The PlayStation 4 serves up dazzling graphics, runs on a simplified and logical interface and boasts a fantastic controller. It has the upper hand in indie games and can stream a constantly growing list of legacy titles via PlayStation Now.
The PS4 makes it super-easy to capture and broadcast gameplay online and generally delivers a zippier performance than its direct competition. It also doubles as a Blu-ray player and solid media-streaming box.
PlayStation 4 consoles and bundles
Almost three years down the line, the PS4 still looks like a great piece of kit. When I first clapped eyes on the new PlayStation, I thought it looked a little like a PS2 in italics or a heavy wind – but now I’ve grown to love it. It is plastic, but it looks surprisingly good for a games console.
A recessed central gully contains the slot-loading disc drive and twin front USB3 ports, while a line bisecting the console the other way integrates the power and eject controls and a strip light that lets you know the console’s power and notification status. Around the back is an HDMI output, Ethernet port, S/PDIF output and an AUX port for the PlayStation Camera peripheral. Power is provided by plugging in a standard figure-eight power lead and it draws from 80W idling, up to 140W in-game, but just 3W when in Rest Mode.
Placed horizontally it’s practically silent when idling, which is good for Blu-ray playback or streaming TV. However, it does pick up considerably when playing a game, and even more so when navigating the main menu while a game ran in the background. Launch machines are notably louder than the Xbox One, but current models tend to be much quieter. One of the best things about the PS4 is the way in which Sony have managed to fit its power supply within the machine. Despite being smaller than the Xbox One, the PS4 doesn’t have an external power supply – and only the Xbox One S can match the PS4 in this area.
PlayStation 4: Design
- 305 x 275 x 53mm body (PS4 Slim measures 288 x 265 x 38mm)
- Blu-ray and DVD playback via optical drive, not 4K UHD Blu-ray
- 500GB or 1TB HDD options (can be user upgraded)
By now you probably know what the PS4 looks like. It’s a flat prism-looking box with minimal design fuss. It’s black (or there is a white model if you can track it down) that’s built from a combination of both shiny and matte surfaces.
Discs slip into the PS4 in the thin gap that runs across the front, disappearing into the gaming carcass. It looks very Blade Runner, giving little away of the power contained inside. The strip of light that runs in a bright-to-dim fade across the top glows blue, white, or orange depending on the console’s active state. And we think it looks rather awesome.
Compared to the original Microsoft Xbox One we think the Sony has better attention to detail: the PS4’s front, which slopes away backwards, features separate touch-sensitive power and eject buttons, and that PS4 logo, which all looks rather neat. Conversely the plasticky and cheaper PS4 Slim doesn’t look quite as attractive in our view, even if it is quieter and presented in a smaller footprint.
PlayStation 4 review: Media and software
- Can handle HDR gaming
- App and multi-format media playback
At launch the PS4 could do, well, roughly naff all with media. So our trusty PS3 was still the source of catching-up for loads of content.
But the times have changed. The PS4, with its latest software, can handle media via the Media Player app (MP4, MKV, AVI) and even high dynamic range (HDR) games if you have a compatible TV.
There are also an array of apps in the TV & Video app – BBC iPlayer, BBC Sport, BBC News, All 4 and more specifically in the UK – that join stalwarts such as Netflix, Amazon Video, Now TV and TV From Sky (for Sky Go users). Or there’s Sony’s Video and Movie On Demand services for buying and renting content.
However, we’ve found the Media Player to be really fussy with external drives and USB sticks. They have to be exFat or Fat32 formatted (beware Mac users), but even then we’ve never got an individual USB stick to actually work. To be fair we’ve given up because our Plex Media Server works just fine, and that funnels over all the content on our drive that we could want.
If you’re more a physical media person then the PS4 lacks a UHD Blu-ray drive – something even the PS4 Pro lacks, yet, bizarrely, the Xbox One S includes – with just a standard Blu-ray/DVD spinner included.
PlayStation 4: Specs and graphics
Inside the console Sony has used similar components to Microsoft, with a powerful AMD chip at its heart. For the PS4 this single integrated chip contains both an eight-core CPU and a GPU with 18 compute units. That’s 50% more compute units than the Xbox One, providing a significant advantage in graphical horsepower, which can also be turned to use in special effects and advanced physics simulation if preferred.
The PlayStation 4’s memory system consists of a single large pool of 8GB of super-fast GDDR5 memory – more than we’ve seen on even the most expensive PC graphics cards. The Xbox One by comparison uses the same amount of slower DDR3 memory, with a super-fast 32MB cache to help make up the difference.
We are confident in saying that the PlayStation 4’s simpler memory architecture and superior GPU has proven to be the better choice. In multi-platform games, the PlayStation 4 consistently outperforms the Xbox One, with either smoother frame rates or higher resolutions onscreen. Most PlayStation 4 games run at a Full HD 1,920×1,080, while Xbox One games go for a 1,600×900 resolution. It’s not a huge visual disparity but you can see it on most multi-platform games, and we’re now confident it’s an advantage that the Xbox One – at least – won’t close.
PS4 review: Conclusion
Despite being nearly three years old, it’s still easy to see why the PS4 has enjoyed the success it has. Although it looks great on the outside, on the inside it does just enough to edge the Xbox One in this round of the console war.
In most multi-platform games it can produce slightly better graphics, and when combined with its game-focused features and upcoming firmware updates, the PS4 is still a great buy in 2016. If you have no intention of buying a 4K screen or you’re not totally sold on VR, the original PS4 is still a great console – and if you shop around it’s pretty cheap, too.
|CPU||Dual quad-core 1.6GHz AMD Jaguar CPU modules|
|GPU||AMD Radeon GPU with 1,152 cores at 800MHz|
|Storage||500GB hard disk|
|Storage expansion||USB storage (not usable for game installs) and user-replaceable disk|
|Power use (peak/idle/sleep)||140W/80W/8W (Standby mode)|
|Triggers and bumpers||4|
|Other features||Touchpad, light, headphone socket|
|Controller power||Non-removable Li-ion battery pack, charges over USB|
|Accessories provided||HDMI cable, micro USB cable (for charging controller), microphone headset|
|Audio outputs||Optical S/PDIF|
|Networking||Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
|USB ports||2 (front)|
|Memory card reader||None|
|Other||PS4 Camera AUX port|
|3D Blu-ray playback||Yes|
|Price including VAT||From N130,000|