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PlayStation 4 Pro Review: Does It Improve The PS VR Experience?

by David Jagneaux • November 7th, 2016

Sony has been awfully busy so far in 2016. Less than a month since the PlayStation VR headset released into the wild, the gaming giant is already releasing a brand new iterative upgrade on its flagship gaming console. This week, the PlayStation 4 Pro will release, offering 4K resolutions, HDR content, and improved performance and stability. It’s far from what a theoretical PS5 might look like, but the PS4 Pro is still an improvement over the standard PS4.

If you’re curious about how well the PS4 Pro performs for standard 2D gaming, then this isn’t the review for you. I played Shadows of Mordor and The Last of Us Remastered a bit on the new PS4 Pro that Sony sent me for review because I’m as excited about 4K gaming as the next guy, but that’s not what the bulk of my assessment was focused on. For us here at UploadVR, what we care most about is the immersive medium of virtual reality.

So I decided to instead ask: Does the PS4 Pro really and truly improve the PS VR experience? Let’s dive right in. If you want to get an up-close look at the device, the new controller, and how it looks sitting alongside the VR headset, then take a look a look at our early PS4 Pro unboxing photos from last week.


PS4 Pro Design and Specs

Stylistically, the PS4 Pro looks awfully similar to the standard PS4. Generally, it has the same parallelogram-meets-sandwich-style design, although it is a bit sleeker. Instead of half the top being glossy and the other half matte, the entire outer casing now has a matte finish. The center PS logo on the top is reflective, which is a nice touch. On the bottom, the cross, square, circle, and triangle icons are used as the little rubber feet that keep the console from sliding around. It looks and works great both laying flat and standing upright. Surprisingly, it’s much quieter than the original PS4 in my experience, even after being left on for a while, and it never overheated for me.

In terms of specs, the PS4 Pro is definitely an upgrade where it counts most. For starters, it features an HDMI 2.0 out port, which is what enables the full 4K resolution and HDR for TVs that support it. Worth noting is that even if your TV is a 4K device, it may not be an HDR device, which adds additional vibrancy and depth to the visuals, so take note if that’s important to you.

Under the hood, the AMD CPU with eight jaguar cores is clocked at 2.1 GHz, compared to the standard PS4’s 1.4 GHz. And since the GPU is powered by AMD’s ‘Polaris’ architecture, it’s actually increased to 4.2 teraflops, from the standard model’s 1.84 — which is a big improvement. Thankfully, the 1TB of default storage is double the size of the standard model, but it still doesn’t support external storage drives, although you can upgrade it internally if you want.

For actually playing games, you’ll be treated to a nearly identical, but slightly improved, DualShock 4 controller as well. It feels better, more precise, and sturdier in your hands without sacrificing the original design. I was especially fond of the new material on the control sticks and the improved hand grip textures.

All this adds up to a machine that can display at much higher resolutions, more stable frame rates, crisper visuals, and increased horsepower. Load times feel shorter in games as well, although that is an entirely anecdotal observation. This console still pales in comparison to a top-of-the-line custom-built PC, but it offers an admirable improvement over Sony’s base model.


Console Setup

In terms of setup, if you do not currently own a PS4 at all, then it couldn’t be easier. Plug the power cord into the wall, plug the HDMI cord into the best socket your TV’s got (with the highest refresh rate, resolution, and HDR support of course,) and ideally jam the ethernet cord in as well to enjoy the sweet taste of hard-wired internet access. That’s really all you have to do as a bare minimum.

If you’ve got a PS4 already, things get a little more time consuming. You can actually transfer all of your installed games, save files, media captures, settings, and essentially everything else quite simply. Just make sure both consoles are logged onto the same PSN account and the same WiFi signal, then link them up with an ethernet cord, and follow the on-screen prompts. While it’s relatively easy to do, it’s still cumbersome. Roughly 300GB of data from my old PS4 took a little over an hour to fully transfer.

If you are setting up your PS VR with your new PS4 Pro as well, then it is worth noting that the Processor Unit that was required for your headset is not only still required, but it also disables HDR content. So that means if you want to view any HDR content, the HDMI cord must go directly from the PS4 Pro to your TV, without passing through the Processor Unit at all. It’s a bit of an annoyance, but it’s easily solved in most cases.


The PlayStation VR Experience on PS4 Pro

This is the big question for a lot of people: Does the PS4 Pro really improve the PS VR experience? According to Greg Koreman, co-foudner of Impulse Gear, the company that’s developing Farpoint, back when the PS4 Pro was first unveiled he told UploadVR in an interview that, “Across the board, it’s more crisp. That’s because we are rendering roughly twice as many pixels. So absolutely everything will look clearer.” But since the lenses themselves inside the headset aren’t displaying at 4K resolution, why does any of this matter?

Well, it’s a complex answer. Objectively speaking, yes, PS VR games do look better when running on a PS4 Pro. After setting them both up, side-by-side, on the same television using the same headset, I can confirm that games are noticeably sharper and crisper, especially if they have received an official patch incorporating support for PS4 Pro. Games like Battlezone and PS VR Worlds were patched ahead of time for testing, but even games like Driveclub VR, which didn’t have official Pro patches yet, looked crisper and smoother inside the headset.

Since adding Pro support is entirely up to the developers, it’s a bit of a mixed bag still. EVE: Valkyrie could arguable benefit from it the most, as the jagged edges and intense action could use the extra boost that the Pro affords, but I didn’t notice much of a difference in that one yet.

Ultimately though, most of the PS VR games are nearly identical, even if they have been patched with Pro support. No matter what spec sheet you look at, marketing material you read, or trailer you watch, at the end of the day they are all still PS4 games running on a PS4 inside of a PS VR. It won’t ever approach the same level of detail possible on a high-end gaming PC powering an HTC Vive or Oculus Rift. The PS VR is still a less powerful, but awfully capable headset — even when propped up by the additional strength of the PS4 Pro.

Does it offer marginal enhancements? Yes. Are those enhancements enough to persuade you to go out and buy a new console? That depends on a lot of factors. Here is a full list of expected launch support for PS VR games on the PS4 Pro.


What About 4K Gaming and Video?

Even though I was mostly evaluating the PS VR enhancements, I did test out the non-VR 4K features and came away impressed. There is a noticeable difference for games that receive upgraded patches enabling native 4K displays. However, since all developers are still required to support the standard model PS4 as well, that means that it’s going to be supported only on a case-by-case basis.

Some games will just be upscaled to 4K, some will run natively. Some games will run in 4K but only at 30FPS, while other games will run in 1080p but at 60FPS. Some games will see enhanced visuals, load times, and draw distances on a PS4 Pro even on a non-4K TV, while other games will run and play noticeably better on a premium 4K television.

It’s a bit all over the place and you should do research about which games receive which kind of support before diving in.

As for video, the PS4 Pro does support 4K streaming, but not 4K Blu-ray playback. It’s a baffling decision, especially considering the Xbox One S supports native 4K Blu-ray playback. If you’re enjoying videos on Netflix, YouTube, or another streaming service that happen to be in 4k though, then you’re fine.

new ps4 lineup

Final Verdict: Should You Buy A PS4 Pro?

As is the case most often with these sorts of situations, you likely already know if the PS4 Pro is a device for you. If you’re the type of person that already has an HDR-capable 4K television, then upgrading to a marginally better PS4 Pro is probably a no-brainer decision. However, if you don’t have a 4K TV, aren’t overly concerned with the intricacies of your game’s visual fidelity, or already enjoy the quality of your PS VR experiences, then the PS4 Pro frankly doesn’t offer you a whole lot of advantages.

But if you’ve already got a stellar TV, don’t have a PS4 yet, or want to enjoy the highest-quality VR experience possible on a console, then you might want to look at getting a PS4 Pro. Even then though, wait for a bundle or a sale that catches your eye — there’s no rush. The Standard, Slim, and Pro PS4 models all play the exact same content either way.

For any additional questions about the PS4 Pro, I highly recommend checking out Sony’s official FAQ. You can also read our full review of the PS VR headset itself right here.

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What's your reaction?
  • polysix

    I think you should understand that the PRO’s capabilities for VR are more likely to be used in future than right now (even with game patches). A year from now PS4 PRO will likely be the main target for PSVR with a much downgraded PS4 version. Right now you only have ‘patched’ games to work with, stuff like Driveclub VR the devs said is patched but doesn’t make full use of the PRO for example.

    I think Farpoint will be the first one to make a difference worth the price, and resident evil 7 no doubt.

    Lastly, I don’t think the pro is ‘sleeker’ at all? 3 tiers looks a bit awkward compared to the original’s 2, I prefer the hard shape/edges of OG which looks more aggressive and modern, and also anyone who has bought a PS4 in the last year has an all matte one not shiny half top! PS4 OG also looks better than Slim, imo. Rounding it off was a strange choice. Hoping PS5 is altogether more impressive looking than both though.

    Personally I’m passing on PRO though and waiting for gen 2 VR (PC) and have now sold my PSVR as I just wanted to try it out after my VIVE and DK2 (It’s very comfy and some nice software but gen 2 is needed badly all round on PC and console – PS5)

    • polysix

      also In this transitional phase I’m sure devs were warned not to ‘show up’ the OG PS4 yet as it would put off a potential 40 million XMAS PSVR BUYERS! This may very well be the attempt to stick to the original marketing of PSVR being fine on OG PS4.

      Give it six months to a year and I think you’ll see handily what over twice the GPU power can do for VR regardless of using the same res HMD. The GPU in PS4 PRO is known to have VR enhancements on top of its power increase, clearly THAT can be harnessed as and when the devs/sony allow it to be (and they will or they wouldn’t have even BOTHERED with a PRO ala “neo” to team up with “morpheous”). The 4k thing is just another area they needed to address in the short term but PRO was clearly MAINLY about VR, I doubt they would have done that for a tiny bit of almost imperceptable difference in the long run, just on the launch games. Think about it.

      • Yeah totally, but buying a console for theoretical advancements X years away isn’t really something I’m willing to recommend. Everyone can make their own purchasing decisions but as of today, based on what I’ve seen, it’s only just slight marginal improvements. Hard to recommend if you’ve already got a PS4 imo

        • Lamanuwa

          I use my PS4 nearly everyday, so for the Pro to be just as cheap as the original and to make the experience a bit better, is quite welcome. I’m not expecting next gen games on it though, just this gen stuff. It’s still a PS4.

  • Pandroid

    can you play 4k or 2k 360 degree videos via usb stick in media player? with the ps4, I can only play full hd 360 videos.

    • Blong Trey Lo

      idk i think it’s just u i could play 720p on 360 videos with vr

    • Warren Mak

      i think that’s limited by the PS4 Media Player… hopefully they’ll update that soon

    • Lamanuwa

      Depends on the format that the video is encoded in, some will play through the “Media Player” app, some will be unplayable. Media Player is being updated to support these formats.

  • Mark Dennis

    Hello – question if I may. Will the PS4 Pro and an improved VR experience reduce motion sickness in anyway? I understand that software development has a big part to play, but that higher frame rate might help? I’m on the verge of selling my PSVR which will be a very upsetting day!

    • AndyArmani

      Motion sickness is a bitch, but it takes only a few days to overcome it if you buckle up. Btw if you haven’t done it try adjusting the eye-to-eye distance. It’s found in the system settings -> devices -> PSVR. It might help.

      But yeah, expect PS4Pro to deliver higher framerates, higher resolution (quite a few of the vr first gen titles are running below the capacity of the goggles) and crisper images.

    • Blong Trey Lo

      Higher Framerates/Resolution/Crisp image means less likely to feel nausea. It doesn’t guranteeds because people have different sensitivity of motion sickness, but it will up a notch preventing u from it. But tbh I never felt sickness, even some of my friends who do feel sick got use to it within a week and it stops happening often and slowly they can play for hours now with no problems. It’s just your body/eyes getting use to it, gotta adapt. If you can’t get use to it within a month or so, then it’s not for u I’m sorry. It’s the exact same thing with large screen projectors, at first it’s dizzy at first to adjust such size in ur face, but after a while u forgot about it and become use to it.

    • netname

      Motion sickness are a phenomena that people have because are not confident with games like FPS…

      same phenomena virtually occurs on ALL people that never play a FPS GAME… like wolfenstein “days” or doom or hexes or quake.

      you HAVE to training yourself to USE NEW THINGS… if you pretend to have 90Kg on your shoulders without training .. you are mad.

      • Kim N

        Reading that in a Borat accent was hilarious.

    • Sacha Salvatore Morgese

      I totally understand you, I play for 15 minutes, I love it, than my head kinda hurts for a couple of hours. When it’s gone it makes me want to go back though, I’ll see if the situation will change with the PS Pro or in a few months in general.

    • djkoz78

      I think you’re rushing to judgement too soon. The PSVR and the PRO literally was just released. I could understand if both products were several years old and nothing had changed, but c’mon dude you’ve not even given Sony and developers time to show what the two can do together. All the PRO titles that have been developed for PRO in mind haven’t even been released and neither has a really great AAA PSVR title. Resident Evil already is getting great previews and considering ifs longer than 3 hours, has actually gameplay, is a known franchise, has gun combat and puzzles, and harking back to the better days of survival horror I think the best is to come for PSVR and the PRO.

      RIGS, Eve, Batman, Rez Thumper, Headmaster, Battlezone, Super Hypercube, Until Dawn, London Heist, Job Simulator were all fantastic VR early games. RIGS, Thumper, & Batman especially.

      Give it some time be patient.

    • Marius Ramzeyy

      Hi Did you sale it? if not why?

  • Guest

    Games like witcher or bloodborne sometimes have frame rate dips. When using the pro do these still happen?

    • I don’t think Bloodborne is getting Pro support, at least not at launch. So probably. Don’t know about W3.

      • Guest

        I don’t mean support. More like will it not have frame rate dips since the graphical power is stronger? I’m assuming the dips in frame rate back then were caused by the PS4 not being able to handle the stress at that point in time.

        • clinteastman

          According to DF no. Unlike the One S the PS4 Pro doesn’t affect none pro titles at all.

        • netname

          PS4 title are locked “From dev kit” to use only the resource that dev kit passes to compile the game. If you use the game to a Overclocked PS4 the game don’t use the extra power available. Probably because the V-Ram to GPu/Cpu BUS I/O Syncronization are locked to maintain a sustained recalculated /or cached/ data transfers.. This is the difference from a system that are hungry of power and an optimized Architecture.

          WHEN AND IF SONY… THINK that an unlocked OC function give real benefits to the NON OPTIMIZED PS4PRO Games… probably unlock the feature via firmware at lower level api bypassing the devkit compiler lock.

          • Sacha Salvatore Morgese

            Having a devkit or not, this was known already since the Eurogamer interview with Cerny.

            The official answer from Sony is “to avoid breaking games”. I can see their point, even though I am not a game developer. There is a risk in unlocking all the potential at once, especially when a game is optimized for a specific hardware. But what prevents the developers to release a patch that takes advantage of the new hardware? It shouldn’t be too hard if all they want to do is use it to improve the output at 1080p. They have to go through testing though, and it’s time consuming.

            The Xbox S thing is definitely overrated. It has a 3 fps advantage on SOME games thanks to a slightly overclocked CPU, it is absolutely not the same thing. I don’t understand how people can compare the two situations.

          • Guest

            🙁 oh man now I have to rethink buying.

  • dapaintrain

    My launch ps4 died last night so I’m in

  • Aartsbok

    I jut traded my ps4 in for a pro, I don’t own a 4K tv but I figure it will give me more VR to enjoy.

  • Torreth

    Heres the thing. Months ago a rogue developer said that VR was going to be awful on the launch model PS4’s, but a week later most developers jumped in and refuted those claims, but since Sony was so eager to get the Pro on the shelf near the launch of the PSVR, it looked like Sony was in a panic, and the power issue in the launch day PS4’s really was accurate. So, months before I had paid off the PSVR headset, I pre-purchased the Pro early, and planned to be blown away after the pro launched. I was absolutely shocked at how well the vanilla PS4 performed, and it even raised my anticipation for the results from the Pro. I got my pro on the 10th, and after all the setup, and deactivation of my previous ps4 model, guess what I found was the result of twice the power. Nothing. Well, nothing that I could tell. I was pretty upset. I went back and forth believing I must have not received the patch to enhance my headset, so I went back online and decided to search for proof that I had the patches. Oh yes. I indeed had the patches, but not the evidence my purchase was validated. All I can think of, is that PC gamers were right when they said that consoles are limiting the graphical fidelity on PC in an effort by the developers to show parity with other gaming devices, but this time, Sony is holding itself back by simultaneously trying to sell its VR system, to its established tens of millions of PS4 users, without angering them about the fact that the Pro could make their Ps4’s VR graphics obsolete, and now Pro owners like myself have to deal with a far more watered down experience than the Pro could provide. The 4K audience is virtually non-existant at this time for most gamers, so I dont see why they brought out the system unless VR was its main concern. I suspect Sony will eventually give free range to the developers who want to display their games in higher graphical fidelity than the PS4 is able to provide, but consumers are going to punish Sony by not upgrading to the Pro until Sony “SHOWS” that there is a compelling reason for the device to exist by graphical upgrades on VR games (If thats what gamers are interested in who bought theirs for that reason), but for me, Im highly disappointed by the lack of improvement on VR games, and I’ll tell you something. Right now, Im not the only PSVR owner that is fuming today. I suspect im one in a growing army, that are about to hit the internet with waves of disbelief over the lack of improvement that Sony is pushing out to consumers.

  • Cee Jae

    I noticed an improvement & got mine for $250 via a game stop trade promotion -VR looks better & system seems to work & display better – regret the purchase ? Nope & imprtant note – get a stand
    Thing will tip over easy
    Xbox will make their next move soon – I know – this thing does more of what I want – reducing the gap with pc vs console game play quality