PlayStation 4 review: Great gaming for 2016 and beyond

PlayStation Plus

Compared with Xbox Live's Gold membership, PlayStation Plus still makes it out as the better overall deal. The Instant Game Collection titles that come with the subscription can be played across various PlayStation platforms and the quality of these titles tends to be higher, though recently the free games have started to underwhelm. You need PlayStation Plus to play online, and it also offers discounts, exclusive betas and demos, cloud save storage, game trials and automatic system updates.

PlayStation Plus is $50, £40 or AU$70 a year, while Xbox Live Gold is $60, £40 or AU$85 per year, although you may be able to get discounted vouchers from retailers.

System interface

Overall, the PS4's interface feels zippier than the Xbox One's, even with Xbox's new fall 2015 update. Games install quicker and moving around menus is a much smoother experience. It's by far an easier system to navigate, as opposed to the Xbox One's sometimes confusing presentation.

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Game streaming

Sony's answer to backward compatibility is PlayStation Now, a subscription service that allows PS4 owners to stream a game over the Internet. That said, your experience will vary depending on your Internet connection. Suffice it to say, playing shooters and other "twitch" games on PS Now isn't great, but it's certainly improving -- as is the growing collection of playable titles. When it launched we wrote PS Now off. Now we think it's a viable option for those who are passionate about legacy PlayStation games.

Xbox One recently introduced Xbox 360 backward compatibility, which works with physical media, as opposed to PS Now's digital-only operation.


Aside from a zippier all-around experience in the system software, the PS4 tends to install games quicker than the Xbox One. There's also some evidence that multiplatform games play better and run in higher resolutions than they do on the Xbox One. In some cases, the PS4 will also play at a higher frame rate than the Xbox One.

Game broadcasting and social sharing

The DualShock 4 controller has a button dedicated to broadcasting and sharing options. The whole feature set is wonderfully tied into the fabric of the system and makes sharing fairly painless. Players can instantly snap screenshots, tweet photos and broadcast gameplay to Twitch (a free online streaming-gaming video service), all within a few clicks.

PS4 owners can also save these videos and screens and put them on a USB drive, edit them on the PS4 or upload them to YouTube, Facebook or Twitter.

It's worth noting that publishers can block the ability to share content -- it's usually done to avoid leaking major plot spoilers in a game.

Independent games

Sony has committed to bringing popular independent games to PS4. While a lot of these titles have previously been available for PC, games like Rocket League, No Man's Sky and SOMA (among many others) will only see console debuts on PS4.

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User-accessible hard drive

The PS4 ships with a 500GB, 5,400rpm hard drive (and is also available in a 1TB model), but you can easily swap it out for a 2.5-inch SATA drive with a larger capacity or a SSHD or SSD for potentially increased performance. The Xbox One, by comparison, doesn't allow the swapping of hard drives -- instead you have to attach an external USB drive.

DualShock 4 controller

The DualShock 4 is the best PlayStation controller yet and features a front-facing touchpad that can also be clicked. Players can bring their own headphones and plug them directly into the controller so they don't disturb the neighbors during nighttime gaming.

The controller is very comfortable and can be charged with a Micro-USB cable. The only real downside is the battery: unlike the Xbox One controller's battery, the PS4's can't be replaced. Its battery life is good, but not great.

Media playback

The PS4's media player app supports a wide range of file formats and codecs. Files can be played off a home DLNA server or USB drive.

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PS4 cons

Here are the areas where the PS4 could use a little work:

Media apps: Good, but slightly lagging behind the Xbox One

The PS4 offers mainstay media and entertainment apps like Amazon Instant Video, Netflix and Hulu Plus, but is noticeably missing apps that the Xbox One does have, such as ESPN, Comedy Central, Fox and Fios.

There is support for sports, though -- PS4 owners can use MLB, NBA (only on PS4), NFL Sunday Ticket and NHL apps.

PlayStation Plus cloud storage

Cloud save storage was recently bumped up to a generous 10GB worth of data, but only for PS+ members. We also think cloud saves should sync automatically no matter which PS4 you're playing on, instead of gamers having to manually upload saves from machines that aren't their "primary console." In this specific category, Xbox One has PS4 beat.

Wonky eject button

A collection of current PS4 owners have experienced an issue with the PS4's touch-sensitive eject button. Some complain that it can engage by itself, causing the console to either eject a disc during play or randomly make beeps.

Sony has since corrected this and now 1TB consoles ship with a tactile eject button.

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PS4 vs. Xbox One

There's not likely to be a definitive winner in the current-generation console wars. While the PlayStation 4 had a clear advantage at launch, that edge is slowly evaporating as Microsoft has worked feverishly to undo most of the Xbox One's original missteps. The two consoles are now similarly priced and offer a lot of the same features.

Right now the PS4 and the Xbox One are neck and neck with exclusives -- though the PS4 also has a better range of digital-only titles. But taste in games is always subjective; either those games will appeal to you, or they won't. Each console manufacturer has made exclusivity deals with various developers, so the sad reality is you're going to miss out on something great no matter which platform you choose.

You might read about the PS4's specs trumping those of the Xbox One, but it's important to keep in mind how that translates to actual results. You'll remember that the PS3 was originally poised to be a massive powerhouse that would leap past the Xbox 360, but in reality it didn't perform much better. You could even make the argument that most multiplatform games played more smoothly and looked better on the Xbox 360. That said, at the time of this writing (and having considered most of the multiplatform games currently available), the PS4 does seem to perform slightly better than the Xbox One.

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