We got our hands on the PS4 Pro back in November, and we gave it a thorough workout on a 1080p TV and the PSVR. But now that we’ve had a few weeks to test it out running on a 4K TV with HDR, we have a better idea of just how much visual bang for your buck you’ll get with Sony’s latest console.
For testing purposes, we hooked up the PS4 Pro to a mid-range 2016 4K UHD TV with HDR10 support. While it certainly doesn’t have the same kind of visual punch as a $ 4,000 OLED screen, it’s a massive step-up in quality over a standard full HD set. And since this model lists for a fraction of the cost of a top-of-the-line OLED set, it’s a lot closer to what an average person would be using in their home.
With that in mind, let’s check out a few games and video services on the PS4 Pro, and see how they hold up on a 4K TV. And while we’re at it, we’ll look ahead to a handful of upcoming titles that will make your wallet quiver in fear.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
“Rise” has always been a looker, but the Xbox One wasn’t quite capable of running it smoothly. However, Microsoft’s exclusivity deal finally expired, and the PS4 version is an excellent option for console gamers.
While Rise of the Tomb Raider doesn’t support HDR, it goes above and beyond in terms of graphical options. You’ll get to choose between three different modes when playing on a PS4 Pro: 1080p with an uncapped frame rate, 1080p30 with enhanced visuals, and 2160p30 with checkerboard rendering.
Both of the 1080p modes look fine on the UHD screen, but the 4K mode is what you really want. You’ll see clean lines, very little shimmer, and only the mildest of visual artifacts.
Early on, the game had various issues with frame delivery and input latency, but it seems like the rough spots have been sanded down with the most recent patch. And since it’s so easy to swap between the different modes, this is an excellent way to see first-hand how big the difference is between an upscaled 1080p image and 4K with checkerboarding. Two enthusiastic thumbs up for the 4K experience.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Uncharted 4 hit shelves just seven months ago, and it dropped jaws even on the anemic base PS4. Naughty Dog knocked it out of the park once again. And coming as a surprise to absolutely no one, the game benefits noticeably when it has more horsepower to play with.
When they updated the PS4’s flagship title, the devs opted to keep things relatively simple with a 1440p native resolution and a 30fps cap. It’s not as crisp as a native 2160p image, but the substantial resolution bump, the top-notch anti-aliasing, and the high dynamic range output make Nathan Drake’s last adventure worth replaying on a 4K TV.
The multiplayer mode jumps from 900p to a full 1080p on the Pro, but you won’t get any extra fidelity on a 4K television. However, you’ll still benefit from HDR if your display supports the HDR10 standard, so that’s worth keeping in mind.
Ratchet & Clank
Insomniac did a bang-up job remaking the original Ratchet & Clank for a modern audience — especially when compared to the lackluster CG movie it was paired with. The anti-aliasing wasn’t perfect, and the frame rate was halved from the original, but it was undeniably attractive at launch. Updated for the PS4 Pro, it’s even better.
More or less, the game runs at 4K, but the implementation is a bit complicated. It’s not being rendered at a native 2160p, and Insomniac isn’t using checkerboarding either. Instead, the dev team is using a method they’ve dubbed “temporal injection” to drastically reduce the aliasing while delivering a very sharp finished product.
It looks lovely on a UHD TV, but we sure would have liked to see graphical options like Rise of the Tomb Raider. A 1080p60 mode would have really scratched an itch for a lot of long-time fans.
Meanwhile, HDR support is included, but you can’t toggle it on or off within the game. If you want to see the difference, you’ll need to go in and fiddle with the OS settings. But as long as your TV supports HDR10, there’s no reason to turn it off — it’s very pretty.
4K video selection
We tried out the 4K video that Hulu has on offer, but the selection is meager to say the least. There are a handful of original programs available, but the bulk of the 4K content is James Bond films. That’s not very compelling, and it’s certainly not worth the cost of a paid subscription for the high-res content.
Netflix does have a slightly larger library of 4K titles, but you won’t be able to access them with a standard Netflix membership. If you want to go beyond 1080p, you’ll need to pony up 12 bucks a month for a premium subscription. It might be worth buying in for a month or two, but there isn’t enough depth in the library to make the additional cost a worthwhile purchase in the long-run.
Despite offering a small 4K library, the Amazon Video app (version 3.02) seems to max out at 1080p for us. Even on a wired connection running over fiber, 4K was a no-go. We’ve reached out to Amazon PR in hopes of getting clarification, and we’ll update if we hear back.
And in case you’ve forgotten, there’s no Ultra HD Blu-ray drive in the PS4 Pro. Regular Blu-rays and DVDs work just fine, but you won’t be able to enjoy some of the best 4K video on the market. Microsoft has you covered with the Xbox One S, but that’s cold comfort.
BioWare demoed Mass Effect: Andromeda on the PS4 Pro earlier this year, and even the compressed YouTube footage looks awesome on our 4K set. It won’t be running at a native 2160p, but that’s not much of a shocker. As long as the developers give the upscaling solution the care it deserves, it’ll be tough for most of us to tell the difference. And since it’s using DICE’s Frostbite engine, we’re cautiously optimistic about performance on the Pro.
Horizon: Zero Dawn and Nioh are also scheduled for Q1 launches, and both dev teams have confirmed that they’re optimizing for the PS4 Pro. We’re still waiting to see if these games can deliver on all of their promises, but early 2017 is lining up well for those of us who’ve gone all-in on 4K.
Now read: The best free games on the PS4