Sony has set its sights on gamers with the PlayStation 4 (PS4), the last of the major eighth generation consoles to hit our shelves. Unlike the Xbox One the PS4 puts little emphasis on being a multimedia box. There are a handful of media features but not nearly as many as the Xbox One or the PS4’s predecessor, the PlayStation 3 (PS3).
Some multimedia options have carried over from the PS3, including a movie/TV download and rental service, DVD and Blu-ray playback (but no 3D support) and streaming music/video services. Absent are a few notable functions such as support for CDs, MP3s and DLNA connectivity. Sony has promised to add some of these features in future updates. Like the Xbox One’s online media shops, the Australian PlayStation Store is lacking in content with just three channels available at the time of writing.
A lack of multimedia features, however, is the only major shortcoming of the PS4. As a games console it improves on the PS3 in several ways. Navigation is similar to the PS3, but much more streamlined, with a home screen is split into two horizontal menus. You’ll find a top menu to access the store, social content and system settings and a bottom menu that takes you to your games, media and PlayStation-related news.
Most of these have been condensed into simple submenus so the PS4 feels like it’s designed to let you jump into a game as quickly as possible. General navigation is similar to the PS3, but much more streamlined, albeit with a few bumps. The bottom bar for example doesn't let you categorise content which can lead to a long list of games and movies to trawl through. Even so, you’ll rarely find yourself stumbling through unfamiliar territory unless you are completely new to games consoles. If you get lost the controller’s PlayStation button brings you back to the home screen.
As you would expect, the PS4’s processors are much more powerful
than those in the PS3. Games can handle higher quality graphics with greater detail and more simultaneous action plus a reduction in loading times. They’ll continue in the background when you return to the home screen so you can use other apps, but the PS4 can’t run apps side by side like the Xbox One
Unlike the PS3 you will need to install games to the hard drive, but you can start playing them after a portion is installed. Although a 500GB hard drive may seem large, some of the games require nearly 40GB each. This could lead to your console being quickly filled up as more games are released.
The PS4 really shines in sharing your in-game experiences. It constantly records game footage in 15 minute blocks without causing any noticeable drop in performance , which you can save and share on PlayStation Network, Facebook or Twitter. There’s also the option to live stream your gameplay for other users through the PlayStation Network using third party services. These videos aren’t small though, 10 minutes of Call of Duty footage for example requires 613MB of space, so keep an eye on your internet plan’s data allowance.
Online networking is not compulsory and you can run the PS4 without installing the 300MB day one update, but you won’t have access to most features, including media apps and online games. Once the update is installed you’ll be able to download these apps without subscribing to the paid online service, PlayStation Plus.
Gaming online however requires a PlayStation Plus subscription at $19.95 for three months or $69.95 for the year. This is slightly cheaper than Xbox Live
which costs $10.95 per month or $79.95 per year.