With Microsoft releasing the specs on the upcoming Xbox Scorpio, Microsoft’s new beefier console due out later this year, and Sony’s release of the PS4 Pro this last November, gaming is taking a more direct approach to the 4K format.
This is allowing developers to take advantage of the stronger hardware by choosing between stabilizing frame rate, or enhancing resolution and graphical capabilities. With these new console versions, and AAA titles like Horizon Zero Dawn and Mass Effect Andromeda offering 4K resolutions as well as HDR functionality, is now the right time to invest?
For those interested, below is a comparison between the Xbox Scorpio, PS4 Pro and Xbox One via Digital Foundry.
|Hardware||Project Scorpio||PlayStation 4 Pro||Xbox One|
|CPU||Eight custom x86 cores clocked at 2.3 GHz||Eight Jaguar cores clocked at 2.1 GHz||Eight custom Jaguar cores clocked at 1.75 GHz|
|GPU||40 customized compute units at 1172 MHz||36 improved GCN compute units at 911 MHz||12 GCN compute units at 853 MHz (Xbox One S: 914 MHz)|
|Memory||12 GB GDDR5||8 GB GDDR5||8 GB DDR3/32 MB ESRAM|
|Memory Bandwidth||326 GB/s||218 GB/s||DDR3: 68 GB/s, ESRAM at max 204 GB/s (Xbox One S: 219 GB/s)|
|Hard Drive||1 TB 2.5-inch||1 TB 2.5-inch||500 GB/1 TB/2 TB 2.5-inch|
|Optical Drive||4K UHD Blu-ray||Blu-ray||Blu-ray (Xbox One S: 4K UHD)|
What is 4K?
For anyone who has not yet decided to make the leap onto the 4K TV bandwagon, 4K is essentially the next resolution upgrade from 1080p to 2160p, or about 4000×2000 pixels. This is also referred to as Ultra HD. This coupled with HDR, or High Dynamic Range, which is an upgrade to your color palette allowing more vibrant colors at wider ranges, creates the new standard for video as well as gaming. More content providers have begun providing 4K options for movies, TV shows and more recently, games have started to catch up in their offerings.
In order for someone to view 4K and HDR content, they will need a 4K TV and a source that can output 4K content. This can be a dizzying experience by itself, trying to choose the right product for your individual pursuits, and not dig a financial hole to get there. Thankfully in the last couple of years, 4K sets have become more the standard and in turn, more affordable. Also not all sets support HDR which is another point to consider for would be consumers looking to upgrade. Speaking from experience though, HDR might be a more noticeable change than the higher resolution.
Along with your 4K TV, you will then need a source for output. This is most commonly done through apps on the TV’s themselves such as, Netflix, Hulu etc, or systems like the PS4 Pro and Xbox One S, the latter of which doubles as a 4K Bluray player.
The future for games?
Each console generation has always come with a graphical upgrade of sorts, along with developers pushing the limits of their game engines to deliver the best possible experience they can. This however, is the first time we have seen mid-generation releases of consoles slightly more powerful than their earlier counterparts, in an effort to give the player 4K and HDR options to optimize their experiences. That is, if they have the corresponding TV’s to take advantage of them.
These consoles do offer slightly more power for those still using 1080p sets, but not enough maybe to require a whole new console purchase. For the early adopters though, there are now larger releases taking advantage of these new possibilities and what they achieve can be truly spectacular. The most notable of these in my opinion is the recent Guerilla Games release, Horizon Zero Dawn, which is a PS4 exclusive.
Horizon is a beautiful game when its’ running on a standard PS4, but when running on a PS4 Pro with 4K and HDR enabled it is a stunning graphical achievement. Colors are vibrant and bright, particle and weather effects fill your screen, the lighting pours through with darker blacks and better contrast. These differences are hard to convey without having an example directly in front of them to display. but nonetheless it is a worthwhile investment to see the full capacity of what is now possible with current tech.
Ok sounds great, is now the time to invest?
The answer is definitely yes, but also maybe waiting a little longer as well. As far as TV’s go, 4K is the new standard and most major manufacturers have adopted this technology. If you have been planning to upgrade to a newer TV a 4K set is absolutely the way to go, as well as something that displays HDR.
There are a lot of different things to consider when purchasing a new and expensive item for your home viewing needs, but as far as 4K sets with HDR I would recommend two. This one for a slightly cheaper but still very good TV, and this one if you would like a more expensive and impressive display.
As far as a new console goes, I found the PS4 Pro’s 4K checker boarding and HDR very impressive, however there are still relatively few titles taking full advantage of these features. With that in mind the console is more than likely to get a price drop this holiday season and will have more titles available. Later this year will also come the release of the Xbox Scorpio which seeks to out-perform the PS4 Pro on sheer power promising to deliver native 4K gaming, as well as offering a 4K Bluray player. No price point has been released yet so it will be hard to recommend without knowing what kind of price tag its’ premium components will merit.
Whichever console and TV best suits you, this year seems the perfect time to make the upgrade to 4K with games, blurays and streaming services making more content readily available. Gaming especially will see a large rise in developers taking advantage of the current technologies which means it’s an incredibly exciting time to be on board with the new technologies and see what wonders are now possible and still to come.