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PlayStation 4 Hardware Review

November 13, 2013 Written by Anthony Severino

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Pressing up on the menu opens up a more XMB-like tab of icons for messages, party chat, trophies, settings, and more. Up to eight players can party chat at once, and across any game. Both text-based and voice messages can be sent using the messages app, with text input available via both the traditional D-pad and button typing, and new SIXAXIS, motion-sensor pointer typing using the DualShock 4.

In this additional tab, you can also access your profile, set it to display your real name or just PSN ID, add a picture. Setting up additional user accounts is a breeze, and a new guest account option keeps your personal accounts secure from other users, but still allows them to play and earn trophies using the PS4 with some set limitations.

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Nearly everything found on the PS3 is here, except the ability to play MP3s or set it up as a DLNA server. What is there, though, has been overhauled for a simplistic experience, added to, and updated in general. Take trophies for example. Viewing and/or comparing trophies is a straightforward process—they are what they are. But now a new metric has been added, showing what rarity each trophy you’ve earned (or haven’t) is. Some are common, rare, very rare, and the coveted ultra rare—so rare I’ve yet to see it. Trophy hunter will now know which trophies give the most bragging rights aside from just adding to your trophy score.

PlayStation Plus is required to play games online, but also gives access to a wealth of free or discounted content, and essentially pays for itself and then some. There are some Free-to-Play games that are indeed so, needing no PlayStation Plus to access and play. Otherwise, almost all other features you’d want out of the PS4 are free without PS Plus, aside from online game save storage and the aforementioned online multiplayer. This may seem like a con, but providing a robust, stable multiplayer experience is worth the cost, and something that Sony needs to be doing to stay competitive with Xbox LIVE.

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One aspect of the PS4 that isn’t required, though, is the PlayStation Camera. After having some time with the PlayStation Camera, it’s definitely worth having and will benefit those that do, but isn’t necessary to the PS4 experience. Having it allows user account login through Facial Recognition, let’s you get the full Playroom experience, makes the DualShock 4’s motion-sensing more accurate due to the inclusion of the light bar on the controller, and gives always there access to microphone-based features like voice-commands.

The DualShock 4 is one of the PS4’s best features, and is a refined, truly next-generation controller. It has it all: familiar design, convex analog sticks, motion-sensing technology, dual-motor rumble, a multi-touch touchpad interface, and actual triggers for shoulder buttons—a small touch that seemingly won a lot of people over to the Xbox side last gen due to the emergence of first-person shooters. The DualShock 4’s touchpad can be used as an additional source of inputs, consisting of taps, swipes and more. The light bar in conjunction with the PlayStation Camera gives more accuracy to the motion-sensing features of the DualShock 4, but also provides real-time feedback during gameplay. In Killzone: Shadow Fall, when my Lucas Kellan takes too much damage, the light bar turns red to warn of danger. Developers are free to use their imagination with this feature—it’s minor, but exciting to think of the possibilities. [For a more detailed look at the DualShock 4, click here]

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Finally, on the DualShock 4 is the dedicated share button, which works just as advertised. Simply press the Share button (which is just out of the way enough so that it isn’t pressed accidentally), and the game will pause and a menu will appear asking if you want to upload a screenshot, video, or broadcast your gameplay live via either Twitch or UStream. Screenshots and videos can be uploaded to Facebook, and live-broadcasting gameplay is a breeze, although it does come with a 20- to 30-second latency between the actual gameplay and the stream. But that’s to be expected.

As a truly connected device, the PlayStation 4 also works nicely with a PlayStation app due to be released on iOS and Android phones and tablets at launch. The app can turn your mobile device into a second screen, or purchase PS4 games while away to access when you get home. In addition to mobile devices, the PS4’s best friend is the PS Vita. Although it’s pricey as a peripheral just for the PS4, it does let you play full PS4 games on the go or elsewhere in the home with the PlayStation Vita. Of course, playing on the same Wi-fi network as the PS4 is the most stable option, but if the internet connection is strong enough, Remote Play from anywhere is a possibility. The PS Vita displays PS4 graphics in gorgeous, high-resolution, and the DualShock 4 maps quite nicely to the Vita’s inputs—with even the touchscreen acting as the DualShock 4’s touchpad.

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The hardware is instantly appealing, but in all, the UI can appear underwhelming at first—but that’s because Sony has designed it to be much simpler and get you to your game as fast as possible with little distraction. Rather than presenting the user with too many media options, Sony has built the entire console and user interface with games in mind. It’s their primary focus this generation, ditching the all-in-one device the PS3 was first pitched for that never quite turned out the way anyone had planned. Sony realized what really matters to gamers, and that’s the games. With the PS4, not only do games look, perform, and play so much better than on its predecessor due to the new processor and 8GB of RAM, but thanks to the easy-to-use design of the UI, interacting with the PlayStation Network services and features, or with friends socially is simple and seamless—exactly how it should be.

The next generation of PlayStation is here. Greatness awaits you on November 15th. See you on the PlayStation Network.

Editor’s Note: PlayStation 4 console provided by SCEA for review at a review event in New York City. Many PlayStation Network features require a day one firmware update to access.

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