Sony Corp.’s Playstation 4 is an architectural beauty that hides a quiet beast of technology to create stunning, yet affordable graphics fidelity in a mass-market consumer product.
For the fourth Playstation, Sony has shrewdly dumped expensive propriety technology in favor of cost-effective PC-like components. It includes an x86-based AMD Jaguar 8-core CPU, a 1.84 TLFOPS AMD next-generation Radeon GPU, and GDDR5 of unified 8GB RAM. In addition, the hardware features a 6X Blu-ray disc drive, USB 3.0 interface, Ethernet, Bluetooth 2.1, HDMI, and digital output.
The new PC structure keeps the retail price in check and allows developers to work in a familiar environment to churn higher graphics fidelity in less time.
The small chassis itself is a work of art, with angled edges and a jet black matte and glossy finish. A single line of light across the top of the surface glows to indicate power or sleep status with different color pallets. It is engineered with prominent and dense precision to include the power supply inside the chassis to eliminate the need for a large power brick.
The new PS4 UI is equally streamlined for function. The menu features a dual-tier structure with a main tier that holds large billboard-like marquees to denote What’s New, installed games, and Playstation Live to view live streams of current game sessions.
The secondary top tier features smaller icons for the Playstation Store, Notifications, Friends, and Settings, all of which hold a pleasant ease-of-use.
The hardware requires each game title to install application data, a small 1-2 minute wait that occurs quickly in the background. A caveat is that many launch titles require large day-one patches and the hardware has no option to stop, resume, or manage patch installation.
The Dualshock 4 controller is the best Playstation controller yet, with larger grips, large d-pad and face button surface, contoured triggers that jet outward, and precision analog sticks that eliminate dead zones found in prior Dualshock controllers.
A prominent new controller feature is a centralized touchpad. It’s easy to reach with both thumbs and provides an updated control method for touch-based titles in addition to secondary actions for core titles. The touchpad is used to control the OWL drone in Killzone: Shadow Fall and was responsive with each swipe. In addition, the controller features a built-in microphone and microphone jack to relay additional audio in near proximity.
The new lightbar in the back of the controller flashes different colors to denote usage. In normal use it’s blue and when the controller is charging it gently pulsates a warm yellow.
Finally, the controller features a new Share button to upload the last 15 minutes of gameplay or the most current screenshot to Facebook or Twitter. In addition, users can initiate a livestream of their game session to Twitch or Ustream. All social functionality worked well, though share functions were slowed by network traffic and Playstation Network maintainence.
The PS4 and Dualshock 4 are excellent to relay a top gaming experience. EA Inc.’s Battlefield 4 is the best representation of next-generation gaming, with full 60 frames-per-second frame rate and 900p native (1080p upscaled) resolution, the launch title easily takes the graphics crown to showcase the hardware and controller in unison. The Dualshock 4 provides pinpoint control and aim precision that is intuitive and entirely accurate.
A downfall with the PC-architecture is that the PS4 has inherited some of its instability. While consoles with proprietary architecture are typically devoid of software glitches, it can now occur with unsavory results.
A standard bootup of Battlefield 4 led to an error code which resulted in corrupt save data. In addition, launch titles were incomplete without massive download patches which allow developers to ship game titles ‘as-is’ in lower resolution or without multiplayer functionality.
In addition, the free Playstation Plus 30-day trial went unrecognized by the Playstation Store and did not allow access to free PS Plus download titles. A workaround included the use of the new Playstation App for Android, which did recognize the membership to allow Plus games to be added to the PS4 download queue. Even after the download of Resogun, the Restore Licenses function had to be used in the PSN settings in order to unlock the game.
The Playstation 4 is the best designed hardware since the Playstation 2. It features top design, robust hardware, and entertainment and social functionality at a mainstream price point. Despite a few blemish marks at launch, the hardware is designed to dominate the next-generation in style.