The PS5 might now be the latest and greatest PlayStation console on the market but the original PS4 still offers a fantastic gaming experience.
If you're looking to buy a new console, these days you’ll struggle to find the original 2013 PS4 console brand new. Instead you’ll have to opt for the Slim version but it is, overall, the same console just in a smaller, sleeker casing. The PS4 Slim is the model that you’re most likely to find in the Black Friday 2021 and Cyber Monday sales if you’re looking at PS4 bundles. These bundles have been few and far between in recent times so, while it’s more expensive, it’s now certainly worth considering trying to get your hands on a PS5 Black Friday bundle for the sake of 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 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, though, picking up a base model PS4 is still a fantastic and affordable way to get access to some of the best games ever.
- Check out our PS5 review
- Check out our reviews of the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S
- PS5 vs Xbox Series X: which console should you buy?
Are you ready to join PlayStation Nation? Read on to get our full thoughts and opinions on Sony's dream machine.
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 $29 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.
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.
If there's a team that works harder than Sony's internal development team, we'd like to meet them. As it is, they roll out monthly (sometimes bi-monthly) updates that drastically change the interface and feature set of the system.
If that's not good enough, then check out the Sony-exclusive rental streaming service called PlayStation Now, 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. Oh, and mature programming lovers can get their fix anytime with the new HBO Go app that has been absent up until March 2015.
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.
What about the PS4 Pro and PS5?
So, 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, it supports the PS4 catalogue of games. Now, the release of 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 another 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.
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. Just make sure you're getting firmware 2.02, the latest software version from 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.
Of course 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 have it install days before its retail 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).
PS Vita Remote Play
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 earlier this year in PS Vita software 3.35 that 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.
Of all the functionality the PS4 gained in the past few years, PlayStation Now is our favorite. PS Now is essentially a digital rental service that allows you to rent games for anywhere from two hours to 90 days. Instead of downloading a copy of the game that will take up space on your hard drive and time to download, you'll actually stream the game from Sony's servers. It takes about 25-30 seconds to get a game going, but once you do it's relatively smooth sailing.
Sony recently unveiled an all-you-can-play subscription plan that gives you access to every game on the network for $20 per month. Unfortunately, not every game on PlayStation Now is included in the subscription model, meaning you may have to pay an outlandish fee to stream your favorite game while others may not.
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.
Check out some of the best PSVR titles below:
Sharing gameplay videos
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.
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.