When Sony launched the PlayStation 4, their aim was to win back their once-unstoppable market leadership. 70 million consoles later, Sony’s back on top.
The latest console to bear the famous brand that’s been around since 1994, Sony’s PS4 (as it’s more commonly known), launched at the end of 2013. Times weren’t great for the PlayStation brand back then — the PS3 had been massively outsold by Microsoft’s Xbox 360, and was notorious for being difficult to make games for. The “best version” of almost anything was usually not on the PS3, which still managed to win a lot of fans with exclusive, groundbreaking games like the Uncharted series and The Last of Us.
The PS4, then, was designed with the input of game developers — and it shows. From its elegant, smooth and uncluttered on-screen menus to its tight integration of video capturing and online chat, the PS4 feels like a natural interface that never gets in the way of you and your games.
What Makes The PlayStation 4 Stand Out?
At launch, a review of the Sony Playstation 4 (PS4) revealed it was the most powerful home video game console available, easily outpacing its Microsoft rival for graphics quality and speed. Sony moved to enhance that lead even further with the beefed-up PS4 Pro, launched in 2016. Bigger, more powerful and substantially more expensive, it was designed from the ground up for true 4K gaming — important in an era where more and more people are buying 4K-capable TVs. If you’ve got a 4K display, it’s well worth considering the Pro version, even though most games don’t make full use of the 4K resolution.
The PS4’s early advantage was also buffed by the signing of a large amount of games and game developers exclusive to the console, a field where Sony holds the clear lead to this day despite Microsoft’s best efforts to catch up.
Like other current generation consoles, to play online you’ll need to sign up to a service — PlayStation Plus. Along with online access this gets you a bunch of free games every month and regular discounts on digital games in the PlayStation Store.
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Are There Different PS4 Models Available?
Like most modern consoles, Sony has sold the PlayStation 4 at different price points based on several minor variations — the size of the in-built hard drive, the colour of the console and its controller, and very often the “free” games that come bundled with it.
As we mentioned above, though, this console generation has seen an unprecedented change — the upgrading of consoles mid-way through their sales life with more powerful, more expensive models. In Sony’s case, that revised console is the PS4 Pro, and as you’d expect it comes at a bit of a price premium — though not an obnoxious price compared to even the standard consoles of the previous generation. The Pro is substantially larger and heavier, packing more powerful processors into the case along with a beefed-up cooling system, allowing it to run many games in 4K resolution, or close to it.
If you’ve got a 4K TV, then the PS4 Pro is a must-have. But even if you only have a standard HDTV, the Pro can still offer better performance with many games, and sometimes enhanced graphics as well.
However, the standard PlayStation 4 is no slouch, and plays all the same games its beefy brother does — but at a notably lower price and in a sleeker, slimmer case. It’s worth noting, though, that if you opt for the version of the “slim” PS4 with the larger 1TB hard drive, you’re starting to come close to the price of the Pro — which also sports a 1TB hard drive.
|PlayStation 4 ("Slim") 500GB||$419||1080p HD|
|PlayStation 4 ("Slim") 1TB||$479||1080p HD|
|PlayStation 4 Pro 1TB||$539||2160p UHD|
Does the hard disc size matter all that much? Absolutely it does! With games clocking in at sizes that can get to 50GB and up, a smaller hard drive fills up incredibly fast — and it’ll fill up even if you buy your games on disc (all games are fully installed to the hard drive).
However, the PlayStation 4 offers a couple of options that you can take advantage of down the track if you run out of space. For starters, the internal hard disk that comes with the console is user-replaceable — and you can replace it with any modern laptop drive, even an SSD if you’re feeling extravagant! You don’t even have to take the cover off the console — there’s a pop-out hard drive bay where you can easily swap the supplied drive for a larger one.
In addition to that, the PS4 supports USB 3.0 external hard drives in sizes up to a hefty 8 TB — and that’d be our recommended upgrade path. It’s cheap, it’s easy, and games load slightly faster off the USB drive than the do from the internal one!
What Exclusives Does PlayStation 4 Have?
For a lot of people, the brand of console and its features come second to the most important thing of all — the games. That’s why console manufacturers have, for years, tried to lock down as many exclusive games as possible to their console. With this generation, it’s hard to argue with the fact that Sony went all-out with PlayStation-exclusive games — and had huge success as a result.
The thing is, these games are good. Really good. Some of the titles available only for PS4 include the lavish open-world adventure Horizon Zero Dawn, the epic reimagining of God of War and Shadow of the Colossus, completely out-there Japanese role playing in Persona 5 and even the most elaborate “choose you own adventure” game ever made — the stunning Detroit: Become Human. And that’s just a small sample of the games that Sony keeps very much to itself.
Of course, all the big multi-platform games are here as well, but even those sometimes come with a twist — like Destiny 2, which has additional maps and streaming features exclusive to the PlayStation 4 version.
What About Movies and TV Shows?
Always connected to broadband and capable of delivering effortless HD or ultra HD video, the current generation of consoles are perfect for streaming movies and TV — and needless to say, all the streaming services are accounted for on the PlayStation 4, with the various apps collected into a special “TV and Video” category for easy access and helpful suggestions for what to watch.
There is a PlayStation Video store — it keeps a low profile, but it’s there — which lets you rent or buy the usual movies and TV shows you’d find on other services like iTunes. If you don’t have an alternative and are using the PS4 as a streaming device anyway, this could be a handy option to have around.
As for disc playback, the PS4 is only capable of playing standard Blu-ray discs — not the newer Ultra HD ones, not even on the 4K-capable PS4 Pro. That’s a shame, but it’s likely because parent company Sony didn’t want their UHD player market undermined by a game console, like the PS3 did with Blu-ray!
What Are the Key PlayStation 4 Accessories?
Dualshock 4 USB Wireless Adaptor. Photo: Playstation.com.
Game consoles tend to attract the accessories market like flies to honey, so it’ll come as no surprise that there’s a huge array of accessories for your PS4 — many of them made by third-party companies. The plethora of headsets, charging docks, spare controllers and even driving wheels ranges from the sublime to the extravagant ($360 for a controller, anyone?).
Sony’s own accessories tend to be reasonably priced and of extremely high quality — we’d highly recommend you pick up the official controller charging dock, which can fast-charge two controllers at once, is easy to use and saves you hunting for a USB cable after every session. And amongst the many headsets on the market, Sony’s two models come with a unique feature — special sound profiles tailored to specific games, controlled via a PS4 app that lets you download profiles to the headset on the fly. And naturally, a plethora of spare controllers can be picked up in a rainbow assortment of colours. The rechargeable battery in the PS4 controller doesn’t last especially long, so if you’re into lengthy gaming sessions you might find a spare controller is mandatory!
And if you’re planning on watching a lot of streaming videos, pick up the media remote — it’s inexpensive at around $39, and gives you DVD-player-like controls to navigate your shows and movies with.
The PlayStation 4 User Experience
One of the most appealing things about the PlayStation 4 is its user interface, which is essentially a refined version of the menu system Sony has been perfecting for years, most notably on the PlayStation 3. It’s fast, smooth as silk, spaciously laid out and easy to navigate without having to guess at how to get where you want to go. By default it’s a calming blue with an animated “wave” pattern accompanied by soothing music but you can customise the PS4’s interface extensively, with many games offering free “themes” that give the menus a complete makeover.
Games can be bought digitally on the PlayStation Store if you’d prefer not to have to grab a disc every time you play (remember, all games are fully installed on the hard disc anyway) and Sony’s put together an easy-to-navigate storefront with a big emphasis on deep discounts, especially on slightly older games.
What About Online Play?
To play online with most PS4 games, you’ll need to be a member of Sony’s subscription service, PlayStation Plus. That’s a change in direction from the PS3 (where online play was free of charge) but it’s not all bad news; along with access to online play, PlayStation Plus gives you the convenience of cloud storage for all your game saves, extra discounts on digital games, and several free games each month that can include some very high profile titles. You don’t need to get PlayStation Plus, but without it, you’re simply not going to be able to have much interaction with other players in your games. It costs $80 for a year, $34 for three months or $11 paid monthly — but keep an eye out for heavy discounts on the annual membership.
Can You Play Your Old Games?
To put it bluntly, nope. While Sony made a big deal with the PS3 early on, with its ability to play PS2 games, that ability soon went away (too expensive to implement, they claimed) and the PlayStation 4’s not about to bring back the nostalgia. For PS3 games you’ll have to hope a “remaster” gets made — as with The Last of Us — while only a tiny, tiny handful of older PS2 games can be bought digitally on the PlayStation Store. But can you stick your old PS2 discs in and play them, right? No, unfortunately.
PlayStation 4 — Serious About Games
Easily winning this generation’s “console wars” in terms of sheer volume of units sold, Sony’s PlayStation 4 is very much able to live up to the video gaming hype. A slick and user-friendly interface gives you full command of arguably the best game library you’ll find anywhere, and everything about the PS4 screams “class”, from its sleek angular lines to its lightweight, responsive, speaker-and-lightshow-equipped controller. Some of this generation’s most important games are only available here, so be sure to double-check on what you might be missing out on if you head for a different console! There’s a few niggles — like the lack of backwards compatibility and the non-UHD disc drive — but if it’s current-gen games you’re after, the PlayStation 4 emphatically delivers the goods.