The 4K Lie?

You have to wonder about Sony, a company that inexplicably chose to introduce its new PlayStation 4 Pro on the same day that Apple unleashed the iPhone 7. But now the firm is facing more serious questions: Are the PS4 Pro's vaunted 4K capabilities even real? Is it all a lie?

This is coming up now because the video game blogosphere---sort of a sub-culture within a sub-culture---has been busy dismantling Sony's claims since the PS4 Pro announcement event. And in speaking to third party developers, especially, what they've found is that most games will not in fact run at native 4K resolutions on the PS4 Pro.

How serious is this issue? Even Microsoft, one of the more oblivious tech firms when it comes to advertising and competitive comparisons, has latched on like the proverbial pit bull. It says that its coming 4K console, code-named Xbox "Project Scorpio," will offer "true 4K gaming." You know, unlike the fake 4K gaming that Sony will offer.

"Any games we're making that we're launching in the Scorpio time frame, we're making sure they can natively render at 4K," Microsoft general manager Shannon Loftis told USA Today recently.

Riiight. Well, here's your Monday morning reality check: That's just hearsay, word-shaped air, since Xbox "Project Scorpio"---as its name suggests---doesn't even exist yet. It's vaporware. And for the next magical few months, it can be whatever Microsoft says it is. And then reality will come crashing down hard, as it so often does.

But let's forget about Microsoft for a moment. Let's focus instead on Sony, and the claims that it made during its PS4 unveil. Emphasis below is mine.

"Our goal is to deliver high-fidelity graphical experiences," PlayStation lead system architect Mark Cerney said at the time. "We more than doubled the power of the GPU and adopted many new features from the AMD 'Polaris' architecture and even beyond. A number of hardware innovations support efficient rendering for 4K displays, allowing titles on PS4 Pro to reach resolutions not thought possible on consoles in 2016. We [also] boosting the clock rate of the CPU."

To be clear, you don't have to read that too careful to see that Sony's claims are, at least thus far, measured and non-hyperbolic.

"The result of all these improvements is a console that provides unparalleled experiences for the 4K TV owner," he continues, "and truly excellent enhancements for those using HDTV as well." Cerney then goes on to mention that HDR has a huge impact on gaming as well, and that the new console has enhancements for VR.

But let's focus on 4K, since this seems to be the pedantic tipping point for critics.

After providing a good explanation of why the 8 million pixels provided by 4K displays is so much more impressive than the 1-2 million found on HDTV, Cerney actually addresses the fact that "brute force" 4K rendering would be prohibitively expensive on a console. So the PS4 Pro instead uses custom hardware that provides what...

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