The 4K Dilemma: How PS5 Will do What PS4 Pro Won't

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PS5 4K

The PS4 Pro (previously known as the PS4.5 or PS4 Neo), releases in November of 2016. For the first time in the gaming industry, we’ll have a new console release with better hardware and more capabilities that still exists within the same generation. That’s right, the PS4 Pro is not the PS5, it’s something new.

Furthermore, the extra power isn’t able to run games in native 4K as of yet. Instead, Sony has opted to upscale games to this higher resolution. Combine this with the lack of a 4K Blu-Ray player, and you have to wonder how all of this fits together. Today, we’ll break down the details of the PS4 Pro and ultimately use it to peek into the future and find out what Sony is planning for the PS5.

Mark Cerny Breaks Down the PS4 Pro

Mark Cerny is the system architect for PlayStation. He’s also been involved with countless other game franchises like Crash Bandicoot, Uncharted, Spyro, and even Ratchet & Clank. He worked on the PS4 and now he’s sat down with The Verge to talk about the approaches he took to PS4 Pro. It’s safe to say that Mark, and his wonderfully smooth voice, will also be the architect on the PS5. Moments like these offer a lot of great insight into what he and Sony are thinking.

For starters, the PS4 Pro is indeed 2.28 times more powerful than the PS4. The first caveat, even with this power, is that not everything will run in native 4K resolutions. When asked about the new GPU, Cerny revealed that it’s not actually new.

Instead, they decided to install a second GPU that’s almost identical to the first one with a 14% boost to 911MHz. The standard PS4 hits 1.8 teraflops, but the Pro is bringing 4.2 teraflops to the table. The same eight Jaguar CPU cores are being used, but they’ve been clock at higher speeds.

Furthermore, the RAM has a higher bandwidth, and they’ve also added an additional gig of conventional RAM to boost the speed of menu applications and switching between them. This power allows the system to hit native 4K in certain situations, and what Cerny calls “extremely close to 4K” in others.

For games like Call of Duty and Horizon: Zero Dawn, the system uses a workaround called checkerboard rendering. This allows the system to reach 2160p resolution by changing the way pixels are arranged so the resolution is in fact higher.

Other games will use this same technique to run in 1080p. As you may already know, a shocking amount of titles only run at roughly 900p on PS4, so this will also offer a boost for 1080p television owners.

Games will require a “Pro” mode or a patch to take advantage of the extra hardware. This means that games will run the same on the new system unless modified to use the extra power. For 1080p television owners, the difference won’t be huge, but developers can use this power to boost graphics and performance like textures and frame rates.

At the current stance that Sony is taking, they don’t want anything to be released solely for the Pro, but Cerny didn’t go into much detail about how this could change in a few years when developers simply can’t make a game work on both systems. For now, Sony wants developers to embrace the Pro without leaving PS4 owners behind.

Finally, we get to PlayStation VR. While the Pro won’t immediately benefit this new hardware, many VR developers have already said they plan to release Pro patches for their games at launch. It’s common knowledge that the PS4 is working some small miracles to run PSVR as well as it does, so the extra power could boost these experiences. Higher refresh rates and sharper graphics would be well within reach.

In terms of hard drive space, the Pro is shipping with a 1TB drive, which is double the size of the standard PS4 HDD. Just like the PS4, you can upgrade it yourself, but Sony won’t be offering anything higher themselves. Cerny did confirm that Pro-enabled games wouldn’t be larger in size than PS4 games.

Finally, we reach the lack of a 4K Blu-Ray player. Cerny didn’t say much more than we already know, but he did say that Sony’s stance is that streaming is the way of the future. Netflix and others like it will eventually be the preferred way to enjoy 4K content. Bold indeed, but adding in this drive could have also drove up the price of the new console.

Okay, so there’s a lot to digest here. Let’s break it down and see what this tells us about the PS5.

PS5 vs PS4 Pro

3 Things The PS5 Will do That The PS4 Pro Can’t

This is where I put on my gamer cap and start doing a little divination. Without a direct line to Sony, I can’t say for sure if these predictions are true, but based on the information we just covered, I have a few ideas about what Sony is going to focus on with the PS5:

1. Native 4K For Everything
Assuming 4K picks up steam and becomes the new standard, PS5 won’t make any concessions in the hardware department. Despite the great need for processing power when running at native 4K, microsoft is promising exactly that when Xbox 2 (Project Scorpio) releases.

Whether or not the difference between Pro and Scorpio 4K is noticeable isn’t the point. The point is that Microsoft is promising something that Sony doesn’t have. To be fair, Sony isn’t looking to cross the generational gap with Pro, and Microsoft is doing away with the idea altogether, so these new consoles exist in a wholly new space. Sony is testing the 4K waters with the Pro, but if it this new resolution picks up steam, they will go all in with the PS5 on the 4K front.

2. Room Scale Wireless VR

PlayStation VR is off to a great start. The sales are strong and the feedback on the major launch titles is great. For many, Sony is pioneering the future of gaming, and that’s great news for gamers everywhere. What’s important to remember, though, is that VR is still in its infancy.

With a cord running from the headset to the console, It’s best if you don’t move too much while gaming in VR currently. Furthermore, the PSVR headset is tracked by the PlayStation Camera which works great for 180 degrees of motion, but doesn’t allow 360-degree room scale VR like the high-end models.

Since it looks like VR is here to stay, the technology will only improve from here. When the PS5 gets here, the biggest improvements will most likely be a higher resolution screen and a wireless solution, along with sensors of some sort that enable room scale gameplay.

3. Take Back The Hardware Throne
Microsoft is touting Project Scorpio (Xbox Two) as the most powerful console ever built. That’s an impressive statement, and while they’re still confident it will beat PS4 Pro, Sony will find a way to make the PS5 take back the throne.

The hardware advantage PS4 has over Xbox One has been a point of argument in the favor of the PlayStation Nation since the dawn of this console war. Games running in 1080p on PS4 would be reported to run in a paltry 720p on the Xbox One. This was a huge point of argument, and it gave Sony an edge.

This edge, combined with a great games lineup, led them to an astounding 2-to-1 lead over Xbox One in sales. Scorpio may be boasting some serious hardware upgrades, but Sony always lets the competition show their hand first. Once Scorpio’s specs are revealed, you can bet that Mark Cerny and company will be developing their specs on the PS5 to knock MS out of the park.

While PS4 Pro isn’t bringing as much power or as many features as some would like, it’s still a big jump up from the PS4 and it sets the stage for Sony to judge the market, watch the competition, and strike with the PS5 when the time is right.

What features do you think the PS5 will include? Let us know in the comments!

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