PlayStation Neo becomes … PS4 Pro

sony-announces-playstation-4-pro-147328048462I watched the PlayStation event this morning and, if I’m being completely honest, I was left a little underwhelmed. It was a low-key briefing – it only lasted about 45 minutes – with lots of talking, but I didn’t go away from the briefing yelling at the top of my lungs, “Yeah, yeah, I’m gonna pre-order me a PS4 Pro.”

The briefing revealed the aforementioned PS4 Pro  and also perhaps one of the worst kept secrets as far as PlayStation was concerned, the PS4 Slim which everyone knew about weeks ago but PlayStation acted at the event as if it was a surprise when they announced it today. That was just a little weird. The PS4 Slim will launch in NZ from September 16 for $489.95 for a 500GB console or $569.95 for  1TB model (September 29).

The PS4 Pro will retail in New Zealand for $639.95 and launch on November 10. That’s a really sharp price but the owner of a current PS4 that does all I need it to, I won’t be upgrading any time soon.

If you want the technical specs of the PS4 Pro, you can find them here (thanks Eurogamer) but my take on the PS4 Pro is that unless I have a 4K TV, which I don’t (and I’m not planning on buying one soon), I’m best to stick with the launch PS4 I have. I’m fine with that. The games look great on my PS4 and while Sony says owners of 1080p TVs will notice a difference with the PS4 Pro,  frankly, my eyes are getting so bad I can’t actually see the difference between 4K and 1080p unless I’m up really close and my nose is pressing on the screen (OK, I’m not that bad but, you know, old age …)

PlayStation said a firmware update next week will enable HDR (High Dynamic Range) capabilities on all current PS4’s, which is great, but again, that’s pointless on my 1080p TV as I’m pretty sure it can’t output HDR. Right now in my life, 4K and HDR gaming isn’t an option so I’ll stick with my perfectly fine current generation PS4.

frontps4proPlayStation sees 4K gaming as the future (but showing off 4K content over a 1080p stream is never going to do it justice) and the Pro will do 4K content playback but strangely, it doesn’t come with a 4K Blu Ray drive, and that does seem an odd omission, given that the recently released Xbox One S, which I believe is cheaper, comes with one as standard.

My take on this, though, is clearly Sony doesn’t see the future of 4K entertainment in physical media (ie Blu Ray discs), evidence by PlayStation’s Andrew House pointing out how many hours of 4K content would be on streaming service Netflix by the end of this year.

That said, I can see why PlayStation have come up with the PS4 Pro. It’s releasing its entrant into the VR wars, the PS VR, next month and the PS4 Pro will offer better VR performance than the current PS4. (I’m still tossing up whether I’ll get a PSVR so if/when I do, I’ll perhaps contemplate a PS4 Pro)

Also, if you’ve always thought about buying a PS4, but never got around to it, and do own a 4K TV then it seems November will be your lucky month, won’t it? The cynic in me also wonders whether PlayStation hopes that the PS4 Pro will help sell more of its own 4K TV sets …

Part of me can’t help but wonder whether PlayStation has jumped the gun here with the PS4 Pro in a response to Xbox’s Project Scorpio console which isn’t even due for release until the end of next year. Surely the PS4 Slim could have filled the gap until next year when the company could have announced its competitor to Project Scorpio.

The PS4 Pro will almost be a year old when Xbox’s more powerful console comes to market and I can’t help but feel that Microsoft have the upper hand here, given that Project Scorpio is more powerful than the PS4 Pro already – and  it’s hardware configuration could change dramatically between now and the end of next year.

Speaking of Xbox, the company couldn’t help having a dig at PlayStation in this tweet suggesting its own Xbox One S was a better option:

My son and I were talking about hardware announcement cycles this morning and it seems to me that games consoles are almost going same way as mobile phones, with a new model being announced almost every year.

To be honest, I’m contemplating whether might even just invest the money that I might put into a new console into upgrading my PC’s GPU (it’s got an Intel i7 CPU  and 8GB of Ram so I’m OK on that front. My GTX660Ti, however, is well past its use by date), connect it to my 55-inch TV using Steam’s Big Picture mode and do it that way, meaning I can still game from the couch using a controller (and to all those who  bleat “You’re not a real PC gamer if you use a controller!” I say, bollocks to you).

Right now, I don’t see any benefit for me buying a PS4 Pro console unless a 4K TV magically appears in my lounge to replace my two-year old LED screen, and that’s not going to happen.

I may be proven wrong but right now, I’m not jumping on the PS4 Pro bandwagon just yet. I’ll be watching with interest.


Huawei P8 Lite review: A good phone but not a great phone

HuaweiThe mid-priced smart phone segment is a hotly contested one, with phone manufacturers trying to capture the attention of consumers not wanting to shell out more than $1000 on a phone.

Keen to roll with the momentum created by its top-end P8 smart phone, Huawei have released the P8 Lite, a budget priced phone that shares a name with its fancier sibling but is essentially a less specced version of the P8

[Note, I haven’t reviewed a P8 yet so I can’t compare the two directly.]

The P8’s 5-inch 720p IPS screen is powered by a 1.5 GHz octa-core processor, 2GB RAM and 16Gb of built-in storage. It’s packing a 13 megapixel main camera and a 5MP front-facing camera.

The P8 Lite is a nice looking phone that feels comfortable in the hand, and it’s solidly constructed with a sleek profile. It looks exactly like the flagship P8 – so Huawei have done an excellent job there – but instead of the brushed aluminum back plate of the more expensive P8, the P8 Lite has a plastic panel with a brushed aluminum look to cut down weight (and cost).

The phone has the normal buttons you’d find on a smart phone and two speaker grills at the bottom edge. For some strange reason, though, only one of the grills contains an actual speaker, which will muffle audio playback, depending on how you hold the phone.

The camera produced good images and video and while call quality was good, colour reproduction just wasn’t as sharp as I’d have liked. The P8 Lite is packing a 720p display which compared to other smartphones on the market is a little disappointing.

The P8 Lite is running Android 5.0.1 (Lollipop) which Huawei has customized with its own Ui over the top. It’s smart looking enough but there’s still slight lag (it’s barely perceptible) when you swipe between screens. It’s not major but I noticed it.

One great thing about the P8 Lite is the price: You can pick it up for around $350 [probably less if you search online] so it’s a good price for a budget smart phone, especially if you want something for yourself or a teenager that looks smart, does what it says on the gox and won’t break the bank.

Huawei’s P8 Lite is segmented into a competitive price point and consumers have a lot of better phones to choose from. The P8 Lite had some things I really liked and some things I didn’t. Overall, it’s a good phone that does the job but it doesn’t do enough to stand out from the crowd.