PS4 review

By Brett Phipps

Updated:

Awards

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Summary

Our Score:

8

User Score:

PS4 – Two Years On

It’s been another good year for Sony. The PS4 has now sold nearly 30 million units over the last two years – way ahead of the Xbox One at roughly 17 million units – and will only sell more during the run-up to Christmas. The year’s biggest third-party games, including Fallout 4, The Witcher 3, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate and Metal Gear Solid 5, continue to run either more smoothly or at higher resolutions than they do on Microsoft’s hardware.

Sony played a blinder by moving its European games showcase from GamesCom in August 2015 to the Paris Games Show in October, and in doing so revealed a slate full of genuinely exciting exclusives.

In other respects, though, 2015 has been a disappointing year. While the PS4 is the best console on which to play Black Ops 3, The Metal Gear finale or Destiny: The Taken King, Sony has struggled to deliver the killer exclusive that the console needs. The Order: 1866 was short and uninspired, Bloodborne brilliant but hardly mainstream fare, while Until Dawn looked staggering but had all the usual failings of an interactive movie.

In October, the Xbox One actually outsold the PS4 in some key territories, including the US, just as it did in April. Microsoft’s console seems to have found a second wind. Does this mean the PS4 is no longer the console to buy?

Related: PS4 Pro vs PS4

PS4 – Hardware

Well, it’s still the most stylish, compact and unobtrusive of the two. 275mm wide, 53mm high and 305mm deep, it looks sleek and futuristic next to the chunky, more PC-like Xbox One. A new model has emerged with minor revisions to the cosmetic design, including an all matte-black finish, physical buttons for power and the disk eject, but the real news is a quieter hard drive and a new, less power-hungry system board, which makes a quiet console run almost silently until you’re playing graphically intensive games.

The new model continues to have the same light-up bar running along the top and down the front of the machine, acting as a giant status indicator to tell you that your PS4 is on or sleeping. Connectivity is the same as well, with two USB 3.0 ports on the front, another on the rear plus HDMI, Ethernet and optical audio sockets.

Sony really pushed the boat out when speccing-up the PS4. Developers wanted standard x86 architecture and Sony took that onboard, but where the Xbox One took a custom AMD APU with eight CPU cores and 12 GCN computer units, Sony gave us 8 and 18. And where Microsoft went for 8GB of 2133MHz of GDDR3 RAM, the PS4 shipped with the same amount ot 5500MHz GDDR5.

The Xbox One’s APU runs 150MHz faster than the Sony’s 1.6GHz chip, and has 32MB of ESRAM cache to buffer data moving through, but Sony started this race with a clear speed advantage, which is why we still see AC Syndicate and Black Ops III running at higher resolutions on Sony’s hardware than they do on Microsoft’s.

This isn’t necessarily something you should base your buying decision on. The third-party developers are getting really clever with dynamic scaling systems, rendering at lower resolutions or with a reduction in horizontal resolution then upscaling to 1080p. Look closely and you may see a crisper image or more detail in the distance on the PS4 version, but not everyone will see an obvious difference. Look at Microsoft exclusives like Halo 5, Rise of the Tomb Raider or Forza Motorsports 6 and there’s no way you could say that they look unimpressive. However, Sony’s slate of 2016 games promises some amazing cutting-edge visuals, and titles like Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and Horizon: Zero Dawn have the potential to widen the graphics gap.

Related: PS4 vs Xbox One S

PS4 – Controllers and Accessories

If we ignore the distressing way that the rubber ring is wearing off the analogue sticks on our original PS3 pad, the Dual Shock 4 remains a fantastic controller. The sticks are now precise enough for the most demanding FPS veteran, the bumpers and triggers feel perfectly moulded, and every button seems to sit in the most natural place. The built-in headset socket is still a godsend, allowing you to plug in some headphones for quiet gaming without any hassle or expense.

In a way, some of the pad’s gimmicks now seem like relics of Sony’s thinking when the PS Vita launched. The built-in speaker has had some moments to shine in GTA 5 and Alien: Isolation, but most of the time it’s just a menace that blares out when you’re trying to play games quietly at night. It’s hard to remember the last time we used the central touchpad for anything bar accessing a menu or scrolling around a map. The flashing, colour-changing sensor bar looks cool, but currently feels as under-used as the PlayStation Camera – currently the most unutilised motion control accessory I’ve ever had in the house.

If you’re going to mock the camera, or the old Move motion controllers, be warned: the PS4 might yet have the last laugh. Both have a part to play in Sony’s PlayStation VR (aka Project Morpheus) virtual reality add-on, due to launch next year, and the addition of VR to the PS4 platform could be telling when next Christmas rolls around. We’ve been impressed with what we’ve seen so far, though there are warning signs that the initial pricing may be prohibitively high.

PS4 – Software

Where Microsoft has had to radically revise its console software, Sony pretty much got things right first time around. It’s simple and game-focused, and it makes it easy to find the existing games in your library and discover new games in the store. It puts social gaming at the heart of the experience, with What’s New updates dominating the screen when you first boot up, and you can see what your friends are playing, whether they’re online and whether you can join them. The Facebook, Twitter and Twitch integration works brilliantly, and Sony’s simple Capture Gallery app makes sharing clips and screenshots easy. Microsoft is only now catching up with Sony’s smart approach.

What changes Sony have made have been to improve the basic functionality, often adding features that the PS4 promised but didn’t deliver nearer to launch. The system now resumes from standby and takes you straight to your current point in your current game, and you can now start playing many games while they’re installing, with fewer doing the old ‘I’ll launch the title screen then leave you twiddling’ trick too.

The PS4 now has a decent Media Player app, and Sony keeps improving file format support, even covering MKV. You can also customise the UI with different themes and backgrounds, helping make the PS4 feel more your own, while PS2 emulation seems to be rolling out now, though Sony has yet to announce anything official.

Related: PS4 backwards compatibility – Can I play PS3 games on my PS4?

PS4 – Apps and Services

While the Xbox One can now stream games to Windows 10 PCs and devices, streaming is still something of a PlayStation forte. You can, of course, stream games through Remote Play, either to a PlayStaton Vita or to a small number of Sony Xperia phones. You can also stream games across the home network to the PlayStation TV, which can now be picked up at the kind of price where it’s almost worth having – should you be happy playing 1080p games compressed at 720p, perhaps on a bedroom TV. Perhaps the PS4’s best streaming feature is Share Play, which lets two PS4 owners play the same copy of a game over the Internet. It’s oft-forgotten and actually blocked by some games, but it’s great for local co-op friendly titles.

The PS4’s app line-up has improved dramatically since launch, with Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube, NowTV, Spotify, iPlayer, Demand 5 and Plex all onboard. It might not have the Xbox One’s TV input, optional Freeview HD module or OneGuide, but it’s a great media streamer for all but broadcast services, lacking only All 4 and ITV Player of the major UK sources.

When it comes to apps and services, though, the PS4 has two jewels in its crown. One is PlayStation Plus, now a requirement for online gaming, but at £40 a year one of gaming’s biggest bargains. Not only do you get money off some of the console’s biggest games, but the fantastic Instant Game Collection, giving you a selection of free titles each and every month. However, Microsoft has been catching up through its own Game with Gold program, and it’s done so with a vengeance. Instant Game Collection has given us games of the calibre of The Unfinished Swan, Broken Age, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, Apotheon, The Walking Dead Season 2 and Rocket League during this year alone, but Microsoft has also put out some of these titles, gratis, not to mention Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and Tomb Raider: definitive Edition. On Sony’s side, though, it has a good history of giving away older first-party flagship titles, and we’d be surprised if we didn’t see Killzone: Shadow Fall and The Order: 1866 in the Instant Game Collection before too long.

The second is PlayStation Now, Sony’s game-streaming service. You can rent and then stream a growing selection of PS3 games for two-day or 30-day periods, and they all stream smoothly and reasonably lag-free. It’s not a great way to play games you already own on PS3, as you’re paying for the privilege, but it can be a good way to catch up with any PS3 classics that you missed.

Related: Best PS4 Games 2016

PS4 What's New

PS4 – Games

We don’t buy consoles because we like the look of the hardware, but because we want to play games. Here the PS4 is a slightly awkward proposition. On the one hand, it’s definitely the best system for cross-platform titles – well, unless you’re willing to splash out more on a decent games PC.

On the other, we’ve seen a tragic dearth of quality exclusives this year, with many of our most anticipated PS4 titles not arriving until the next. So far, the best exclusives have been Bloodborne and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, though DriveClub has improved enough to add it to the must-have list.

All the same, it’s hardly a great sign that Sony’s biggest first-party hit for Christmas is a compilation of remastered PS3 Uncharted games, however brilliant that might be.

Next year looks much better, and hopefully, PS4 owners will be cock-a-hoop when No Man’s Sky, Uncharted 4, Wild, The Witness, Ryme and Horizon: Zero Dawn appear. Even that list leaves out Media Molecule’s brilliant but bonkers Dreams, a new Ratchet and Clank and many, many more.

Related: Best PlayStation VR games

Verdict

It’s tempting to see the PS4 as a ‘jam tomorrow’ console, with the Xbox One delivering jam today. However, there’s more than enough third-party jam to make you glad you bought one now, while tomorrow’s jam does look very, very tasty indeed.

Sony still has work to do convincing us that it can still knock out big, amazing experiences that you can’t find anywhere else, but we’re quietly confident that it can pull it off, either through games or through pioneering console-based VR.

Microsoft might have dominated this year’s gaming landscape, but Sony still has the hardware and the games to dominate the next.

marty

June 13, 2013, 8:14 pm

I hope we see a native Spotify app on the PS4.

Matthew Bunton

June 16, 2013, 8:41 am

I think that both of the new consoles are going to suffer from DRM issues. Sony states that it is leaving it up to the developers. However, I cannot see that developers will have DRM restrictions on the Xbox One games but remove it for the PS4 versions.

Gian-Reto

November 22, 2013, 9:29 am

If only they would come out with true "next-gen" consoles... the CPU might sound pretty good for today, but will be overtaken in a year as its x86 instead of some superior design, and the GPU really sounds weak on both the XBone and the PS4.

Both are basically outdated the day they appear compared to any Highend Gaming PC. The only amazing thing is the price, bang for the bucks wise it beats any PC...
but they are still too expensive as impulse buys for anyone with a half-decent Gaming PC, as you pay 400 bucks for less power.

As nice as I think it is that Sony does not make this console a Loss-Leader (no PS owner wants to see Sony making a loss), the fact that they still aim fora 7-10 year cycle is ridicolous. I can see Streaming prolonging the life of these consoles.... but I don't think you need 400$ hardware for Game Streaming.

Lets see what Valve and the Steam Machines bring to the table, and if Nvidias GRID and Sonys Gaikai will somehow spawn a new type of console gaming. I for one was never less enthusiastic about a new console cycle as I am today... The off the shelf hardware sounds good for developers and cross-platform games and the console manufacturer and their profit, but they will blur the boundaries between the consoles and PCs further... I am not sure if this is what Sony and MS want. and it certainly does not help convincing me to fork over 400$ for a much weaker system than my PC I can already hook up to my TV and play games on with my XBOX Controllers.

Bring on the GOOD exclusives Sony!

Jason

November 22, 2013, 3:36 pm

One thing I don't understand is, why Sony refuses to put USB ports on the back of the console. No one wants to have their headset plugged into the front of the console. It will ALWAYS be left plugged in. So why not give us at least one in the back so we can hide the cable somewhat?

Friv juego

November 24, 2013, 4:57 am

I do not have much knowledge of technology and machinery but my husband was always a believer in this field, any new information also makes him sit her time to read and research. I will let him read this, so thank you.

Actionable Steps

November 29, 2013, 2:21 pm

Apples and oranges bro. I love my PC too (even though it's really crappy). But PS4 is bringing games that aren't gonna be there on PC (unlike Xbox One which you can completely forgo as all the good games will come out on PC too).
Yeah its outdated and weak ass compared to a PC, but who said graphics and fidelity are the only important things? Do you know what game I played the most last year. FTL - Faster than Light. Looked like crap but it was engaging as hell!

nbtech

December 6, 2013, 5:39 am

x86 as opposed to what?

An architecture specific to gaming?

PC gaming is not bound (generally) by CPU speed, but GPU power.

FuriousOne

December 17, 2013, 12:00 pm

There is a usb on the back of the console, certainly works for the Camera? Also wouldn't you just plug any 3.5mm jack headphones into your controller (Rather than MS's expensive version, you can use any normal headset you own (bar usb))

Jason

December 17, 2013, 7:15 pm

The one for the camera is only for the camera. Nothing else is shaped to fit.

I use the Astro A40 and I only need the USB port to power the mix amp, so it will always be plugged into the console. Something like that shouldn't always be seen. They want the console to be used in the living room, so why not make it so you can hide wires? It's not only used for charging controllers.

justerthought

December 21, 2013, 3:50 pm

Lack of USB on the back is the result of excessive cost cutting like the removal of analogue audio out. The camera socket on the back is not USB. The point about using USB means u can use high quality headsets that have a base bluetooth transmitter so you have wireless. Forget 3.5mm jacks and wires, this is 2013.

justerthought

December 21, 2013, 4:23 pm

This is a very good review. All the facts are correct and the resulting conclusions valid with no artificial bias. I now have a PS4 and can verify the PS4 is a beast waiting to be unleashed. Right now we only have awesome Assassin's Creed 4 showing us what the thing can do with breathtaking visuals, but others will follow rest assured. There is still a lot missing in terms of features, so hopefully Sony will focus on delivering them in future updates once the launch period has past. PSN infrastructure needs heavy investment as well in terms of quality of service now that Sony are charging for much if its use.

The first instalment is successfully in place. A powerful hardware beast with a great controller that is easy for devs to programme. The future looks bright for gamers, especially if you have a PS4.

justerthought

December 21, 2013, 5:06 pm

You're making the usual PC fanboy mistake of comparing like for like hardware specs and expecting similar overall performance. Measuring dick size is a primitive comparison done by fools and geeks who think they are part of the IT master race. The brute force numbers only tell half the story. The other half is all about how efficiently the hardware is used by the platform. PC's are general purpose devices and have to allow headroom for wildly varying user customisations, so they are very wasteful of their hardware resources and processing power.

A high spec cutting edge PC will always be better than a console because it cracks a nut with a sledge hammer using brute force. You just keep buying a bigger sledge hammer. The PS4 targets the sweet spot between power and price without over running into diminishing returns territory. It's aimed at a different user base and is a huge step up from the PS3. PS4 is perfectly capable of delivering 5 years of high quality, reliable, next gen gaming within a consistent eco system and requires zero maintenance from the user.

When evaluating the 10x increase over current gen PS3, don't look for something 10x better. You won't find it. Look for 10 things 2x better. That's the increase. Games don't have to ration which facilities they offer now. PS4 can run them all simultaneously without breaking sweat. 1080p, zero screen tear, smooth frame rate, rock solid image with zero flickering distant details, high res textures, stable high quality shadows on everything, complex physics, water refraction, wave simulation, wind simulation, current simulation, plants that bend when you push through them, particle effects, volumetric smoke, bokeh depth of field bur, realistic colourful global lighting, lush object density, drastically reduced pop in and huge draw distances. And it's all performed inside a tiny beautifully designed console with a very quiet fan and very low heat levels.

If you want proof of all that, play Assassin's Creed 4 on PS4. It's breathtaking.

Yes it's a closed system but that is not always a bad thing. It's bad if you're a hacker and want to pirate games, or want to play IT geek and enjoying tinkering with stuff. The audience Sony is targeting do not want a gaming PC. It is a lifestyle choice compatible with their current situation and their gaming habits. The future looks bright if you're gaming on a PS4.

RJ

January 23, 2014, 12:04 am

I hope none of you have the luck I've had. The console was an out of box failure (HDMI port malfunction) that I had to wait over 10 days to get a new one shipped to me. Then less than two months later the controller fried out. Have to wait another two weeks to get the replacement on that. PS4 might have a lot of capability, but they must be made in a shoddy sweatshop. On a good note...all possible things other than the wiring have broken on me now so perhaps I can count on the replacements working for more than a few weeks!
..........wondering if I should've stuck with xbox. I never had a problem with the original or the 360.

mi

February 27, 2014, 11:06 pm

had the console for less than a month, and the system stop working, sent it back to company and they will not honor the warranty. not good customer service. BBB will be involved

zaman

March 7, 2014, 6:57 pm

i am disappointed for being able to found many items on ps4. drive club, watch dog not even ready after 4 months. not recommend to purchase until sony bring some decent collection of games.

Actionable Steps

March 8, 2014, 6:35 am

If you had brains you wouldn't write something so dumb as whether the light bar is the reason for reduced battery life. Have you heard of LEDs? They run for months on a single AAA battery, so stop talking crap... ok?

Guest

April 6, 2014, 1:38 am

Oh I LOVE it when people are mean online. Makes me giggle when I think how completely silent and shy you'd be in person. Unable to speak your mind out of fear. Your type is pathetic ha ha.

Guest

April 6, 2014, 1:39 am

Lies. If it was a genuine issue on their end they would honour the warranty. You messed up somewhere along the lines.

Guest

April 6, 2014, 1:40 am

Can it support wireless headsets? If so just use one of those.

Tim

May 20, 2014, 3:39 am

Then what is it? My PS4 controller dies incredibly fast and I hardly use it. So if you're so damn smart clue us in.

Tim

May 20, 2014, 3:47 am

VERY GOOD RETORT! BRAVO!! I myself OWN a PS4 but I prefer my Xbox ONE (Not BONE you idiot fanboys!) and actually can say the samething in regards to that. Where all PS4 fanboys use the "BUT PS4 HAZ THE MORE POWERZ"
Your post was refreshing

Sohpia Bright

June 2, 2014, 6:21 am

I don't know about other people, but honestly I am in love with my PS4. It is just one amazing of device without which I guess I can't live. I had the PS3, and was hesistant to upgrade, but once I did upgrade to PS4 there was no turning back. Now, the graphics of the PS3 look sooo un-real, which is saying a lot. Overall, I found no issues at all in the PS4.

Also, for all the fellow Indians, the device is available at a highly discounted price on FlipKart. Also, I managed to find a link which gives you priority shipping. Here's the link with the discount and priority shipping -

bit DOT ly SLASH BuySonyPS4

Cheers!

Camila

September 26, 2014, 8:53 pm

Increible!!

john

December 17, 2014, 12:42 am

Ps4 died 15 days after purchase

Gshearer

February 11, 2015, 6:31 am

I have never been so disappointed with a game console as I am with the PS4 and trust me I grew up with two gamers and raised a now 20 and 14 year who also are big gamers. I've waited over night in parking lots, camped outside stores for game consoles only to put a smile on my kids faces and never with any regrets. That is til the playstation 4 which lasted about 5 months which mind you hardly had been used being that my 14 year old had been waiting for watch dogs to come out, well once it did after about 3 days the console went dead with game inside of it what a disappointment. I called and shipped it off to sony and console was lost/misplaced nowhere to be found after about 5 to 6 months It finally was shipped back during holidays and never fixed I dont even think they touched it.... warranty has run out... now what?? hate to dissappoint my kid but most of all I feel cheated..

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