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[REVIEW] Playstation 4 Pro
11 April 2017
Posted in Reviews

It's time for my first review, and let me kick off with that one thing that I'm using for most of the reviews. Yes, that's right, my Playstation 4 Pro! While I haven't owned a 'regular' Playstation 4, I can't compare it to it, but I can make some comparison with the older Playstation 3 and my current PC when it comes to performance. Now I realize that the Playstation 3 is a total unfair match to say the least, but there are 2 games that I used to play on it (Destiny and Final Fantasy XIV: A Real Reborn) that I can use as a reference. The same goes for my PC, but the thing is pretty old and I think it's old enough (AMD Phenom II X6 1090T with 16GB DDR3 RAM and a GTX970) to make the PS4 Pro a compatitor anyway Last but not least I will also give my thoughts on the 4K features the Pro (and the upcoming XB1 Scorpio) have. Also an important note that I will not get into the technical specifications of the PS4 pro. There are already enough topics on that part on the net and while I know a lot about PC technical building, consoles is a totally different thing and (for now?) out of my legue.
I will cut this review down in the follwing parts: (loading) speed, graphics, controller and periphels and VR (not owning one [yet], but what I've read about it). I will end the review with my view on 4K and HDR in general.

(Loading) speed
Compared to the PS3 here the PS4 Pro certainly has gained a lot. I've read that the PS4 Pro uses SATA3 for the HDD input/output and you notice that a lot. When comparing the loading speed (along with the graphics buildup) in FFXIV the difference is significant. Where on the PS4 it took me about 10 seconds to zone from one map to the next and then had to wait at least the same time for all non-map objects (mainly other players, characters and houses), the PS4 zones in a couple of seconds (3-5) and the build up of the non-map objects is almost completely done when you're entering the map. I realize that this difference in time is also related to the graphical power the PS4 Pro has, but is certainly also has to do with the general HDD and CPU speed difference between the 2 consoles. On the other hand, Destiny on both consoles shows about the same speed when loading, where the PS4 wins by just a little bit.
Comparing the PS4 with my PC and then specifically The Elder Scrolls online, I think they are about on-par with eachother. I think my PC is a bit faster, but that's more thanks to the faster GPU I have than the CPU.

Graphics
This is probably the most important selling feature of the PS4 Pro, and more specifically the power to feed 4K display, but is it? I've watched a 4K/HDR gameplay video of Mass Effect: Andromeda (on 1080p though - I don't own a 4K monitopr/TV), and I thought it looked very good. But after I bought the game myself, I noticed a couple of differences, where the 4K/HDR video came short compared to my plain 1080p gameplay. One of the most distinctive differences is where Ryder 'lands' on the planet and her helmet is broken. On the 4K/HDR video she just reparis it, while on my 1080p monitor I saw gas (oxigen obviously) escape through the cracks of her helmet.
When comparing FFXIV between the PS3 and PS4 (aside from the difference of 720p vs 1080p), the difference in graphical power becomes more obvious between the two consoles. Where on the PS3 the graphics looked very good (for that old console ), on the PS4 the game became alive. The colors were more vibrant, you'd see sun rays and the floor was more detailed (texture wise, not resolution).
Comparing ESO between my PC and PS4, I think the PS4 wins by a bit, because ESO is optimized for the PS4 Pro and thus makes use of the extra power it provides, while for the PC need to use custom settings and then bottleneck my GPU through my CPU. I gotta admit though that I haven't played ESO for over 2 years on the PC though and can't tell how it looks now...
I am able to compare games between 'normal' and 'Pro enhanced'. Most games that are 'Pro enhanced' do have the option to toggle it off (WHY?) and the best example is shown with Horizon: Zero Dawn. The 'Pro enhanced' option for 1080p is a lot of extra super sampling, which makes the game even more impressive than it already is. I've also watched a couple of streamers who use 1080p and you also see the difference then between the 'Pro enhanced' and the 'normal' game. I think for this clear difference alone it's worth to buy a PS4 Pro, even more when you take into account that SONY wants more developers to make special 'Pro enhanced' features for their games.
There is one downside though on the extra power the PS4 Pro puts into it's GPU - NOISE. When playing Horizon: Zero Dawn, at times the fans of the console start to blow pretty hard (even on my 1080p with additional supersampling from the 'Pro enhanced' options). When playing Mass Effect: Andromeda, things even get worse with the fans blowing almost the entire game. Yes, that's right, the GPU generates a lot of heath when pushed to the limits, so make sure that there's enough airflow at the back. Also worth to note that while regular games and there's not enough airflow around the PS4, the fans will start to blow out heath as well, so DO NOT place the PS4 Pro in closed spaces like TV cabinets.

Controller and periphals
The controller, perhaps the most important thing for a gamer these days and when it comes to Playstation, a point of discussion. In the past (PS1 till PS3), the controllers were made for the smaller Japanese/Asian hands and we Western players had to deal with it and get cramps after a while OR buy a 3rd party controller that would fit our bigger hand better. And when comparing these old controllers with the XBOX controllers, they were REALLY TINY. It's good to report that the PS4 has a slightly bigger controller that also fits our larger Western hands. And while it's still a bit too small for me, at least I can play for hours without cramping or fatigueing my hands. Sadly though, the controller is still hard plastic and after a while, and certainly intense, playing you'll notice that it'll get moist from your hands sweating
An other important thing to mention is the keyboard, or lack of SONY making one for the PS4, while there was a very good PS3 clip-on keyboard available. Instead you need to buy a 3rd pary keyboard and the ones that are available to clip-on the PS4 controller just suck balls. Their bluetooth connection fails a lot, the battery depletes very fast and they feel cheap in general. Instead you're bound to buy a larger keyboard, either wired or bluetooth. I've bought a bluetooth one at a discounter which is intended for tablets and works very well with the PS4. The only downside though is that when in a game and I need to type a message, I do need to put down the controller
Ans speaking about periphals, lets start about the USB ports as well. The PS4 Pro has 3 of them (the PS4 Slim has 2) with one at the back. Of course, I've added a USB3.1 HUB on the one at the back to connect extra stuff, like my microphone, the LEGO NFC console. Those work perfectly fine, and I can even use it to charge my controllers. But adding an external harddrive for external storage on the HUB (possible since firmware 4.5) is a no-go. The external storage MUST be connected to it's own USB slot...

VR
As said, I don't own a VR set yet and what I'll be writing here is from hear-say. Generally, if you're totally into VR and think you need a PS4 Pro for it, then think again. There have been a lot of tests on the net on the topic. Yes, there is some difference between the representation of VR on a PS4 Slim and Pro, but the difference is so small that at times you don't even notice if you're playing on a Slim or Pro. Okey, when you see the difference, it's on the Pro, but if you already own a PS4, there's no need to upgrade to the Pro just for VR...

1080p, 4K, HDR and my view on it
I've posted a question on the MMORPG.com forums about a 24" 4K monitor and if it's wise to purchase it. There were quite some interesting responses to it with opposing opinions about size, distance and minimum width a 4K monitor should be. But one of the most interesting responses there dropped me to a chart that shows resolution vs screen size vs optimal viewing distance:

Image title

This chart shows that to benefit the most from your 4K resolution, you practically have to sit on top of the screen. In the case of that 24' monitor I saw, I have to sit 2' (60cm) away from the screen to fully benefit from it and if I sit up to 3' (90cm) away from it, it looks like 1080p already Now take this to larger (TV) screens that are 40", then the optimal distance is 2.5' (75cm) and at 5' (150cm) it starts to look like 1080p alread. When looking at the maximum on this chart (145" - anyone even has a TV like this ) you gotta sit a bit under 10' (300cm) for the optimal distance and from around 19' (570cm) it looks like 1080p (and not take into account that in Japan the TV broadcasters are already using 8K...). This makes me wonder how useful 5K is in general.

Then about HDR. I've read a post that people would benefit more from 1080p HDR than from 4K (with or without HDR) and that's very interesting. Even more that up to now there are NO 1080p HDR screens available, but instead all HDR screens are 4K (see my point just above here). But that's going to change. SONY has finally seen the light and announced their Bravia 1080p HDR line of TVs, a step most likely intended for PS4 users, but also XB1 Scorpio users will benefit from it. And I think that when these TVs hit the market later this year, the PS4 Pro might become an even better console than it already is, because now developers have choises to make when using 4K and where to cut performance. But when you use 1080p with the 'Pro enhanced' options (super sampling and more details mostly) along with HDR, gaming on the PS4 Pro might just become a bit more awesome than it already is!



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