PS5 vs PS4 Pro: Should you upgrade?

The PlayStation 5 is worth early adoption, but not for everyone

PlayStation 5 is the long-awaited successor to PlayStation 4, so it should be pretty obvious which console is more powerful. That only paints a small part of the picture, though, as you need to take into account factors like relative library sizes, backward compatibility, and price.

In the battle of PS4 Pro versus PS5, should you upgrade early, or take a wait and see approach? We look at all of the most critical factors to help you make an informed decision.

Overall Findings

PS4 vs PS5 logos
PlayStation 5
  • Capable of full 4K 60 FPS gaming.

  • May achieve 120 FPS and 8K resolution eventually.

  • Supports ray tracing for impressive lighting.

  • Backward compatible.

  • Expected price tag of $400 to $500.

PlayStation 4 Pro
  • Supports 4K 30 FPS gaming (non-native 4K).

  • 4K HDR video playback.

  • Plays enhanced versions of many PS4 games.

  • $399 MSRP (likely to drop on PS5 launch).

The PlayStation 4 Pro supports ultra high definition (UHD) gaming, but with a few caveats. For example, it can do 4K or 60 FPS, but not both at the same time. Its 4K 30 FPS gameplay mostly uses checkerboard rendering instead of native as well, while the much more powerful PS5 is capable of native 4K 60 FPS gameplay. The PS5 also comes with a UHD Blu-ray drive, while the PS4 Pro stuck with a standard Blu-ray drive.

The one thing that the PS4 Pro has going for it is its massive game library, but the inclusion of backward compatibility in the PS5 wipes out that advantage. You can play your PS4 games on the PS5, which gives the PS5 a big head start in library size.

The final deciding factor between these two consoles is the price. The PlayStation 5 is likely to cost between $400 to $500, while the current MSRP of the PS4 Pro is $399. That's likely to drop, and trade-in values to crater when the PS5 launches.

Specifications: The PlayStation 5 Is an Undeniable Powerhouse

PlayStation 5
  • CPU: 8x Zen 2 Cores at 3.5GHz.

  • GPU: 10.28 TFLOPs, 36 CUs at 2.23GHz.

  • Memory: 16GB GDDR6/256-bit.

  • Storage: Custom 825GB SSD + NVMe SSD slot.

PlayStation 4 Pro
  • CPU: 2.1GHz 8-Core AMD Jaguar.

  • GPU: 4.2 TFLOPs, 36 CUs at 911MHz.

  • Memory: 8GB GDDR5 plus 1GB DDR3.

  • Storage: 1TB HDD + internal HDD slot.

It should be no surprise that the PlayStation 5 is a powerhouse that blows the PlayStation 4 out of the water in every top category. It has a massively more powerful CPU and GPU combo, twice as much RAM that's also faster, and a standard SSD that's a bit smaller than the HDD in the PS4 Pro but significantly faster. The bottom line here is that the PS4 Pro can't hold a candle to its successor in raw performance.

Game Library: The PS5 Can Play PS4 Games

PlayStation 5
  • About a dozen exclusive launch titles.

  • Full backward compatibility with the PS4 library.

  • Some PS4 games are enhanced when playing on PS5.

PlayStation 4 Pro
  • Massive library of nearly 3,000 games.

  • Many games include PS4 Pro enhanced graphics.

  • No backward compatibility.

In terms of game libraries, the PS4 Pro has a massive advantage. With a library that's nearly 3,000 games deep and hundreds of titles specifically designed to take advantage of the PS4 Pro's beefed-up specifications, it's going to take the PlayStation 5 a long time to catch up.

The wrinkle here is that the PlayStation 5 has built-in backward compatibility for the entire PlayStation 4 library. Plus, some PS4 games even have enhancements you can only take advantage of if you play on PS5. Sony's move is a big deal since it skipped backward compatibility altogether in the PS4 after slowly phasing it out during the PS3 era.

What that means is you can safely trade your PS4 in when you pick up your PS5 because you'll be able to play through the massive PS4 back catalog while waiting for the PlayStation 5 library to build up.

Aesthetics and Design: The Divisive PS5 Design May Improve Cooling

PlayStation 5
  • Divisive case design is a significant departure from the norm.

  • Case is supposed to improve cooling.

  • Improved cooling may allow for quieter operation.

PlayStation 4 Pro
  • Slight visual update from the PS4 and PS4 Slim.

  • Fits in well with other consoles.

  • Tends to run hot.

Sony took a bit of a chance with the novelty-grill-like PlayStation 3, but the PlayStation 4 doesn't rock the boat with its design. The case represents a slight visual update from the original PS4, which looks a lot like a modernized take on the venerable PlayStation 2.

When designing the PlayStation 5 case, Sony threw away the book. Memes have compared it to an air purifier, a PlayStation 2 sandwiched inside a three-ring binder, the bill of a duck, Yu-Gi-Oh villain Seto Kaiba's torso, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

The striking design of the PS5, according to Sony, is more functional than aesthetic. Heat dissipation, long the bane of consoles like the PS4, is supposedly addressed in the overall design of the PS5.

Controllers: DualSense vs. DualShock 4

PlayStation 5
  • Improved grip reminiscent of Xbox One controllers.

  • Retains large touchpad/button in the center of the controller.

  • Charges via USB C.

  • Built-in mic.

  • Slightly larger than DualShock 4.

PlayStation 4 Pro
  • Introduced a large touchpad button.

  • Improved grip versus Sixaxis.

  • Built-in speaker.

  • Large light panel.

The DualSense is a slight update of the DualShock 4 in the same way that the DualShock 4 generally improved over the Sixaxis and DualShock 3. It retains the same basic configuration of buttons and analog sticks while adding an improved grip, a handful of new features, and a striking two-tone visual design.

While the DualShock 4 is a fine controller, the DualSense takes everything it has and does it just a little better. It includes a built-in mic instead of only an auxiliary speaker, ditches micro USB in favor of the more robust USB-C, and adds an intriguing "create" button.

Despite offering backward compatibility with PlayStation 4 games, the PS5 will not support the DualShock 4. However, it will support a variety of other accessories and input devices, like PlayStation VR, flight sticks, and racing wheels.

It will, however, support a variety of other accessories and input devices, like PlayStation VR, flight sticks, and racing wheels.

Final Verdict: Upgrade When Sony Drops a Killer App

The bottom line is that you're going to need to upgrade at some point. With full backward compatibility and an expected price tag that's reasonably affordable, the PlayStation 5 is worthy of early adoption.

The only kink is that it won't have many exclusives at launch, so some people will do just fine riding the PS4 until a killer app shows up, at which point the price of the PS5 may have dropped even further. If you don't see that killer app in the list of PlayStation 5 launch titles, and you don't feel the need to be the first on the block to own every new piece of tech, then you can safely wait a while until the right game catches your eye.