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After months of speculation, Sony has pulled the covers off the PS4 Pro. The new triple deck 2160p games console is quite a revelation, but not necessarily in a good way...

Sure there’s plenty to get stoked about after the launch of the PS4 Pro. The adoption of HDR was always a given and the ability to render at 4K resolution for select games is exactly what we wanted to hear. The promise of an HDR update for all PS4 owners is a nice bonus. Throw in better frame rate stability, and even the promise of more detail and texture for 1080p TV owners, and you have what appears to be a decent reason to consider an upgrade… even if you don’t yet know which 4K TV to buy. 

But for those looking to use the PS4 Pro as a true 4K AV hub, there’s devil in the detail. The PS4 Pro doesn’t play 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs. Think about that for a moment; savour the supreme idiocy of upgrading the PlayStation for the 4K generation, yet deciding to leave the deck with a ten-year-old Blu-ray disc player. Upgraded visual fidelity aside, the one element that pretty much everyone (and I mean everyone) expected from this mid-cycle refresh was a 4K Blu-ray player upgrade. 

MORE: HDR TV: What is it? How can you get it?

Is this PlayStation’s first massive tactical blunder?

More after the break

The original PS4 debuted just before HEVC decoding chips were available. The timing was just a bit out of whack. But the PS4Pro should have fixed all that. Today 4K is commonplace. Over half of all TVs sold over the next 12 months in the UK will most likely be 4K. You can buy good 4K TVs for under £500. Ultra HD is fast becoming the new normal. So why has Sony just snubbed the fledgling Ultra HD Blu-ray market – even as it prepares it’s own dedicated 4K player for launch. Am I the only one who doesn’t think this makes any sense? 

“We wanted to get something out there to support the growing 4K TV market,” says PS4 designer Mark Cerny. Sony isn’t just mixing messages. It’s putting them in a blender. To be honest, I found news that the PS4 Pro had blanked UHD Blu-ray so perplexing I was convinced Team Sony just forgot to mention it. But no…there’s really no 4K Blu-ray playback.

I wonder what the dudes at Sony Home Entertainment think about all this? Who do they think is going to buy all their Ultra HD copies of Smurfs 2 now? As the horrible realisation dawned, my Twitter feed filled with disgruntled PS4 owners pledging allegiance to the Xbox One S (shame Microsoft doesn’t have any to sell, but that’s another debacle). Is this PlayStation’s first massive tactical blunder?

MORE: 9 of the best 4K TVs

MORE: 4K Blu-ray: all the discs on sale now and coming soon

If we look back at what PlayStation 3 did for Blu-ray, it’s extremely, extremely significant

Victor Matsuda sits on the Blu-ray Disc Alliance board and chairs the UHD Alliance. Last week at IFA, he gave every indication that Sony’s console update would support 4K UHD discs – without implicitly saying as much. Instead we talked about how the BDA was going to keep momentum moving forward. He said getting more 4K capable hardware into the market “would be huge”. He explicitly referenced the Xbox One S. 

I asked (naively as it transpires) how important announcements like Xbox One S, and presumably the next PlayStation, are for 4K Blu-ray. “If we look back at what PlayStation 3 did for Blu-ray, it’s extremely, extremely (he said it twice) significant. You can talk a lot about what the gamers are doing online, but at the end of the day, if there is a disc drive inside that unit that’s huge for the Blu-ray Disc Association and the people purchasing that unit. Studios recognise that the attachment rate for discs with games console owners is extremely high.”

It’s no secret that the PS3 was a decisive Trojan Horse for Blu-ray during its bitter format battle with HD-DVD. With the PS4Pro, Sony has publicly eulogized 4K streaming, mentioning Netflix and YouTube, then led Ultra HD Blu-ray to the back of the AV stable and, barely out of public view, shot it cleanly in the head.

MORE: 4K streaming vs 4K Blu-ray vs Blu-ray: which is best?

MORE: Best Ultra HD Blu-ray players


AlexAtkinUK's picture

While it annoys me no end, I

While it annoys me no end, I'm guessing Sony know that most people find Bluray "good enough" and so they want to nickle and dime us with dedicated players.

Seeing as they haven't even released any yet it was perhaps optimistic of us to think they would risk their sales by having the PS4 support it.

I suspect Bluray was much more profitable for Sony than UHD Bluray is likely to be, so there may be more value in making profit on the players this time than there were for the PS3.

FunkyMonkey's picture

I will happily pay £50 more

I will happily pay £50 more for a 4K drive in a PS4. However, that does not seem likely, so for the first time ever I am going to buy an Xbox. 

Guy Katz's picture

MKV 4K HDR file playback?

will the PS4 pro be able to play 4K HDR MKV movies via USB and act as a streamer?

Phil Hindle's picture

Missed opportunity

I was hoping for UHD blu-ray support on the PS4 Pro, as it would partner well with my shiny new 4K TV. This is a missed opportunity for Sony, because 4K blu-ray would have been a good reason for existing PS4 owners to upgrade  the newer PS4 - that was certainly my plan.

As it stands now, there seems to be no compelling reason for existing PS4 owners to upgrade (the res bump for games isn't a significant enough improvement to upgrade).

lovlid's picture

silly sony

Lets make all those lovely TVs with their lovely picture quality, but not support the best thing to watch on them.

A corker of a betamax decision.

lovlid's picture

or,,not so silly sony

Coming soon, the new Sony Playstation 4S Super Pro with 4K Ultra HD Blu Ray playability.

Give us yer money.

Cookie Monster's picture

Really, really disapointed

Brought 2x Samsung 4K TVs this year. I have an original PS4 model a little noisier and thought great! I can upgrade to the 4K supported version with UHD drive upon release. Brilliant.

But why would I, the Samsungs do such an amazing job of upscaling that they render the '4K ish' pro redundant. Nowhere near powerful enough hardware for 4K games. An added texture isn't really 4K is it?Then we get free HDR update too.


Would have loved a UHD drive Sony,  not standalone, not enough films/ time for single use player. Have the cash saved and was waiting for the preorders to show.

Would even have put up with the 'triple burger' design and dull paint finish for a UHD drive.

Suppose il have wait for next gen now.




FunkyMonkey's picture

I was angry at first,

I was angry at first, thinking I am going to spitefully buy an Xbox One S as that DOES have a UHD drive. 

Now, having let the dust settle, I have decided it would be an obvious decision to buy the Xbox one S. No reason not to. And this comes from someone who bought the original PS One, bought a PS2 Slim, bought a PS3 original, bought a PS3 Slim, bought a PS4. Never bought any other console. 

The consequence is that, for once we can rate the Xbox One as superior to the Playstation (like for like models),  and my kids could become Xbox customers more than Sony ones. 

jimsta@mac.com's picture

saving a few yen

Wow, no doubt Sony just saved a few yen on optical drives, but really!?! UHD Blu-ray looks spectacular on 4K TV (much better than streaming, or upscaling) and would have been a great way for Sony to show off its awesome 4K TVs. The TV division must be as disappointed as eveyone else. Well, not as much as Sony Entertainment. I bet they thought they'd shift all their Spiderman/Smurf UHD Blu-rays to PS4 Pro owners desperate for discs. Not any more. Sony, you are your own worst enemy. Please announce that this whole 4K Blu-ray insanity was a horrible oversight and will be put right with a firmware update!

Will_t201's picture

Wrong Title Question?

Title should read Did Sony just kill itself with lack of uhd blu ray ps4 pro?

Hugely disappointed by the announcement this week. I like many other potential customers will now see options of either buying an Xbox for the first time ever or waiting for dedicated uhd players to come down in price. Sony are going to take a massive hit on this decision and I can't see any other option for them but to release another console in the next year that is uhd blu ray compatible, a move which definitely won't be popular amongst their now few customers.

I don't see this an end for the uhd blu ray format though, too many people that enjoy home cinema have poor internet connection and although I do get uhd Netflix the fact is streaming just isn't as good even when it has a stable connection which isn't often. I also see streaming and digital "ownership" as not real ownership.

I won't be buying a ps4 in any guise after this announcement and when Sony do release a dedicated uhd player I also won't be buying that as after this ps4 mess up I feel disillusioned with Sony, I will more likely go with a Panasonic whose disc players I have always been a fan of, having both DVD and Blu-ray players that have been excellent.

RickyDeg's picture

Sony - sorry, but you've lost

Sony - sorry, but you've lost it!

The PS3 with Blu-ray playback was a trailblazer. It set the standard. This outing... bleh!

manicm's picture

Calm down...

Uncharacteristically emotional and frankly naive piece from Steve May. Newsflash - disc formats are DEAD. Didn't Sony and Panasonic (I think it was these two, I could be wrong) recently reveal that they want to bring 8k into the mainstream by 2020? Will there be 8k discs? I greatly and gravely doubt it. The focus will clearly be on streaming.

At first when I heard about this I thought Sony were being stupid, but they're being clever and shrewd. The PS4 is primarily a gaming machine and thus if foregoing 4k discs in lieu of 4k gaming then no consumer is really going to complain.

And while 4k tvs are becoming mainstream, is it not telling that 4k disc players are being released 3 years after the fact? So the actual 4k disc format is still in the balance as far as I can see.

Takeaway? Granted ultimate quality may not match a physical disc, but you don't need a 4k disc spinner to watch House Of Cards in 4k hdr right now. And the PS4 Pro allows you to do that.

FunkyMonkey's picture

Frankly speaking, It is you

Frankly speaking, It is you that is being naive, manicm. As you can tell by the unusually high number of comments in this article, this DOES matter to a great many people. A great many people, I would estimate to be in the tens of thousands in the UK, that have been waiting for the Playstation to be released as a UHD player to give us an excuse to upgrade, who will now look elsewhere. 

And while we are beign frank, Steve May is obviously a lot more in tune with reality than yourself. 

sidescanner's picture

MASSIVE disappointment

Steve said what we were all thinking. This is a MASSIVE disappointment. Basically means that if you want true 4K and not a compromised/compressed/upscaled stream of it, you'll have to balance your PS4 Pro on top of a dedicated UHD Blu-ray player (or Xbox S) and pay twice for the inconvenience. Players watch movies too, Sony and we don't want to do it in scaled 1080p when we just bought a 4K rig.

And let's stop saying optical discs are DEAD every time a new format comes along. Broadband delivery isn't keeping up with data growth, so there's just going to be more need for 'em. Besides, PS4 Pro does have a drive, it's just that it supports a 10 y/o format, not the current one.

I don't think Sony are being clever or shrewd (same thing btw), just pinching pennies. But I do agree that the future of UHD Blu-ray now hangs in the balance thanks to Playstation's dreadful decision. 

manicm's picture

@sidescanner - I seriously

@sidescanner - I seriously doubt UHD disc success will hinge on the PS4 Pro. UHD disc players are about 2 years too late to market, and they may go the way of 3D.

Also, I would say that movie buffs would buy a dedicated 4k player - and contrary to the bit-perfect brigade there do seem to be differences between 4k players. Reviews have consistently placed the Panasonic above the Samsung in picture quality.

I meant newer disc formats will almost certainly be dead. Japan is already way beyond 8k broadcast technology - will there be any discs beyond 4k? I highly doubt it. Video compression technologies will evolve and improve.

sidescanner's picture

the Playstation effect

Never underestimate the power of Playstation. While in production, PSOne became the biggest-selling CD player, PS2 the biggest DVD player and PS3 was far and away the biggest Blu-ray player, sealing its success and the fate of HD HVD. This much we know. Would PS4 Pro have guaranteed UHD Blu-ray? I reckon. Will it survive without the Playstation effect? Let's see. But if we're relying on movie buffs buying dedicated players then it's going to remain a very niche format. 

manicm's picture

The shift in quality from dvd

The shift in quality from dvd to blu-Ray was massive, yet dvd still healthily prevails to this day, comparatively. People are going to be much more cautious replacing their blu Ray players with uhd ones. Variations of the PS4 will do nothing to change this. The PS3 was launched in a very different world nearly 10 years ago. Movie streaming was hardly prevalent then. 

And also note the PS4, a pretty mediocre multimedia device otherwise, has been Sony's best selling console ever, while targeting it as a pure gaming tool. And the PS4 Pro audience will be upmarket, as it's a 4K gaming device, and I would expect a large percentage of these customers to have high speed broadband.

So I don't see many crying over the lack of the lack of a 4K spinner. Much ado about little I say. 

f1only's picture

The PS3 is over 10 years old

The PS3 is over 10 years old & still a great piece of kit, i still use mine. The PS4 IMO is not much of an upgrade over the PS3 as it is crap for playing some media types, my tv is better in some respects for that so agreee with you there.

Matt Dickinson's picture

can normal BD drives playback UHD movies?

I've read they can but am a bit confused if it requires a special new kind of BD drive.

BDXL format format recording discs have been on sale for years, long before these new UHD players started coming out. 

Andy Clough's picture

UHD playback

AFAIK UHD discs won't play on standard Blu-ray players, but standard Blu-ray discs will play on UHD players so the latter will be compatible with legacy Blu-rays.

f1only's picture

Dont think ill be paying for

Dont think i'll be paying for a new sony ps4 pro that upscales when a tv or av amp can do the job.

Roll on PS5 with a Fast UHD BDP inside, a DDR6 video card & preferably with a SSD too just to speed things along. Plus of course some decent servers devil