• PlayStation 4
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  • PlayStation 4 DualShock controller
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  • PlayStation 4

Eight months is a lifetime in tech. A phone that's been available for eight months has already been demoted to irrelevance by the next dream device on the horizon.

But with consoles it's different. Consoles have to live for years, and consoles evolve as they get older thanks to more games, more apps and more features.

It's no different with the PlayStation 4, of course. There have been no fewer than ten firmware updates added since launch, plus new games and apps, but is the PS4 really that different - and better - than the console we first met back in November 2013? And is it still ahead of the Xbox One in perhaps the most vicious console war ever known? Continue reading this freshly updated review to find out.

READ MORE: Kill your productivity: 30 great games you can play for free in your browser

Design and build: living life on the wedge

PlayStation 4 design
Red Dualshock 4
PlayStation 4 versus PlayStation 3

Smaller and lighter than it seems in pictures, the PS4 is not a device that you’re going to have trouble finding a home for. In fact, it’s very close to the PS3 Super Slim in terms of width and height - the 30cm depth does increase its footprint, but only to PS3 Slim levels. It’s a pretty compact device, then, and that’s extra impressive when you realise that the power pack is built in, whereas the Xbox One has a big external unit.

Overall this is a subtle but unique design, with the etched PS4 logo and glossy section (which is actually the removable hard drive cover) adding a touch of class. Only the slot-loader lets the side down in this regard – there’s nothing exactly wrong with it, but it’s got a bit of clunky resistance that the super-smooth Wii U drive doesn’t.

Far more important as far as we’re concerned is the noise a console makes, and the PS4 is a very stealthy device. When idling we recorded 42dB from 14cm in front of the console – just 2dB over the ambient noise in the room. While installing a game disc this rose to 51dB, but once the disc is ripped it settles back down to around 43-44dB. In short, it’s significantly quieter than the most recent versions of the PS3 and Xbox 360, and completely unnoticeable unless the room is all-but silent. Impressive.

Eight months on we're still to hear of any major technical issues with the PS4. There's always time for a Red Ring Of Death-type problem to reveal itself, but so far the slim, tightly packed chassis doesn't appear to impact reliability.

It still looks like a classy bit of kit, too, even if the smart details such as the thin strip that runs around the edges are tireless dust-collectors.

And if black is just a little too subdued for your tastes, you can soon get a really pretty white version of the console, which comes bundled with Destiny.

READ MORE: Destiny preview

Operating system: “PlayStation Dynamic Menu” doesn't do it justice

PlayStation 4 Home
PlayStation 4 review Profile
PlayStation 4 review Gallery View
PlayStation 4 review Share button

So you’ve ogled and plugged in the console and fondled the controller so much that it’s already covered in mucky fingerprints - now it’s time to get gaming. Or at least it will be once you've done any and all firmware updates that will probably be available for your freshly unboxed console.

Once done you can finally get to know the PlayStation 4 interface, known rather undynamically as the PlayStation Dynamic Menu. This row of bold, square icons always contains What’s New, TV & Video, Live from PlayStation, Internet Browser, Video Unlimited, Music Unlimited and Library, with any games you’ve installed slotted in in the order you most recently installed or played them. This whole section is designed to feed you live information, though, so hover on What’s New and you’ll see news and updates from around the PlayStation Network (now to be known as PSN), while leaving the cursor on a game brings up a row of extra icons that include things such as new content that’s now available, the section that you last reached (so that you can hop straight back to that point), your friends’ recent activity in the game, community videos and the game manual. It’s all genuinely quick, slick and useful.

But don’t mourn the old XrossMediaBar, for it’s just an upwards-press away, and with so much content now having been moved to the PlayStation Dynamic Menu, this is now a clearer and cleaner selection of icons that takes in the likes of the PlayStation Store, Friends, Parties, Trophies and Settings. All are pretty self-explanatory although it’s well worth exploring the Settings menu to ensure all is set up the way you want; we’d definitely recommend enabling standby features so that the PS4 can download software updates and provide power via USB when it’s on standby.

One omission that still hasn't been rectified is that you're not alerted when your Friends come online. For some people with hundreds of friends (they don't count as real friends - you do know that, don't you?), that may be a blessing, but having the option to turn those notifications on and off surely wouldn't be that tricky. Perhaps a way to group friends into groups, so that you can be notified from some and not others, would be a neat touch.

When it comes to actual gaming, pop a disc in and the bad news is that you have to install at least some of it before you can play it – in fact the process starts automagically as soon as you slot the disc in. The good news is that this doesn’t take as long as you might imagine. In fact, we were able to play Call of Duty: Ghosts just 55 seconds after slotting it into the drive. The game continues to install in the background, but the only way to tell is a touch of extra noise from the console – the game itself plays flawlessly.

Not quick enough for you? Games can now be pre-ordered from the PS Store and downloaded before launch, ready for play as soon as the clock ticks over to the official release date. 

Using the PS4 is a slick and fast experience all-round, really. Whether from standby or switched off entirely the console takes just 25-30 seconds to boot, and the only stutter we managed to get in our entire time with the system was a momentary pause when we pressed the PS button during a game of Knack and immediately tried to open Killzone. And we struggled to recreate that after the one instance.

There’s a pleasing openness to Sony’s approach, too. Sure, unlike with PS3 a $42.99 per-year PlayStation Plus subscription is now mandatory if you want to play online, but if one person in the house has subscribed, everyone else who uses that console also gets access. Ditto any games that have been purchased and downloaded.

On the other hand there are a couple of odd omissions. You can’t customise the wallpaper, for example, and the suspend and resume feature isn’t yet available. More annoyingly, the PS4 doesn’t have DLNA built-in and currently won’t play media files over your network or from USB. The backlash at that announcement seemed to take Sony by surprise, though, and the company says it’s “exploring possibilities” – fingers crossed that means we’ll get media streaming in a future update.

Stuff says... 

Long-term test: Sony PS4 review

Slick, powerful and packed with stand-out features, the PS4 delivers on the next-gen console promise
PlayStation 4
Good Stuff 
Stunning 1080p gaming for the win
Remote Play is brilliant
Super-slick and fast operation
Bad Stuff 
No DLNA - yet
4K games still out of reach
Some features look a little underbaked right now

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