The PlayStation 4 console may represent a leap forward in gaming technology, but it's merely a basic Blu-ray playback device, and one that lacks several now-common features at that. At launch, at least, the player feels severely limited considering the lack of 3D disc playback; the absence of a true remote control; and a fairly limited user interface, settings cluster, and display information bar. The console does output picture and sound that's a match for the PlayStation 3, which is certainly critical in its success as a playback device. Still, it's just not ready for primetime as a primary Blu-ray playback unit, particularly considering its slow chapter skip performance and numerous playback and unexpected quit glitches. Frankly, using the PS4 as a Blu-ray playback device has proven to be an exercise in frustration given three system freezes and the audio glitch necessitating another round of disc sampling to ensure it was an isolated incident. Fortunately none of the other discs seemed prone, and the freezes also seemed random. The PlayStation 4 is certainly a worthwhile investment for the avid gamer, but for those either hoping for improved and expanded Blu-ray playback capabilities, it's currently not worth the upgrade. In fact, it's smart to stay rather far away for the time being. Considering the price, expanded features, greater stability, and comparable, if not equal, playback quality, the PlayStation 3 remains the superior gaming/Blu-ray playback hybrid machine. Here's hoping Microsoft's next-gen machine, which has been marketed as more of a "media hub" and less a pure gaming device, fares better out-of-the-box as a Blu-ray player. Watch for a review in the coming days.
Xbox One Conclusion
The Xbox One's Blu-ray player certainly isn't one for the home theater enthusiast. Picture is solid and sound is excellent, but it lacks precise tuning adjustments. Such audiences will want a dedicated player in their rack. However, the Xbox One just may be the perfect family room Blu-ray playback device for both the casual viewer or family or even the enthusiast who wants a capable second player outside of the home theater. Voice commands are a dream and they work very well at a high percentage rate of accuracy. The failure to navigate disc menus with verbal commands or hand gestures is disappointing, and that the Kinect more often than not fails to recognize commands during loud playback can be an annoyance. These issues, however, are much less likely to plague the casual living room experience, which seems to be Microsoft's target, anyway. Considering the smooth experience, fast access, the absence of glaring glitches, the terrific and intuitive SmartGlass remote app, the awesome Kinect interface, and all the other things the system does well right out of the box, the Xbox One is the clear winner over the PS4 in terms of overall entertainment integration and, more specific to this site and its audience, Blu-ray playback. There's no doubt the PS4 will eventually play catchup and at least rival the Xbox One, but Microsoft has certainly taken the lead and embraced the Blu-ray experience, once its rival, with open arms and an advanced, enjoyable, and accurate interactivity that's nothing short of a terrific experience all round. Oh, and it also plays some great video games. The Xbox One comes very highly recommended.
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