The Sony PlayStation 4 Pro’s weak claim to 4K gaming: most games only upscaled

by on September 16, 2016

Stephan Jukic – September 16, 2016

Sony, after releasing its new 4K-capable PlayStation Pro console, has stated that the majority of the games available for the PS4 Pro will only receiver upscaling to 4K graphics from a native resolution of Full HD. The company however claims that this fact isn’t an example of misleading advertising on their part.

According to PlayStation chief at Sony Andrew House in comments made to the site Digital Spy, “I would say that the majority will be upscaled –at least based on the game portfolio I have seen to-date”

House also explained that Sony’s statements about 4K gaming viability in the PS4 Pro weren’t disingenuous since the term used for graphics resolution isn’t as important as whether or not users perceive a visible difference in their gaming experience. He claimed that users can then go from what they perceive to forming an opinion of whether or not the PS4 Pro is what they like.

Taking aside the fact that there is in fact a real difference between games playing in native, integrated 4K resolution and games being upscaled to 4K from what is actually HD resolution, House’s wriggling on the what the PlayStation 4 Pro really offers could be a bit upsetting to some gamers, and a dangerous thing to do in a competitive gaming market which includes not only the PlayStation 4 Pro but also Microsoft’s Xbox One S and the even more powerful and upgrade-flexible technologies of 4K-capable GPUs for PC gaming in the resolution. Furthermore, the PS4 Pro doesn’t offer the 4K Blu-ray playback of the Xbox One S and its streaming content selection doesn’t even yet include Sony’s own “Ultra” movie service with HDR.

Unlike PCs for 4K gaming or any kind of gaming, which can be upgraded as much as a user wants whenever they want, the PS4 Pro and other consoles don’t offer this option and Andrew House is aware of the fact as well.

However in response to this potential competitive conflict, the Sony PlayStation boss defends the PS4 Pro by saying that it “came out of a confluence of thinking about a few things” and that Sony’s content partners had suggested that the last console cycle between PlayStation devices had “been a bit too long” Thus, Sony decided to push towards innovation within the lifecycle of a given console and thus speed up new development frequency and upgrade frequency in the PS4. Furthermore, because House and his team were looking at how consumers are willing to constantly upgrade in the mobile phone industry for access to new technologies in each generation of smartphone, some of that strategic thinking went into the PS4 Pro. Basically, House and Sony asked themselves “Does console innovation have to happen only once every 6 or 7 years?”

Sony PlayStation chief Andrew House with the PS4 Pro

Sony PlayStation chief Andrew House with the PS4 Pro

This was the sort of thinking which went into the development and release of the PlayStation 4 Pro with its HDR and 4K gaming capabilities; creating a console which is reasonably innovative but which also maintains a stable roster of core benefits which game developers can depend on when creating games they then know will be playable in the same way on each device a consumer owns. In other words, creating a more stable game development landscape than that available with PC gaming and its much more fluid nature.

However House also says that it’s difficult for him to imagine a PlayStation console with upgradable individual components coming “at this point”. This one point definitely distinguishes the Pro console and its cousins from PCs and GPUs for 4K gaming, which exists in a rapidly evolving landscape of new products and new graphics capacities for handling the still heavy-duty gaming resolution.

With this we come back to the so-called 4K gaming qualities of the PlayStation 4 Pro. The term 4K gaming is a fairly loose one but even in a broad interpretation of the term as it applies to a console whose developers heavily promoted its 4K gaming chops pre-release, the ability to play native 4K graphics at 4K resolution at a decent speed is crucial. It’s something UHD-capable PCs with the latest Nvidia or AMD GPUs are capable of and something the PS4 Pro should be capable of. So far however, House has stated that most games will be upscaled on the console from HD and only a handful so far offer native 4K gaming. These consist only of three games right now: “The Last of Us Remastered”, “The Elder Scrolls” and “Mantis Burn Racing”.


Eventually we will see more games as the PlayStation game developer community picks up on the console’s new 4K graphics and gaming chops but for now the above selection is much weaker than what’s available in native 4K graphics for any UHD PC gamer.

And with only upscaled 4K being possible with most of the new Pro console’s games, there is actually remarkably little to distinguish the device from its cheaper rival the Xbox One S, which also offers HDR, 4K upscaling and comes with the added bonus of 4K Blu-ray disc playback. None of this is to even speak of the 2017 Xbox “Project Scorpio” console for 4K Xbox gaming, which is confirmed already as being a much more powerful console with broad 4K gaming support for Microsoft games.

Quite basically, the 4K gaming landscape around the PlayStation 4 Pro is starting to look a bit narrow and a bit threatened, at least for now.

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  • Multiverse Mob
    September 16, 2016 at 5:26 pm

    There is upscaling when it refers to base games that don’t have Pro mode, but the reconstruction method is “next gen” upscaling in that it only fills in pixels that are not rendered in certain areas while rendering a much closer to 4K than 1080p. This is why the images and video of the games running in 4K “mode” look comparable to 4K PC gaming (though that can obviously look a lot better if your PC has the power to increase draw distance, use higher quality AO, etc.).

    In this sense it is nothing like the Xbox One S, which is simply upscaling games that on average natively run at 720p or 900p up to 4K. On the other side of the coin, of course, is that the 60 or 70 UHD blu-rays that are currently on the market can be used on the XBOS whereas the PS4 Pro is focusing on streaming, which not everyone will be too keen on (though if you can afford a 4K TV you can probably afford fast enough Internet hehe).


  • Jonathan
    September 16, 2016 at 7:28 pm

    Pretty silly for Sony not to add a 4K blue-ray player. Not everyone has the bandwidth to stream 4K. It would be nice to have that option to play 4K discs. Netflix 4K is comparable to a 1080P Blu-ray in my opinion.

    Physical media is here to stay folks. It’s not going anywhere. 4K Blu-ray discs came out in March, and guess what? It’s selling way faster then when 1080P blu-ray first came out. And by a large margin.


    • Alex S
      September 19, 2016 at 6:24 pm

      Yeah man, I totally agree. Different seasons of shows that I watch that are on Netflix, I’ll still buy the blue rays. Steaming doesn’t compare to the actual Blu ray disc. The signal is way too compressed. Movies that I rent, I go down the street to my local Red Box and rent a new release movie. Big blockbusters that are actually good (Not one of them this summer of 2016), I still buy on Blu ray. But waiting for the 2017 Oleds to come out either by LG or Panasonic (waiting for CES in January). Then I’m going to buy a 4K Blu ray player and buy 4K Blu ray discs. I always will. Our infrastructure will not be ready stream anything close to actual 4K with HDR for many years to come.


  • Gerbilsting
    September 16, 2016 at 8:07 pm

    This is a very informative article highlighting the false claims of 4K in gaming. This is also my first post ever. Please be kind Internet!

    One thing I would like to point out is most gaming is not tenable in native 4K gaming. The processing power required is quite high. Either sacrifices to quality of on screen”pop”, or frame rate would be needed. Realistically, both.

    Most likely devs will employ what is popular in the PC space. Using upscale techniques such as 4×4 checkerboarding will provide a higher image quality without too many sacrifices.

    The Xbox One S will not have the raw computing power to output these 4×4 checkerboard images. It should be noted the upcoming Xbox Scorpio will most likely be unable to render 4K games natively either. A single gtx 1070 PC will be similar in power to the Scorpio. That system cannot render natively in 4K without serious sacrifices to frame rate, or other graphical losses.

    I do feel the Xbox One S is a great buy for the majority of people. If you want the best console 4K gaming experience to show off your 4K/HDR tv, the PS4 pro should really be researched further though.

    In any space, gamers should not expect true native 4K imaging. Hence why last gen games, such as The Last of Us, are what we’re seeing in native 4K on the PS4 pro.


  • Garret
    September 17, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    Unless there’s a GTX 1080 hiding in that PS4 Pro with a Skylake (or Kabylake) processor in there, it’s going to be pretty crap in the native 4K department. Or maybe there’s a crossfired AMD 480 hiding in there… I mean, pretty much Sony’s talking heads are being disingenuous and stretching the term “4K” past it’s acceptable limit.


  • dick weener
    September 17, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    Very uninformed. Yes some titles are upscaled but NOT from 1080p. They are running at 1440p+ with some even running at 1900p and then upscaled. TLOU and ESO are native 4K also.


  • DIMI
    September 18, 2016 at 5:34 am

    Ok it its understood that only very limited PS4 PRO titles will have native 4K support ( usually the less graphically demanding).
    The point though it what will be the difference between the 4K upscaling that my SUHD Samsung TV already does to the current PS4 titles and the 4K upscaling that the PS4 PRO will do? Will it have a difference or it will be moreover the same?


    • Stephen
      September 27, 2016 at 8:50 am

      Hey there DIMI, there should be a superior level of upscaling performance with the PS4 Pro upscaling engine for 1080p games. This system was designed specifically to upscale non-4K games during play. The upscaling engine in your SUHD TV is more generic in its aim and was designed for TV/movie content more than for console games for a device like the PS4 Pro.


      • Chris
        November 6, 2016 at 1:25 am

        The PS4 Pro, will NOT upscale anything, the games that benefit from its power are the ones that get a patch. It’s behind disappointing all that extra power is only accessible thru a downloadable code.


  • Erick
    November 28, 2016 at 11:45 am

    So if I have a 4K TV with up scaling capabilities and a PS4 Pro, which one is doing the up scaling?
    Which one SHOULD be doing the up scaling to 4k? And am I losing frame rate or picture quality in the process?


  • eromero
    January 23, 2017 at 5:58 am

    really a shame that Sony deliberately chose to put a UHD and CD reader disc into the PS4 pro… Like apple they belive that they can forcing they customers all time…time for me to change for the xbox


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