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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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RE: First thing
By kleinma on 11/16/2013 12:31:46 PM , Rating: 2
So the first thing you do after getting a 400 dollar console is to replace the 500GB drive with an SSD that costs more than the console itself? Or are you saying you just limit your storage and get a size like 120GB, which adds 25% or more to the cost of the console?

RE: First thing
By Reclaimer77 on 11/16/2013 5:15:14 PM , Rating: 1
It would be worth it IMO.

SSD's should have been standard on next gen consoles. But at least Sony allows you the option.

The load times on current consoles when installed to the HDD are just painful. That's not looking to get any better going forward.

RE: First thing
By stm1185 on 11/16/2013 6:07:12 PM , Rating: 2
Why do you need 500gb of storage? Whats the system taking up? You'd think a $175 250gb SSD would do just fine.

RE: First thing
By The Von Matrices on 11/16/2013 7:46:39 PM , Rating: 2
Just like most PS3 games, PS4 games need to be partially or completely installed to the HDD before being played, so the SSD does increase performance by reducing load times. However, if you pick a small capcity drive you are going to have to be constantly installing and uninstalling games as you want to play them. If you play multiplayer games, it will make no difference because the games are designed so that the match does not start until all consoles have loaded, which would be limited by all the consoles with HDDs.

RE: First thing
By Reclaimer77 on 11/17/2013 1:21:23 PM , Rating: 2
Constantly? You exaggerate. A 256 gig drive will hold a TON of games.

In a few years SSD's will be even better than they are now. The flexibility Sony gave consumers will allow new life to be breathed into the PS4.

RE: First thing
By The Von Matrices on 11/18/2013 2:55:42 AM , Rating: 2
Okay, with a 256GB drive it might not be a constant constraint for space, but I think you're forgetting one thing. Since PS4s ship with 500GB HDDs, there will be less focus on keeping installation sizes small compared to the PS3 where a significant portion of the consoles had 60 or 80GB HDDs. Remember that the Blu-ray drive is only 3x faster than the PS3 while the memory is 16x larger, so there will be more dependence on files stored on the HDD.

Since the number of people who replace their hard drive let alone replace it with a SSD is extremely small, games will still be designed to compensate for the HDD's access time and transfer rate. This strongly limits the number of situations where a SSD would help.

Also, remember that the PS3 only supports SATA2, so a modern SSD might not perform any better than an old one. The minimum required HDD size is 160GB, so the person who suggested a 128GB SSD is suggesting an incompatible product.

RE: First thing
By The Von Matrices on 11/18/2013 2:56:21 AM , Rating: 2
In the last paragraph I meant that the PS4 supports SATA2 only.

RE: First thing
By Reclaimer77 on 11/18/2013 4:30:11 PM , Rating: 2
The interface only matters when it comes to maximum sustained throughput. What's really important, and where SSD's excel, is in random reads/writes. That is what kills HDD performance, random seek times.

RE: First thing
By Kiffberet on 11/18/2013 8:20:16 AM , Rating: 2
I don't think sizes will balloon, just because they device has 500Gb.

Games will probably get bigger as time goes by, mainly due to the additional design and detail that goes into making games, but on the flip side, on-line downloads are the future and these can't be too big or they'll take too long, and put people off.

RE: First thing
By FITCamaro on 11/18/2013 9:42:39 AM , Rating: 2
At average install sizes on the PS4 so far, a 250GB hard drive will hold 6-7 games.

RE: First thing
By FITCamaro on 11/18/2013 9:48:05 AM , Rating: 2
And that doesn't account for any DLC or other content on the system.

RE: First thing
By lexluthermiester on 11/17/2013 6:43:51 PM , Rating: 2
You'd think a $175 256gb SSD

Fixed that for ya. $175 for 256GB SSD? I paid $135 for mine. You're getting shafted where-ever you buy your stuff. Even for a performance drive that is a way high price.

RE: First thing
By lexluthermiester on 11/17/2013 6:38:36 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed. I'd do something more in the middle like putting in a 750GB hybrid drive in it. Increase in both speed and capacity.

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