Sony PlayStation 4 hands-on
1. The PS4 is on sale November 15 in North America for $399. That's $100 less than the Xbox One, which includes the Kinect accessory. It hits stores in Europe on November 29 (399/£349), followed by launches in South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan sometime December. Last but not least, Japan gets it on February 22, 2014.
2. For early adopters, Sony is throwing in some nice freebies, including a free month of PlayStation Plus, free month of Sony Music Unlimited, and a $10 PlayStation Store credit.
3. Unfortunately, you can't play PS3 games on the PS4. The same goes for most peripherals. Except for the PS Move, none of your PS3 peripherals (controllers, etc.) are compatible with the PS4. The same goes for older Bluetooth headsets and headphones, at least for now.
4. The PS4 can play Blu-rays and DVDs, but not CDs or MP3s (for now), and it currently won't read any files from a USB external storage device (via its two USB ports) except system software patches (you have to put the PS4 in a special "safe mode" to do system updates via a USB thumb drive). That's a serious bummer. At launch, it also cannot play 3D Blu-ray movies (nor can the Xbox One). Note that the older PS3 offers support for CDs, MP3s, 3D Blu-ray playback, and reads files from external storage devices.
5. The PS4 and Xbox One offer very similar hardware specs but the two consoles aren't entirely the same on the inside. The PS4's power supply is built-into the system, whereas the Xbox One still has a massive external power brick. The PS4's processor combines an eight-core AMD "Jaguar" CPU with an AMD next-generation Radeon GPU and 8GB of 5500MHz GDDR5 RAM. The two consoles have very similar CPUs but the PS4's GPU is beefier (and that 5500MHz GDDR5 RAM is faster than the Xbox One's 2133MHz DDR3 RAM). On paper at least, the PS4 holds the advantage for gaming performance. (Extremetech has a good rundown of how the final hardware specs compare on the two systems.) But you can still expect the games to look nearly identical on each system. It's unclear whether that will change over time as game developers figure out how to get the most out of each system.
6. If you've already purchased PS3 versions of select titles, you can upgrade to the PS4 version for just $10 more. This only applies to a handful of games.
7. To play multiplayer games online, you'll need a PS Plus account ($50 a year), which is a departure from the PS3's free online play model.
8. However, unlike the Xbox 360 and Xbox One, you don't need a PS Plus account to use the entertainment apps like Netflix or Crackle.
9. There are 13 entertainment apps available at launch, including Netflix and Crackle. Amazon and YouTube are no-shows for now. A browser is on board, but it doesn't play YouTube videos. (For a complete rundown of apps on PS4 and Xbox One, check David Katzmaier's "Xbox One vs. PlayStation 4: Entertainment apps compared" post.)
10. DLNA streaming is not available at launch.
11. The PS4 includes a 500GB hard drive, but you can replace/upgrade it yourself -- and it's pretty easy to do.
12. The PS4 has a "near-perfect" controller (according to our CNET review) that's a big upgrade over the PS3's. It has a built-in speaker and it also doubles as a motion controller (it has a light on the front like the PS Move).
13. You can charge the PS4's controllers while the console is in standby mode (unlike with the PS3).
14. Sony has an upgraded camera accessory (the PlayStation Camera). It's not as essential to the system as the Xbox One's Kinect accessory is, but it adds support for motion control, as well the ability to control your system with voice commands. The camera can also identify who's using the system and log you in. The Kinect offers all those features (and more), and no motion controllers are required since the Kinect can interpret your hand gestures.
15. The PS4 has a tighter link to to the PlayStation Vita. You can play PS4 games on your Vita using PS4 Link, a remote/mirror setting that streams the game to the Vita and turns it into a second screen. We experienced virtually no lag in our tests.
Stream PS4 games on the PS Vita
16. Like the PS3, there's no IR port (it uses Bluetooth), so you can't control the PS4 with existing IR remotes. Logitech's Harmony Ultimate and Harmony Smart Control, which have integrated Bluetooth, should be able to control the system when and if Logitech updates the database to support Sony's new console.
17. The PS4 has a 15-minute cache, so you can go back and grab clips and share them on social media sites. In fact, the controller has a built-in "share" button.
18. On launch day (November 15), 26 games are scheduled to be available.
19. Sony has launched a new PlayStation app for iOS and Android users. It allows you to use your iOS or Android device as a second screen and remote control to display and manage the action from compatible PS4 games, shop at the PlayStation Store, and view PlayStation manuals and system guides.
20. Unlike the Xbox One, the PS4 doesn't feature any sort of TV overlay functionality -- it's called OneGuide on the Xbox One -- that allows you to switch easily from watching TV to playing games. On the Xbox One, you can also play a game and display live TV in a small panel on the side (Xbox One's "snap" feature lets you run two apps at once, with one of them in a picture-in-picture window). As an integrated home-entertainment device the Xbox One is more sophisticated out of the gate.
21. You can stand the PS4 up vertically, but the console doesn't ship with a stand -- it's an optional accessory.