Yesterday’s announcement that Sony will upgrade the firmware on all PlayStation 4s to support High Dynamic Range has some tech people scratching their heads as Sony wasn’t clear on what it’ll involve.
The problem is that the current PlayStation 4 has a HDMI 1.4 port. For High Dynamic Range, hardware needs to support HDMI 2.0b. So as of right now the current PlayStation 4 cannot display HDR content even when connected to a 4K television. However Sony’s wording of a firmware upgrade includes a clue as to how they’ll do it.
If the HDMI controller on the existing PS4 has the ability to support the additional bandwidth that HDMI 2.0b requires, it’s possible that a firmware update could upgrade the system to that standard. Since Sony is claiming that’s how they’ll enable HDR on all consoles, it’s likely that’s exactly what this firmware upgrade will do.
However, before you get too excited this firmware upgrade will likely not allow 4K Netflix streaming on all PlayStation 4s as Netflix and Amazon require the more secure HDCP 2.2 copy protection standard on the hardware in order to stream content.
Another thing it absolutely will not do is allow 4 UHD Blu-Ray playback on any PS4, as that’s reliant on the actual hardware Blu-Ray drive. Sony themselves confirm that the PS4 Pro simply has a standard Blu-Ray drive and not one capable of reading the higher capacity UHD discs.
So HDR support on the standard PS4 would allow you to see the high dynamic range content on games that support it while playing them on a 4K TV. You wouldn’t get the other improvements that the PS4 Pro offers, but you would get the improved lighting and colors from HDR.