updated 07:23 pm EST, Fri November 15, 2013
Sony PS4 delivers on the hype with stunning gaming performance
Coinciding with the North American launch of the Sony PS4, Sony held multiple launch events across the globe to celebrate this watershed event for the Japanese technology giant. Electronista was on hand at the Australian launch event and had the opportunity to get some quality hands-on time with Sony's next-generation play for your family room. There has been plenty of hype leading up to the launch of the PS4, with the Sony marketing machine in full swing, so does the reality of the gaming and entertainment experience live up to it?
When you first see the Sony PS4 in-person, it is surprising discover how relatively compact it is. The PS4 is smaller than the original PS3 and comes across as being somewhere between the size of the original PS3 and the slimmer iterations that followed it. To keep its eight-core AMD 'Jaguar' processor cool, Sony has built in an extensive ventilation array at the rear. It is much more compact than the Xbox One, which despite a similar system architecture, has a considerably larger footprint despite also continuing with a large external power brick.
The new DualShock 4 controller is also a revelation in the hand. It is exceptionally comfortable to use and is easily the most ergonomic and functional controller that Sony has yet made. Although we haven't yet had a chance to compare it with the Xbox One controller, we think that gamers will really appreciate how nice it is to hold. The clickable touch panel is also easier to use when gaming than you might think and adds a whole new dimension to the gaming experience. We didn't get a chance to test out all of its capabilities, but found that it quickly fades away from the front of your mind, allowing you to focus completely on the on screen action.
The PS4 launch also revealed the full PS4 user interface for the first time. It is an interesting evolution of the cross-media bar approach familiar from the PS3, but is much slicker. Once you select a function from one of the various options, including opening the Settings, you are then immersed into that function with a zoom animation, similar to what you see on iOS or Android when launching an app. There are also shortcut views for most frequently used functions when in the Games view as well, including the option to quickly chat and socialize with other players.
The PS4 launch even was dubbed "This is For the Players," and so the emphasis of the whole evening was on the gaming capabilities of the new console, plus the way in which it interacts with the PS Vita handheld. In both of these areas, the early indications are that Sony has a lead over of the Xbox One, even though, like Sony, the Xbox One also incorporates a 'second screen' strategy. However, the additional gaming possibilities that are offered with the PS Vita integration includes the ability to stream and play your PS4 games remotely on your handheld. You can also use it for second-screen functions that give you additional in game functions among other uses. So what are the games and graphics like?
The spec hounds will be interested to know that the PS4 enjoys a distinct graphics power advantage over the Xbox One that will result in noticeably sharper and more detailed visuals. Even though both consoles utilize eight-core AMD x86-64 chips with integrated graphics an 8GB of unified system RAM, the integrated Radeon graphics cores in the PS4 are more powerful, while it also enjoys double the memory bandwidth thanks to its use of GDDR5 RAM versus the GDDR3 RAM in the Xbox One. The PS4 is capable of producing up to 1.84 teraFLOPS of processing power per second against the Xbox One's 1.31 teraFLOPS. According to game developers, this will result in games being optimized further to take advantage of the PS4's additional compute performance.
The end result is that the games that on show looked spectacular, even though games will continue to improve as developers continue to learn how to max out the console in the future. Highlights included Killzone: Shadow Fall, Knack, Assassins Creed 4: Black Flag, and NBA 2K14. The lighting effects in Killzone, Knack and Assassins Creed are particularly impressive, while NBA 2K14 approached levels of photorealism never before seen on a gaming console. The other notable aspect of the gaming experience is just how smooth the games looked, running at higher frame rates than is possible on the PS3 and Xbox 360.
While we will revisit the PS4 in a full review, we can say that if you are an early adopter, there is no reason why should hold off on getting a PS4 now. At $399 it packs a lot of performance potential in for the money and offers tremendous possibilities for the future. We can't yet, however, make a definitive call between the PS4 and the Xbox One, as we really want to get a good feel for their respective overall software and entertainment capabilities. Microsoft has developed a very formidable overall entertainment infrastructure for the Xbox 360, which they will only build upon for the Xbox One. Of course Sony has an extensive entertainment network too. However, as far as the gaming prowess of the PS4 is concerned, we can say that you won't be disappointed if you jump in and buy it now.
By Sanjiv Sathiah