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The PS4 launched for $399 today

Sony's PlayStation 4 officially released today, and the (mixed) reviews are in. 

Tech news sites like EngadgetThe VergeArs Technica and Joystiq have offered their insights on the new PS4 console, and the overall reviews seem to range from "worth it, go buy it" to "Maybe you should wait for Xbox One reviews." But many agreed that the design of the hardware (both console and controller) was done just right, and that it has an extremely friendly user interface. 

Let's dive right in.

The Specs
  • Octa-core, x86 AMD "Jaguar" CPU
  • Radeon GPU capable of 1.84 teraflops
  • 500GB hard disk drive
  • 8GB of GDDR5 memory
  • Six-speed Blu-Ray drive
  • USB 3.0
  • Ethernet
  • HDMI
  • optical audio output
  • AUX connector for the camera
Pricing & Availability 

The PS4 launched today in the U.S., and will hit Europe on 
November 29. The console is priced at $399. 


Hardware - Console 

Reviewers had nothing but great things to say about the PS4 console's hardware. Ars Technica called it a "beautiful" and "unique" case design while The Verge dubbed it "handsome." 

Here's what Engadget's Ben Gilbert had to say:

"Think of it this way: If E3 was a beauty pageant, and Sony's and Microsoft's next-gen console designs were the contestants, then the PS4 was basically crowned Miss World that day in LA. Sony's black gaming box is a return to form for the global electronics giant; it's the type of living room hardware that evokes signature Sony style, not celebrity-endorsed kitchenware."

Richard Mitchell, Joystiq:

"The PlayStation 4 itself is an attractive device. The unit is close in size to the "slim" PlayStation 3 that launched back in 2009. Not taking the PS4's angled sides into account, the two consoles have nearly the same square footprint...The only troubling physical quality of the PS4 is that the plastic casing has a good amount of flex to it. Squeeze or prod the console and you'll be able to see and feel the plastic bending under your fingers."

Hardware - Controller

The PS4's DualShock 4 controller is one feature that grabbed rave reviews all around (minus one comment about the controller only getting about seven hours of battery life). Ars Technica even claimed it's "one of the best we've ever used" while The Verge called it a "fantastic controller."

Engadget's Gilbert seems to feel the same way:

"There's no doubt in our minds: Sony's DualShock 4 is the best game controller that the company's ever created. It's not quite perfect, but it's damn close. For the most part, the DualShock 4 is a carefully refined version of the DualShock 3. The standard two parallel thumbsticks, the d-pad on the left face, a four-button layout on the right, two triggers and two shoulder buttons up top continue to be the main forms of input. The DualShock 3's tilt sensor and rumble motor are also back with minor tweaks, offering tighter precision and more detailed vibration (respectively)."

Mitchell, Joystiq

"The DualShock 4 is one of the most comfortable controllers I've ever held. It abandons the long-maintained DualShock design for something much more ergonomic. Specifically, the DualShock 3's tapered prongs have been replaced by more bulbous and natural handles. Even better, the back of the controller is made of a textured, but not rubberized plastic that offers great grip. The D-pad directions are spaced more closely together, and there's a nice divot in the middle that gives the thumb a natural place to rest. The analog sticks are spaced slightly further apart, and they now feature concave bowls on top, preventing the slippage common with the DualShock 3. Speaking of slippage, the DualShock 3's convex triggers are gone, and in their place are delightfully concave triggers that do a much better job of cradling your all-important shooting fingers."

Software - UI

The user interface (called the PlayStation Dynamic Menu) was touted as clean and simple, making it more user friendly. The PlayStation Store also received a lot of compliments. But reviewers had issues with system UI performance in some cases, such as the interface not scaling well for power users.

Engadget's Gilbert describes the UI as an improvement:

"The user interface on the PlayStation 4's new desktop is a massive improvement over the often confusing PlayStation 3 XMB (cross-media bar). It's essentially a set of square tiles that expand out with rich content when selected. Select a game and you'll see options for the developer-fed overview tab (screens, video, et cetera), recent social activity involving that piece of content and related items available in the Store."

And he's also fond of the PlayStation Store: 

"Finally -- finally! -- a digital store from a Sony PlayStation game console that is navigable! The PlayStation Store on PlayStation 4 is far and away the best iteration of the store yet, offering a single, simple left rail for navigation between film, TV and games offerings."

The Verge warns that you must download the day-one update before you can really do anything on the console, and also thinks the notifications could use improvement:

"Practically everything the system does, even the built-in web browser, requires you to log in to PlayStation Network, and most of the console's highly touted features aren't available until you install a 300MB day-one update as soon as you turn on the console — all you can do is pop a disk in and play a game otherwise...but even after you do update, the PS4's interface still revolves entirely around games. Where the PlayStation 3 was designed as a media hub where your pictures, music, and videos were neatly arranged in a scrolling two-column interface, Sony has stripped the vast majority of that away.
"But the real problem with the PS4's interface is that Sony hasn’t been paying attention. Sony hasn’t learned something smartphones and social networks mastered years ago: making notifications actionable."

Ars Technica's Kyle Orland said the new PlayStation Store UI is "great," but also mentioned that the flat system interface gets cluttered and can be hard to use. 

Joystiq's Mitchell even found a couple hiccups in the UI:

"The Dynamic Menu in general isn't without a few hiccups of its own. I encountered one moment when it became unresponsive for several seconds, notably when installingKillzone: Shadow Fall. Upon installation, the game required an additional update to be downloaded. At this point Shadow Fall's tile briefly displayed two different "start" buttons. One of these had a disc icon indicating I could start the game. The other was unlabeled, though clicking it appeared to start installing the update. Updates are supposed to be applied automatically, so something seems to have gone awry, though it did eventually right itself."

A few other favorites are the "What's New" section, which provides a look at friends' activities, and the automatic download of system and game updates. But there were complaints about the iOS PlayStation App being of limited use and the Music Unlimited being "clunky."

Software - Games

Engadget's Gilbert will tell you "Battlefield 4" is the prettiest launch-day title for the PS4, but The Verge will say there aren't enough great games yet. 

Here's Gilbert's guide to PS4 games: 

"If you're looking for bombast and bullets, 'Killzone: Shadow Fall' is your launch title of choice...'Resogun' is both an excellent game and a graphics showcase...Ten minutes with 'Knack' is all you need to realize this title is basically 'Crash Bandicoot' for the next gen...Thanks to the power of EA's Frostbite 3 engine, DICE's 'Battlefield 4' is easily one of the prettiest PS4 launch day titles. Amazingly, it's going to be third-party titles that keep early adopters afloat this holiday --'Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag' is no exception. The game features a beautiful Caribbean world, which shines on the PlayStation 4, and it's actually a fun game to play."

The Verge has a different perspective on the PS4 launch titles: 

"The two dozen or so launch titles for the console are unlikely to satisfy the exact gamer Sony’s trying so desperately to court — and that may be disappointed with what’s available for the console they pre-ordered...It's not that any of the games we've played are bad — quite the opposite, in fact — it's just that they're almost exactly what you'd expect. Aside from visual enhancements, the games played largely identically to their current-generation versions."

To Buy or Not to Buy?

Ben Gilbert, Engadget:

"After a marathon week with the PlayStation 4, we feel confident in saying it will be worth your hard-earned money when it goes on sale tomorrow. For $400, you're getting a speedy, powerful little PC with an extremely friendly user interface -- and it doesn't look like a PC, which is a nice bonus. We may not review game consoles every day, but we know a good one when we see it. This is just the beginning with PlayStation 4, and it's a hell of a start."

The Verge

"For right now, though, there's little incentive to spend $399 on a PlayStation 4. Not only are there few games worth the price of admission, the vast library of PS3 games is more compelling than anything the PS4 currently offers. If you're desperate for a new console, rest assured that eventually the PS4 will be one; it has plenty of power, a great controller, and a lot of good ideas about how we can play games better and how we can play them together. But for right now, they’re mostly still just ideas."

Kyle Orland, Ars Technica:

"The PlayStation 4 has an excellent controller, decently powerful hardware, some intriguing, well-executed new features, and an interface that shows belated acknowledgement of some of Sony's most user-unfriendly past designs. It also has a lot of features that are half-assed, missing, or downright bewildering at this point. Still, overall, it's a good starting point for a system that's meant to last a long time. Wait for the Xbox One review to compare and contrast."

For the DT readers who picked up a PS4 today, what are your reviews? 

Sources: The Verge, Ars Technica, Joystiq, Engadget

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Maybe Overlooking...
By Mythbinder on 11/16/2013 9:23:36 AM , Rating: 0
A small feature in the design of both new Consoles.

Not only are they X86 based the GPU's come from a PC birthright.
This means PC chip law's apply not console hardware rules.
Dye shrinks, Clock Bumps, Higher transistor counts, etc. can be done without any impact on Game development or compatibility.

There is no reason that in 1-2 years the 2nd "Gen" or 2nd SKU of both the PS4 and XB1 can't have a performance bump, where this was not possible for any previous Console its not true here.

I'm sure by the time 4k becomes main stream affordable they will be ready for it. For now there is no reason for Sony or MS to give 4k any consideration.

RE: Maybe Overlooking...
By BPB on 11/16/2013 9:46:48 AM , Rating: 3
And what do the game developers do for the folks with the early release systems? Sell 4k versions and 1080p versions side by side? Too much confusion. Too many folks would just grab the wrong version when buying for the kids. I suppose the OS could be updated and the game engines adjusted so the same disc works on both, but that would still lose a lot of goodwill for customers with the early systems. And let's face it, mainstream 4k gaming is years off. Heck, you can still get 720p TV's.

RE: Maybe Overlooking...
By Stuka on 11/17/2013 12:08:12 PM , Rating: 2
We are talking about client rendered video, so there is still only one disc. The resolution would be controllable from the console or within each game.

You can already tell the PS3 whether you want 720 or 1080. Of course, whether the console is rendering in 1080 and scaling the 2D video down in post processing, I don't know... that would seem silly though.

RE: Maybe Overlooking...
By Warren21 on 11/16/2013 12:08:14 PM , Rating: 5
This won't happen.

Certainly, there will be die shrinks. This is always the best way to increase power efficiency and profitability, and happened at least once on the Xbox 360 and PS3.

To claim that because the processors' origins are now in x86 PC design suddenly enables console makers to put out higher power versions of their console is ludicrous, however. Fragmentation is the exact thing that consoles were made to avoid. A common set of hardware/performance is their biggest strength.

Also, "coming from a PC birthright" is overdramatic and incorrect, assuming you're insinuating that the previous designs did not. The GPU in the 360 was the precursor to the Radeon X1800/X1900, and ran DirectX 9.0C features. The RSX in the PS3 was practically an off-the-shelf G71 à la GeForce 7900 series.

Even before that, the original Xbox's hardware partners were Intel and nVidia. All we have here is a smaller difference in instruction set as they're now running on x86 whereas before it would be something more alien, like RISC/PowerPC. The hardware itself though was still "birthed" from PC architecture and knowledge, 100%.

RE: Maybe Overlooking...
By stm1185 on 11/16/2013 6:03:51 PM , Rating: 2
I think you are undervaluing the x86 transition. The GCN architecture and Jaguar CPU cores used in the PS4 and Xbox One will be improved on by AMD for other products, and in fact already have been. While the Cell architecture of the PS3 really wasn't. Nor the XBox 360s, or the Xbox's. Those were more One Off designs, while the new SoC's are in ongoing development.

I think he is right, I think in 2-3 years Sony and Microsoft can look at AMD's progress and say "go build us a SOC at the same power volume with the new cpu cores and GCN 3.0".

Enabling 4k, the code will remain largely the same, updating for older games won't be as big of an issue, and newer games can simply scale resolution to meet to the performance requirement, which we are already seeing on the PS4 with AC4 not enabling 1080p until a post launch patch can optimize it enough to stay at 30fps+ outdoors.

Instead of just "able to work" they target performance around FPS, stable 60, stable 30. They can do that for two or three or four different SKU's without much trouble.

Furthermore, Sony has 4k TVs to sell, they will need to do this for the sake of their TV business.

RE: Maybe Overlooking...
By Totally on 11/16/2013 10:25:19 PM , Rating: 2
I disagree with your last sentence TV sales are independent of whatever happens with the consoles. The transition to 4k is no different from the transition from SD to HD except the jump in image quality is as big or apparent.

RE: Maybe Overlooking...
By stm1185 on 11/17/2013 12:56:04 AM , Rating: 2
Except we saw in the last generation the strong effect the PS3 had on pushing BluRay and HD, even making BluRay win over HDDVD. If Sony had a PS4.5 in a couple years, with 4k Support and 4k BluRay playback it could have a similar effect.

RE: Maybe Overlooking...
By FITCamaro on 11/18/2013 9:46:37 AM , Rating: 3
It's not going to happen. Not because it can't, because it won't. Doing that undermines the very idea of a console. That everyone has the same thing so developers don't have to program for varying levels of performance.

RE: Maybe Overlooking...
By Mythbinder on 11/16/13, Rating: 0
RE: Maybe Overlooking...
By purerice on 11/17/2013 1:39:03 AM , Rating: 2
As a graphic artist back in the 90's, I assure you that with a Power Mac you could plug in a Daystar CPU upgrade without software tweaks. Sure, multi-processor cards were different, because OS 8 through 9.2 were not really designed for "MP" systems, but with single CPU upgrades it was a snap.

Perhaps certain console games were designed to run at a certain FPS and that was based on the CPU speed, so putting in a CPU with 3x the power would tweak the frame rate, but that was not because the CPU was RISC-based.
Maybe I'm reading you wrong here but Android and Apple phones are RISC, right? Are you saying Android and iOS games need to be adjusted for every single new CPU that comes out?

RE: Maybe Overlooking...
By Manch on 11/17/2013 6:59:03 AM , Rating: 2
As someone already pointed out. That is incorrect. The original xbox was a celeron/PIII and an NVIDIA chip. MS had to get to market quickly so they went with off the shelf parts. That's also why they pushed to transition to the 360 so quickly. They did not own the design of either chip and production was going the way of the dodo.

As far as your RISC/software comment goes, dont be dumb. I have upgraded many RISC based systems and the software has remained the same. If the architecture is the same then the software sees it the same.

RE: Maybe Overlooking...
By The Von Matrices on 11/16/2013 7:41:58 PM , Rating: 2
I disagree with this being practical. Consoles have always been programmed to exploit all the idiosyncracies in the architecture in order to extract maximum performance. This has nothing to do with the underlying architecture; even among x86 processors and GCN GPUs there are differences than can make or break backwards compatibility of a game programmed at a very low level. Something like a slightly different latency between components can completely kill performance if the game is designed to synchronize data among components.

This is why making any console backwards compatible is so difficult and why Sony approached backwards compatibility in the PS3 by just integrating the PS2 hardware. You can release a new console over a shorter period of time, but I doubt the games would be backwards compatible as is. Developers would have to release updates, and considering how old some games would be at the time, there would be little incentive for most games to be updated.

RE: Maybe Overlooking...
By stm1185 on 11/16/2013 9:58:44 PM , Rating: 2
And yet I can go back and run games from 2001 on my PC built in 2011. Why is that possible, yet a Xbox One built with AMD's update to Jaguar and GCN wouldnt be able to run BF4, even though a PC with the updated CPU and GCN would be able to run BF4...

RE: Maybe Overlooking...
By The Von Matrices on 11/17/2013 12:07:14 AM , Rating: 2
It's because PCs are built on high level standards (such as DirectX) that are cross compatible with a variety of hardware. The downside is that those standards have overhead and prevent extracting 100% of the theoretical performance. In consoles there's no need for a high level standard since there's only one set of hardware.

In an ideal world the console developers would only use standard low level commands like AMD's Mantle, which would be much easier to transfer to a similarly designed processor (for example one with a higher clock speed or more cores/shaders). But in order to extract every bit of performance, programmers write code anticipating things very specific to one processor but that they don't have direct control over (like latency, bandwidth, and cache sizes).

You can get race conditions by changing processors. If you know that your console processor requires 100 cycles to read main memory, you can safely program a second thread that writes to that memory address 101 cycles after the read request is sent. If you then you replace your original processor with a processor that accesses memory in 105 cycles, you would have the second thread writing to the memory before the first thread had completed its read. In more universal code, locks would be used to preventing the write from occurring before the read had finished; however, this introduces additional commands (like a wait for the first thread to complete) that reduce processor utilization and efficiency. In a console you can omit this safety features because every processor is the same and you know that the timing would work, thus conserving computing power.

This is just one of countless situations where this can occur when you change processors. This is why backwards compatibility is so difficult in a console; you basically have to reread your code to find every one of these types of situations and correct them. This takes so much time and money that backwards compatibility is either non-existent or limited to very few titles.

RE: Maybe Overlooking...
By purerice on 11/17/2013 1:47:23 AM , Rating: 2
Really? I couldn't get half the apps I loaded in 2001 to actually work correctly on my computer even back in 2001. I often had to wait for version 1.9 to come out 15 months later for the program to finally work right, then 2 months after that version 2.0 would come out. It would essentially be unusable until version 2.5 came out 6 months later. Nonetheless everybody would rush to that and their docs would be incompatible with my v1.9 docs.

The beauty of consoles has historically been that apps programmed for them will work as designed and advertised on day one. If you want to play 12 year old games, surely a console able to play them should be available on the cheap, right? Man, what does it take to make some people happy?

RE: Maybe Overlooking...
By ShaolinSoccer on 11/17/2013 1:14:16 PM , Rating: 3
Man, what does it take to make some people happy?

An emulator on a PC.

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