4K console gaming is coming to us this winter. Here's all the info on the PlayStation 4 Pro
This is shaping up to be a bumper year for PlayStation fans. Last month, Sony released the PlayStation VR, a virtual reality headset for the PlayStation 4, while a slim version of the PS4 has recently arrived and to cap it all off, a new console is set to launch next week.
It's not the PS5, but the PS4 Pro – an upgraded, supercharged version of the existing console and while it will play the same games, it will have improved graphics and gameplay.
The Pro makes use of clever upscaling techniques to play in 4K resolution so if you've got a 4K television set, it could be a "must-buy" if you're after a console.
By introducing an improved version of an existing PlayStation, Sony is deviating from the well-trodden path established by home console release cycles.
Typically, games consoles are on the market for several years before being replaced by entirely new ones. For instance, the PS3 was Sony's top console for seven years before the PS4 arrived in 2013.
By introducing an improved console early, rather than an entirely new one at a later date, Sony is bridging the gap between hardware generations and giving PS4 buyers two choices. This means the company can offer 4K gaming to the masses earlier than it otherwise would have done. The new console's extra power means that developers will also have more leeway when creating games for the recently released PlayStation VR virtual reality headset.
Packed inside the upcoming black box is new hardware intended to improve PlayStation 4 game play.
GPU power has essentially doubled, and the 8 core Jaguar CPU has a clock speed of 2.1 GHz compared to 1.6 GHz in the original PS4. Put simply, the performance improvements under the skin mean that what you see on the screen will be significantly sharper, smoother and richer in terms of game play, with extra textures.
Some of the titles coming to PS4 Pro will play in native 4K, while most will make use of upscaling techniques and High Dynamic Range to create higher resolution graphics with better colours. Game developers have been given a set of parameters to work with – all upcoming titles must have at least an equal or better frame rate to their standard PS4 equivalents on the PS4 Pro and must play in at least native 1080p.
So long as these requirements are met, the extra computing power can go towards taking the game up to 4K, improving the frame rate, or adding extra textures and graphical features.
The console is ideally suited to a 4K television set, but as Gamespot points out, those playing on 1080p sets will also see benefits, such as the improved frame rates and extra textures.
Sony wants to keep the original PS4 hardware on sale alongside the PS4 Pro, and the two will completely share their game libraries. When you buy a title compatible with the Pro, it'll be exactly the same disc you buy for a normal PS4, only with a special "Pro Mode" with enhanced graphics and game play built into it.
Sony doesn't want a clear split between PS4 and PS4 Pro users, so as well as sharing the same discs, they'll share the same online servers for multiplayer games. Pro games aren't allowed to have any exclusive game modes or new content either – only improved visuals and some expanded functionality – so you'll get the same core experience on both consoles.
All of your old PS4 games will run on the PS4 Pro. Some may even have Pro modes patched into them at a later stage.
Sony has confirmed that more than 30 games will be optimised for the PS4 Pro from launch and some big titles are among them.
From day one, first-person shooter releases such as Battlefield 1, Call Of Duty: Black Ops 3, Infinite Warfare and the remastered version of Modern Warfare will all have Pro modes. Fifa fans will be pleased too, as Fifa 17 also gets Pro support.
If you've got a PlayStation VR too, some of its launch titles will be ready for the Pro from day one. PlayStation VR Worlds, Rigs, Driveclub VR and Until Dawn: Rush of Blood will be receiving updates.
Sony's asking price for its new console isn't much more than a standard PlayStation. At £349.99, the PS4 Pro will in fact cost the same amount as the PS4 did when it arrived in 2013. Alphr says at that price, it's a bit of a steal.
It's the same price as a PlayStation VR headset without a PlayStation Eye camera and Move controllers, so for many, picking up a PS4 Pro this Christmas will be a lot cheaper than getting into PlayStation VR.
The console is set to launch soon – Sony has confirmed that it'll arrive on 10 November. The Xbox Scorpio – Microsoft's equivalent – won't be arriving until late next year.