So this past week Sony decided to throw their hat into the ring with the introduction of their new PlayStation Pro Console. Thus ushering in the generation of 4k (or Faux-k) gaming.
Well right now there is no console on the market that can handle 4k gaming in native form. Through up-scaling and other tech magic both MS and Sony will take existing 1080p content and wave their magic wand, and turn the output into a 4k signal.
Now there is a lot more to it than that, but there is also a huge difference between a true native 4k image and an up-scaled one. A true 4k game would need to render at 4k, something that even the most expensive computer gaming rigs out there struggle to do. So do not be fooled, if your $2000 computer can’t do it, there is not a chance your $400 console will.
Now there is obvious advantages still, image quality is crisper, and there are less artifacts in the environment. But at the end of the day, it is not so dissimilar to taking a photo and having it enlarged into a the size of a poster. Sure you will see more of the minute details simply due to the sheer size of the picture, but beyond that, it is still the same image.
Next is the whole Ultra High Definition Blu-ray debacle.
Somehow Sony managed to bugle something huge in their new console. They decided that they were not going to offer a UHD Blu-ray drive in the new Pro console.
Why Sony… why?
Their direct competition, the Xbox One S, that retails for $100 less has one, and the real kicker? It is a bloody Sony drive!!! Sony developed the UHD format, they own the rights, they make the drives themselves, and yet, did not think to include one in their console.
This defies logic to me. Why on earth would you drive your users into the arms of the enemy.
This has been weighing on my mind since the Sept 7th press conference, and I found my answer last night.
Because folks, right now, you don’t need a UHD player, plain and simple.
Now you are all likely thinking, but but but, there are 4k TVs for next to nothing now, hell, you likely even have one. But, and this is a big one, is it a 4k TV that you can use?
In light of the Sony debacle, I went out and purchased a Xbox One S yesterday as I have a JVC DLA-X500R, fully capable 4k/60 projector.
I got home, plugged my XB1 into my Marantz 4k ready receiver, which in turn is plugged into my projector, powered everything up and…. No picture…. Hmmm.
So I jiggled some wire, tried another cable, and still nothing. So in a desperate attempt, I plugged the console right into the projector. Ahhh, finally a picture.
After a lengthy 30+ min setup / update to the console I was ready to go. I plug things back into my receiver, and now I am getting a picture, phew! I immediately go to the display menu to switch over to 4K and get a warning. Sorry, your display is not 4k ready.. But… Umm…
So I unplug everything again and wire direct to the projector.
This time the display settings change, and I am told I can change to 4k, sigh of relief…. But wait, there is a warning message that takes me to a configuration page.
I am told that sure, I can watch 4k streaming media, but beyond that, I am out of luck.
I cannot play games in 4k, I cannot watch UHD blu-ray in 4k, and don’t even think about using HDR….
This is the kicker here folks, the new 4k format requires a very new HDMI port, HDMI 2.0a to be exact, and unless you bought a TV this year or very late last year, and you paid a fortune for it (No Vizio 4k for you mister!) then it is highly unlikely that your system will be able to accept 4k source material or signals.
Oh, and it gets better.
So why do we need to have HDMI 2.0a?
Simply put, because the American movie industry is driving the hardware in the world. They have decided that you must have a HDCP 2.2 ready connection to ensure that piracy is not possible of UHD disks.
So why is this such a slight you ask?
Because the HDCP 2.2 format has already been cracked, you can already download 4k Netflix content from many torrent sites.
All this has served to do is to force consumers to upgrade their equipment for a fictitious copy protection scheme that is completely useless.
HDMI 1.4 (the previous standard) is fully capable of handling 4k content, it can do full 4K/60 just fine. But what good would it do to the economy if you just used your 2 year old TV? Gotta keep that consumer machine running!
So this folks is why I believe that Sony opted not to include a UHD player in their console, because you really don’t need it right now, nor do you likely have a TV that can accept it. By omitting a UHD player, Sony has actually said to you, don’t worry, you don’t need this right now, and even if you want it, your system probably can’t handle it.
They would have a ton of pissed off people on Nov 10 wondering why they can’t watch movies on their new PlayStation in 4k, and thus the backlash would begin.
So should you buy one of these new consoles? Either a XB1 S or a PS4 Pro?
Well that depends entirely on what you hope to get from it.
If you keep your expectations in check, and do some research into what equipment you currently have, and how it will handle the new systems, then you will be fine.
But if you are going into this blind, chances are you are going to be disappointed.