Two years on from its initial launch and PlayStation 4 Pro has been quietly tweaked once again, with new hardware that sees Sony revisiting the super-charged console with a new design that improves once again on the machine's perennial noise problem. The work pays off because this is quietest, most discreet Pro yet, completely banishing the 'jet engine' effect commonly associated with launch models.
Of course, this isn't the first time that Sony has improved the Pro. At some point last year, the platform holder released the CUH-7100 - which we took a look at recently in the form of the 500 Million Special Edition console - which seemed to change the way the GDDR5 memory was cooled, and tweaked the fan profile to be less obtrusive. The system still possessed similar power draw though, so the end result was a hotter console - albeit one that delivered a big improvement in its acoustic performance.
The new CUH-7200 series is just starting to filter through, and in the UK at least, it seems to be the case that the hardware is only available as part of the Red Dead Redemption 2 bundle pack - though expect to see a more comprehensive roll-out as the holiday season kicks in. Regardless, you can tell that you're getting the new machine because the model number is highlighted on the front of the package - in the case of the Red Dead pack, the designation to look for is CUH-7216B.
The Red Dead pack is a fairly standard Pro offering, the standard internal box covered in a Red Dead-specific sleeve, with a physical copy of the game included inside (and bearing in mind the sheer size of the game when installed, I'm thankful we're getting physical media here and not a download code). Otherwise, there's nothing particularly special about the packaging, and similar to the CUH-7100 consoles, the overall look and feel of the machine itself is essentially identical to the launch model - with one exception.
Prior PS4 Pro revisions have fed power into the console via the standard 'kettle' cable also used on earlier PlayStation 3s. However, the CUH-7200 seems to be using a new power supply, as the rear of the consoles sees a power input that uses the smaller figure-eight input seen on the PS4 Slim, Xbox One S and Xbox One X. There are other minor changes to the rear of the machine, but the port selection and arrangement is otherwise the same. The change in power supply does suggest a further efficiency drive on Sony's behalf, though the fact that the form-factor is essentially unchanged points towards an iterative revision rather than extensive revamp.
What that translates to in real terms is that main processor - the core of the machine and the main source of its heat - remains the same, limiting the scope of the changes. We're still looking at a 16nm FinFET chip inside the casing, and power draw seems to be around the same as prior models. However, the CUH-7100 proved that big improvements can be made to the acoustic side of things - my personal bugbear with launch Pros - and the CUH-7200 delivers even better results.
God of War is our title of choice for testing here and its ability to spin up the fans is almost legendary amongst PS4 Pro gamers. Playing the intro sections of the game, spikes in power consumption coincide with close-ups of the main characters, accompanied by the fans spinning up in step. The testing methodology here is simple then - pause on a character close-up, then dip into photo mode to ensure consistency in load, and by extension, what's being tested from machine to machine.
With all three Pros run through the watt meter, power consumption is essentially the same in the 170W region. Curiously though, the launch model spikes to 177W around 15 minutes in. The CUH-7100 and the new CUH-7200 are fairly solid, though the former shaves off 2-3W in comparison to the freshly minted console revision. This may well be down to variations in the silicon (every Pro should be subtly different) or the new power supply may have different characteristics to the old one.
In terms of the thermals, the launch model is still the coolest. Running a thermal camera over the hottest part of skin, and then at the exhaust at the rear, the CUH-7000 has a five degrees Celsius advantage over the CUH-7100, while the new CUH-7200 runs just as hot as its direct predecessor. Whether it's down to anomalies in the thermal data or a revision in how the console exhausts heat through the rear, the back of the CUH-7200 seemed to be hotter than either of the other models. The advice here doesn't really change, however: as is the case with any current-gen (or indeed last-gen) console, make sure there's plenty of space around the machine and don't keep it in a cabinet or other confined space.
But it's the acoustics that are the most fascinating aspect of the new PlayStation 4 Pro. Thanks to the God of War photo mode, our unit was locked to a solid 170W output for an entire day and the fan noise was not problematic at all. The new machine is clearly quieter than the CUH-7100 and delivers a night and day improvement over the launch machine. The sudden, jarring shifts in fan noise are no longer an issue and similar to the CUH-7100, the high pitch and annoying whine of the CUH-7000's cooling system are gone. In the living room, during normal play, all you really detect is a constant 'hum'.
Putting some numbers to the sound issue, it's clear that Sony has delivered another decent improvement to the Pro's acoustic performance, shaving off another two to three decibels from the CUH-7100's already creditable results. Based on testing of all three major releases of the console, the CUH-7100 still holds up well, addressing most of the annoyances of the launch cooler, while the CUH-7200 dampens the overall noise output still further. We're not in Xbox One X territory here in terms of the fan noise - or lack of it - but I'd venture to suggest that the Pro is now a discreet living room console.
|God of War Analysis||CUH-7000 Launch||CUH-7100 Revision||CUH-7200 Revision|
|Peak Temps (Top/Rear)||48c/60c||53c/62c||52c/66c|
|Peak Power Draw||170W (spike to 177W)||167W||170W|
The fact I'm running this story today is because one of my friends was so frustrated by the noise of his launch console that he decided to buy a new machine, and the Red Dead Redemption bundle was a good time to score both machine and game in one package (and at Ł350, this is a rather good deal). I was fascinated to hear about how quiet his machine was, and the figure-eight power input suggested that this new version of the PS4 Pro was a fairly significant revision. Having gone hands-on with the machine now, the improvements aren't quite as substantial as I thought they could be, but both CUH-7100 and especially the new CUH-7200 do address the Pro's biggest issue - the sheer racket those early models can put out, especially when running some of the machine's most demanding (and impressive) titles.
It's also as good a time as any to discuss the achievements of PlayStation 4 Pro over the last couple of years. Ultra HD displays are now effectively the norm, 1080p screens are on the decline and HDR is delivering some sensational results - and certainly for first party titles, PlayStation 4 Pro has been a superb companion for the new wave of screens.
While it may have fallen a little short on some third party and multi-platform games - especially when stacked up against Xbox One X - the basic achievement in delivering decent and occasionally spectacular 4K presentations from a Ł350 piece of hardware is simply remarkable. Arguably, the existence of the Pro has spurred on the adoption and continued development of reconstruction and temporal-based rendering techniques that have allowed relatively modest hardware to punch above its weight in addressing the next generation of display technology - technologies that will surely persist into development for the next wave of consoles. But PlayStation 5 is still years away, and in the here and now, the CUH-7200 series is the best version of the PlayStation 4 Pro hardware on the market.