The next generation of gaming is here. Seven years on from the release of Sony’s third PlayStation, the fourth has made landfall, bringing with it faster insides, more gaming power, and new controllers and accessories. But is it worth owning just yet, or should you wait a bit?
Built from the ground up, very little of the technology used is shared with the predecessor, the PlayStation 3, as the PlayStation 4 has been designed to keep powerful gaming possible on a Sony system for the next few years.
As such, the console features an entirely new combination of processor and graphics, ditching the Cell processor and replacing it with an eight-core AMD processor that integrates the graphics and processing using AMD’s Accelerated Processing Unit technology, also known as an “APU.”
There are eight gigabytes (8GB) of memory complimenting this, with a 500GB hard drive for storing games and files that can be replaced by the user, with solid-state drives supported as well.
A Blu-ray drive is included in the package, with connectivity options handled through 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth, a wired Gigabit Ethernet connection, and two USB 3.0 ports.
Unlike previous PlayStation models, however, there are no analogue video connections, with everything handled through HDMI, though there is an optical audio connection if you want to take the audio straight to a sound device rather than the TV.
These innards are cased in a new body that still sports a slot-loading drive, with a light-up strip making up the slice down the body.
A new controller is also included, now called the DualShock 4, with a slightly different design and a couple of different buttons and a speaker.
A light on the back is also here, and the new controller can be charged with microUSB, rather than the mini-USB used on the PlayStation 3’s controller.
Also of note, PS3 controllers cannot be used on the PS4.
Out of the box, it’s clear that this is a new PlayStation, and you definitely won’t confuse it for anything else. With a different design, style, and an evolved gamepad, this is a totally new device.
Plugging it into the wall, it’s nice to see Sony has continued with the tradition of putting the power supply directly in the console, meaning it’s just a figure 8 plug that’s needed to power it up, though you will need an HDMI capable TV for this thing, as support for the old AV cables seems to have dried up.
That’s ok, though, as pretty much every TV sold in the past five years has at least one HDMI port, so go and use that.
Switch the console on and there’s a familiar beep, the same one (we think) that Sony used on the PlayStation 3. Adding to this to tell you that the console is on is the white light strip that divides the console into two sections from a design point of view, fading into the distance, and just giving you a subtle hint that “yes, your new console is on.”
Once it switches on (and you create or log in with your PlayStation Network account details), you’ll see an all new menu that feels a touch like the old one, yet split up into two sections.
On the bottom row — the main row — are your apps and shortcuts to things you like, such as the games you’ve been playing recently, multimedia services, and what you’ve been doing in the “What’s New” box, which is the first thing you’ll see every time you load it up. Up above, that’s where the settings and notifications now live, shrinking these things into a less important, but still usable area.
By now, you’ll have already seen the controller — hey, you need it to log into the PS4 — but let’s look at it, as it’s easily Sony’s best version of the all-too familiar DualShock controller design yet.
In this incarnation, Sony has kept the analogue sticks in the centre, easy for thumbs to touch and move as both hands grip the controller, and the forefingers are held in front of the triggers at the back of the controller, with easy access to the rear bumpers.
Somehow, Sony has made the design more comfortable, though, and while this reviewer normally prefers the Xbox 360 controller to his PS3 one (even going out of his way to find Xbox 360-like controllers for the PS3), the PlayStation 4 controller just feels natural.
Of course, you’ll find the regular four buttons here — square, triangle, circle, and X — in their regular spot to the top right above the right-most analogue stick, while the regular directional pad also sits in its regular spot to left above the left analogue stick, but there’s more to this controller than what Sony normally offers.
For instance, the “start” and “select” buttons are gone, replaced with “share” and “options” buttons which more accurately reflect what the new console will do with games (which we’ll get to shortly). The PlayStation button is there too, though, helpful for taking you back to the menu or even switching on the console.
Also new is the touch sensitive pad sitting above the analogue sticks, which also has a button underneath it. No games use this yet, though if it’s anything like what we saw on the PlayStation Vita, developers could pull some interesting ideas out of it.
You’ll also notice a blue light coming out of the back which will change colours when charging, and looks like an extension of what Sony’s Move did on the PlayStation 3, suggesting that when used with Sony’s motion-sensing camera peripheral (which wasn’t included with our review unit), could be used for some titles.
Finally, there’s a change from mini-USB to microUSB as for how this is charged, which is an excellent change, and brings this controller in line with most other devices around the world.