With the Holiday season soon to be upon us, gifts are on the minds of all the boys and girls, and more importantly, parents. The Playstation 4 was released a year ago and has broken records with its success over the course of the past year. The question is, is this the gift that is going to really show your love to your child/significant other/great grandfather’s sister? Read on to see our up-to-date review on this sexy piece of tech.
Hardware and Design: 9.5/10
Sony spared no expense in designing the Playstation 4. Their hunger for market dominance is extremely apparent in the extreme attention to detail in the design area of the console. “Modern” is the primary word I would use to describe the console. It is very minimalistic in its design, intended to blend in discretely with your other entertainment center tech, while still having the ability to turn heads and gain recognition.
This design did come at the expense of user friendliness. When I first purchased the console, I plugged it in and started searching for the “On” button. As I was feeling around the edges of the console, I finally accidentally touched the touch sensitive edge that turns on the console that is marked with a microscopic symbol. (pictured right) This does make it, however, little brother and/or spouse-proof; which is either a good thing or a really bad thing!
Sony has really beefed up the specifications of the console from its previous console counterpart. Packed with more than 16 times the power of the Playstation 3, the Playstation 4 is able to create job dropping near photo-realistic graphics at times. The system is loaded with 8 GB of DDR5 ram that works in tandem with an integrated CPU and GPU system running on 8 cores capable of putting out 1.84 teraflops. Nobody knows what that means nor whether it is relevant, but it is impressive nonetheless. Check out the full specs below:
|Main Processor||Single-chip custom processorCPU: low power x86-64 AMD “Jaguar”, 8 coresGPU: 1.84 TFLOPS, AMD Radeon™ Graphics Core Next engine|
|Hard Disk Drive||Built-in 500 GB (Interchangeable with other SSD drives)|
|Optical Drive (Read only)||BD 6xCAVDVD 8xCAV|
|I/O||Super-Speed USB (USB 3.0), AUX|
|Communication||Ethernet (10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX, 1000BASE-T)IEEE 802.11 b/g/nBluetooth® 2.1 (EDR)|
|AV output||HDMIDigital Output (optical)|
The system has all of the ports that you need for your gaming and multimedia needs. One thing to keep in mind, video output is limited to HDMI. There is no analog video out, meaning that you won’t be playing this console on older TV’s. HDMI to analog converters are not cheap, and they would disgrace a console designed to be used in HD.
The Playstation Eye is an optional peripheral that adds an extra layer of immersion to the console. While for gaming, its implementation has been relatively weak, Sony has struggled to keep up with demand for these cameras due to the popularity of social gamers using them to stream live video in tandem with their game streaming through Twitch and other live video streaming services. The Playstation Eye is also essential to be able to use the Playstation Move functionality using either the Playstation Move controllers or the Dual Shock 4 controllers.
I intentionally did not mention the controller during the hardware section because I think the improvements that Sony has made merit their own section. The latest Dual Shock iteration has taken the gaming world by storm and has been named by many, Sony’s best controller ever made. I can’t say I don’t agree with those individuals.
One of the first differences that you’ll notice is the mere increase in size. A common complaint of the PS3 controller was that it was too small for most adult hands and caused cramping during extended play sessions. The new size of the controller is extremely comfortable. Everything about the controller feels ergonomic. The controller sits nicely in your hands giving you quick access to all of the buttons you need in a snap. The angle of the control also makes for a much more comfortable first person shooter experience while using the new triggers.
Speaking of which, the triggers are a serious improvement over the DualShock 3 controller. The resistance is perfect and the shape wraps nicely around your pointer finger. Also, they now angle outward, preventing you from accidentally fast forwarding that Netflix movie that you’re watching when setting the controller down.
Finally, the twin sticks are one of the most improved upon aspects the of the DualShock controller. Many people complained that their fingers would slip off of the convex DualShock 3 triggers. The DualShock 4 features a concave design. While the placement is the same, the other major improvement to the twin sticks is their resistance and the decrease in dead zone. This equates to more control and less broken TV’s caused by thrown controllers. Another added benefit to the improvement in resistance is less hand cramping. That means more gaming and less discomfort.
The controller also introduced a clickable touchpad, however, few games have really leveraged it. There have been a few clever uses of it, but for the most part it has proven to be more of a gimmick than an actual value add.
While every new console comes with an initial drought of games, Sony’s has used its strong independent developer partnerships to keep a steady stream of games coming out nearly weekly since launch last November. With a variety of games in nearly every genre, the Playstation 4 is a hard console to not recommend to any fan of console gaming.
Over 100 games are planned to be released by the end of this year ranging in genre from action to platformer, RPG, and even real time strategy games. Many of these are multi-platform games, but where the Playstation 4 really shines against the competition is in their first part studio games. Some critically acclaimed titles include: Killzone: Shadowfall, Infamous: Second Son, and The Last of Us: Remastered. (Note: I have not played all of these games, nor am I giving my personal recommendation) Some promising upcoming titles to keep an eye out for include Uncharted 4: Among thieves, Little Big Planet 3, and The Order: 1886.
Finally, Sony is paving the way with their innovative game streaming platform: Playstation Now. This service provides instant access to anyone with a PS4 to play over 150 PS3 titles. What’s most impressive about the service is that the actual processing of the game is occuring in a nearby server just streaming the video feed to your console. The service works surprisingly well if you have a steady connection. There is some minor latency, but it is really only noticeable in twitch shooters. Platformers, 3rd party adventure, and racing games all performed extremely well in my time with Playstation Now.
Sony has very clearly stated that the Playstation 4 was designed from the ground up for the Gamer. Gaming is the core functionality of the system. However, we have become conditioned to using our consoles as multimedia hubs. PS4 currently supports the following video streaming services:
- Hulu Plus
- Amazon Instant Video
- Vudu Movies
- WWE Network
- NBA Game Time
- YUPP TV
- Qello HD Concerts
- Sony’s Video Unlimited
In addition to video streaming, another noteworthy feature built into the console is the ability to record or stream gameplay using the Share button. The PS4 was intentionally designed with social sharing at its core. Simply click the Share button at any time, and you can upload the last 15 minutes of gameplay to your social media feeds. Also, click the share button, and you can be instantly sharing your gaming session with the world in real time via the likes of Twitch and Ustream. A recent update to the system also added an app called SHAREfactory. This app gives gamers the ability to edit and make changes and create highlight reels to their gameplay sessions.
The system also has a web browser that can be used to quickly browse sites for walkthroughs and gaming tips while on the fly. The browser supports HTML5 video. I found myself switching to my browser and viewing some of my favorite videos while various games were loading or in between online matches. It is not quite Xbox’s snap, but it gets the job done nonetheless.
A current deficiency of the system is that it does not support DNLA streaming nor playing video nor MP3s from a flash drive; features that have long been present on the Playstation 3. Sony has hinted that they are working on making these features available, but as of yet, they are currently unavailable. The system also does not support external hard drives, though the SSD drive is replaceable with larger sizes.
Online Play: 9.5/10
In a world where we are constantly connected, Sony recognized that their online service on the Playstation 3 had its deficiencies. The Playstation 4 heralds new ground in the online gaming space for Sony fans. Party chat functionality allows up to 8 friends to group up and chat through the included headset even if they are not playing the same game. Getting into friends games is a snap with the friend list game integration. These streamlined features do come at a cost. Online gaming on Sony’s network now requires a Playstation Plus account which costs around $50 per year.
Additionally, firmware 2.0 of the software, which will be released in the near future, will introduce Shareplay. Shareplay will allow friends to join in on games that they don’t own. Additionally, friends will be able to spectate a game, and even take over the controls at times in those moments of helplessness. This will add a new social dimension to single player gaming online.
The Playstation 4 has quickly become the market leader in console gaming. With Sony’s focus on the gamer, sleek design, strong exclusive line up, impressive hardware, improved controller, and new social features it is hard to find a reason not to recommend the system. Gaming aside, the system does lack a few expected multimedia functions such as DNLA streaming and support for external files such as MP3s and videos, but those deficiencies are likely to be addressed by Sony over time. Overall, we strongly recommend the Playstation 4.
Overall: 9.3/10 – Strongly Recommend