Sony’s got a new, $400 version of the already very popular PlayStation 4 game console. It’s called the PlayStation 4 “Pro.”
And the PlayStation 4 Pro is without precedent.
This is how things usually work:
A game console-maker like Sony, Microsoft, or Nintendo announces a console, a release date, and a price. The console launches at a relatively high price, and that price comes down across the next 5-10 years. As console sales decline, the cycle repeats.
With the PlayStation 4 Pro, that cycle is being broken – this is a more powerful version of the original PlayStation 4 that launched in 2013. It’s capable of producing games in a higher resolution (4K), running older games more smoothly, and adding more visual effects than ever.
In short, it makes already existing PlayStation 4 games even prettier than they already are.
It’s also slightly larger than the current PlayStation 4:
The bottom line: The PlayStation 4 Pro is nearly identical to the 40 million-plus PlayStation 4 consoles already out there in the wild.
It’s got the same operating system, it runs the same games, it has the same apps. I’ve been using the PlayStation 4 Pro for the past two weeks to play major holiday games like “Dishonored 2” and “Watch Dogs 2.” I can confirm it’s exactly the same experience on non-Pro PlayStation 4 consoles.
So, who is this for?
The PlayStation 4 Pro is for three very specific groups of people:
- People who don’t own the PlayStation 4 already, who are interested in buying one, who want to get the most powerful version of the PS4. People who don’t own the PS4, who are interested in buying one, who own a 4K television. People who do own the PS4 already, who own a 4K television and are willing to pay $400 to utilize it with PS4 games.
Do you fit into one of those categories? The PlayStation 4 Pro may actually be for you!
But the rest of us? Stick with the standard PS4.
Let’s be clear: The PS4 Pro is a perfectly good PlayStation 4 console. Despite being slightly larger and more powerful, it’s not louder or worse in any way than the standard PS4.
There’s one simple argument for why you’d get the non-Pro PlayStation 4: price. You’re looking at a $100 difference between the two consoles, and that’s meaningful – especially if you don’t own a 4K television (which most people don’t).
Are you planning on buying a 4K TV, and you still don’t own a PS4? The PlayStation 4 Pro makes some sense. Who doesn’t want to play games at their peak prettiness? But even that selling point comes with a massive caveat: Not every game will look better on the PS4 Pro.
If the developer behind, say, “Call of Duty” decides to do the work that will make the latest “Call of Duty” look better on PS4 Pro, then that game will look better on PS4 Pro. If not? Then you’re playing exactly the same game, graphics and all, on a more expensive version of the PlayStation 4 console.
Again, the PlayStation 4 Pro is a fantastic console – but that’s largely because the standard PlayStation 4 is already such a fantastic console. The benefits that come from the Pro (4K output, higher horsepower) only matter to a small subset of the overall PlayStation audience right now. As 4K televisions become more standard, the Pro will make more sense.
But right now, in November 2016, the PlayStation 4 Pro feels like a solution to a problem that most people don’t have. Buying a PlayStation 4 this holiday? Save yourself $100 and buy the standard PS4.