Which is the best console to buy this Christmas?The Sony PS4 is now out there on shelves, but is it worth buying right now? Here’s how the PS4 is different from the PS3, the console that’s been at the centre of Sony’s gaming world for almost a decade. We look at whether it's worth sticking with what you have or upgrading now.
Sony PS4 vs PS3 – DesignThe PS3 has had three key design iterations – the original, the Slim and the more recent budget Slim with corrugated top. The PS4 is closest in design to the middle one, which is good as it’s easily the most attractive of the bunch.
That’s not to say the PS4 looks a lot like the PS3, though. It’s much more angular, with slanted sides. Like the PS3, though, it’s a rather deep console – it’s 275mm wide but 305mm deep. It’s not going to rest flat on a small shelf. However, Sony has confirmed it can be put on its side if you’re low on space.
German magazine ComputerBild has also set the PS3 and PS4 to some noise tests, and found that the PS4 is, as hoped, quieter than the old console. After 60 minutes, the PS3 creates 2.1 sone of noise to the PS4’s 0.83 sone. Sone is a measurement of loudness, and 2.1 sone equates to around 50 dB.
However, we should note that this was not noise while playing a game, just navigating around the consoles’ interfaces. We'll be back with more on this soon.
Sony PS4 vs PS3 – SpecsSony says that the PS4 is roughly 10 times as powerful as the PS3. Other than being a lot more powerful, as you’d expect, the most important difference between the two is that they use completely different architectures.
The PS3 uses a custom Sony-made Cell architecture that was long criticised for being hard to develop for. Sony’s Kaz Kirai admitted as much in a 2009 interview with Edge magazine:
“We don't provide the 'easy to program for' console that (developers) want, because 'easy to program for' means that anybody will be able to take advantage of pretty much what the hardware can do, so then the question is, what do you do for the rest of the nine-and-a-half years?”
The PS4’s architecture takes a very different approach. It has an x86-based chip, the same type used in both Windows PCs and the Xbox One. It’s familiar ground.
Sony’s ego has faded, thankfully, but that does mean that you can’t play PS3 games on the PS4. Instead you’ll have to wait for 2014’s PS3 game streaming service to arrive, which will let you play old games over your internet connection. Exactly what it’ll offer in terms of games, prices and so on is as unknown at present, though.
Read more about PS4 backwards compatibility
What about solid tech specs? The PS4 has an 8-core AMD Jaguar CPU (max 2.75GHz) with an 800MHz AMD Radeon GPU and 8GB of GDDR5 RAM. The PS3 has a 3.2GHz single-core CPU with a 550MHz GPU and 256MB of DDR3 RAM. Don't be fooled by the relatively high clock speed of the PS3 CPU, the new processor is much more advanced in every respect.
Sony PS4 vs PS3 – GraphicsWe’ll be looking to add our own graphics comparisons soon enough, but for now we’ve rounded-up some of the best graphics comparisons on the net.
Call of Duty:Ghosts
Cal of Duty: Ghosts is not a game we’re going to look back on as one of the PS4’s crowning graphical moments. Like most first-wave next-gen games, it’s does not show off everything the PS4 is capable of. However, the PS4 is clearly better-looking than the PS3’s version.
Facial shadows and general lighting effects are much improved. And some scenes feature many more background objects and particle effects.
Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag
This video of an Assassin’s Creed cut scene demonstrates the sorts of graphical changes early PS4 games will feature. Character models look similar, but the water in the background of the scene is far more detailed in the PS4 edition. Changes like these let developers employ upgraded graphics without having to spend quite as much as they might otherwise have to.
This is just the beginning, though. Expect great things soon.
ControllerSony redesigned the Dualshock controller for the PS4. It’s called the DualShock 4 and adds a bunch of new features.
The most obvious changes are the addition of a front touch panel and a rear Move light that lets the controller function as a proper motion controller - rather than just using a gyroscope. It’s a big heavier than the PS3’s DualShock 3, but ergonomics have been improved.
Other changes include concave elements on the analogue sticks and a larger D-pad.
PriceIf you already have a PS3, this bit is rather moot. However, if you’re seriously considering one of these consoles – for Christmas perhaps – price does matter.
The Sony PS4 starts at £349 without any games. For that you get the console and a controller. As is common with any brand new console, the games cost a packet too – around £50 a pop.
The PS3 starts at £160 for the 12GB version, or £200 for the big daddy 500GB edition. It's not cheap if you don't hunt down a deal. However you’ll also find far more generous games packages available for the PS3 too. With a catalogue of hundreds of games spanning almost a decade, there are plenty of bargains to be had.
Media playback and streamingThe PS3 is a significantly better media player than the PS4. It will take on videos stored on memory sticks and external hard drives, while the PS4 simply won’t. The PS3 also can wirelessly stream files from other devices, which the PS4 – again – can’t do.
We imagine it’s because Sony concluded that only pirates want these sorts of features.
However, the PS3 will also be ahead on wireless streaming at launch too. It has BBC iPlayer streaming, missing from the PS4. It will come to the PS4 in time, but exactly when is anyone’s guess.
Both consoles have Netflix and LoveFilm.
PS4: Buy now or wait?The Sony PS4 is a bit of a case of two steps forward, one back. However, if it’s games you care about most, the retrograde steps aren’t ones you need to worry about. It’ll be a while before PS4 games really leave PS3 ones eating graphical pixel dust, but with so much more power on tap, the PS4 is where it’s at if you care about gaming.
The larger question is should you buy one now or wait until next year? If it's a price cut you're waiting for, you could be waiting a long while. Given demand for the PS4 is high enough that it's already sold out through normal channels, it's unlikely Sony will feel the need to offer a discount any time soon.
The bigger point is the games library. For exclusive games the PS4 is surprisingly lacking at launch. Killzone: Shadow Fall is the only major title exclusive, with the likes of inFamous: Second Son and Driveclub delayed until next year. This leaves cross-platform games like Battlefield 4 to think about. Here the PS4 does have the edge. Not only does it look better on the PS4, more players can play at the same time online. If you want to play BT4 at its very best, the PS4 (or PC) is where it is at. If you're not interested in BT4 or Killzone, however, it might be worth waiting until a few more big hitting games come out.
Next, read our Xbox One vs PS4 comparison