Release Date: 11/15/2013
So here we were are. Everyone who grew up in the 90s has gone through four PlayStation console cycles. I remember 11 years ago when I got my PS2 I thought that the PS3 was going to be something incredibly futuristic akin to something out of a sci-fi movie. While that wasn’t the case at all, the PS4 gets us one step closer. The PS4 may not be the huge leap that the PS2 to PS3 was, but it’s enough to completely create a whole new generation of gaming.
First Time Look and Setup
When you get the big blue hefty box home you realize that the thing is huge. It makes the PS4 seem 5 times as big as it really is. Outside of the design of the box to get you to buy it it’s rather plain inside. The first thing your eyes are drawn to is the sleek edges of the PS4. It has a much better design than the George Foreman grill-esque design of the original PS3. It actually looks like a space monolith. A third of the console has a sleek black look that is known to Sony products (and the fingerprints). While the rest of the top has the rough black material similar to the slimmer PS3. The front bezel is designed like it was cut at an angle with a knife. It’s double-tiered with the disc drive to the left and the USB ports nicely hidden to the right. The power and disc eject buttons are well hidden and lined up with the LED line separating the slick and rough part of the top casing. The rear of the console shows the vents and a simple Ethernet, HDMI, power, and audio optical cable. Very simple and easy to understand. The PS4 logo is shown nicely on the front left bezel of the console. This is a sexy console and probably the best-designed one from Sony since the slim PS2.
Setting up the PS4 is really simple and easy. Once you get your HDMI and power cable in you must power it on via the console button. Now I didn’t know where the power button was until I read the quick start guide. It’s really hidden and you wouldn’t even think of it being lined up with the LED bar. After it turns on you must connect the PS4 controller with the USB cable included to pair it with the system. After this, you log in to your PlayStation account and set up your WiFi. It’s really as simple as that.
UI and Settings
The PS4 UI breaks away from the XMB that was born with the PSP and used on the PS3 along with some early Blu-Ray players. However, the system still uses the foundation of the XMB bar mixed with the Vita’s app switching. Settings, friends, PS Store, messages, and all that stuff is one click above your games, movies, and media library. I like this double-stack instead of a long menu full of submenus. However, it’s very plain. There are no themes or wallpaper settings even as of this review. Hopefully more are to come.
There are a good amount of settings that allow you to pretty much adjust everything on the PS4. The PS4 now has a standby mode that is more advanced than the PS3. You can charge controllers, download updates, and various other tasks including (at a later time) immediately resuming a paused game. The only issue is that the standby mode uses more energy than previous consoles ever have.
The system also records your gameplay footage and will snap screenshots with the touch of the Share button on the controller. I thought this would be useless but have actually captured some awesome footage and shots that I thought were only possible on PCs.
Under the Hood
The PS4 is the most powerful of the three next-gen consoles. The PS4 has finally moved away from custom-made hardware seen in previous Sony consoles that made coding a pain. The system uses 64-bit hardware that is seen in PCs today. The system has two quad-core Jaguar CPUs developed by AMD. The GPU runs at 2.75 GHz and can compute 1.84 Teraflops. The system also has 8GB of GDDR5 RAM which is faster than standard RAM seen even in most high-end gaming computers. The system has a 500GB HDD which can be swapped by the user which is a nice gesture by Sony. The USB ports are 3.0 instead of the 2.0 seen in previous consoles. For the first time ever this is the first Sony console that does not have an analog output, this is HD only. What does this all mean? That the PS4 is 16 times as powerful as the PS3 and is the most powerful next-gen console (a little like the last generation as well).
My biggest complaint about the hardware would be no 5 GHz WiFi card. The system only supports the slow 2.4 GHz bandwidth which will not give Sony the faster download speeds they need for the larger next-gen games and streaming of games. If you can set your 2.4 GHz band to wireless N mode you can to get the most speed out of the PS4. This also causes issues with the Vita’s remote play over WiFi. I could not get a stable connection and ultimately the PS4 had to connect directly to the Vita itself for stable true remote play.
My favorite part of the PS4 is the amazing controller. The PS3 controller wasn’t all that great, but Sony made a huge comeback with the DualShock 4. The ergonomics of the controller are just fantastic. The handles are longer, the analog stick is concave with better rubber grips, and are spread further apart. The triggers (R2 and L2) are much improved and no longer make your fingers slip. The newest addition is the touchpad on the front of the controller. Most people probably shake their heads wondering what Sony is doing to their controllers again, but this thing is actually useful. It doesn’t get in the way and can be used to navigate maps, quick-time events, and text input among other features that haven’t been thought of yet. This is probably technology left over from the rear touchpad of the Vita. The DualShock 4 also has a strange LED light on top that has had many gamers upset. It’s extremely bright and is really leftover tech from the Move. It’s used to track the controller with the PlayStation Camera. However, it is used as an indicator in games such as health and notifications. The controller took a page from the Xbox 360 controller and added a headset jack to the controller to get rid of the long cables having to connect directly to the console.
This controller even tops the Xbox 360 controller if you can believe that. Another major move is the banishment of the Start and Select buttons so often remember on PS controllers. Now there is an Options and Share button on either side of the touchpad. The Options button is used to start and well…options. It’s rather useful and is the evolution of the select and start button. The Share button is for social media goers, and I promise you will be hitting that button more and more as you have the console.
In the end, the PS4 delivers some great content, but it’s very limited as the first batch of next-gen games gets released this holiday. The PS Store is pretty empty and lacks demos for new buyers. There are not many features to keep you busy for days and even the games are slightly limited. But the PS4 has great hardware and a great future ahead. The $400 price point was a smart move compared to the terrible launch of the PS3.