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PlayStation 4 Review

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At launch, the PlayStation 3 was flush with technological bells and whistles: a multi-format memory card reader, user-upgradeable 2.5" serial ATA hard drive, and support for high-capacity Blu-ray discs. It had a powerful CPU, the Cell processor, whose simple name masked its notoriously complex architecture. Like the Emotion Engine in the PlayStation 2, the Cell called for a new approach to processor optimization and would go underutilized for years. Developers had to work harder to harness its potential, and it was expensive to manufacture, ultimately raising the barrier to entry on all fronts. In hindsight, it was perhaps too complex at the start for anyone's good.

Seven years later, the PlayStation 4 proves that Sony has learned its lesson. It was designed around semi-custom PC parts from AMD, a factor that lowers manufacturing costs and simplifies game development. It's less of a jack-of-all-trades than its predecessor, but it hits the necessary extra-curricular touchstones. Even the oft-criticized DualShock, a seemingly sacred PlayStation staple, was reinvented for the better. The PlayStation 4 is refined, both inside and out, and though there are minor imperfections to cope with, they hardly seem to matter in light of the system's numerous achievements.

At a glance, the PlayStation 4's compact, rhomboid chassis is immediately impressive. Its matte-black and glossy panels are divided by a thin light-bar on the hood and a squared groove that circuits the perimeter, sheltering the slot-loading Blu-ray drive, USB ports, and air-vents. Given that it's arguably the most powerful next-gen console, and the only one with an internal power supply, it’s a credit to the engineering and design teams at Sony that the PlayStation 4 is so small and sleek while succinctly incorporating ventilation that not only works, but remains mostly out of sight.

Stood upright, the PlayStation 4 takes on a monolithic silhouette, though it needs a proper stand to secure its precarious position. Laying the system flat keeps it practically secure, but curiously, Sony designed it to sit on three offset feet. As a result, the system wobbles when downward pressure is applied on the left-hand side. For all the intelligence of the PlayStation 4’s design and its sturdy appearance, this is a ridiculous, though still minor flaw.

Sony veered away from its favorite form factor for the DualShock 4, elongating the handles and spreading everything slightly apart for a far more comfortable fit. It went to town with the extra space in the middle, incorporating a 2” x 1” touchpad that also doubles as a large, physical button. Beneath the touchpad sits a mono-audio speaker, the PlayStation home button, and a pair of ports: one for stereo headphones, and an EXT port with a yet unrealized purpose. Gone are the start and select buttons. In their place, straddling the top of the touchpad, lay the new share and options buttons. Perhaps in a move to avoid accidental button presses, these two buttons are unusually flush with the controller. As such, they're hard to press without checking the controller first.

The share button is the more interesting of the two, acting as the gateway to Sony's game capture and video streaming initiative, which we'll get to a bit later.

On the top of the DualShock 4, nestled between the improved, concave triggers, there’s a micro-USB port for charging the non-removable lithium-ion battery, and a multicolor light bar that can interact with the PlayStation Camera accessory. Its ability to change color and brightness allows developers to communicate with players in potentially interesting ways, such as in Sound Shapes where the light pulses on and off with the beat. Lastly, and perhaps least obviously, Sony upgraded the DualShock’s vibration and motion-sensing capabilities to offer greater sensitivity and range for developers to tinker with.

Smartly, Sony chose PC-like x86-64 components for the PlayStation 4, and worked with AMD to develop a hybrid CPU capable of reaching clock speeds up to 2.75 GHz (rumored to run at 1.6 GHz), comprised of two quad-core Jaguar modules. This is paired with a semi-custom 800 MHz Radeon GPU, theoretically capable of 1.84 teraFLOPS, roughly in line with a GeForce GTX 660 or Radeon 7850.

Processors aside, the system’s biggest boon is the 8GB of GDDR5 RAM, an expensive variety of RAM typically reserved for graphics cards. It utilizes a 256-bit interface, clocked at 5,500 MHz, with a bandwidth potential of 176 GB/s. This is likely one of the more expensive components in the entire build, but the bandwidth and speed it lends to the system should prove invaluable to developers, and ultimately, result in better-looking games for players.

The included Blu-ray drive is faster than the one found in the PlayStation 3, but you'll need to wait before playing any games now that Sony requires all games to be installed to the system's internal hard drive first. Blu-ray discs are capable of storing up to 50 GB of data, and with a 500 GB hard drive, it's not unreasonable to worry about space. Granted, most games are well under 50 GB, but if you eventually find that you're running out of room on your hard drive, you have two options: delete game data, or install a new hard drive.

Thankfully, you don't have to void your warranty to accomplish the latter. Simply slide off the glossy panel using your hands and a bit of pressure, unscrew five screws, replace the hard drive, and reverse the process. Lastly, copy the system restore firmware from Sony's support website to a USB stick, and format your new hard drive via the PlayStation 4's operating system.

Though you will only see a minimal performance gain if you upgrade to a faster 7200 RPM hard drive, it's an easy way to increase the amount of available storage space. If, however, speed is critical, you can also install a solid state drive, which will halve loading times in some cases, but these flash-based drives are expensive and storage space comes at a premium. Sadly, external drives may only be used to upgrade the system's firmware. That means no extra storage for game installs, and no support for media playback. Given that the PS4 uses high-speed USB 3.0 ports, this rather limited support seems like a missed opportunity.

Major components aside, PlayStation 4 features a reasonable assemblage of ports and connectivity options. It’s got a gigabit ethernet port, in addition to support for 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, though somewhat disappointingly, wireless support is limited to the oversaturated 2.4 GHz frequency band. Technically, 802.11n devices can support the less-saturated 5 GHz band, but this sadly isn't the case in the PlayStation 4.

This certainly isn't going to hold back the PlayStation 4 from doing what it normally would, but with the near-ubiquitous support for Remote Play and second-screen gaming on the Vita, a more advanced wireless radio could have gone along way to reaffirm the value of connecting the two devices together.

Pairing a Vita to a PlayStation 4 is easy, only requiring that both devices are connected to the same network. The results are typically adequate for gaming, and certainly much better than the PlayStation 3's version of Remote Play, but it's still far from perfect. Depending on your range, and the saturation of the 2.4 GHz frequencies in your gaming environment, a slight delay between the Vita and PlayStation 4 can seriously impact your in-game performance. At the moment, it's a feature that's too inconsistent for everyday use, but has potential that's too attractive to ignore.

Apart from the DualShock 4, the Bluetooth radio is rather underutilized at launch. There's no support for wireless headsets, for example, though as a consolation, you can plug chat-enabled headsets into the controller’s 3.5 mm audio port for chat and/or in-game audio.

Otherwise, audio and video are limited to the HDMI and optical ports on the back of the system, with no support for analog connectivity. Users can take advantage of the system's breadth of audio support, including PCM, Dolby, and DTS audio formats. It's also worth noting that the PlayStation 4 is the first device that supports the brand new DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 format, providing near-lossless 7.1 surround sound for internet video.

While there are no games rendered at the lofty 4K resolution on the PlayStation 4, Sony has confirmed that photos and video will work. 3D support, on the other hand, which was once a priority for Sony, has been put on the back burner. It even neglected support for 3D Blu-rays, a format it pioneered just a few short years ago.

Online gaming hasn't changed a lot since the PlayStation 3, except for one major shift: the PlayStation 4 requires a PlayStation Plus subscription. This service carries a $50 annual fee, but with free games, cloud-save support, and exclusive discounts, it amounts to a fair trade in the end for the majority of customers.

Multiplayer gaming is and will continue to be a mainstay of the online experience, but Sony, like Microsoft, is laser-focused on video streaming and sharing. Though it will continue to evolve over time, the PlayStation 4 can currently log 15 minutes of video in the background, and with the simple press of the share button, you can initiate the video editing and sharing process. Disappointingly, gameplay footage can only be uploaded to Facebook at launch, though screenshots are sharable on both Facebook and Twitter.

Sharing is valuable, but streaming gameplay to Twitch and Ustream proves to be a much more useful and intriguing feature. Again, the process is simple: press the share button, and choose the "broadcast gameplay" menu item, and choose from Twitch or Ustream to start sharing. Once you've logged into your account, you get to choose from a few options such as picture-in-picture broadcasting with the PlayStation Camera, microphone support, and on-screen comments. It's a simple process that works as intended with virtually no compromises, giving Sony an instant leg up in one of the most important aspects of next-gen console gaming.

The optional $60 PlayStation Camera plays a small part in streaming, allowing you to integrate your face and voice into video streams, but it also allows you to control parts of the PlayStation 4 operating system using voice commands. It's not as elaborate as Microsoft's plans for the Xbox One, but it's beneficial when it works as intended. At the moment, you can go to the home screen, start games, take screenshots, and power down the system. The added convenience of voice commands is tangible, but the real selling point of the camera is its integration with streaming video.

Unlike with the PlayStation 3, Sony got almost everything right immediately out of the gate with the PlayStation 4. It's powerful, good looking, and the support for streaming gameplay gives Sony a unique advantage as Microsoft races to catch up. Sony cut a few corners, though really, not having the latest Wi-Fi radio isn't damning, and there are other features that can be patched in through software updates in the future.

The focus on gaming is also readily apparent, especially when compared to Microsoft's overt entertainment-centric efforts. It shows in the hardware, especially with its GDDR5 RAM and beefy GPU, both of which offer significant performance advantages to Microsoft's console. The operating system is light on its feet as well, dedicating its resources to gaming and social features first and foremost. It's a powerful console with understated and forward-thinking designs applied throughout, and though it won't win awards for innovation, it's an impressive next-gen gaming console, and a big step forward for the PlayStation brand.

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Discussion

862 comments
start2finish
start2finish

People that think the Xb1 is better than the Ps4 are blinded by Microsoft B.S. They were trying to screw all of their customers to begin with. I also heard they had people that worked for them go on sites and bash the Ps4. Sony has always been the classier company in my opinion. They have not tried to screw with the fans.. The xb1 is just a 360 with a couple extra features. Not to mention Microsoft made the same mistake as sony did with the Ps3. they tried to make it a entertainment system, not a gaming system.  

zakrocz
zakrocz

Thought this was supposed to be a review. Reads more like a press release from sony!!

njs72
njs72

Why only a 660GTX equivalent GPU,  thats like 3 year old technology.  Would think at least something in line with 770.  Ill pass. Happy xmas to all btw. :-) 

Wild_Card
Wild_Card

im def impressed with the ps4 so far. the controller is a huge improvement over the ps3's the system it self looks better and feels very solid. Just a very impressive system thus far. sonys focus on it being primarly a GAME CONSOLE  is very comforting to me as that's just what i wanted in a new console, and that's not a knock aginst MS's sytem im sure its a great console as well. any way i really think sony has a got a realy winner in the ps4. AND not only is it a super console but they priced it so much better than the ps3 was when it was released. 400$ is still a lot of mony of course but its a LOT easier to justfy 400$ than 6 or 700$, and considering its 6 or 7 years later its even more impressive that they didn't charge more Any way i think the ps4 is going to do a LOT better sales wise than the ps3 did through much of its early years, not that im saying it failed or any thing but that high priced rally was a hard pill for a lot of folks to swallow and i think sales showed it. Any way great console for a reasonable price, relatively speaking of course. i highly recommend it.

coltsigma
coltsigma

Well I'm so impressed with my PS4 i love it i'm just sad that drive club was held back anyway i just hope Sony update the system to use my Logitech GT driving force steering wheel and pedals as i don't want to have to pay for another set as it's the best wheel I've used and when the xb1 comes down in price i hope I'll get that too just for Forza well keep gaming friends and enjoy.

HipHopBeats
HipHopBeats

Honestly both Sony and Microsoft should have waited another year to release these consoles so all the promised services like Gaikai could be ready out the box. Plus both launch lineups suck.

PixelAddict
PixelAddict

Damn... I would have loved to have both consoles using GDDR5 RAM and the latest Wifi radio.  Our wireless N uses the 5 Ghz band.

Why do these guys cut small (yet extremely important) corners?

lonesamurai1
lonesamurai1

Damn thing feels like Playstation 3 2.0, not enough new features.

DMND
DMND

It's funny, in a business that's a all about innovation and technology, PS4 got praised and XboxOne is "compromising the game experience". 

Thank God we have people that try something new, otherwise our beloved dualshock would never come to exist, since N64 analog stick was "compromising the game experience".

ACaelestis
ACaelestis

m in love with its sexy design and all the hot features...


honeycomb06
honeycomb06

The disappoint on the PS4 actually comes when u try to logg into PSN 

The_Last_Ride
The_Last_Ride

i am really happy there wasn't a score for this, it's pointless for a console

honeycomb06
honeycomb06

Sony need to do sum pacth work on the internet connection asap

MatthewSnyder86
MatthewSnyder86

The only draw for me to get an XB1 is, DR3, TF1, and KI, and Halo V, that's it. Other then that, happy with my PS4!

idk95
idk95

I just like how Sony designed the ps4 with the gamer in mind. It's a beautiful thing when people make good products and make money instead of making bad or mediocre products with only money in mind. Just saying; no shots fired at anyone else.

BigDawgSteve420
BigDawgSteve420

Only real complaint I have is it won't play my blu-Ray 3Ds. Anyone heard of this being integrated with a later patch???

djpetitte
djpetitte

Ive read that external storage will be an added feature.

Cakapoo
Cakapoo

I think it would make more sense to review modern machines at the end of their life cycles.  

Stebsis
Stebsis

I only got the controller for PC, and I really like it, better than 360 controller IMO. I hope Sony or someone is going to be putting support for the touchpad, that might be pretty useful and fun

aXeem316
aXeem316

TV TV TV TV TV TV GRYNDING TV TV TV TV GRYNDING GRYNDING TV TV TV

smokeless_0225
smokeless_0225

I bought the PS4 at launch and I'm very pleased with it. Honestly though...there's no need to get one right away. The choice of games at launch isn't something to run home about. And it seems that we will be waiting a year or two before we get any solid exclusives. However the gameplay does look better and the UI is 10x better than that of the PS3 or 360. Overall its a solid choice if you can afford it now...but if you need to wait a year or two for a price drop you probably won't be missing out on to much.

abentwookie
abentwookie

Well, I am mainly a member of the PC Master Race but I do play consoles as well. :P I played XBOX 360 for a few years but XBOX Live was always annoying due to the amount of idiots on there and I was never a big fan of the XBOX controller. Its just way too large and awkward. It seems to be designed for people with giant hands. But what was the last straw for me was the way Microsoft (especially its former CEO) reacted to people's anger about things like the always-online nonsense, the lack of ability to trade games, etc.... Basically just telling people to deal with it or go buy an XBOX 360. They permanently lost me as a customer at that point.

analgrin
analgrin

@honeycomb06 How so? On the day of its release there were a few hours where it struggled but by the evening all was well and has been ever since.

canuckbiker
canuckbiker

Afraid not. The system architecture is far to different from the ps3 to play its games.

Urizen316
Urizen316

@idk95 They made the PS4 with money in mind, you'd be naive to think otherwise. If they love gamers so much, why did they slap their most loyal hardcore fanbase, the Japanese, in the face by postponing the launch in Japan so they can sell more consoles in the west? They know the XB-1 will barely sell over there and that they'll buy a PS4 regardless, so whatevs, they'll wait. They are actually a LOT worse than Microsoft.

BradBurns
BradBurns

@idk95 

As I've said before, it's a damn well crafted console. 

I think that you can thank Mark Cerny for that.

waffleiron88
waffleiron88

@smokeless_0225 yeah honestly the launch lineup for both systems isnt too impressive. Sure they look real nice but nothing to write home about.

ch7226
ch7226

@abentwookieMaster Race of what? Considering steam's catalog is 90% arcade titles, a PC is nothing more then a overpriced Wii. Even with the few high profile titles like Elder Scrolls Online, and Battlefield 4, an average PC with quad core, 8GB ram, 3GB vid, can play every 2013 title, and all upcoming titles on medium at the worse. Not to mention every, high profile title on PC will be on both consoles, plus the exclusives...Halo and Killzone is going to be insane. Master race AAAAHAHAHA more like arcade gamers, with their starbound and minecraft lol...master race? Now *that*...is a joke. 

calducce
calducce

@abentwookie 
Anyone who identifies themselves with "master race" is immediately invalidated. Ridiculous nob.

frozenspark
frozenspark

@Urizen316 @idk95 To be fair, the only reason that Sony hasn't distributed PS4's in Japan is because there are no games/content available on the system that appeal to Japanese consumers, and there won't be anything to make it more worthwhile from 1st/2nd/3rd party developers until February. It's not necessarily Sony's fault either, it's simply a matter of how quickly these developers can push out the titles that they are promising. Most of the titles available are continuing franchises that have primarily only done well in the west, and may as well have the cultural appeal of another XB title in their country. If they released PS4 in Japan without anything to make it worthwhile, they would find themselves paying high production costs to create and put the systems out on the market, followed by low sales since there's limited support and virtually no reason to buy one.

soulreaper_uk
soulreaper_uk

@ch7226 I agree with you on one point, I don't think there's a PC game out there that pushes a PC to its limits. Not since Crysis have you had to build a pc to play a game. Games are playing catch up.You mention the fact high profile games are multiplatform, which is one reason why the PC gamers are getting games that are substandard for what their machines can cope with. The games are ported from console to PC. COD MW2/3 for example. So basically your comment actually puts forward the fact PC's are superior if such high profile games can be played on medium settings on an average PC. Don't get me wrong, i'm not pushing the "master race" idea (i rather pathetic troll comment) my PS4 sits proudly on my TV stand and i'm looking forward to its future. My point is that, no matter how good a console is, it is held back by the inability to upgrade hardware, whereas a PC can be constantly upgraded. So no matter how you look at it, PCs will always outpower a console. 

soulreaper_uk
soulreaper_uk

@CrouchingWeasel @forcefactor13 @canuckbiker  As sony ditched psone/ps2 support after the original 60GB console i'd be surprised if they did have plans for them on ps4. With ps1/2 emulators on pc/smartphone available, I don't think it's much of a loss anyway. As for paying for games i already own, if that is the case for ps3 games then my PS3 will remain functional for a while.

CrouchingWeasel
CrouchingWeasel

@forcefactor13 @canuckbiker  

Fret not. Sony is working on building a game streaming system that will allow previous gen games to be streamed via Gaikai to the PS4. They're hoping to have it ready next year sometime. Those who already own a PS3 version of a game it's not known yet  whether or not you'll have to pay for it again or if the PS4 will detect the disc & allow streaming as long as the disc is in the system. Also not sure whether it will allow for PS One & PS2 games.

frozenspark
frozenspark

@Urizen316 That's the thing, Sony aside, most of the development companies that are big in the Japanese market had their hands tied down with other games that are/were already planned for the current-gen consoles. Sony (nor any other major game mogul) can't just demand (example) Capcom to drop their projects and start working on a game for the PS4, because 1) they are two separate and unrelated entities and 2) Capcom has its own agenda of projects to handle for Sony and other corporations (Dead Rising 3 for XB One, Monster Hunter for Wii U/3DS, Ultra Street Fighter 4 for PS3, etc.). As for Sony developing games itself, it put out Knack, which while it was unfortunately rated poorly in the west, it was created in vain of "Crash Bandicoot" which did well internationally, so they planned for Knack to appeal to the Japanese as well. Unfortunately, ratings aside, that would be the only thing that has much appeal. You can't just look at the games for the reason it wasn't released there either though, there's also apps for the system (Youtube, Hulu, etc.), and the Japanese market had many that were exclusive only to its home country. However, if none of the developers for those have neither started nor completed them for the PS4 architecture, then they're still left with nothing to show (PSN isn't even finished for the PS4 by Sony's Japan branch for the record). Even for the ones we currently have, many of them were made by western organizations, meaning that it will probably take time to get foreign language support for those apps in another country if they're non-English speaking. Releasing a PS4 without virtually anything except one crappy game is like selling a $400 brick. People may as well return it and go give XBox a try instead of waiting 3 months. However, if you can guarantee content and a good experience at a time of the system's release, people will save their money and wait. I love Japan and I think it sucks they have to wait for one of their own creations, but that's the reality.

Urizen316
Urizen316

@frozenspark @Urizen316 @idk95 And Sony didn´t seem hellbent on delivering anything remotely interesting for the Japanese market, doesn't that tell you anything? Japan is a guaranteed sale, no point in spending effort on a predetermined market it sounds like to me.

ch7226
ch7226

@soulreaper_uk@ch7226Little good it does, when there's very little content that can use that power. Congrats, someone's got a $1,000 water cooled system that can max out BF4...paying that much just so you can max out the few high profile titles available, seems like a waste. But hey, it's his money...i would rather spend 500 on a console, a game, and the other 500 on a larger flat screen. A gaming rig, all things considered is an overpowered web browser/media player that just so happens to play the few high profile titles. There's just not enough exclusives on PC for me to be able to justify a 800-1000 dollar purchase, i just cant...just so i can have slightly better graphics? Paying that much for better graphics, is equivalent to paying an extra 1,000 for the next bigger size flat screen, "but it has more pixels" for a 1,000 dollars?!?!...better graphics is always a good thing, but an increase in graphics isn't worth a 800-1,000 dollars.