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PlayStation 4 review: Sony's best console yet is off to a shaky start

Alex Wawro | Nov. 21, 2013
Sony's latest console is poised to perform well over the coming years, but right now it's mostly a black box of potential.

The PlayStation 4 marks a turning point for Sony. It's a humble gaming machine designed to integrate into your living room, a far cry from the pomp and circumstance with which the company debuted its predecessor, the PlayStation 3.

That's a good thing, since the PS3 proved a prohibitively expensive box that was more difficult to program for and less online-friendly than its competitor, Microsoft's Xbox 360. Sony's suffered some well-deserved criticism in the seven years since the PS3's debut, and seems to have taken that criticism to heart.

The PS4 is a beautiful piece of kit. With ample power under the hood, a controller that's a joy to hold, and excellent system-level support for social sharing and streaming, Sony's latest console is poised to perform very well in the years to come.

But right now it's a little underwhelming. For one, the interface is obtuse. Plus, useful features like DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) streaming are missing. And few of the games you can play on it right now are worth paying attention to, much less buying the system for. It's a strong base to build from, but Sony still has a lot of work to do if it hopes to conquer the console gaming market.

Another black box
The new PlayStation's rhomboidal black chassis is deceptively small, and sleek enough to slip unobtrusively into your existing media center. It plays well with most receivers, but forget about composite cables—the PS4 kicks out video via a single HDMI on the back of the box.

That back panel is predictably sparse, sporting just the single HDMI jack, a digital audio out, a port for the power plug, an ethernet jack, and an auxiliary port for the PlayStation Camera (sold separately, naturally). Inside are a pair of radios, one for Bluetooth 2.1 and the other for 802.11 b/n/g wireless, but that's it as far as connectivity goes. Unlike the Xbox One, which has a back panel festooned with extra USB ports and an HDMI input that can suck up signals from your other devices, the PS4 is ill-equipped to dominate your living room.

I like that Sony built a dedicated jack for the camera on the back of the machine, because it allows you to mount the accessory on top of your TV or media center while keeping its assorted cables tucked neatly out of sight. It's a nice change from the PS3's USB PlayStation Eye camera, which often had to be plugged into the front of your console, leaving an unsightly black cord dangling in front of your media center.

The PS4 also sports a pair of front-mounted USB 3.0 ports, and that's it. It's a bare-bones box that could charitably be called "streamlined," so you'll have to do some port juggling if you want to charge more than two controllers at a time or hook up a flash drive.

 

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