Sony PlayStation 4 review

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Score: (9)

Many of the PlayStation 4 apps and functions only just became available to test, while a few others are still being rolled out. With that in mind, we will continue to test the system throughout the week, and we will update this article accordingly.

It’s not enough to just be a gamer anymore.

Hardware makers know that you’re using any number of devices at any given moment, even while you’re in the act of fragging dudes in the latest shooter, and the next generation of consoles has been designed with that in mind. While Microsoft markets the Xbox One as an “all-in-one entertainment” box and Sony’s messaging courts hardcore gamers, the consoles’ features tell the full story: These are both all-in-one boxes that cater by design to a variety of entertainment needs.

So which one belongs beneath your television? We’ve only just begun to hunker down with the Xbox One, so we can’t yet say with certainty. But after spending some serious time with the PlayStation 4, we know Microsoft will have its work cut out for it. Here’s what Sony’s next-generation PlayStation is all about.

Unboxing video

Before you begin

It should be a given that you’ll need the 300MB day one patch, titled update 1.50. Without it, many of the PS4’s primary functions – including anything more than basic online connectivity and DVD/Blu-ray playback – simply won’t work. If you get a PS4 on launch day but then take it somewhere without an Internet connection – people in the military, take note – you’ll need a way to get online for the quick patch.

The PS4 is the best console gaming experience yet

That’s the nature of electronic products these days. Hardware and software developers alike know they have the safety net of post-launch patches. This leaves us in the position of having to judge the system based not only on what it is, but what it will be, and could be. And the PlayStation 4 is a powerful gaming device with excellent potential.

Features and design

The PS4 is relatively small, packaged in a simple black chassis, and it features a sloped front occupied by a disc slot and touch-sensitive power and eject switches. You just swipe your finger across the face to start the system; it’s slick, but having some form of haptic feedback to confirm your touch would be nice. A light bar on the top turns blue to signal it’s powering up, white when it’s smoothly running, and yellow when it’s powered down. It isn’t a very useful feature, but it is a stylish one that will define the look of the system.

The console runs very quietly, except when you put a disc in for the first time. The spinning disc is noisy and creates a noticeable vibration. Every game you play is automatically installed on the replaceable 500GB hard drive, but you can still play the game while it loads. Once the install is done, you just need the disc in the drive whenever you want to play, for authentication. After installing the newest updates, you will only have about 375GB left, though. Upgrading to a higher capacity internal hard drive is recommended, although not essential.

Controller

The DualShock 4 is a massive improvement over previous Sony controllers. It’s a long-overdue redesign, shaped by input that Sony collected from developers during the PS4′s pre-production phase. First-person shooter games in particular benefit from a specific type of controller, one with triggers and a longer frame to grip than previous Sony controllers offered. With FPS titles being so popular, it made sense to design with that group in mind, though it should be noted that the DualShock 4 works just fine with other types of games as well.

Gamers with large hands will engulf this controller.

The new R2/L2 triggers hook outwards like real triggers, making it easier to grip and fire quickly. The thumbsticks have also been altered, with a concave top that offers better stability for your thumbs and less slippage. Despite the controller’s bulkier frame over previous DualShocks, it is still a bit shorter than the current Xbox 360 controller; gamers with large hands will engulf this controller.

The D-pad is unchanged, but the face buttons are digital rather than analog now, with a springier, clicky feel when you press them. The newest addition, the touch pad, is hard to miss. Situated in the center of the DualShock 4, the touch-sensitive surface can track finger movement, allowing for swipe motions in games, and it can also be pressed down on like a button. There’s a lot of potential here for developers to marry “traditional” video game commands with what we see in mobile games. It will be interesting to see how this feature evolves post-launch.

sony playstation 4 controller front

We’re left with the Options and Share buttons. “Options” is a different name for what gamers know as a start button, plain and simple. The Share button is a bit more unusual though – and unique. Tapping it brings up a share menu; press and hold the button to take a screenshot that you can upload, or press it twice to begin a new gameplay recording (this only works with games; the service deactivates itself for apps like Netflix). Up to 15 minutes of footage can be saved, and then uploaded to Facebook. You can also go through the share menu and stream video to Twitch or Ustream.

The controller sports a speaker with its own audio channel, meaning it won’t simply play the same sounds you would hear through your TV speakers or headphones. You also get dual haptic feedback, an evolution of rumble features that allows for the vibration to shake either side of the controller as well as the whole thing. In addition, there’s improved gyroscopic control and a light bar on the front of the controller that integrates the Move technology, so long as you have a PlayStation 4 Eye camera connected. The light bar also acts an identifier for when multiple controllers are connected to the same system, with a different color for each one.

Performance

The PlayStation 4′s launch titles look significantly better than the current-gen offerings, with a higher level of detail, vastly improved lighting effects, and more objects on the screen at once. As with all console launches, game development cycles were curtailed by the hardware launch deadline. The available content right now shows huge potential, but it will likely be at least two years before developers really begin to push the hardware.

One of the best functions of the PS4 is its ability to run two apps at once.

The user interface is a different story. One of the best functions of the PS4 is its ability to run two apps at once, and access the home screen functions at any time, even when you’re in a game. Tapping the PS button on the controller twice allows you to swap back and forth between the currently running app and the last one you were using. You can slow down the system easily if you have too many apps running at once, but it generally runs smoothly; freezes and slowdowns were rare.

Switching between apps that are already open takes no time at all, and starting up a new one takes just a few seconds. You can’t run two games at the same time, but you can easily run one game along with, say, the Web browser or Music Unlimited.

Sony’s subscription music service is at once one of the best and most frustrating features on the PS4. The Music Unlimited app has a massive, searchable library of 18 million songs. Once you hit play, you can then jump into another app, like a game, and have the music continue uninterrupted, basically creating your own game soundtracks. You’ll want to turn down the game’s music and then adjust the Music Unlimited volume by holding down the PS button to bring up a volume bar. Currently, you can only do this using Music Unlimited, and it’ll stay that way until Sony introduces DLNA and MP3 recognition (ideally along with support for external USB storage).

Software and online capabilities

Along with Sony’s Music and Video Unlimited apps, the PS4 also comes with several popular third-party subscription video services like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon to name just a few. The Netflix interface is a highlight, with a smooth, info-filled movie browser and the same Netflix Max discovery feature that the PS3 app offered. With Max, you rate a few films in a chosen genre, and then receive a recommended movie to watch based on your choices.

The PlayStation Store also returns, but it’s slightly underwhelming at the moment due to the console’s lack of backward compatibility. The only games available are those that were designed specifically for the PS4. There’s hope for those who want to play the older games, but that speaks to another bit of unrealized potential we are forced to wait on: the streaming technology that Sony’s ownership of Gaikai offers.

Sony PlayStation 4 screenshot 4

A Web browser is also available, with support for HTML5 but not Flash. The interface is fairly clunky as well, and putting it into full screen cuts off the corners of the website you’re viewing. It’s fine for text-heavy websites, but anything more elaborate is difficult to navigate.

Profiles have also been upgraded, and they now link to your Facebook account if you want them to. This creates two layers of friends: those you only know in the gaming zone by their PSN IDs, and those you know well enough to have their real names. You can request a player’s real name – there are separate friend requests for PSN IDs and real names – though you have the option of setting your account to display your FB name from the start.

Once you link your social media account – a necessary step for sharing recorded video – you will also share the Trophies you earn, any big moments from the games you play, and which movies and music you purchased via Music and Video Unlimited in your newsfeed. All of this can be turned off, but it does offer a level of social integration that is new to the PlayStation ecosystem. It’s difficult to tell what people will accept when it comes to social integration; having the option available could help to nurture a stronger community.

Accessories

For Vita owners, the PS4 will breathe new life into the handheld console. Sony’s handheld gaming system has been criticized for its limited (though continually growing) game library, but the PS4 gives you more reasons to own one. A new Vita app called “PS4 Link” allows you to use the Vita as a second screen for any game that offers such functionality, or play PS4 games remotely. This isn’t a new feature for Sony platforms – the PS3 supported it in certain games using the Vita and the PlayStation Portable both – but it was limited. The PS4/Vita integration represents a huge step forward for off-TV play on Sony consoles.

Sony Playstation 4 kit wires

The PlayStation 4 Camera is sold separately for $60, but it’s closer to being an essential purchase. It features two cameras and a microphone, which allows it to double as a communications device when talking to friends. Alternatively you could use the stereo headset included, which physically connects to your controller – Bluetooth connectivity for headsets isn’t supported at launch.

The camera enables the Move functionality offered by the DualShock 4′s lightbar, but it also recognizes your face. When you have multiple profiles on your PS4 and you set the system to a low-power standby mode, the camera will automatically recognize the face of the profile owner that sits down in front of it once they pick up a controller. It is very similar to what Microsoft’s Kinect can do on the Xbox One, and in both cases it is a very cool “We live in the future!” sort of feature.

Voice recognition also allows you to launch apps from the home screen, but it is fairly limited in its vocabulary right now.

Conclusion

Sony has the chance to do what few people or companies can do, and correct its errors of the past. The manufacturer learned its lessons with the PlayStation 3 they had the better hardware, but didn’t listen to gamers, then seemed genuinely perplexed why people didn’t flock to them or wait a full year after the Xbox 360 was released. With the PlayStation 4, Sony listened to its fans base, and continues to do so. There is an energy around the PlayStation 4. It is a system built around what people want, and what they’ve been asking for. With the PS4, Sony has the tools to retake their crown as king of the console market. 

The PS4 is built on promise and potential. The system that we see in a year from now will likely differ significantly from the launch-day units, just as the games released a year or more from now will better demonstrate the machine’s power. Until then, the PS4 does a lot of things right – enough that it’s worth waiting and trusting that Sony will fix the little things they did away with or deprioritized for launch.

From the start, Sony has said the PS4 is a gaming system first. Gaikai streaming tech will eventually bolster that claim, but the changes here over the PS3 are all very much for the better, even without any form of backward compatibility. The user interface is cleaner and easier to navigate, the addition of multi-tasking acknowledges the changing needs and desires of the modern gamer, and even the controller is a big step forward with its redesigned form factor.

For years now people have been saying that console gaming is on the decline. The PlayStation 4 proves that to be a ridiculous claim. The PS4 is the best console gaming experience yet, and reminds us why we used to get so excited for the release of a new system. 

The next-gen battle has begun, and it’s going to be a long, long war. Based on what we’ve seen so far, and assuming that Sony sticks to its promises, the PlayStation 4 is off to a very good start.

Highs

Lows

Showing 46 comments

  1. eryc.rocha 3 months Ago  
    and another thing why isnt my USB readable on PS4? why cant i put videos of photos from it on ma PS4? it seems like the PS4 is a downgrade from the PS3!!!!
    1. You say it's a downgrade, and yes it might be in the short term, but you have to think about the fact that you're comparing a console that has 7-8 years under its belt in terms of added features to a console that has been out for just over three months. As an early adopter, I understood some features would be missing. Just give it time.
      1. Did you really just reply that to me? Why would Sony bring something out so useless in the 1st place and then expect us to wait for a upgrade with no dates set? Why not wait till its "perfect" and lunch it?! And what are you talking about? its the same console...PS1 Good, PS2 Great, PS3 Almost perfect.......PS4? Waste of money so far...all people been doing is complain about it...if it is so crap why is it so expensive? Its like Mercedes bringing out a New Mercedes and its more expensive than the previous but its slower....come on man think about it
  2. eryc.rocha 3 months Ago  
    Hi, why isnt my game saving, well it is saving but everytime i turn the ps4 and after a few days return to play the game it never gives me the option to load it up i always have to start from the beginning...this is really annoying...i miss my ps3 now
    1. Are you getting an error message? There is an issue going around with a particular error causing save game corruption, but it should pop up on screen. Is it one game or all games?

      1. ATM im only playing Assassin's creed black flag which makes it more annoying because i get so far in the game and then i have to start all over again because it doesnt seem to be saving...i dont think im getting any error messages, and if i was getting them what should i do about it?
  3. kayzbluegenes 5 months Ago  
    Thank you, SONY, for ruining my grandsons' Christmas. I preordered the PS4, wrapped it for Christmas, bought Christmas snacks & treats, and invited my Grandsons to my house for an early Christmas surprise. They were so excited to get the PS4 and were, naturally, anxious to play. DOESN'T WORK!!!! Called Sony help line - no clue. So... I have spent a fortune for junk, I have 2 very disappointed grandsons (this was their entire birthday + Christmas), and... of course... there are no replacement systems available. I will not be purchasing any more SONY products.
  4. eatdogs 5 months Ago  
    Please do a review of last nights South Park episode!!!
  5. joe.hundley.9 5 months Ago  
    I have the PS4 ready to ship through Amazon. I have big hands and you say that they will engulf the controller. Should I be worried?
    1. Nah, it's not a problem. I think the 360 controller is still the best around, but I'd put the DualShock 4 right behind it, and it's still growing on me.

  6. Eric Marr 5 months Ago  
    They musta got paid well to put living room command center. When there is no DLNA or eternal storage allow, and can't even play MP3s
  7. James Harris 5 months Ago  
    What a great headline.
  8. Stephen Meese 5 months Ago  
    It's a living room command center that you can't plug your hard drive into. Jerks.
  9. jesterking 5 months Ago  
    I'm sure DLNA and MP3's will work just fine eventually.
    1. [Deleted] 4 months Ago   In reply to jesterking
      V1.52 has been release and as yet no DLNA support. Was it not told by verge from an unknown source that the second update would have DLNA support?.
      1. I've come to learn that news from "unknown sources" are nothing more than rumors. So that being said, I will take the official word. That is, as of right now, it's still in the works. I have faith they will be functional within the next 6 months.
  10. bclark 5 months Ago  

    Great review Ryan. Gives me hope after being discouraged by the missing essentials like dlna. I think I won't regret picking up a gen 2 ps4

    1. Thanks! I really do think Sony learned its lesson after the PS3. The PS3 is a more powerful piece of hardware than the 360, and they expected people would just flock to them because of that regardless. They took things for granted, and it killed them for years. They really do seem to be going for the fan consensus on this cycle.

      1. I think the age of Sony is upon us in the console world. The PS2 was extremely successful and it smashed the Xbox and all of the other competition. I think that Sony got overconfident and thought that the PS3 was going to be successful no matter what and so they didn't pay attention. It bit them in the ass, HARD. The PS3 is an amazing experience all considered, but it didn't reach that point until only say 2 years ago. This time around Sony wants to have the end game experience in the beginning and get lasting sales for the PS4. They paid very close attention to what the people were talking about. Its paying off in a big way.

        I went into this generation thinking I would pick up the best consoles regardless of who made it. Microsoft is dead to me and I will not buy an X1 regardless of how superior an experience it ends up being (it won't). It has nothing to do with the hardware. I don't trust them anymore. They tried to force policies that I DO NOT WANT EVER. Sure they reversed it but I'm surprised how fast people were to forget. Not only that they were extremely arrogant about it. I don't remember where the quote was or exactly how it was phrased but it essentially said that they jumped the gun and were too forward thinking. That we weren't READY for those policies. They could put those policies back in with a patch at any time. You could make an argument that Sony wanted the same things and could also patch it in, but at least they were smart enough to hide it if they did. I know I'm not the only one who feels this way and Microsoft can kiss any hope of getting my money goodbye forever.
        1. If you really READ how the policies were to work.. I don' think you would agree. You were ABLE TO SELL YOUR DIGITALLY BOUGHT GAMES!!!!!!!!!! Up to 10 people could play games YOU BOUGHT!!!!!! There were VERY forward thinking ideas that MicroSoft didn't explain in detail or well at first.. When most who actually learned about them wanted them BACK after the reversal.. It was the FUTURE of digital gaming...(many ideas brought over from STEAM). Who cares if it killed GameStop (used gaming).. it offered SO MUCH MORE this both the PS4 and new XBox One did ...
          1. I knew all of that and I do want an evolved digital marketplace, however you have to understand that Microsoft wasn't doing this for the customer. They are pushing an agenda where they eliminate physical media. I don't care about gamestop. Physical media would be great to do away with but it will come at a horrible cost, they will then be able to completely restrict your rights on that media. You will no longer own your games and they will be able to revoke your access and rights to them at any time. You can already see this with the overly loved steam. If they decide you cheated or whatever they just zap away your games and your done. Is that the future you really want? I think that a strong digital marketplace and a strong physical marketplace can exist together.
          2. Sorry, but that's flat our wrong. You could not gameshare with 10 people on one purchase - only true "friends" (of the 30 day+ variety) could try one of your games out for an hour, and would then be prompted to pay full price for it online. Get your facts straight, please (although it's hard to blame anyone after all the flip-flops Microsoft made).

            Digital distribution works well when there is competition and an open marketplace. That's why Steam and other DD sites are a godsend for PC gamers, but both Sony and Microsoft have no intentions of opening anything up. Retail game prices are usually much quicker to fall than the same games on PSN or XBL.
    2. The first patch is supposed to fix all that I believe.

  11. Steve Warwick 5 months Ago  
    To everyone saying PC is better then console: of course it is! That is just common knowledge! However, you have to remember where the biggest evolutions in gaming have taken place and which one ends up being cheaper. To many, the console is outdated: that is why both companies are pushing for "media systems". In my eyes, consoles are used to work along side PCs, not to compete with them. You have to remember what both devices are in there basic form: a computer. Saying consoles are being killed off by PCs is crazy. It's like saying the tablet is killing off the phone or PC/Mac. They are all computers, and should be used in conjunction with one another, not fought over which is better......
  12. Dominic Blais 5 months Ago  
    it's still a pinto to my custom pc
  13. Ian Bell 5 months Ago  
    Get mine this week. Can't wait. I think it will be the generation of the PS4 and not the Xbox this go-around.
    1. I think it's the end generation for both of these consoles as over the course of the next five years most gaming will be done over tablets and phones as technology keeps advancing. There's already some pretty sweet mmorpg games out there and the connectivity isn't half bad.
  14. Ryan Hurst 5 months Ago  
    Being able to create your own console by utilizing Steam OS will kill the need for a console.
    Another reason is the obvious fact that both the XB1 & PS4 are using 8 - core AMD Jaguar CPU's. Even with a little tweaking & overclocking, they are basically the same.
    That by itself is a statement that the console industry is in funnel.
    Console's with consolidation cpu's....
    Lastly, Microsoft's next prospective CEO wants to kill the Console division & focus back in Software development. Read up on it here.
    http://bgr.com/2013/11/08/microsoft-ceo-candidate-elop-bing-xbox/
    1. Your comment just shows off how little you understand about what a console actually is. A PC isn't even comparable to a console because they meet entirely different needs and markets. Consoles are extremely simple in every aspect. They boot up super fast, they are tailored for gamers (or should be), and are extremely easy to use. Setting them up is about as complicated as pulling it out of the box and plugging it it. It just works (unless broken obviously).

      You don't have to worry about graphics cards, upgrading parts, game incompatibility, virus's etc. Getting a new game is easy, you check to see if its on your console, you buy it, you play it, no worries. It comes with a very intuitive, fun controller that is universal on that platform that works out of the box. The console is simple. It just works. The PC is the complete opposite of that. Can a pc do what a console does? Technically yes. A pc can do anything a console can do and often better but not as seamlessly or easily. That alone is why the PC will never replace the console. Almost everyone can set up a console, it's literally a few cords, and then its good to go for years and year or until it breaks.

      Most people aren't willing or able to deal with getting a good PC rig going. Its too much of a hassle. They don't want to have to figure out if a controller is compatible or figure out which to get, they don't want to install it and they don't want to have to replace it. Keyboards and Mice aren't as fun or intuitive in a lot of games, although they do offer superior control. Also most computers of a comparable cost to a console offer an inferior experience. You have to get a PC meant for gaming and that can be expensive which largely negates the usefulness of it. The console therefore will always win for those people who want simplicity IE most people. The console isn't going to die, probably ever. If the next prospective CEO want to get rid of Xbox I expect his time as a CEO will be short lived.
  15. Charles Rogers 5 months Ago  
    Didn't you guys just post about NOT getting a PS4? You guys flip flop more than Obama talking about insurance policies.
    1. That article was the opinion of one of our PC guys. He made his points and argued them logically, but they weren't representative of DT as a whole.

  16. Vinson Boltz 5 months Ago  
    Wish I had 1
  17. Ronnie Bailey 5 months Ago  
    Living room command center? It can't even play music or bluray out if the box from what I've heard.. Also I thought the fanboys wanted a "gaming console" and bashed the xbox one for being a media center.
    1. Ian Bell 5 months Ago   In reply to Ronnie Bailey
      Once you download the update, you should be good to go.
    2. If you want to bring the "it isn't complete out of the box" logic I will remind you that the Xbox One is essentially a paperweight until you update it. There is no excuse for the lack of MP3 but I think with the amount of backlash over it we will see a fix soon.
    3. http://www.theverge.com/gaming/2013/11/13/5098934/sony-aim-to-implement-ps4-mp3-cd-playback-in-patch

      Sony is aware of how people feel about the lack of mp3 and CD audio support, and will address it in a future update.
  18. Ryan Hurst 5 months Ago  
    Consoles are dying. Steam will deliver the death blow.
    1. Fadrick Paiva 5 months Ago   In reply to Ryan Hurst
      i hope ure right.
    2. Ian Bell 5 months Ago   In reply to Ryan Hurst
      No way. What games are on Steam that you can't get on a console?
    3. Steam is horrible. Anytime they feel like not supporting a game any longer you'll loose anything you've purchased for said game including access to the game itself.
      1. Which is why I still try to buy physical copies. I heard Amazon does that too if your account gets banned or they stop carrying the music you purchased.

  19. Dave Fluegge 5 months Ago  
    If anything is a living room command center I'd say it is the XBone, it is build to take over the living room. A powerful gaming center? Of course!
  20. fabiaguilafc 5 months Ago  
    Sony has just said that the PS4 will have a update where it will support MP3, CD, and DLNA after launch.
    1. No true.. They said they are looking into adding it, and they were surprised by the need for it. No official word was made as to when it would release. It could be a year from now. SONY might think people will forget about it after launch, and never add it.. You never know.
      1. I think you need to think better of Sony. They have been responsive to every complaint leading up to today. I bet $20 they fix the MP3 playback and streaming capabilities.

      2. No DLNA, MP3 and CD play? No PS4 in my living room then.