I’ve decided to break down our review of the PlayStation 4 into 2 parts, one for the hardware and one for the software. There is a lot to cover on both fronts so just thought it would make for easier reading.
First off, full disclosure, up until last week I was an Xbox gamer. The Xbox was my console of choice for playing games. Granted I wasn’t happy about some of the choices Microsoft made in recent years with the various dashboard updates, namely all the advertisements on the dash. Go ahead and look. You’ll see ad’s for video streaming services, new movies and games coming out among other things. The way I look at it, I was paying 50euro a year for Xbox Live and I didn’t expect to be advertised to constantly… but I digress, so back to the task at hand, the PlayStation 4 (henceforth to be referred to as the PS4).
It’s been 6 and a half years since the PS3 came out in Ireland so, the launch of a new console is something all gamers have been waiting for. Yes what the developers have been able to do with the PS3 was nothing short of amazing (check out the Last of Us or GTAV), but a shiny new console with so much prospects is something that one can not ignore.
Packaged in with the PS4 is the following:
1 x PS4 Console
1 x power lead (standard figure 8 power lead)
1 x HDMI Cable
1 x Mono Headset
1 x Micro USB Cable
1 x Dual Shock 4 Controller.
There’s some various leaflets etc… but that’s it. It’s nice and simple. The console itself is a thing of beauty (to me anyway), I love the sloped angular look and the contrasting gloss / matt finish. On the front of the PS4 is the slot loading Blu-Ray drive. Right at the joint of the gloss / matt partition, is the power button and on the lower half is the disc eject button. These could be designed better and are a bit of a pain in the ass to be honest. The labels are tiny and you have to touch them several times to get them to work, but thankfully, you don’t really need them. Tapping the PS button on the DS4 turns on the console. When it’s on, holding the PS button lets you turn off the PS4, Log-out, put it into standby or eject the disc.
There’s a ‘notification / state’ indicator strip that runs from front to back in the seam between the glossy and matt part of the console. It’s solid color at the front and fades to black at the back. Sony use this to indicate the state of the PS4. If it’s off, the PS4 is complete off. If it’s Amber, then it’s in standby mode. Flashing blue means it’s booting, solid white is the PS4 is on and flashing white means the PS4 is shutting down. It’s a simple touch, but I love it. I thought I’d hate it as I’m very particular about lights distracting me when I’m watching TV / Playing my games, but I don’t even notice it.
On the front right of the console are 2 x USB 3.0 ports. Not sure what you might use these for just yet as the PS4 doesn’t support media from USB Drives (or anywhere really. There’s no DLNA support or anything… but Sony has said they will add the media support back in. They did say that the PS4 would support all media formats that the PS3 supported)
There’s nothing on the left or right and on the back is a nice small selection of ports -Power, HDMI, Ethernet, Optical and a custom port for the PlayStation 4 camera. That’s it. There is no external power brick or anything else to fuss with (thank you Sony). Shockingly, the PS4 is TINY. I mean smaller that the smallest PS3 or Xbox Slim, it really is that small. The huge section of my media center I had for the PS3 looks decidedly empty with the PS4 in there.
One thing I did love though was all I had to do to setup the PS4 was plug out the PS3 and plug in the same cables in to the back of my PS4. Done. The only extra cable I had to plug in was that for the PlayStation camera.
While I’m on the topic of the camera, while you might not need it, it’s really nice to have. It can auto log you in just by looking at you. It’s also really small. It’s packing 2 High Def cameras and an array of microphones. The low light performance of the camera is really great. I showed it to some friends and they couldn’t believe how much light it was letting in when the room was pretty much dark. The PS4, in combination with the camera can be controlled with your voice. Granted probably not to the same extent as the Xbox, but it’s been pretty darned impressive so far.
You get a, I’m going to call it a, thing called The Playroom free. It basically is a show case for the camera. I’ll tell you what, watch this YouTube clip. It’ll explain it much better than I could.
Now onto the Dual Shock 4 (DS4) and I’ve to put my hands up in the air, I hated the Dual Shock 3 controller. One of the reasons the Xbox 360 was my choice of gaming machine was because the 360 controller was great. Thankfully the DS4 changes all that. While Microsoft prattle on about vibration in triggers being innovation, Sony have only gone and added a touch pad to the DS4 and it works great! The DS4 feels much much better in your hand. This is mainly down to the chunkier and slightly more spread apart grips. The dual analogue sticks are also a little further apart and have a nice concave tips and are super comfortable.
Mercifully, Sony have fixed their trigger issue, they are now proper triggers and very responsive. Gone are the start and select buttons, and in are the Share and Options buttons. Share does what it says it does and shares what ever you’re at right then. It captures video all the time and allows you to share video and screen shows to Twitter and Facebook. Have a look at an example tweet below. I love this feature, being able to tweet a screen shot is great and adds an awesome social element to the system and my gameplay.
That touch pad I mentioned, it’s smack bang in the middle of the controller and is also a big button for even further interactions. One use of the touchpad I’ve loved so far is on the map view of Assassins Creed 4. You use the pad to navigate around and to pinch zoom in and out! It’s what you are used to on your phone / tablet, and well it just feels natural.
There are 2 remaining features that need to be mentioned. First off the light bar. This allows the camera to see where you are in the room it can also be used by the developers. One use so far I’ve seen is in KillZone. It is a health indicator. While it’s facing away from you, you can still see the color and honestly, I found it great.
The other feature, and this to me is a killer feature, a 3.5mm headphone jack. The Mono headset you get just plugs right in here, but on top of that, you can plug in any headphones you like into it, including ones with microphones so you can continue your online chats. But what really makes the 3.5mm headphone jack a killer feature is the fact you and route all system audio through it. YES… that’s right.. that late night gaming session that you don’t want to stop, but are afraid of waking anyone around you can now continue. All you do is pop in your headphones, long press the PS button and output all audio through the controller. Done. It’s just awesome and is something that should have been done along time ago.
While you’re only going to get about 10hrs out of the built in battery, I haven’t found it much of an issue. The DS4 charges off Micro USB and well, I don’t know about you, but I’ve had one of those under the couch plugged in for years as that’s what my phone uses to charge, so I can continue gaming while the controller charges.
Internally, the PS4 is made up of some high-end PC components. You have an 8 core AMD CPU with a Jaguar class GPU. There is also a staggering 8gb of RAM (to put that into perspective, the graphics quality your now seeing on the PS3 is being done on only 256mb of ram… yeah, that’s right 256 MEGABYTES of RAM. The PS4 has 32 times the amount of RAM). I’ve already mentioned the Blu-ray drive, but every PS4 also has a 500gb hard drive. This is because all games are installed by default to the drive to speed up access time. You don’t have to wait for them to install to play them, they install while you play them, which is nice.
It’s worth noting that the PS4 hard drive is user replaceable, so you can upgrade it should you wish to. You could pop in a bigger drive or a Solid State drive to give you better speeds. To get at the drive (and do so at your own risk), you slide off the glossy part of the PS4, undo one screw and the drive slides out. Simple! Pop a new 2.5mm drive back in there and bobs your uncle.
That’s essentially it for the hardware. The PS4 is leaps and bounds ahead of what the PS3 is in every single aspect.
As far as hardware goes, Sony gets a 10/10 from me.