Today ushers in a new-ish era for Sony’s videogame concern, as the PlayStation 4 Pro is now out in stores. As the lack of a new number should indicate, this isn’t the first wave of the next generation of consoles, but an evolutionary half-step that upgrades the PlayStation’s graphical capabilities. Basically it’ll make certain games look better, in a bid to keep up with the growing and ever-improving PC gaming market. It can be confusing, so let us try to head some of your questions off at the pass.
Again: this isn’t an entirely new console. It takes the core PlayStation 4 tech and tweaks the hardware a bit with a faster processer and a more powerful graphics processing unit. If you’re a fan of teraflops, this GPU has ‘em—4.2 to be specific, which dwarfs the standard system’s peak of 1.84 teraflops. (Surely this means something.) The key selling point about this new-fangled graphical biz is that the Pro is built with 4K televisions in mind. Now that 4K TVs are relatively affordable, the next frontier for the ever-progressing incrementalism of home TV box technology is rapidly being tamed, and the Pro’s improved graphical jive lets the PlayStation keep up. Expect games to look cleaner and smoother, and in some cases they could have improved framerates, too. On 4K TVs with the high-dynamic range (HDR) feature, games will have brighter, crisper colors. The Pro will also improve graphical performance for PlayStation VR games, which tend to look fuzzier and blockier on the standard PlayStation 4 than you’d probably expect.
Although Sony touts that the Pro will offer some enhancements even if you don’t own a 4K TV, like the ability to play all PlayStation 4 games at a full native 1080p on standard HD TVs, there’s no real reason to buy a Pro if you don’t also have a 4K TV. And you won’t need a Pro or a 4K TV to tap into the improved colors offered by HDR, as the regular PlayStation 4 is already capable of that. To take advantage of the Pro’s full capabilities, you should make sure your 4K TV is compatible with the HDR10 format and Premium HDMI cables (one of which is included with the Pro).
Sony wants to make sure consumers don’t feel ripped off by effectively replacing the PlayStation 4 after only three years, so the PlayStation 4 Pro won’t have any exclusive games. Every game released for one model will also work just fine on the other, which ideally should minimize some of the confusion that will no doubt be kicked up by the Pro’s release.
At this point only select PlayStation 4 games will tap into the Pro’s superior juice. That list includes many of the biggest titles released for the system, but there are also some surprising exceptions (don’t expect Geralt to get any prettier, as The Witcher 3 isn’t getting an update). Click here to see the games that are confirmed to get a visual upgrade from the Pro, as well as the ones we know won’t get a boost. For the games that have already been released, there should be patches ready to download right now that add in the Pro functionality.
If you’ve had a PlayStation 4 since they launched, you’re probably all too familiar with the hard drive balancing act. The original’s 500 GB hard drive is quickly maxed out after a handful of games, forcing you to constantly juggle your installed games. The PlayStation 4 Pro’s standard hard drive is a terabyte, which is twice as big as the PlayStation 4’s. It’s still not perfect if you own a lot of games and like to have them all immediately available without having to download or install them again, but if you’re like me, and have to go to the system storage menu to clear out space every time you try to start a new game, that bigger hard drive should bring at least a few months of solace.
Sony has a history of mainstreaming new home video formats with the PlayStation. The PlayStation 2 was the first DVD player for millions of Americans, and the PlayStation 3 was the cheapest Blu-ray player on the market when it was first introduced in 2006. If you’re looking to upgrade to a 4K Blu-ray player, though, the PlayStation 4 Pro won’t be an option for you. Despite outputting 4K visuals with its games, the Pro will not play 4K Blu-rays. Those interested in the cutting edge of home video will have to look outside the world of videogame boxes.
The Pro’s retail price clocks in at $399.99 (although you can currently save a crucial 99 cents over at Amazon). Perhaps as tacit acknowledgement that the target audience are videogame diehards who already own a full software library upgrading from a standard PlayStation 4, those 400 bucks won’t get you any games.
Garrett Martin edits Paste’s games and comedy sections. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.