro and Project Scorpio; the former will run at a processing power of 4.2 teraflops of graphics power, yet the latter will run at 6 teraflops. Compared to the 1.84 and 1.31 teraflops of the original PS4 and Xbox One respectively this seems like a big increase, but compared to a high end PC graphics card such as the GTX 1080 which runs at 9 teraflops and the GTX 1070 that runs at 6.5, it is clear that consoles are playing catch up, which has been true for quite some time now. Consoles do however have an increased ease of use to them which most people, myself included, prefer. It will always be easier to just put a disc into a box and hit play, even though consoles have also turned into streaming boxes for content such as Netflix and YouTube.

If you don’t already own a PS4 then the recent price drop of the standard model could make it a more tempting offer, considering it is still a brilliant console and runs all the games both currently available and to be released for the foreseeable future.

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