Hot on the heels of the Xbox One (in Europe, that is, the US got theirs first) comes the Playstation 4. This is the console that Sony have pinned all their hopes of reviving the sort of fanbase they had with the original Playstation and Playstation 2 on.
In an interesting aesthetic battle, Sony have chosen white and blue as their primary box colours, a polar opposite to Microsoft’s deep black box. My preference goes to the Xbox here, though boxes are often seen once and forgotten about by the second day.
It’s the console’s design that really matters and Sony have gone for a pretty striking one on their new hardware. Only slightly bigger than a PS3 slim and a smidgen thinner thanks to the new straight edges taking over from the previously rounded ‘tummy’ of their last console, the PS4 gives the impression that it’s in 2 halves by indenting the middle section. This allows them to place USB ports and a disc slot inside the casing rather than flush with the housing.
The USB placement is interesting in that it hides the ports nicely but can cause an issue should you wish to add a USB drive or adapter that is a little thicker than usual as the gap is only slightly bigger than the standard width of a USB lead.
The back is equally adept at hiding ports, with power supply, Optical Audio, LAN, HDMI and Aux ports all nestled neatly in the box-like ridges on the rear.
Finally, a blue light which reaches across the centre of the console on the front facing side adds a touch of modern class to the proceedings. This turns in to a dull orange glow during standby, which has me slightly worried about the amount of power the console is using in this mode.
Look and Feel
A fair bit smaller than the Xbox One, the console is at home either lying flat or in an upright position, making it easy enough to fit with your other AV equipment, though Sony recommend a bracket for keeping the console upright. Standing next to the slim I have here, it’s certainly more stable on its side, but could be knocked over if pushed.
The indented ports help to allow the console to blend in with the scenery, too and even the power and eject buttons are indented. So much so that at times it’s hard to pinpoint them!
Just as with the Xbox One, there’s a day one patch that needs to be downloaded to do anything useful with the console. This unlocks the Blu-ray playback and many of the live features of the PS4, including the Live screen and online streaming services.
An evolution of the Cross-media Bar, the interface shows a single long line of large icons which then drill down into further options. Where it differs the most is when settings and friends options are needed, which live on another bar above this. In separating these out, the interface remains clean and quick. much more responsive than the old PS3 interface ever was.
If you chose to get the pack with the camera, this will allow you to sign in to the console in a similar way to Kinect, by looking for your image. Otherwise, the console asks for your PSN ID or creates a new one. Once in to the menu, the Live option provides the most interesting new feature, where you get to watch other people live streaming their games over the Playstation Network, in a similar way to the game viewing that Onlive provides. With the camera, you can also check out the people playing and there’s a handy chatroom style box on the right to hold a conversation with the presenter. A further option allows you to jump into the game that you’re watching if you already own it.
Of course, the biggest draw to both of the new consoles will be the games and we’ll be providing coverage of Next Gen titles over the coming weeks. For now, though, it looks as if both Sony and Microsoft have come up with some impressive hardware and interesting social features. This generation could well be the most interesting yet.