Is It Time to Upgrade Your Game Console?

Photo: Alex Cranz (Gizmodo)

Don’t do it.

The deals will be plentiful, the money will be burning a hole in your pocket, and your shiny new 4K TV will be begging you to get a console worthy of it, but my friend, it is 2019 and you should not be upgrading your current PS4 or Xbox One to the pricier 4K-capable PS4 Pro and Xbox One X.

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It is naturally painful for me to say this, as I really, really like both the PS4 Pro and the Xbox One X. Until earlier this year I happily encouraged friends, family, and readers to upgrade their old consoles to these more powerful new ones. But it is now November 2019 and we’re likely less than a year away from Microsoft and Sony’s next-generation consoles so we’ve got to start thinking about if its time to spend $350 to $400 on an Xbox One X (there’s a few great Black Friday Deals) or $300 on a PS4 Pro when those new machines are just around the corner.

Particularly as the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X only upgrade the current generation of games so much. Both will do a little upscaling for any content played back on them (from video games to digital movies to UHD Blu-Rays), and both will provide some really attractive 4K playback and HDR on very specific titles like Gears 5, Death Stranding, and Red Dead Redemption 2.

The upscaling for RDR2 really is incredible, but I’m still don’t think it’s worth a purchase with Project Scarlett less than a year away.

Yet there are still limitations. Red Dead Redemption 2 looks beautiful on the Xbox One X, but is limited to just 30 frames per second, and most other games struggle to maintain 60fps on the console. This means cool features like AMD FreeSync support and support for 120Hz TVs and monitors doesn’t actually matter. The console can’t hit the higher frame rates necessary to really make FreeSync and 120Hz refresh rates shine.

The PS4 Pro, meanwhile, often struggles to do 4K resolution, and support for 60fps is not as common as I’d like. If I’m spending $300 to upgrade a console I want as many games as possible to be upgraded in the move—and that just isn’t something the hardware in the PS4 Pro can do.

But the Sony PS5 and Microsoft Project Scarlett should actually be able to give you 4K native gameplay and 60-plus frames per second. Plus HDR. Heck, the next generation of consoles is even promising ray tracing—a cool graphics technique usually only found in movie CGI as its traditionally too GPU-intensive for the real-time rendering video games requires.

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We have seen some fuzzy pics and had a few leaks regarding the new consoles, and Microsoft and Sony have been happy to tease through PR channels. Besides promising 60fps, HDR, 4K, and ray tracing we know Project Scarlett and PS5 will be backward compatible so the games you own now will work on the new consoles—and should run even better than they do now. We also know both will have solid state drives instead of traditional hard drives—which means significantly faster loading times. Yet price, availability, and even what games will first appear on the consoles is still a mystery.

So, if you already own a console here is what you should do. You should wait. If you absolutely need to spend money and juice up what you already own, you should go buy a SSD and install it in the console you currently own. I did that with my PS4 and the results were impressive.

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And if you don’t actually own a console? Then maybe you should spend the money! The PS4 Pro and Xbox One X have never been cheaper. There’s a wide and wonderful array of games to play across both of those devices, but come November 2020 you’ll probably be getting a fierce bout of upgrade envy as all your friends move on to the newest generation and leave you behind.

So maybe buy a Switch instead.

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About the author

Alex Cranz

Senior Reviews Editor. Trained her dog to do fist bumps. Once wrote for Lifetime. Tips encouraged via Secure Drop, Proton Mail, or DM for Signal.