Sony PlayStation 4
PS4 review: Is Sony’s games console still worth buying in 2016?
CPU: 8-core AMD Jaguar CPU, Graphics: 800MHz Radeon GPU with 18 Compute Units Memory: 8GB GDDR5, Storage: 500GB hard disk, Blu-ray drive
The next two years are going to the most interesting and exciting yet for the games console market. With 4K and VR on the horizon, Microsoft and Sony are already preparing new consoles like the Scorpio and PS4 Neo to deal with our increasing demand – and in the meantime devices such as the Xbox One S and possible PS4 Slim could fill gaps at the lower-end of the market.
However, if you don't own a 4K television and you don't have your eyes on a VR headset, you probably won’t benefit from the PS4 Neo’s added features – and that means you might be better off picking up a standard PS4. To help you work out what to do, we’ve taken another look at the current PS4 and analysed everything from the new exclusive games, to its interface and new price to see if it’s still worth buying in 2016.
PS4 review in 2016: Console and connectivity
Almost three years down the line, the PS4 still looks like a great piece of kit. When I first clapped eyes on the new PlayStation, I thought it looked a little like a PS2 in italics or a heavy wind – but now I’ve grown to love it. It is plastic, but it looks surprisingly good for a games console.
A recessed central gully contains the slot-loading disc drive and twin front USB3 ports, while a line bisecting the console the other way integrates the power and eject controls and a strip light that lets you know the console's power and notification status. Around the back is an HDMI output, Ethernet port, S/PDIF output and an AUX port for the PlayStation Camera peripheral. Power is provided by plugging in a standard figure-eight power lead and it draws from 80W idling, up to 140W in-game, but just 3W when in Rest Mode.
Placed horizontally it's practically silent when idling, which is good for Blu-ray playback or streaming TV. However, it does pick up considerably when playing a game, and even more so when navigating the main menu while a game ran in the background. Launch machines are notably louder than the Xbox One, but current models tend to be much quieter. One of the best things about the PS4 is the way in which Sony have managed to fit its power supply within the machine. Despite being smaller than the Xbox One, the PS4 doesn’t have an external power supply – and only the Xbox One S can match the PS4 in this area.
PS4 review in 2016: Controller
The DualShock 4 is a huge improvement over its predecessor, and it needed to be. Though still recognisably a PlayStation controller, the new controller is larger and more rounded. The back has a non-slip micro-texture and the front is dominated by a light that reacts to in-game events, identify players by colour, and allows the PS4 camera peripheral to track its movements accurately. The light is a little too bright for our tastes at its default setting, reflecting off our TV screen in the dark; thankfully, you can change it from the original Bright setting, down to Medium or Dim by simply holding down the PS button on the controller and select Adjust Devices.
It has a built-in 800mAh battery that charges over a micro USB connection. It's very convenient but its limited battery life of around eight hours means you'll want to leave on charge whenever you're not playing. Thankfully you can set the PS4's USB port to output power for 3 hours after the console goes into its Rest Mode, which is enough to get your controllers fully charged.
The analogue sticks have more resistance and very little deadzone before they react to your inputs; they're also further apart, so your thumbs never touch, and they're very precise, too. The d-pad is responsive with good feedback, though the face buttons could have clicked a little more positively. The triggers are good too, though they lack the vibration feedback of the Xbox One's.
The new gamepad also adds a touchpad, so you can execute swipes and other gesture-based commands. This also clicks in to provide an alternative way to select options from onscreen menus. Less obvious are the built-in motion controls which are beautifully refined, giving you instinctive input in games that support the function. It's rarely employed in games, however.
One feature we love on the DualShock 4 is its microphone port. As well as being used to add a chat headset for multiplayer games (a basic one comes bundled), you can also output full stereo audio from the PS4 (game, movie, TV catch-up, anything) through it. It's brilliant for late night sessions with headphones without disturbing anyone else or having to run cables across your living room. There's a mono speaker too for up-close sound effects and you can talk back thanks to a microphone.
PS4 review in 2016: Specs and graphics
Inside the console Sony has used similar components to Microsoft, with a powerful AMD chip at its heart. For the PS4 this single integrated chip contains both an eight-core CPU and a GPU with 18 compute units. That's 50% more compute units than the Xbox One, providing a significant advantage in graphical horsepower, which can also be turned to use in special effects and advanced physics simulation if preferred.
The PS4's memory system consists of a single large pool of 8GB of super-fast GDDR5 memory – more than we've seen on even the most expensive PC graphics cards. The Xbox One by comparison uses the same amount of slower DDR3 memory, with a super-fast 32MB cache to help make up the difference.
In 2016 we're confident in saying that the PS4's simpler memory architecture and superior GPU has proven to be the better choice. In multi-platform games, the PS4 consistently outperforms the Xbox One, with either smoother frame rates or higher resolutions onscreen. Most PS4 games run at a Full HD 1,920x1,080, while Xbox One games go for a 1,600x900 resolution. It's not a huge visual disparity but you can see it on most multi-platform games, and we're now confident it's an advantage that the Xbox One – at least – won't close.