Of the three major gaming consoles on the market right now, the Sony PlayStation 4 is a standout success. With a large library of games, a refined controller and console design, and an array of connected services for online gaming and media streaming, the PlayStation 4 is a worthy contender for your choice in gaming console.
More than 200 disc-based games have been released for the PS4, including entries from well-known franchises like Assassin’s Creed, Batman: Arkham and Grand Theft Auto, as well as popular sports series like FIFA Soccer, Madden NFL and NBA 2K. This extensive library includes several franchises exclusive to the PlayStation 4 such as Bloodborne, Driveclub, Infamous and Uncharted.
The PS4 game library doesn’t end there, as more than 500 games are available for download through the PlayStation Network. Some of these are indie titles, while others are culled from past console generations.
Aside from the console itself, the most essential piece of hardware is the included DualShock 4 controller. A standard system comes with one controller in the package, but bundled options may come with two, and you can purchase controllers separately. The PS4 supports up to four controllers simultaneously, though not all games support four players.
The DualShock 4 connects wirelessly via Bluetooth and can be charged via micro-USB when not in use. A glowing light bar along the front of the controller may be used in conjunction with the optional PlayStation Camera for motion control in a smattering of games, but it also serves to identify which controller is which and even provides atmospheric lighting in some games. You can buy the Dualshock 4 in a variety of colors, including Jet Black, Glacier White and Urban Camouflage, as well as limited-edition color schemes.
The controller has two analog sticks, four directional buttons, four action buttons (triangle, circle, cross, square), and four shoulder triggers. New features with this version include a capacitive touch pad, a built-in speaker and 3.5 mm audio jack. There is also a dedicated share button you can use to capture in-game video and screenshots to share on both the PlayStation Network and sites like Twitch.tv.
The PS4’s chassis is stylized and made of black plastic. Early models had a two-toned mix of matte and glossy finish, but updated models ditched the fingerprint-prone glossy surfaces for all-matte exteriors. Measuring 2.2 x 10.8 x 12 inches (HWD), it should fit into most entertainment centers without any trouble. The black plastic chassis has several glowing indicator lights and mechanical power and eject buttons.
There are two USB 3.0 ports on the front of the console, and you can use them to charge the wireless DualShock 4 controllers, but you can also use them to connect accessories and external storage. The console plugs into your TV via HDMI, and supports media playback up to 4K resolutions, but gaming is limited to 1080p. In addition to audio over HDMI, the system has an optical output for digital surround sound.
While hardware specifications may not be high on your list of buying criteria, it is worth noting a few details about the PlayStation 4’s internals. The system is built to compete with gaming PCs, and the custom eight-core, 64-bit AMD Jaguar processor and AMD Radeon-based graphics solution do just that. The processor is paired with 8GB of RAM to keep things snappy. Pitted against the Xbox One, the PlayStation 4 offers similar processing power but better graphics performance, providing an edge in actual in-game visuals. Compared side-by-side, most details look the same, but the PS4 has more consistent output at 1080p and better frame rates.
The hardware detail that is likely to matter most to you is storage. The PS4 comes standard with a 500GB hard drive, but there are versions of the system that double this to 1TB. On a system that requires games to either be installed onto the hard drive from a disc or downloaded to the drive, storage limitations can put a cramp on things if you run out of space for a new game. Unlike most game consoles, the PS4 does support hard drive upgrades, allowing you to install a larger 1TB or 2TB hard drive for expanded storage.
The optical drive, used both for games and other media, is a read-only Blu-ray drive, which also supports DVD playback. Even though the previous generation PlayStation 3 also used Blu-ray media, the PS4 is not backward compatible with PS3 game discs.
The PlayStation console is designed for use with the PlayStation Network, Sony’s online platform for buying and downloading games, game demos and media. It also includes some social features, such as voice chat and messaging, and provides access to various online services.
For a monthly subscription fee, you can access PlayStation Plus, which is required to connect with other players for most online gaming. It comes with access to a rotating lineup of free games that changes every month, as well as members-only discounts and game sales.
Online gaming is a key feature for many, and with no current way to enjoy online multiplayer between PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live, you should consider whether the people you know and want to game with have the same console.
With its built in Blu-ray drive and online connection, the PlayStation 4 is well-positioned to become a central device in your home entertainment center. In addition to Blu-ray and DVD playback, the PS4 also supports a variety of online media services, including YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Video, HBO GO, Hulu, Vudu and Plex. Sony sells and rents current movies and TV episodes through PlayStation Network, and the PS4 has an option to connect directly to your cable or HDTV antenna for live TV. Sports fans can enjoy content via apps from MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, Red Bull and WWE. Other entertainment options include streaming from Twitch.tv, online music from Pandora and Spotify, and more.
For those willing to pay the extra monthly subscription, Sony also has a cable-esque media package called PS Vue, which gives you dozens of channels including AMC, Comedy Central, USA and Food Network, along with sports channels like ESPN, Fox Sports and their sister channels. For cordcutters who have struggled to enjoy live TV and sports without a cable subscription, this might be good replacement.
The PlayStation 4 functions as a standalone device, ready for gaming with nothing more than a TV to connect to and the included single controller. However, a number of accessories are available for the system, including a universal media remote, a PlayStation-branded wireless headset and the PlayStation Camera, which offers motion control for games like Just Dance. Sony has also announced a VR headset add-on bundle coming in October of 2016.
The Sony PlayStation 4 is console gaming at its finest. It serves up a plethora of game titles, a rich assortment of accessories and an array of media options that make it a central piece of any home entertainment setup.