Sony has released version 5.50 of its PS4 System Software, with a number of new improvements and features for PS4 owners. The new update includes better parental controls, a number of UI tweaks, and most importantly, a new feature to improve image quality on the PS4 Pro.
Supersampling Comes to PS4 Pro
When the PS4 Pro launched, one common criticism was the paucity of improvements for gamers who still owned 1080p TVs. Most of the updated titles available at launch focused on 4K presentation and HDR support. Games that weren’t programmed to take advantage of the PS4 Pro’s second, more powerful GPU cluster didn’t initially benefit. The PS4 Pro’s Boost Mode, which Sony added over a year ago, did extend some benefits into titles that weren’t updated for the refreshed platform, but that didn’t address the fact that you really needed 4K + HDR to justify buying a PS4 Pro at all.
2K is a little-used term for 1080p TVs.
Now, with System Software 5.50, there’s a new supersampled resolution mode gamers can activate at-will. Here’s how Sony describes it:
PS4 Pro users taking part in the beta will see a new ‘supersampling mode’ under Settings, which enables those with HDTVs (i.e., 1080p or less) to enjoy an enhanced visual experience when playing some PS4 games.
With supersampling mode, some games will render at a higher resolution and then be downscaled to match the HDTV – allowing PS4 Pro owners to leverage the benefits of an image clarity boost even if their PS4 Pro is not connected to a 4K TV. Please note performance will vary, as games are optimized differently to take advantage of the power of PS4 Pro.
We don’t know yet how many titles support this mode, but it should offer a significant visual upgrade. Supersampling, also called downsampling, is the process of rendering a game internally at a very high resolution, then scaling it to a lower resolution for display on a TV or monitor. This process substantially reduces the presence of “jaggies,” the stair-step jagged lines you’ll often see on foliage, power lines, fences, and line edges more generally within a given game.
Supporting this feature should be a relatively straightforward affair. The reason we don’t use supersampling as a primary antialiasing method in all cases is because it’s extremely computationally expensive. Sony’s use of checkerboarding to hit near-4K equivalent resolution should still help here, however — supersampling the checkerboarded image will still reduce bandwidth and pixel throughput requirements compared to a native 4K display.
The PlayStation 4 has had parental controls since it debuted, but Sony has been buffing them of late. The 5.50 software update introduces a new feature called Play Time Management. Parents or guardians with access to the PlayStation Network account can log in via smartphone or PC and check how much each child account has played that day as well as how much time remains.
Parents can change when the PS4 is available for use and how much game time is allocated for that day from the web portal, as well as ordering it to log out once the game session is over. The children who are playing on the console are warned when their play session is almost over, allowing them to find a save point or safe logout point before running out of time.
PS4 owners also now have the option to import custom wallpapers via USB, there are new updates to the library UI, and players can now hide certain applications under the “Purchased” tab. Custom friends lists are also now accessible from the Quick Menu and you can permanently remove old notifications from the system.
All in all, a solid set of improvements. Happy gaming.