Bug Related To HDCP DRM Is Giving New Playstation PS4 Pro Owners Headaches
from the first-do-no-harm dept
Sony recently released the slightly-more powerful Playstation 4 Pro console, a beefier version of its existing PS4 console that brings 4K and HDR functionality to customers with 4K sets. 4K was already proving to be a bit of a headache for early adopters, many of whom didn’t realize that in order to get a 4K device to work, every device in the chain (particularly their audio receiver) not only needs to support 4K and the updated HDMI 2.0a standard for HDR (high dynamic range), but HDCP 2.2 — an updated version of the copy protection standard used to try and lock down video content.
HDCP has always been a bit of a headache, like so much DRM usually causing consumers more trouble than it’s worth, and then being ultimately useless in trying to prevent piracy that occurs anyway. The latest incarnation of this issue appears to be plaguing PS4 Pro owners, who are plugging their $400 console into their expensive new receiver and 4KTV only to find that the unit doesn’t work as advertised. For some people, it’s because they likely didn’t realize (as noted above) that everything in their AV chain needs to support not only HDMI 2.0a, but the latest HDCP copy protection standard:
“HDMI 1.4 can handle 4K resolution, but its 4K support is limited to video signals at 30 Hz (or 30 frames per second). HDMI 2.0 is required in order to handle the increased bandwidth required by a 4K feed at 60 Hz. And although all PS4s ? including non-Pro consoles ? can deliver HDR as of mid-September?s v4.0 firmware update, HDR technically requires HDMI 2.0a and HDCP 2.2.
Which is understandable, given that the bleeding edge isn’t always a pretty and simple place to reside. There’s always tweaking and tinkering required on the bleeding edge, and having to dive deep into your TV’s unnecessarily-confusing menus is par for the course. But as the problem persisted through last weekend, many console owners discovered that they were only able to use their new console if they disabled HDCP entirely:
“The issue appears to be related to HDCP, the digital copy protection that?s built into the HDMI connection between the PS4 Pro and the TV. Sony launched the PS4 in 2013 with HDMI 1.4, the then-current HDMI specification. The introduction of HDR has brought forth HDMI 2.0a along with HDCP 2.2, the latest version of the port and its copy protection. That?s why the PS4 Pro box includes a high-speed HDMI cable that supports HDMI 2.0.”
As a PS4 Pro owner I can confirm that out of the box the device simply wouldn’t properly transmit a 4K signal to my Samsung TV (you get audio, but no video). To get the console to work I had to boot into safe mode, disable the latest iteration of the HDCP 2.2 DRM, then disable HDCP in the console settings after boot. Note that while this will allow users to at least use the console to play games in 4K with HDR, it prohibits them from being able to use the console to stream video content, given that’s not possible with the DRM disabled.
At this point it’s not entirely clear if the problem is a bug in the PS4 Pro firmware, or a bug in the compatibility firmware embedded in most new “smart” 4K TVs. Some users over at Reddit indicate that many of the TVs impacted by manufacturers like LG have long struggled to play nice with the HDCP DRM. And while the HDCP 2.2 standard may not be the only thing contributing to these interoperability bugs, it’s pretty clear at this point that the DRM — which will inevitably be bypassed anyway — is at least playing a starring role in consumers not being able to easily use a piece of hardware they paid for.