With the rise of 4K, your PS4 and Xbox One are already obsolete
I’ll be honest, I barely see the difference between 720p and 1080p video. My old eyes are not as good as they used to be, you see.
But there are two things gamers keep talking about all the time: framerate and screen resolution. Apparently, if your game does not run at 60 FPS on the Xbox One and the PS4 today, your company deserves to burn in flames. And 4K gaming is all the rage… for PC owners.
PS4 and Xbox One Specs not enough for 4K
How about 4K support on the Xbox One and the PS4? Although the consoles’ CPUs and GPUs could definitely handle a 4K video decoding (not so sure about 4K Gaming here!), the power of the device is only one aspect of the equation:
The PS4 and Xbox One have HDMI 1.4 ports for their outputs. HDMI 1.4 can support 4K… at 30fps max. People who want 60fps need to “downgrade” to regular 1080p HD. So, 4K Video, or 4K gaming, could be a possibility for people willing to sacrifice on the FPS, but 4K at 60fps is not technically doable on the current generation of hardware for the PS4 and Xbox One.
4K Video and movies could also bring additional issues: the PS4 and Xbox One most likely don’t have the necessary chips to decode the codecs used for 4K on Amazon Instant Video or Netflix (HEVC). It is unlikely this could be achieved through software at a good efficiency.
Additionally, existing blu-ray specifications don’t say much about 4K support. It means the blu-ray drives of the PS4/Xbox one may not support future changes to this standard, and left in the cold for updates to the format, as the existing 50GB limitation will not be enough for 4K @60fps.
Bottom line is, you will not see 4K gaming at 60fps happening on the current generation of consoles, and proper 4K movie support is highly unlikely as well. But as these things turn more and more into a marketing battle, it is very likely that the next iteration of PS4 and Xbox One could see hardware upgrades to go in that direction.
Specifically, to fully support 4K and 60 fps gaming, both the PS4 and the Xbox One would need a new HDMI 2.0 port (which supports 4K 60fps streams) for video output, additional chips for ultra HD video decoding, and potentially upgrades to the Blu ray drive, although that sounds unlikely (who still watches blu rays nowadays???).
As far as gaming is concerned though, it’s pretty clear 4K won’t happen on this generation of consoles. Sony have stated 4K would not happen, and Microsoft have been a bit fuzzier but seem to go in the same direction. With the current hardware, it is unlikely 4K gaming would even hit 30fps anyway.
we’re focusing on just the FullHD experience (Mark Cerny, Sony – source)
New revision of PS4/Xbox One hardware coming soon?
There were rumors of new hardware iterations of the consoles hitting the market as soon as early 2016. (My own prediction is Q3 2015, or Q3 2016 if you remember). These new hardware versions could be “slim” versions of the consoles, with upgraded HDMI ports and 4K capability.
The problem is that this could annoy existing owners of the consoles, who would not be able to get the “latest and greatest” version of a given game (or movie). If this applies to game, reviews could become confusing as people would need to know if the review applies to the 4K or the “Standard” version of the game. Because of the confusion that could arise, I think it is safe to say that, even though Sony and Microsoft might improve support for 4K in general on their next console revisions, mostly for video content, 4K gaming is probably going to stay out of the picture for now.