Pros: More powerful hardware than XBOX ONE (on paper). Vastly improved interfaces and controller.
Cons: Lacks the XBOX ONE's convergence features. $60 camera should be purchased. $50/year Online fee.
Playstation 4 is like ultra-modern art. Its design is polarizing at best. Do you like rhombuses and trapezoids? If the answer to that question is “yes” then this is a system you’ll love to look at. Like the PS3, this system can be stood vertically (with a $19.99 stand) or laid horizontally (while XBOX ONE can only lay flat). It’s not at all attractive in my eyes, but it nevertheless demands attention with its sci-fi looks.
The system features WiFi, Ethernet, Bluetooth and just two USB 3.0 ports. Like the XBOX ONE, a special aux port is included for the Playstation ($59.99) Camera and there’s an HDMI out with an optical TOSLINK. XBOX ONE’s inclusion of an HDMI pass through shines in comparison –so long as you’re interested in being able to use voice commands to control your cable box.
The Playstation 4 sports an 8-core AMD 64-bit CPU, 8GB of GDDR5 RAM and a 500GB CPU. At first glance, the specs appear similar to the XBOX ONE, but when you dig deeper, you’ll find that the PS4's memory allotment is slightly more powerful. The question is, whether or not CPU power makes a difference nowadays. The PS3’s “CELL” CPU was considerably more powerful than the XBOX 360, while the 360 offered a graphics processor with more onboard memory. However, the XBOX managed to offer more desirable exclusives (HALO, Gears of War, QUAKE 4 etc) which caused the PS3 to feel like an expensive paperweight for the first year of its lifespan. Once multi-platform titles such as Call of Duty, Fallout, Bioshock and Crysis became available on the system, it closed the gap in software shortcomings – with stellar exclusives such as Metal Gear Solid 4 and The Last Of Us becoming available.
Fortunately for the Playstation 4, the swapping of the CELL architecture for mainstream high end PC processors allow developers to develop exclusives for it without having to work around an unfamiliar CPU. Problem is, SONY’s in-house development simply hasn’t been the same since SCEA/Singletrac went under and nowadays, third-party developers HATE making exclusives. Why sell on one system when you could sell more on all of them? That’s exactly what the new franchises want to do.
Unfortunately, the PS4 is ridiculously loud on installation – even compared to the PS3 – and far louder than the XBOX ONE which runs near silently.
I’m disappointed with both Microsoft and PS4 for only installing a 500GB Hard Drive in these systems. With game installations that take up to 50GB (and higher for some DLC), space seems painfully small. Consider the fact that you must install all games and if you delete a game, you will need to sit through an hour long installation should you ever want to play it again. We can only hope that the USB 3.0 ports will allow us to use 2-Terabyte drives in the coming year.
The Power and disk eject buttons are well-hidden. So well hidden, you may not find them for a minute or two. Why?
CONTROLLER and PS VITA REMOTE PLAY
I haven’t been a fan of the Dual Shock controller due to the symmetric spacing of the analog sticks. Microsoft was wise to learn from the success of the Nintendo 64 when designing their controllers because for some hands, it just works better. The new Dual Shock 4 is a vast improvement over the Dual Shock 2 & 3 which some people with smaller hands might actually be annoyed by.
The controller has grown in size, features a clickable touchpad (similar to the VITA in operation), a rechargeable battery and a light bar which functions similarly to the Playstation Move. While the light bar turning red can warn you when the controller needs to be recharged , it’s absolutely useless without purchasing the Playstation’s camera – which effectively adds $60 to your $300 system.
That light bar is going to be turning red a whole lot – you’ll only get a good 5 hours between charges. Not nearly enough to play through the entire campaign of Killzone: Shadow Fall.
The PLAYROOM app is useless without the PS4 camera. Like Kinect on XBOX ONE, the camera can log you in via face recognition and you won’t have access to motion gestures. Why wasn’t it included with the system? To keep the price lower than XBOX ONE’s? If so, that’s a fool’s mistake as it lessen’s PS4’s out-of-box experience. By comparison, I was quite impressed with XBOX ONE’s Kinect integration.
Very few people can actually afford a decent sized 4K display, so in the mean time, the near-future of television sales is going to be littered with advertisements for tablets. SONY’s VITA sales have been doing poorly. Lack of must-have games and a $200 price tag don't help VITA when smartphones/tablets offer so much more - so they are trying to push it with the PS4 (they even have a bundle pack coming soon) – focusing on “remote play”, the ability to mirror the PS4’s user interface on the VITA. Setup is quick and easy with a quick 8-digit registration to log the VITA into memory. In this regard, the PS4 is very similar to the Nintendo WiiU's gamepad.
Being able to play PS4 games on the VITA's remoteplay is a cool – albeit expensive - proposition. You can play up to about 18 feet away, but signal strength begins to drop after about 15 feet. The VITA also doesn’t feature all of the PS4’s buttons (notably, the shoulders) so some keys will be remapped to the touchpad.
I found the controller to be quite comfortable. The buttons have more *click* depth despite being slightly smaller than Dual Shock 3’s, the analog sticks have a better movement zone and the triggers feel more refined.
With a high end CPU and a shitload of RAM, the PS4 swiftly moves in between menus and submenus. This speed continues to the apps, dashboard, games and swapping functions to remote play on the VITA. The user interface focuses on the most recently used applications and new apps being added to the menu. I like the user interface because it is simple, clean and efficiently places all information within quick recognition and activation. The PS4’s menus are the most organized they’ve ever been. I originally was annoyed by the sloppiness of the Playstation store, but SONY has streamlined that too. Shopping, browsing and playing is easier than ever before.
Like the XBOX ONE (and the PS3 before it) All games require a long initial installation. Games can’t be played directly off the Blu Ray disk due to slow access times. Once the game is installed, there is yet another long initial load. Fortunately, after the main load is done, the game moves along quickly and load times in-game are drastically reduced. The initial activation of the PS4 requires a patch, and it’s likely that there will be more patches soon to update some buggy issues. (Some people are getting blue screens and “blue lines” of death).
In a step backwards: MUSIC UNLIMITED – a subscription based service - is the only way you can play music on the PS4. WHAT? What happened to being able to play from USB thumbdrives, CD disks or being able to install files to the hard drive??? M.U. takes a long time to load and is an annoying setup if you don’t already have an account. Kinda makes me wonder why so much hoopla was made about XBOX’s early demands for DRM when a video game console this powerful can’t play my Metallica CD. DLNA and 3D support is also oddly absent.
If you are bothered by M.U., be warned that subscription based services are on the attack. HULU-PLUS and NETFLIX are here to get a piece of your wallet, but after being able to use HULU for FREE on the PC, there’s no way in Hell I’d ever pay for it.
SHARING video from your camera or game videos has been made seemless and simple. The controller itself features a “share” button which connects your console’s feed to “TWITCH” , “USTREAM” or FACEBOOK. Videos not exceeding 15-minutes can be uploaded so you can annoy Newsfeed recipients and brag about that “amazing killcam knife throw” (Admittedly, there is one of those videos from Call of Duty 2 that I like – currently has thousands of views).
You’ll think of plenty to “share” with friends – who now can number up to 2000 – thanks to an upgraded friends list. Your game completion and trophies also display trophy rarity similar to the online application “Raptr”.
BE WARNED, however, that changes will be coming to the share functionality as people have already posted their private parts in front of viewing children – including a guy who stripped his wife to her bare breasts and skin. That’s a major consideration you’ll want to take before putting an online web camera in front of your kid’s bed. Same goes with Kinect.
Fortunately, major improvements have been made to the hardware. You can now charge a controller while the system is on standby mode using one of the two USB ports. You also won't have to wait as long to get into games. Patches and updates download in the background and downloading a game from the PS Store allows you to prioritize whether you want to download the Singleplayer or Multiplayer component first - allowing you to jump into action immediately. Speaking of online...
PLAYSTATION PLUS makes online multiplayer a pay-for-play service. Last generation, people were quick to argue with me about which was better: 360 or PS3 – and they were quick to throw the fact “PS3’s online was free”. What they weren’t quick to note was the PSN was a poorly executed, security-flawed, often offline mess that lacked the socially-oriented coherency of XBOX Live. I didn’t mind paying for XBOX live for the 6 years I’ve had XBOX consoles. Now, PS4 users will find out how it feels to spend $50 a year for online multiplayer. Hopefully, paying customers can demand and receive a better online experience because of it.
OVERALL – THE LAUNCH LINE UPS SUCK – AM I HAPPY WITH MY PURCHASES? WHAT SHOULD YOU BUY?
The Playstation 4 and XBOX ONE both lack a must-have in-house launch title - which is shameful. Battlefield 4, Need for Speed Rivals, Assassin’s Creed, and Call of Duty: Ghosts are the best titles available immediately, but there is nothing the PS4 offers exclusively to clearly demand that you plunk down $399 for it.
KILLZONE: Shadow Fall, for example, takes advantage of the system’s power, but is a run-of-the-mill 1st Person Shooter, unlike Battlefield 4, which is a 3rd-party must-have at launch. “KNACK” is basically “Crash Bandicoot”, only without Crash Bandicoot. There’s also “Resogun” which is like a cross between Gradius and a laser light show, but none of these titles is especially ground breaking.
Buying the Playstation 4 is more an investment into the future. A Metal Gear Solid game is coming, a sequel to The Last of US is coming and a sequel to God of War is coming, but for now – at launch – your exclusive pickings are painfully slim.
Then there are the technical specs and computer jargon. Due to its use of GDDR5 RAM instead of DDR3, at launch, PS4 runs most of its games at 1080p at 60 frames per second, while only XBOX’s launch title, Forza, can currently do that - and XBONE's Call of Duty is capped at 720p – upscaled to 1080p. Will the average gamer with a cheap 32" HDTV really notice this? I seriously doubt it. Gameplay and unique exclusives will ultimately make the difference between these systems – not tech jargon.
If you're one of the several people in the world rich enough to own a SONY 4K TV, the PS4 will upscale to basic 4K resolutions from 1080p and offer direct control of the television using SONY-licensed products. The entire 4K gaming era is years away (if it ever actually comes). For now, the graphic quality I've experienced on PS4 is roughly equal to what I've experienced on the XBOX ONE. There aren't any exclusives yet that do anything majorly different on either system.
PS4 currently doesn’t support external storage while XBOX ONE does. However, XBOX ONE’S internal hard drive is non user removable, while SONY continues to keep PS’s user-removable.
XBOX ONE has a clear advantage in its features not related to gaming. The HDMI pass-through integration with the cable set top boxes – controlled via Kinect – is a major selling point and helps justify the extra $100. PS4’s focus on sharing media is noteworthy, but it doesn’t in any way help make the PS4 a convergence device unless you are already heavily vested in SONY products or online subscription services –which XBOX has access to as well.
Neither system is backwards compatible and third-party developers are continuing to tighten the noose on used game lending/ resale. There truly is no way of deciding which system is “better”, but I can say that devoted HALO/Gears of War gamers know where they must go, just as devotees of God of War/ Killzone. I've spent more time playing my XBOX than my PS4 and because XBOX forces you to integrate it into the television, it becomes the instinctive goto device.
THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE SOLUTION…
BUY BOTH SYSTEMS!!!