Is The PS4 Pro True 4K? (It’s Complicated)


An issue with the PS4 Pro is is it truly native 4K? Some sources online said it was native 4K and others said it was not so I decided to look for myself and answer if PS4 Pro was really 4K or not.

PS4 Pro unlike Xbox One X cannot render true 4K and instead uses checkerboard rendering which doubles the size of each separate 2x2 pixel block and runs games at 4K resolution but only being only able to process games at 2K resolution, but it is indistinguishable from true 4K to the naked eye.

True 4K or not the games will still look fantastic on your TV and you wouldn’t notice the difference. There are many games that operate on true 4K and are not upscaled but everything will look enhanced on the PS4 Pro due to its power

Let’s look into the ‘checkboard’ question in more detail to truly understand it.

Why Is “PS4 Pro Really 4K” A Difficult Question?

Most games that were launched with the PS4 pro did not support native 4K support, however, the issue is it’s difficult to tell what game is checkerboard 4K and which supports true 4K. Although all games released in 2017 and after support 4K with HDR visuals.

Although the PS4 pro introduced a boost mode to its system settings allowing the Pro to gather more power from unoptimised games released before 2017. The benefits of having a pro with better frame rates and reducing loading times will be felt with games released before the Pro.

Check out the video below on how to activate ‘boost mode’ for yourself

How to Enable Boost Mode on PlayStation 4 Pro

A post-launch firmware update to the PS4 Pro introduced a “boost mode” to its system settings, allowing the Pro to squeeze out that bit more from unoptimised games. This means unpatched PS4 games can utilise the extra power of Pro to improve frame rates and reduce loading times.

A big plus for the PS4 Pro is its compatibility with high dynamic range(HDR) which is a newer video signal format which delivers a wider spectrum of brightness and colour in comparison to the standard dynamic range(SDR) of traditional high definition TV’s.

Check out this video on how to set up High Dynamic Range for your PS4 pro

PS4 Pro | HDR Set-Up Tutorial

However, developers such as Guerilla Games creators of Horizon: Zero Dawn admitted that the PS4 is not capable of rendering the 3,840 x 2160 standard for 4K and Sony even said itself it did not want a machine that could fill 8 million pixels of a 4K television set.

Here is what Playstation’s technical chief Mary Cerny said about rendering true 4K

“Brute-force rendering techniques can of course be used to support [4K] displays, “But they have unfortunate consequences for console cost and form factor.”

PlayStation technical chief Mark Cerny

As you can see rendering true 4K would have severe limitations for how games would run and how expensive the Playstation 4 Pro would cost to produce. A deeper look into Sonys checkboard system has to be understood to appreciate what visual trickery Sony has pulled off.

Playstation 4 Pro ‘checkboard’ 4K System

Guerrilla games director Hermen Hulst said the following about the checkerboard rendering.

“There’s a lot of magic sauce happening,n“It’s not native 4K. But as you see for yourself, it’s perceptively so close that you wouldn’t be able to see the difference.”

Hermen Hulst Guerrilla Games managing director

So yes the PS4 pro might not be true 4K but in reality, the experience will impossible to distinguish from true 4K just be seeing it so, in reality, it is just as good as 4K.

“With PS4 Pro, our strategy has instead been to foster streamlined rendering techniques that can take advantage of custom hardware When coupled with best-in-breed temporal and spatial anti-aliasing algorithms, the results can be astonishing”

PlayStation technical chief Mark Cerny

Now he is referring to the checkboard system of rendering roughly half the pixels of standard 4K using the powerful AMD Radeon graphics processor of the Pro resulting in around 4 million separate pixels around twice the pixels of a 1080p image; this is why the Playstation 4 Pro needs an improved CPU & GPU compared to the standard PS4 and the Slim.

The checkboard system refers to the pattern the pixels are rearranged, with half the checkboard squares containing image data and the other half being empty. The Pro rebuilds this image to fit in the squares of a 4K TV screen. Usually, this will cause ugly edges but a technique called temporal analysing smoothes out any issues and gives the final image a crisp 4K looking image.

Check the video below to see a more detailed analysis of the checkboard system

PS4 Pro In-Depth Analysis: 4K Gaming For $400?

Sony deserves credit for even attempting to render 4K images on a console. Even with PC gaming which is usually far more powerful than a console with a $1000 graphics card struggle to run 4K games at 60 frames per second. Of course, this price would instantly make the PS4 Pro a failure at launch as it simply wouldn’t be able to sell.

Truly native 4K isn’t really that important compared to the experience that gamers are having; when you sit close to your television screen and see how good your games are looking you are hardly thinking “wow this isn’t truly 4 K is it?” you wouldn’t be able to tell let alone will it hurt your gaming experience.

Check out this graphical comparison between the PS4 Pro & PS4 with a frame test comparison

[4K] Marvel's Spider Man – PS4 vs. PS4 Pro Graphics Comparison & PS4 Frame Rate Test

Does The PS4 Pro Automatically Play In 4K?

Now your PS4 Pro should automatically play with 4K if it notices a 4K compatible device connected to it. However, undertake the following steps to make sure your PS4 pro is playing at the highest resolution possible

PS4 Pro How To Enable 4K Resolution

Your PS4 Pro system should automatically enable 4K if it detects a 4K compatible device connected to it. To make your PS4 Pro is 4K and the highest possible resolution follow the following steps.

PS4 Pro 4K resolution requirements

  • 4K compatible display device
  • Premium HDMI cable(you can buy one here from Amazon)
  • Playstation 4 Pro
  • 4K K compatible AV receiver( you can buy one from Amazon here)

Now every 4K device is different this is for the Sony Bravia XBR-55X700D

  1. Open your TV settings menu
  2. Under TV select external inputs
  3. Select HDMI signal format then choose enhanced format this option will tell you what input support High-Quality HDMI formats(4K)
  4. Go to your PS4 pro and Settings > Sound and Screen > Video Output Settings
  5. Set your resolution to [2160P – YUV420] or [2160p- RGB] to ensure the very highest output resolution. You can also select your system to automatic which will cause your pro to default your pro to the highest possible resolution for the device you are using
  6. Select a 4K game or video streaming service and enjoy the beautiful picture!

Check out the video below for a demonstration on how to enable your PS4 Pro to a 4K resolution

How to Enable 4K HDR on a PS4 Pro

Games That Best Showcase 4K/HDR

Check out this list of games by the digital foundry that best showcases the graphical power of high dynamic range and 4K being used in combination. Honestly, it is beautiful.

[4K HDR] Best HDR Games for PS4/Xbox One - The Digital Foundry Selection

How Can The PS4 Pro Have 4K Gaming And Be Cheaper Than A PC’s 4K Graphic Card?

As mentioned the PS4 checkboard 4K arguably is not true 4K but in reality, delivers an upscaling performance that is basically the same and destroys the standard HD performance of 1080p. True 4K is very expensive technology and cannot be repeated in a console for it to be commercially viable.

Also, Sony makes most of its money via selling games and licensing so the hardware can be subsidised and made as cheaply as possible. Whereas PC’s don’t have that luxury and need all the money to be made via the selling of the graphics card.

Most technology products such as graphics cards and internet routers manufacture the product for around 25-30 % of retail prices so due to the cost of marketing and R&D they cannot compete with Sony’s low low 4K quality price and the graphics cards have to be very expensive.

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