Original (2013) PS4 review

The 'fat' PS4

PS4
Image credit: Sony

TechRadar Verdict

When it was released, the PS4 was the most powerful games console in the world with plenty of AAA games available and features added - and it still holds up.

Pros

  • +

    Snappy performance

  • +

    Killer components

  • +

    Much-improved controller

  • +

    PlayStation Plus

  • +

    PlayStation Now

  • +

    PlayStation Music

Cons

  • -

    Remote Play's trivial

  • -

    PSN's less stable than Xbox Live

  • -

    Not enough apps

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The original PS4 still offers a brilliant gaming experience, even if the PS5 might now be the latest and greatest PlayStation console on the market.

These days you’ll struggle to find the original 2013 PS4 console brand new. You’ll have to opt for the PS4 Slim version, even the PS4 Pro has been discontinued, but its just the same console in a smaller, sleeker casing. Slim's also the model you’re most likely to find when you’re looking at PS4 bundles. These bundles have been few and far between recently, so we'd suggest a PS5 bundle for future-proofing.

The original PS4's release date was November 15 2013 in North America and 29 November 2013 in Europe and it won the hearts and minds of many from the word go. Since then it’s proven to be a huge success for Sony, selling tens of millions of units.

That’s at least partly because the PS4 is a console with a fantastic and still-growing library of games. It’s the home of some seriously generation-defining exclusives like The Last of Us Part 2 and Marvel's Spider-Man. But it’s also now a last-generation bit of kit. As time goes on, Sony is discontinuing models and they are becoming harder to find brand new.

If you’re not overly concerned with having the latest PS5 hardware and its support for 4K, high frame rate games. Still, picking up a base model PS4 is still a fantastic and affordable way to get access to some of the best games ever.

PS4

Are you ready to join PlayStation Nation? Read on to get our full thoughts and opinions on Sony's dream machine.

PS4: design

PS4

The PlayStation 4 has been available for many years and is now a last-generation console so Sony hasn't made any significant tweaks, fixes, or modifications to the PS4's initial design. That said, Nyko and Power A have come along to offer additional products like intercoolers, clip-on charging stations and even external hard drives, but Sony's rock-solid design has stood the earliest test of time. Here's what we said about the design a few years ago:

One look at the PS4 and you know you're seeing Sony hardware. It's slim, sleek and jet black, roughly the size of a second generation PS3. The full measurements are 275 x 53 x 305 mm. It's a bit more compact than an Xbox One, which is longer and taller at 274 x 79 x 333 mm.

What's crucial here, though, is that Sony kept the PS4's weight to a manageable 6.1 lbs and tucked the power supply inside the system, leaving no external power brick to trip over. Microsoft's system has held onto its external power adapter - a feature inherited from the Xbox 360 - and weighs in at a slightly heftier 7 lbs.

The shape of the box is familiar, yet completely unique. Its slim, rectangular features brings to mind a PlayStation 2 in form and function, but its sloped, asymmetrical design helps us understand that nothing like this has ever existed before now. It's meant to lay flat but, if your media center can only accommodate a vertical machine, Sony has a plastic stand it sells separately for $14/£16.99 that helps the system stand up straight.

On the front-facing side you'll find a slot-loading Blu-ray disc drive and to its right two powered USB 3.0 ports, which can charge your DualShock 4 controllers even when the system is turned off and are used to sync controllers when taking gamepads from one place to another. Spin the system around and you'll be met with an HDMI, Ethernet and a digital optical audio out port, as well as a proprietary auxiliary connection for the PlayStation Camera.

Sold separately from the system, the PS4 Universal Remote (opens in new tab) syncs up to the system via Bluetooth and allows you to have a traditional way to control TV shows and movies from PlayStation Vue, HBO Go and Netflix. The remote can sync up to four devices, effectively reducing the amount of plastic pads you need to keep track of.

PS4: specifications

PS4

Inside, the PlayStation 4 is all business. It has a custom single-chip processor that combines an eight core x86-64 AMD "Jaguar" CPU with a 1.84 teraflop GPU based on AMD's Radeon tech. That's backed by 8GB of mega-fast GDDR5 RAM, and a 500GB mechanical hard drive.

You can also remove that 500GB drive and replace it with a larger drive, or an SSD for better performance. Sony says these do it yourself upgrades will not void the system's warranty.

For a reference point, the PlayStation 3 packed 256MB of XDR Main RAM and 256MB of GDDR3 VRAM, and managed to support visual feasts like The Last of Us and God of War: Ascension during its final days.

How does that stack up against the PS4? Overall, Sony claims that the PS4's overall performance is ten times that of the PS3. For wireless connections, the PlayStation 4 uses 802.11 b/g/n for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1 for its wireless DualShock 4 controllers.

PS4

PS4: features

If there's a team that works harder than Sony's internal development team, we'd like to meet them. They used to roll out monthly (sometimes bi-monthly) updates that drastically change the interface and feature set of the system.

PlayStation Music powered by Spotify, Remote Play, Sharefactory and Share Play. Of course there have been myriad minor changes like the ability to turn off HDCP, play games while they're downloading, upload clips to YouTube and set themes and background images for the home screen in that time as well. 

All of these features can be found sporadically throughout the new PlayStation Dynamic Menu, the primary GUI of the PS4. It's capable of delivering games, movies and TV shows into your home at lightning speeds as well as connecting you to your friends and other online gamers through the PlayStation Network (when it's working).

Remember to use the ability to post to Twitter and Facebook to share your best brag-worthy gaming moments and, if you're feeling outgoing, you can stream to Twitch here too.

PS4

What about the PS4 Pro and PS5?

Since the launch of the PS4 in 2013, the console landscape has changed dramatically. In 2016, we saw the release of a 4K-capable mid-generation upgrade known as the PS4 Pro. Now that console has been discontinued due to the release of the latest and greatest Sony console: the PS5. 

The PS5 is a powerful console that's capable of 4K gaming at high frame rates and, as it's backwards compatible, supports PS4 games. Now, the PS5 doesn't mean that the PS4 is entirely obsolete; games are still being released with cross-generation support so if you do get a PS4, you can expect it to be supported for a little while yet. However, it's no longer the best PlayStation gaming experience there is.

What comes with the PS4?

Unless you're buying one of the holiday PlayStation 4 bundles, you can count on seeing the following items in addition to your stylish black box: a power cord (not a big power brick), an HDMI cable, an earbud microphone combo, one DualShock 4 controller and its charging cable (we charged our DualShock 4 pad using the Xbox One and the world did not end).

Extra controllers don't come with another charging cable, so don't lose that one. Also, note that we said earbud singular, not earbuds, as in just for one ear. It's cheap but serviceable, but you can actually plug any old headset or pair of buds you already own into the controller's headphone jack, so it's not much of an issue.

PS4: setup

PS4 review

Sony packs a lot of goodies into the box.

Set-up largely remains unchanged from Day 1 and should look relatively familiar to anyone who's owned a PS3. Once your system's all plugged in and booted up, your new PS4 will ask to connect to internet. It wants that 300MB day-one patch, but it doesn't need it for offline play. You are able to skip WiFi or ethernet altogether and just pop in a game. 

Unlike the Xbox One, you can get to the homescreen without initially connecting to the web and patching. Once you do connect to the internet, you'll need to let the PS4 update before you can make purchases from the store or play online. 

PlayStation Store

PSN

(Image credit: Sony)

The PlayStation Store is your portal to every shred of content Sony has available on its system. You'll use it to shop for the latest games, movies and featured content that the Big Blue thinks you ought to know about.

Featured games have come and gone over the course of the past few years, but one new feature that's stuck around is the ability to buy a digital copy of a game and pre-install it days before launch. You won't be able to start it until the midnight of its launch-day, but just having a game the second the clock strikes 12 is convenient.

If you're not buying a game the minute it comes out, you can even start playing part of the game before the download completes. When purchasing a game like Killzone: Shadow Fall, you'll be asked which portion of the game should be prioritized, single or multiplayer, essentially letting you choose which part of the game you want to hop into first.

In a little less than an hour, you'll be able to start playing a title. It may seem like something only the truly impatient would enjoy, but when you consider that many releases weigh in excess of 35GB, it's real luxury feature, and another impressive bit of engineering.

Then there's the PlayStation app for iOS and Android. With just the stroke of a touchscreen, you can remotely purchase games and get the download going on your PS4 so it's ready and waiting when you get home (the console will turn on, download and switch off on its own).

PS4: Remote Play with PS Vita

PlayStation Vita being held by left hand, right hand is using the touchscreen

(Image credit: Sony)

The one feature that hasn't changed all that much was PS Vita Remote Play. Initially, we thought this was going to be the missing link between Sony's shrugged-off handheld and all-new console. While it didn't sell many Vitas (considering customers have already spent a lot on a PS4), it certainly got current owners to dust off the system.

The biggest change to the feature's functionality came with PS Vita software 3.35, which allowed up to four PS Vitas to be logged into a single PS4 system. Connect a PS4 to a PS Vita on the same WiFi network and use the Vita as a second, third or fourth controller in multiplayer games or transfer your game to your handheld and take it into another room with you while someone else is using the TV. 

Outside of the same WiFi network as your PS4, Remote Play is not an option. At the office we couldn't get it to connect to our PS4 at home, and it simply isn't an available over a 3G data connection. Not only you can use it as a controller, but as well as a second screen, Smartglass style. It's a great way to avoid using the on screen keyboard, if nothing else.

Like platform-exclusive games, we're still looking to Sony for that crucial reason to go out and buy a Vita and complete our Sony ecosystem. But, if you already own one, it's an impressive novelty at the very least.

PS4: PlayStation VR

PlayStation VR is a virtual reality headset made in-house by Sony's hardware team exclusively for the PS4. It has its own set of games, both downloadable titles and full retail releases, and costs around $299 - making it more affordable than its competitors. 

You'll need a PlayStation Camera to use it and PlayStation Move controllers are widely supported, too. If you'd like to know more, you can also check out some of the best PlayStation VR games in this guide. 

PS4: sharing gameplay videos

The Last of US Part 2

(Image credit: Naughty Dog)

If the PlayStation 4 will be remembered for one thing, it will be its integration into this decade's "share everything" culture. Sharing in-game photos and videos have been a feature since console launch and the size and scope of its abilities have only grown in time.

Only a few years ago, sharing videos and screens was limited to social networks and the PSN. Now, if you want to upload your video to YouTube or edit it in the PS4's basic video editor, Share Play, that's no problem. In a perfect world we'd be able to plug in a thumb drive and grab the raw video but, in the meantime at least, that's not allowed. But perhaps that will change in year two.

Streaming to Twitch and UStream is just as simple as saving locally. Just tap the share button and select "Broadcast gameplay" and away you go on the path to internet stardom. It's quite painless to set up, especially compared to the third-party mechanics needed to employ this on a last-gen system.

PS4: Share Play

Kratos and Atreus fighting a troll in God of War

(Image credit: Sony)

Share Play is Sony's novel concept to bring back local multiplayer to its games. When you load up a particularly tough section in a game, you can invite a more experienced buddy from your friends list to take control of your console remotely and do the dirty work for you. If the game supports local multiplayer, they take over the second controller and play your game with you without ever owning a copy of it themselves.

The downside, however, is that both players will need to be PlayStation Plus subscribers and sessions are limited to an hour each. That doesn't mean that you're limited to one session a day, but it does mean that you'll need to send an invitation to your friend every hour. Your friend - assuming you're the one hosting - will only see the game in 720p and if you're the host, you're the only one who'll get trophies.

Vic Hood
Associate Editor, TechRadar Gaming

Vic is TechRadar Gaming's Associate Editor. An award-winning games journalist, Vic brings experience from IGN, Eurogamer and more to the TechRadar table. You may have even heard her on the radio or speaking on a panel. Not only is Vic passionate about games, but she's also an avid mental health advocate who has appeared on both panels and podcasts to discuss mental health awareness. Make sure to follow her on Twitter for more.

With contributions from