Should you go PS4 Pro? It depends

Critical Consensus: Reviewers say Sony's latest needs the right software support and TV screen to justify the expense

The PlayStation 4 Pro arrives in stores tomorrow, but gamers may want to double check a few things before they invest in the $400 upgraded version of Sony's latest console. The first wave of hardware reviews have hit, and while testers disagree on just how much the PS4 Pro can add to the experience, they were unanimous in pointing out that not everyone will be able to benefit from it equally.

IGN's Vince Ingenito gave the system an 8.5 out of 10, but that score came with caveats.

"On paper, the PS4 Pro certainly has the credentials to significantly enhance some existing and future PlayStation 4 games, but in practice, the results range from good to underwhelming depending on what game you're playing and what kind of screen you're playing on," Ingenito said.

One of the issues is a lack of standardization into what enhanced resolutions and features developers will support from game to game.

"Right now, it's just too much of a crap shoot."

Vince Ingenito

"Properly supported, the PS4 Pro can work wonders," Ingenito said.

Such was the case with Shadows of Mordor, a three-year-old game that still managed to turn heads in the IGN offices with its new graphical bells and whistles. On the other hand, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided saw no improvement when upscaled to 4K, with Ingenito saying it actually appeared to struggle with more framerate dips in the enhanced resolution than he remembered when playing the game on the original PS4.

"Even with the games that leverage the PS4 Pro well, the lack of consistency and clarity regarding what enhancements you are getting from game to game, and even from mode to mode, shakes my confidence," Ingenito said. "Some games let you change video settings on the fly, others don't. Some offer high frame rate options while others stick to enhanced visuals or higher resolution. Where higher resolution games are concerned, it's unclear what resolution they are actually rendering at and what type of upscaling they might be using."

Ultimately, the machine is powerful enough to deliver value for users, Ingenito said, but at the moment there's little in the way of content that takes advantage of it.

"The PS4 Pro has the raw power to potentially deliver greatly enhanced graphics, and in time, with more support, it will likely do just that, but right now, it's just too much of a crap shoot," Ingenito said.

Writing for Eurogamer, Digital Foundry's Richard Leadbetter had one of the more favorable write-ups of the PS4 Pro.

"At its best, it offers stunning visual improvements over the same games running on base hardware, but even the more modestly boosted titles show clear improvements," Leadbetter said. "Bearing in mind the entirely reasonable price-point, it's a highly compelling piece of hardware."

Leadbetter was particularly taken with Rise of the Tomb Raider and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare running in 2160p resolution. However, he said the impact of HDR support varies greatly depending on the display a player is using.

For those who don't already have a PS4, Leadbetter said the decision to buy a Pro was a "no-brainer."

"But if you already own a PS4, the choice of whether to upgrade is a tricky one," he added. "There are no system exclusives, the library is the same, and existing games will only run better if developers go back and patch them. If you own a 4K screen or are considering a purchase, the upgrade will be highly worthwhile, but what's clear is that there's little here likely to make your existing console obsolete."

The Wall Street Journal's Nathan Olivarez-Gilles agreed that having nicer hardware makes the purchase of a PS4 Pro a more attractive proposition, not just because it takes advantage of the better display but because 4K displays look worse when showing non-4K signals.

"When I played games with the regular PS4 on a Samsung 55-inch 4K HDR TV, I could see shimmering and jagged edges as a result of the upscaling. But when games were powered by the PS4 Pro, the vividness blew my mind. It made me realize I need a new TV... If you have a 1080p TV and a PS4, a PS4 Pro won't offer enough visual benefits to justify an upgrade. Yet when paired with a 4K HDR TV, the visual enhancements provide the most immersive gameplay experience you can get on a TV right now."

CNET's Jeff Bakalar was less thrilled with the system, withholding a rating on the PS4 Pro because it's not clear how beneficial the extra power will be to players as a whole yet.

"The PlayStation 4 Pro doesn't show major, noticeable improvements in most of the games we were able to test, but that could change with titles coming in the months and years ahead," Bakalar said.

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