It was the first console designed to tackle gaming for ultra HD displays, and the first mid-generation ‘refresh’ offering a substantial boost to performance over launch hardware. Since its 2016 debut, PlayStation 4 Pro has delivered some exceptional results for 4K living displays – results that seem almost miraculous for a 4.2 teraflop GPU – but in the years since, the Pro has evolved in new, unexpected directions. While 4K was initially the focus for the machine, I’d now say that it’s something of a gem for 1080p display users as well. In fact, if you’ve stuck with your standard unit, now could be a good time to upgrade.
Let’s consider the evidence – and it begins with the specifications of the PS4 Pro itself. Having discussed the hardware with many developers, Pro has two fundamental issues in delivering pristine quality 4K gaming. GPU compute has doubled over the standard model, opening the door to temporal supersampling and checkerboarding solutions that – as seen in many titles – can look exceptional on an ultra HD display. However, developers have to address the reality that the extra compute power is not backed by a similar boost in memory bandwidth. Meanwhile, a mere 512MB of extra memory to service a 2x-4x increase in pixel density also causes challenges.
At the same time, developers are pushing their games harder than ever before. A good example of this is Just Cause 4 – when I looked at the game at launch, the price paid for solid performance was the use of aggressive dynamic resolution scaling. The standard PS4 is known as a 1080p gaming machine, but JC4’s DRS could see the game bottom out at 720p. PS4 Pro has since been patched with a checkerboard-rendered presentation, but at launch, it mostly sat at 1080p – and it was the smoothest, most consistent performer out of all the console versions.