How has the PS4 Pro changed Sony’s performance since E3 2016?
Sony played the power game with PS4 Pro. Now's the time to see if it won.
When Sony announced the PS4 Pro back in September last year, there was a lot of speculation surrounding what the first mid-generation console upgrade would do to the industry. Some predicted it would spell the end of traditional consoles, with all future systems following the Apple model of iterative hardware upgrades every couple of years. Others doubted its relevance, questioning whether the incremental performance boost would be enough to justify a whole new console purchase.
Now, with six months on the market and Project Scorpio's E3 2017 reveal right around the corner, it's time to step back and look at just how well, or how poorly, the PS4 Pro has actually performed.
The simplest way to gauge the Pro's performance would be through its sales number, but sadly, neither Sony nor market research firm The NPD Group make their hardware numbers available to the public.
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We can get a rough idea of the Pro's performance in Japan, though, thanks to reports from the data analysis company Media Create. These show the Pro maintaining week-on-week sales of around 6,000-8,000 units from its launch in November 2016 through to now. In that same time, sales of the base PS4 model have dropped from 100,000 a week to 12,000 a week. All up, Media Create places the number of PS4 Pros in Japan at around 250,000. In comparison, there are over 4.5 million base-model PS4s in homes throughout Japan.
Assuming sales are relatively consistent around the world, this suggests the Pro isn't exactly flying off store shelves. Its performance is more in line with a traditional hardware revision like the PS4 Slim or the 2DS than the "professional" system Sony billed it as. Considering how much more the Pro would have cost to design and manufacture than a basic console refresh, Sony can't be thrilled about its lukewarm reception.
The PS4 Pro might not be raking in money for Sony, but what about its technical performance? Has the souped-up system delivered the premium gaming experience Sony promised?
To answer this, we analysed 111 PS4 Pro enhanced games released since the Pro launched last year. By examining what enhanced actually meant on a per-game basis, we were able to get a clearer picture of the practical performance of the PS4 Pro, rather than just the impressive numbers on its spec sheet. Here are our findings:
Note: Data aggregated from IGN, Digital Foundry and NeoGAF user Liabe Brave's PS4 Pro report. We excluded Boost Mode data since it's often unstable and rarely offers more than a marginal improvement to framerate.
- 43.2% of games (48/111) supported 4K resolution.
- 21.6% of games (24/111) made no improvement to resolution.
- 15.3% of games (17/111) increased resolution by 360p.
- 9.1% of games (11/111) increased resolution by 720p.
Frame rate (at max resolution available):
- 64.0% of games (71/111) made no improvement to frame rate.
- 12.6% of games (14/111) stabilised frame rate without increasing it.
- 5.4% of games (6/111) suffered lower frame rates.
Additional/improved graphical effects:
- 66.5% of games (76/111) made no improvements to visual effects.
- The remaining 33.5% of games (35/111) varied greatly in their visual upgrades, with improvements to draw distance, anti-aliasing, shadows, textures and reflections being the most common.
- 24.3% of games (27/111) support High Dynamic Range (HDR) colours.
As we can see, PS4 Pro support is incredibly inconsistent. Not only do many games receive little to no improvement on the Pro, some even perform worse on the more powerful system. This flies in the face of how Sony pitched the Pro back when they announced it. At the time, Sony promised all games released after October 2016 would have to support the Pro, implying that games would have to run or look better than they do on the base PS4. Looking at the data, we can see this clearly isn't the case. Less than half of the PS4 Pro enhanced games support 4K, while nearly two-thirds offer no improved visual effects or extra graphical bells and whistles.
Things don't get any better when you consider the technical problems the Pro has suffered over the last six months. Early on, games like Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and The Last of Us actually ran worse on the Pro than they did on the regular PS4. More recently, both Dishonored 2 and Prey struggled with input lag issues on the Pro that didn't exist on its less powerful sibling. In most of these cases, the developers released patches to fix the problems, but the fact they existed in the first place suggests the Pro isn't as easy to develop for as Sony claims.
Just as troubling is the number of games forgoing Pro enhancements altogether. In the last month alone, Shadow Warrior 2, Sniper Ghost Warrior 3, Prey and Lego City Undercover were released with no difference in visuals or performance between the base PS4 and the Pro despite each game touting PS4 Pro support on the back of its box. Contradictions aside, Sony's messaging on what PS4 Pro support actually means could use a lot of work.
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Both in the technical and financial sense, the PS4 Pro's performance leaves a lot to be desired. While it's hardly a flop on the scale of the Dreamcast or the Ouya, it's clear that the Pro hasn't resonated with gamers the way Sony envisioned. In fact, according to market research group The Nielsen Corporation, most gamers don't even know what the PS4 Pro is.
Whether that's down to Sony's marketing or because people simply don't want to buy a new console this early in the generation, one thing's for sure: things are only going to get tougher for the Pro when Microsoft announces Project Scorpio at E3 next month.
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