PS4 Pro review: T3 partners Sony's pixel-pushing powerhouse with the best 4K, HDR TV in the world

And the results, we think it fair to say, are absolutely spectacular. Read on for our official verdict on PS4 Pro

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Reasons to buy

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    4K gaming

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    Faster UI

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    Optical digital port returns

Reasons to avoid

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    Triple-tier design

If you want a quick takeaway to this PlayStation 4 Pro review then this is it: PS4 Pro is a must buy if you own a 4K, HDR TV. The combination of 4K, 2160p resolution, rich and deep colour and stunning contrast between the lightest and darkest parts of the screen makes playing any game a spectacle that, unless you are hardcore PC gamer, you won't have seen in a living room setting.

If, however, you don't own a 4K TV then PS4 Pro is overkill for what you need, with the 1080p, HDR-capable PS4 and PS4 Slim more than adequate.

For those who want the full thing, and to look at big stompy robots, then read on.

Power up

Ok, seriously, just look at that massive stompy robot, light cascading down from the ceiling, illuminating the water-filled cave he is standing in, the rest of his titanic body shaded in dappled shadow while the surrounding environment sits there pin-sharp. Frickin awesome, right?

This shot, despite you not getting anywhere near the fidelity offered on T3's £3,000 "best 4K, HDR TV on Earth" LG E6, sums up everything that PS4 Pro is about. Super crisp 4K resolution, rich and vibrant colours and beautifully deep images in terms of contrast. Trust me when I say that the graphics delivered on the PS4 Pro look superb.

Yes, the PS4 Pro is a graphical powerhouse of a system and, arguably, is the most impressive console ever made. As someone with a rich history in PC gaming, I can quite honestly say that I feel that the Pro, for the money asked, offers a gaming system that is comparable to 4K gaming PCs that cost 5 times that amount. The difference, in this reviewer's eyes, is simply that small and when you consider the comparatively low price, best-in-class library of games and ease of use, you really do have to question as to why you would game elsewhere.

Which, at first glance, I don't think you would believe, as the PS4 Pro is certainly not a looker. Here at T3 Towers we weren't at all sure about the PS4's slimmer redesign aesthetically, however with the larger, almost comically triple-tiered Pro our mind is set. While the overall shape has remained the same, the sleek, slab-like simplicity of the original system is now well and truly gone. Beauty, of course, is in the eye of the beholder.

Asides from the extra tier though it is business as usual on the system itself. The one "new" addition to the back of PS4 Pro compared to the PS4 Slim is the reintroduction of a digital optical port, which considering we are total audiophiles here at T3 Towers was definitely welcome. Seriously, if you can avoid running audio over HDMI then do so people!

In quick summary therefore, the PS4 Pro has a HDMI, digital optical, USB, network and power ports on the rear, as well as a brace of USB ports on the front. The power and on buttons remain physical, a change made in the PS4 Slim originally, however now are outward-facing elongated strips on the console's middle tier.

Light and dark

But to look at external details, deriving minimal change, and then questioning the PS4 Pro's improvement over the PlayStation 4 is folly. In a process that started in its infancy generations back, iterative releases - such as you see in the smartphone market - now have full traction. System lifespans are getting shorter and shorter, with iterations on previous systems now the norm, rather than one in a decade wholesale changes.

You only have to look at how the original PS4 was transformed into the PS4 Slim, before then being augmented in terms of line-up with the PS4 Pro, to see a rapidly changing industry. The fact that Sony are now approaching the console market without a one-console-to-rule-them-all mentality, offering multiple systems at the same time, shows that it feels the gaming market is diversifying.

And, honestly, we think they are right. Gamers, in terms of age bracket and financial clout, are now massively diverse and while an 8-year-old child playing in his bedroom doesn't need a 4K, HDR TV and PS4 Pro, a 34-year-old professional certainly could. We've been testing 4K, HDR TVs for years now in T3 Towers and while most of them have done pretty good jobs in upscaling 1080p console graphics, the difference to a proper 4K gaming machine outputting 2160p natively is incredibly marked.

I mean, again, just look at some of these images! Playing AAA titles like Titanfall 2 on the PS4 Pro connected up to the LG E6 is just breathtaking and, for someone who always chases the best possible audio and visual fidelity, it has been incredibly satisfying to see both my newer and older games alike looking better than ever before.

Maximum fidelity

Because if you pick up PS4 Pro, 2160p visuals are something that you will be getting use to. Indeed, in addition to Sony confirming that by the end of 2016 more than 45 titles will be optimised for PS4 Pro, making them run smoother and look better, every title we put in the system while reviewing the PlayStation 4 Pro ran crisper and looked better - let me tell you, Solid Snake, Hatsune Miku and Adam Jensen never looked so good!

A good example is Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, a title that was released months ago. Since its release it has been patched to handle HDR and, despite me totally used to its already impressive visuals from two playthroughs on the original PS4, I was still wowed to see this title turned up to 11 and firing on some jacked-up new hardware.

When talking to people up-close, facial and armour details - such as residual rain drops lingering on Jensen's shoulders - were crystal clear, while as soon as you stepped outside into the dark and artificially lit streets of Prague, all pockets of neon blue, red and white, the colour depth and contrast was just stunning. You only have to look at some of these pictures, which as I've said don't even give you the full experience, to see what the PS4 Pro in partnership with a good 4K, HDR TV can do.

Now look, could you technically get a better visual experience on PC? As ever, the answer is of course yes, however you would have to spend thousands to surpass the fantastic fidelity offered by the PS4 Pro. The point is that graphics like this, where you look at the screen and can't see where compromises have had to be made, is not the norm for console gaming and, right now, the PlayStation 4 Pro is the only system I have gamed on that does that.

Of course, the real test for the PS4 Pro's hardware will come when we see upcoming AAA games launch and witness how it deals with more demanding particle effects and if more games can run closer to 60fps than 30fps, however if it builds in anyway on what it delivered during our testing, then that entry price point would become even more justifiable.

So, in terms of raw graphical fidelity, the PS4 Pro delivers. But what about user experience and the overall package? Before progressing any further in this PlayStation 4 Pro review, we suggest you quickly check out T3's PS4 Pro unboxing video.

Seriously, just look at that contrast!

Speed demon

As aforementioned, the PS4 Pro - as the Slim did before it - is the same gaming platform that you are used to if you are PlayStation 4 gamer. The interface is the same, the store is the same and the feature set the same. The two major differences in package and speed are, firstly, the PS4 Pro comes with a 1TB hard drive - a smart decision as it keeps it in touch of the Xbox One S in terms of storage - and, secondly, everything else about the system boot and UI runs faster and smoother.

Boot, from a rest state, is not almost instantaneous, with every time we went to power on the system, the PS4 Pro ready by the time the screen powered on. One button press to login to a profile and the XrossMediaBar is instantly available, with sub-menus and games slickly navigable. Yes, the overall speed increase in the UI is small, however we were surprised to see that it does actually make a noticeable difference, with no micro-waits while a section or title's extended details loaded, or stuttering as you opened or closed menus.

It may sound like we are being finickity here, but in our experience the devil is always in the detail and when you use a product everyday, its flaws (small as they may be) become more noticeable with familiarity, starting to grate over time. Luckily, the PS4 Pro has squashed these, with the console's UI smoother and more pain free to operate in than ever.

Also, in terms of package, we feel it quite relevant to mention that the PS4 Pro does not come with a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player. Whether or not you think that is a blow will depend on what you want from a system such as this and, also, whether you also own a 4K Ultra HD-packing Xbox One S.

End game

So, as you will have guessed by now, we really like the PS4 Pro here at T3 Towers. As you've hopefully seen throughout this review, as well as right here by gazing at Zlatan's heroic visage, games look absolutely fantastic on Sony's new, super-powered console.

There are caveats, however. Firstly, as mentioned right at the beginning of this review, unless you have the TV setup to make the most out of the PS4 Pro (or intend to upgrade soon), then it is not a worthwhile upgrade. This system should only be considered if you are invested in 4K. And secondly, if you are already invested in 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, then this system would have to sit alongside a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player such as the well-reviewed Panasonic DMP-UB900, or the only other console on the market capable of playing them, the Xbox One S.

For those, however, who purely hunger for the best possible audio-visual console gaming experience on the market today, then PS4 Pro is unmistakably for you.

Verdict

As Prometheus once crept into the workshop of the Greek gods to steal their power, so too does the PS4 Pro with PC gaming. For less than the price of a gaming PC's 4K-capable GPU alone, the Pro delivers 2160p, HDR gaming in the most accessible plug-and-play way possible. It boots up almost instantaneously, has the best overall gaming ecosystem on the market today and, thanks to everything being smoother and faster, is a joy to use.

It's not for everyone, with PS4 Pro almost certainly being overkill for those without a 4K TV installed, however if you are already equipped for 2160p, HDR gaming, or plan to be very soon, then PlayStation 4 Pro is a must buy.