PS4 Pro Update Will Make Big Graphical Improvements For 1080p / Non-4K Users, Here's How
Anti-aliasing for all.
Along with Sony's upcoming version 5.5 firmware update for the PlayStation 4, PS4 Pro owners that aren't on 4K televisions will be getting a significant graphical enhancement: supersample anti-aliasing (SSAA). PS4 Pro consoles will soon be able to leverage its extra power for non-4K displays and force SSAA when it outputs a 1080p resolution. This will be an option users have to enable manually, and it has been put into action with mostly positive results.
SSAA is a form of anti-aliasing that forces a game to render a higher resolution then downscale it to fit the proper screen resolution. The result is a smoother picture with less "jaggies" since you're essentially getting a shrunken version of a finer image. According to Eurogamer's Digital Foundry, the PS4 Pro will act as if it is connected to a 4K display and work to downscale the improved image to 1080p. While there are a few games that offer benefits with 1080p displays, some games (such as Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain) would lock out 1080p users from accessing any PS4 Pro benefits; an example of the inconsistency of the enhancements from the more powerful console. This will not be the case anymore with the new anti-aliasing option.
Digital Foundry was able to put this to the test and rounded up some early results. One example is Assassin's Creed: The Ezio Collection, which now supersamples a 4K image for 1080p, instead of locking itself to 1080p. The game also runs at a locked 30 FPS regardless of resolution, so there's now some benefit for non-4K-ers. The Last of Us Remastered now gives 1080p users the option for supersampling instead of only offering the 60 FPS improvement (but not both).
However, it's not a perfect solution for all games. For example, The Last Guardian offers a stable 30 FPS at 1080p, while the 4K enhancement can cause frame drops to around 20 FPS. Since PS4 Pro supersampling essentially imitates the Pro-enhanced resolution available, the potential frame drops translate as well. The same goes for Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, a game where framerate is arguably more important than resolution; its 4K option doesn't offer as stable a framerate as it would at 1080p.
Keep in mind that games are still subject to the specific PS4 Pro enhancements. The 5.5 firmware update simply gives you access to the finer image quality that 4K users get, but in the form of antialiasing at 1080p. Whether or not it works well will be on a game-by-game basis, but the bottom line is that PS4 Pro users will have more options, regardless of the display they use. Firmware 5.5 for the PlayStation 4 is currently in beta testing and there's no word on when the final version releases.
If you're not entirely clear on the concept of anti-aliasing, or supersampling specifically, make sure you check out our explanation of all the different types of anti-aliasing and how they work.
For more on Sony's powerful console, check out our initial PS4 Pro review. Be sure to read through our detailed breakdown of the differences between all the PS4 models, and take a look at our head-to-head analysis between the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X. We know you're into free games, so don't miss out on what PS Plus subscribers can get for the month of February.