I thought I would try something new here on the site with a hardware review since it’s not every day you make a simple run to Target for a baby shower gift and end up coming home some five-hundred seventeen dollars lighter with a new, hard-to-find PlayStation 4 in tow. I kind of felt the same guilty way I did when I came home with PlayStation 3 way back in 2006, except this time I didn’t buy it as an alternative for the lowest cost Blu-ray player. My oh my, a lot has changed in the past seven years. Seven years ago, I never dreamed I would be the owner and editor of one of the most established Blu-ray websites, nor that I would have all the opportunities I have been afforded because of this site. So in a way, I kind of owe my existence and accomplishments thus far in the entertainment industry to the magic of Blu-ray. So in essence, I guess it really begs to ask the question, why shouldn’t I have a PlayStation 4? And with that being said, I would like to dedicate this console review to the technology of Blu-ray, its disciples (my writing staff and our online readers) and all the profound effect it has had on my life and others. Cheers.
So like I said above, I was not in the market at all for a PlayStation 4 (hence known as the PS4 throughout the remainder of this review). I have been reviewing Blu-ray movies since 2007 with my two trusty PlayStation 3’s with no qualms or problems whatsoever. New standalone Blu-ray players come and go every year, but in my opinion, nothing beats the raw CPU crunching of the PlayStation 3 (hence known as the PS3 throughout the remainder of this review) as a quick loading and rock solid Blu-ray playing machine. In fact, if the PS4 was not out and I had to get a new Blu-ray player, the PS3 would be my player of choice, despite the additional hundred dollar price tag over the best of consumer standalone models. And why not? The Sony gaming console can do so much more! In addition to playing Blu-ray discs you can consume all the media you would ever want. I really don’t understand why everyone doesn’t have one. Over the years, anytime anyone has ever asked my recommendation on a Blu-ray player to buy I have immediately answered with the PS3. Their typical answer is I don’t want a gaming system. These fools just don’t get it. You can lecture them all you want till you’re “blue” in the face and they can’t get past the fact that it’s billed as a “gaming system.” But hey! I never said the majority of our population was smart, did I? It’s you and I that know the true secret of the ultimate Blu-ray machine. However, times are changing and believe it or not it’s been a whole seven years since the introduction of not only the Blu-ray format to consumers, but also that of the PS3. Logically, we all knew this day was coming…the dawn of the PS4.
Let’s get the formalities and technical specs out of the way first. Like I said up above, we all knew the PlayStation 4 moniker would obviously be the next step of evolution in the Sony PlayStation line. I don’t think anyone of us would have thought differently from the standpoint of the system’s chosen name. And I think we all kind of assumed it would have not only have a Blu-ray player, next-gen graphics and a powerful, soul crunching CPU, but that it would also focus on the ever growing social media market aspect of the gaming world nowadays. There was also speculation of the controller featuring touch controls, much like we have all grown numb to in today’s iOS and Android devices. So without further ado, let’s get all the mumbo jumbo of the technical specifications you will find in the current launch day product all us lucky people have our hands on so far. And FYI…it only comes in one flavor…that being a 500GB system.
Single-chip custom processor
CPU: x86-64 AMD ‘Jaguar’ 8 cores
GPU: 1.84 TFLOPS, AMD next-generation Radeon™ based graphics engine
Hard Disk Drive:
Optical Drive (read only):
I/O and communication:
Super-Speed USB (USB 3.0)
Ethernet (10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX, 1000BASE-T)
IEEE 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth 2.1 (EDR)
Digital Output (optical)
Like usual, I have tried to include some of my best unpacking photos scattered throughout this review. Whether you care of them or not, when I get a new toy I like to savor every moment before I rip the precious packaging away. So if you’re one of those people who just can’t wait to dive in, then this paragraph is for you! In the box above you’ll find the following items included: the PS4 system in jet black, a DUALSHOCK 4 wireless controller, believe it or not an HDMI cable (I used one of my own for this review so I cannot comment on the quality of said included cable), a power cable (keep in mind this one is shorter than the one included with the launch day PS3’s), a wired mono headset and a USB charging cable. Also, you’ll find a pamphlet good with redemption codes for $10 off anything in the PSN store as well as a 30-day trial of Sony’s Music Unlimited streaming service (I have not redeemed this as of yet).
Sony has so far marketed the PS4 for the gaming experience you will have on it since its direct competitor the XBOX One is lurching and waiting in the wing ready to snatch up and capture any unhappy gamers the PlayStation army might have. While I’m not really a gamer so to speak, I do love that right out of the box after inserting your first PS4 game of choice, it starts right up. Any install files happen in the background and you’re not left sitting there twiddling your thumbs for an hour of installation time or whatever it takes like you were with the PS3. However, I do need to go on record by saying that also right of the box (this sentence should have actually preceded the last) you will need to install one firmware update. Don’t worry. It took like 5 minutes tops. Also, the setup of the system was a breeze. It really only came down to the fact of whether you are playing on a wired LAN or wireless and signing into your existing PSN account or creating a new one. Everything else is second nature.
First and foremost, my priorities for buying this system were solely for the Blu-ray playback functionality and any enhancements that may come along with it. Gaming was only a second thought. However, with that being said, while playing the demo PS4 unit in Target before actually making the painful deduction from my precious nest egg, I was quite impressed with the tight controls via the DUALSHOCK 4 wireless controllers. They feel a bit heftier in your hands compared to that of the ones from the PS3 system, but to me…hefty means higher quality. A couple differences that you will immediately notice on the PS4 controller compared to that of the PS3’s launch one is a touchpad, Options and Share buttons, speaker, lights on the back and a headset jack at the bottom. Other than that, the basic controller functionality and buttons are nearly identical with the exception of the Start button missing. The lights on the back have many different functions. First, as you will see from the screenshot below, they illuminate different colors to distinguish between the different players, which the PS4 will accommodate 4 controllers at a time. I believe Player 1 is blue, Player 2 is red, Player 3 is yellow and Player 4 would be pink (wish they would have went green). Second, the Playstation Eye, which I don’t have, utilizes the light as well for tracking and motion purposes. Third, as I can confirm in the screenshot below, the controller will glow yellow while charging. From what I know, as soon as the controller tells you onscreen that the battery is running low, you have about 1 hour left of play with it. It takes about 2 hours to charge the controllers to full capacity.
The other thing I noticed is the black flat matte of the system’s finished. Gone is the glossy finger-print laden look of the original PS3 console’s mirror finish. The PS4 has ports for optical audio out, HDMI out, AUX out (for that beloved PS4 Eye camera) and two USB ports int he front, one of which you will probably utilize for charging your controllers from time-to-time. Like I said up above, the setup is rather quick and easy, just attach your cables, hit the power button and you’re on your way. One thing to take notice, that you may overlook like I did, is the fact that there are two tiny buttons on the front of the console. The top one is the power and the other below it is for ejecting discs. The other way to eject discs from the drive is by selecting it in the onscreen Sony media crossbar, pressing the Options button on the remote and choosing eject. Before we move on, let’s talk about powering down. You have two options when it comes to this, you power it down completely or you can put it in a standby mode (notice the orange glow on the system in the one picture below) similar to how Macs sleep.
So let’s spend a few moments talking about the Blu-ray functionality of the PS4 console. After all, that’s the primary reason I decided to upgrade here. I believe as a Blu-ray reviewer with almost 200 professional reviews in my career, I should be playing and experimenting with the latest and greatest in hardware, don’t you think? I do! And so I thought it would be only fitting to experiment with one of Sony’s best Blu-ray titles back in the day, Casino Royale, as my machine’s maiden voyage with the Blu-ray format. I should back up for a moment and declare that I opted to use optical audio out for this first experiment as I know that’s usually a sticking point for some systems and I wanted to see what all the buzz was about with it here on the PS4 and the handling of the advance audio codecs. Immediately upon hitting play off Casino Royale‘s Blu-ray menu I was met with disappointment as the blue hue of the surround sound indicator on my Sony receiver clicked off. WTF?! What do you do when you experience technical problems that you have no idea how to combat? Why of course, you Google it! Immediately I was head first into PS4 forum boards and learned about the one audio bug I accidentally uncovered. It seems that the first time you play a Blu-ray disc you need to press Options on the controller and go into the audio menu and select bitstream. As soon as I did that my ears boomed from the robust surround track of Casino Royale and my eyes were greeted with that heavenly blue light on my receiver. Problem solved! Hopefully they get that bug fixed in firmware update 1.6, which I read today is rumored to hit around February 22nd.
Once I figured out all the little tweaks and the issue I encountered above, everything else was perfectly harmonious with Blu-ray playback. My only complaint would be the lack of a dedicated Blu-ray remote at this time. Rumor has it that it will be released sometime in March. If that’s the case, March cannot come fast enough! However, I digress, because the controls are pretty simple to navigate during playback using the controller and I need to learn not to be so negative about it considering this was one of my main reasons for not upgrading to a launch edition when they went on sale last November. I know. I’m a very picky person. So for now, I’ll be just fine. It should be noted that there is an official Sony PlayStation app for iOS devices and while I tested it’s functionality and pairing with the PS4, it does not work unfortunately for Blu-ray playback control. Buggers! I’m being told that the PS4 will support 4K resolution. In what format and how, I’m not sure of. Perhaps, the only odd thing to me is the fact that it does not support Blu-ray 3D as of yet, but that’s not a deal breaker to me since I don’t agree with that in the living room anyway. In my opinion, save 3D for the theaters where it should be seen like that.
Last but not least, let’s talk about the main reason most people will in fact buy a PS4 for…the gaming! Discouraged by the fact that Target did not have Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition (released last week), my girlfriend and I opted for Sony’s PS4 flagship title, Knack, as it also was included in a deal to get $20 off the price of a second controller, which unless you are a hermit you know you’re going to need. Sony wins there! But I’m not telling you anything that you already didn’t know so let’s move on. Like I said up above, immediately after inserting Knack into my PS4 it loaded the game and I was up and playing while it installed all the files it needed to in the background. How cool is that?! Instant gratification! It should also be noted that most hit game titles are available for download (the full game) on the PSN store too (including the new Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition). So I guess it basically comes down to what do you prefer, the games on physical discs or 0’s and 1’s on your hard drive. Moving on…
Like I said repeatedly, I’m not a gamer, but there’s no disputing the beauty and complexity of what you see onscreen once you begin playing Knack. Hell! There’s even 90-minutes of cut scenes to get through too. It may not be the most interesting storytelling, but it gives Sony a chance to flex their muscles and show you what the system you just laid four big ones down on is capable of. Although I know I probably haven’t seen anything yet from gaming and as to the leaps and bounds over the last gen consoles that the PS4 is capable of, but color me impressed from what I saw in just Knack alone. This system just might make a gamer out of me yet. Haha. And bonus!!! After striking out at every store I went to and throwing the towel in I was at the grocery story yesterday shopping for what else…groceries…and what did I see but two copies of Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition staring right back at me in the PS4 display case as well as two console systems for sale too (gotta love my HEB Plus). Of course I picked one up and that will be the next game we tackle, but we gotta finish Knack first. Believe it or not, we’re still playing it. If it wasn’t for the waste of time known as the Super Bowl yesterday, we would of had things wrapped by now and well on our way playing as Lara Craft shooting heads off with arrows. Damn Broncos! A really cool option available in Knack is the ability to play the game in co-op mode. When you opt in as the second player the PS4 asks you if you want to play as a PSN profile (gives you the option to sign in or create a new user ID) or play as a guest. How cool is that?
In summary, the lack of CD and mp3 playback kind of sucks, but who buys a PS4 gaming console for that anyway? Right on! And while the four-hundred dollar price tag might seem a but steep for some, just look at everything you get here as an initial investment compared to the ghastly, shocking price tag the PS3 cost when it was first released back in 2006. Make no mistake, all early adopters are going to get the short straw in some way or another (like no backwards compatibility for PS3 games), but do you want to be the cool kid on the block or the one no one picks or hangs out with? LOL. I’m kidding. That’s really unfair of me to say. If there’s nothing wrong with your current PS3 system and you have no reason to usher in the next gen of gaming into your lifestyle, then perhaps you’re better off waiting until the next rumored price drop happens in 2015 (rumors indicate this will coincide with the release of Gran Turismo on the PS4 platform). However, for those that just have to have the newest in technology all the time, this Buds for you. Err…I mean this system is for you! If nothing else, going into the Live PlayStation Playrooms at 3 AM on a weekend will keep you busy and engaged for hours. OMG! I can’t erase the things my eyes have seen and ears have overheard. Parents, you may want to monitor your kid’s use. LOL. Seriously!
So lucky for you, my review comes at a opportune time as more and more PS4 systems are appearing out in the wild and also on the Internet’s giant, Amazon, which is reporting them in stock right here. So what are you waiting for? You know you want one! Why are you depriving yourself? Order one today from the link below! And as always, thanks for your continued support here on the site. It’s truly appreciated. Enjoy this sleek and sexy next-gen gaming console (or as a Blu-ray player too)!