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Me, playing with the PS4 during E3

The PlayStation 4 will ship later this year and since many people may pre-order it based on pre-release information available on the web (like I did), I thought that posting a hands-on review based on the experience gathered from the initial launch and from on our “hands-on” experience of the console at E3 would make sense. By now, most of the PS4-related information is expected to remain unchanged until the public availability, and basically you’re not going to get to know much more (besides launch titles) until the retail units arrive, so here is everything that we do know about PS4. Let’s see if it is for you.

PS4 Specs

I would like to get the “specs” out of the way fairly early. I realize that this is important for many readers, so we need to include it, but history shows that consoles with less favorable specs can still do very well if they have a proper combination of price, good games, exclusive games and accessories. However, here are the raw specs:

PS4
CPU 8-core AMD “Jaguar” 1.6GHz
GPU 1152 cores
On-chip memory No
On-chip bandwidth N/A
Memory 8GB GDDR5
System Memory Bus Width 256bit
System Memory Bandwidth 176GB/sec
USB 3.0 Yes
Blu-Ray Yes
Storage 500GB user-removable
External Storage TBD / Optional
Cloud Storage Yes
Networks Wired Ethernet, WiFi B/G/N
Bluetooth 2.1
Region locked No

Official specifications page at Sony.com

Fortunately for PlayStation 4 fans, this is currently the console that has the leading specifications. It is in many ways comparable to the Xbox One, but the PS4 manages to pull away in terms of theoretical graphics performance, thanks to the presence of 50% more graphics raw power than its Microsoft nemesis (Xbox One got a small GPU frequency boost recently btw). At E3, demos on both platforms looked great, but you should keep in mind that Xbox One demos were sometime running on PCs during the show, so we will have to wait a little more to be 100% sure about the Xbox One performance.

PlayStation 4 Industrial Design

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In the real world, the PS4 looks a lot smaller than what you may expect from the photos (here is a side-by-side photo with PS3, XB360 and XBOne). We found it to be slim and the design is quite elegant and minimalist. Since beauty is in the eye of the beholder, we’ll give you a lot of photos to look at, but let us know in the comments what your own take on the matter is. Here are the photos, so take a look for yourself:

The PS4 doesn’t come with a “power brick” like the Xbox One does. This has made some noise recently, and if you really care about that particular detail, you will be happy to know that the PS4 power supply is integrated into the console and that the cable is just a regular slim electric cable. Phew.

Ports

In terms of functional design, the PS4 will be able to either stand like a mini-tower, or rest on its side, “set top box” style. The main controls (Power, Eject) and a couple of USB ports are hidden in the space in between the two console sections. It’s discreet but very accessible at the same time. In the back, users will find additional ports: 1x full-size HDMI, 1x Ethernet, 1x SPIDF optical audio and another USB port.

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2x USB discreetly placed in the front

The back also has ample cooling vents, and if the early PS3 provides any indication, one has to wonder how loud the fans are going to be. Unfortunately, trade shows are a terrible place to form an opinion on this, so we will get back to that down the road when I can play with one in a more quiet environment.

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More ports in the back and a simple power connector

PS4 Controller

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My first impression about the PlayStation 4 controller is that it looks and feels very similar to the existing PS controllers. However, there are notable differences. The new controller is a little bit bulkier and heavier, which makes it feel more sturdy, but fret not: the change is not a big deal at all if you feel comfortable with the classic PS controller. I had no problem at all when I played games at E3.

The force feedback of the controller felt really nice. I didn’t do a side by side comparison with the rumble form the current ones, but from what I remember, it felt more powerful, which helped with the overall immersion in the game.

Controller touch panel

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This is the most obvious change in the PS4 controller. Interestingly, I didn’t miss the PS, Start and Select buttons while using the controller at E3, but that’s probably because I didn’t try pausing the game, or do something like that.

The touch panel is designed to act like a laptop trackpad. Depending on the game, you can do all kinds of gestures: bring a menu, throw objects, etc… Imagination is the only limit to what developers can do. This is really the embodiment of the fact that nothing can stay away from some kind of touch interface.

Hohokum is probably the best game to illustrate what the touch pad can do as it gives you a fine control over your character on screen. Something that would be very difficult with any other form of control.

PS4 Motion Control and Eye Camera

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The PS4 Eye camera can track the controller motion

Sony has introduced the EyeToy for some time now. The new PS4 Eye camera works in a similar fashion and is capable of reading the motion of the PS4 controller, thanks to the front built-in tracker. Sony has demonstrated games that could read subconscious movements that players do, like ducking or moving the controller forward. The otherwise innocuous actions can now have real repercussions on the game.

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The information can be used by game developers to trigger some motion in the game, or simply to read your level of excitement, nervousness or fear. This opens new opportunities for developers to innovate, and the E3 demos were pretty interesting. Now we need to wait and see how things will turn out.

The Eye camera can also track motion, and Sony has demonstrated that feature before. Here’s a video below. Since the camera cannot perceive “depth” information, it’s more difficult for developers to do everything that Kinect can do, like built 3D models from the camera input. In all fairness since the camera has two lenses and can shoot in 3D, hits opens new possibilities in terms of depth perception, but it won’t be anywhere as straightforward as it is with Kinect. Sony does put up good fight, but this should more or less be a rematch of PS Move vs. Kinect.

PS4 Games Line-up

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A screenshot of Killzone: Shadow Fall

The list of PS4 games is updated very often, so I’m not going to build an exhaustive list here. I do recommend you to check the Sony website if you want to see them. I’ve seen demos of many of them, and many look great. Just to cite a few, I really liked Killzone Shadow Fall, Destiny, Call of Duty Ghosts, Battlefield 4, MGS 5 and there are plenty more. If you haven’t looked at some of those titles, I recommend watching our best e3 2013 trailers selection.

In short, do your homework, but chances are that you will be quite pleased with what’s available at launch. In the end, games are what this is all about, so when it comes to it, forget specs, forget brands – just make sure that what you want to play will be available in the reasonable timeframe.

Sony PlayStation 4 Games DRM Policy


With the fortunate Microsoft flip-flop in terms of games DRM, the differences between the two platforms are much less than what it was at E3. The public has spoken, and people don’t want any DRM scheme that will limit them when compared to what they can do today.

Sony has pretty much done so since the beginning and their policy is basically: it’s your CD, your game, do what you want with it. If you are a PS3 owner, things will simply be like that.

Now, keep in mind that 3rd party publishers are free to require a log-in or anything else for their specific games, but it is not something that Sony will enforce on its platform. You still have to do a little bit of research, but overall, things are no different than they are on PS3.

Conclusion

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Sony has positioned itself to deliver a more affordable package, and despite the hot debates about the relative “value” that you get with the Xbox One, it is clear that absolute pricing is extremely important. This generation of consoles will also bring a larger stream of “PC ports” since the fundamental technology and optimizations will be much closer than ever between those two worlds.

"PLAYSTATION 4 IS CLEARLY LEADING IN MIND SHARE"  

And since PS4 is so close to Xbox One from an architecture standpoint, it will be very interesting to see how the war of “exclusive titles” will play out. Obviously, both Sony and Microsoft have awesome first-party studios, but since it is so easy to port from one to the other, it will be hard for publishers to resist going multi-platform.

PS4 official release date: November 15

Read Next: Xbox One Vs. PS4

Filed in Gaming . Tags: PlayStation, PS4 and Sony.
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