Sony will help kickstart the next generation of games consoles in time for Christmas 2020, with the PS5. However, it is likely to be pricey at launch and you might not want to wait that long to get in on the console action.
Well, the PS4 and PS4 Pro are great options that tick all the boxes. They are both reasonably priced for what they offer, support a games library that is now thousands of titles deep and, most importantly, they are available right now.
So, if you are looking to get yourself a PlayStation this year rather than next, the only question now is which one?
We look at the specifications and features of both in order to help you make that decision.
4K HDR gaming
It’s easy to cite the differences between the two consoles when it comes to 4K gaming as it’s the PS4 Pro’s raison d’être. It can run games at up to 4K (3840 x 2160) resolutions while the standard model cannot. In reality, the resolutions differ.
While some games run well in native 4K (2160p) – often at 30 frames per second – many don’t. They opt for a technique called checkerboard 4K, which provides better, crisper graphics over the standard PS4, but not technically “true” 4K.
Many games also run in higher frame rates on the PS4 Pro – sometimes as an optional alternative to an Ultra HD resolution. There are some great games that run in a stable 60fps, for example, mainly thanks to the 4.20 teraflops offered by its AMD Radeon GPU.
That’s considerably more powerful though than the graphics chipset in the PS4. That is similarly made by AMD but only offers 1.84 teraflops of processing power.
When it comes to HDR it’s a different story. Both PlayStation 4 consoles have the capability of HDR presentation – adding a wider colour gamut, brighter images and better contrast to supported games when connected to a compatible TV.
4K HDR video
A similar story plays out when it comes to 4K video output through the PS4 Pro – it is capable of Ultra HD video while the PlayStation 4 is locked to a maximum of 1080p.
As for HDR video, there are few sources that utilise it, to be honest. Netflix does but Amazon Prime Video doesn’t, for example. Also, for some reason (that hasn’t been fixed in a couple of years) Netflix seems to force a HDR output when connected to a supported TV no matter whether the content is in the format or not.
Another strange anomaly is that, although it is technically possible for the PS4 Pro’s HDMI output to work with 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Sony has not put a compatible drive in the machine so it is not a UHD player in that respect. The Xbox One S is currently the only console available with that capability.
Performance in games
While it is clear that the PS4 Pro is better than the vanilla PS4 when it comes to graphical power, it is also enhanced in terms of overall oomph.
The PS$ has an AMD processor with eight Jaguar cores that are clocked at 1.6GHz. It also has 8GB of GDDR5 RAM running at 176GB/s.
The PS4 Pro has a similar processor but it runs faster, at 2.1GHz. It also has faster RAM – still 8GB of GDDR5, but capable of up to 218GB/s.
This all means that its processing abilities run at around 1.3 times the speed of its stablemate, while the RAM has 24 per cent more bandwidth. When combined with the 4.20 teraflops of graphical power, developers have much more to play with.
In terms of standard games, the extra power is often used to improve graphical performance and effects. PSVR developers also regularly add benefits afforded by the higher spec, including further draw distances and more detail to their virtual reality titles.
All PS4 games run on both consoles, but they have the ability to be better looking and/or smoother on PS4 Pro.
Even though PS4 Pro games more often require greater space on your hard drive, Sony decided on a standard 1TB HDD to put inside it. We would have liked there to be 2TB, considering.
However, as with the standard PS4, you can always increase the capacity by either swapping the included drive for another internal alternative, or by plugging an external USB 3.0 drive into one of the ports.
The standard PS4 can be bought in 500GB and 1TB variants.
Both make use of Sony’s cloud storage too, with save games and other files able to be stored when you have a PlayStation Plus subscription.
While both the PS4 Pro and standard PS4 share a similar design aesthetic, the former is definitely chunkier..
The PS4 measures 265 x 39 x 288mm and weighs 2.1kg. It is neater when tucked away in an AV cabinet and has a smaller footprint when stood on one end, using an optional vertical stand.
The PS4 Pro is a beast in comparison, thanks to an extra wedge in the sandwich design style. It measures 295 x 55 x 327mm, which is even bigger than the original model, and weighs a whopping 3.3kg.
When choosing between the consoles price could well be your most important driving factor.
A standard PS4 retails at around £250 for the 500GB model, but you do invariably get it with a decent games bundle for that price these days. The 1TB edition will set you back around £280.
Price will definitely determine which PlayStation 4 you opt for, but there are other factors that could sway your decision.
One of the most important will be the TV you own or plan to purchase. If it’s not 4K and/or HDR you will get few benefits from owning a PS4 Pro. There are some, including better PSVR performance, but the main selling point will be moot to you.
That leaves you with the standard PS4 and if you manage to hold out until a sales period – such as Black Friday – you can probably snag one for a song.