Let me preface this review by saying that I am only a casual gamer. As a pure gaming console, this is truly excellent. Impressive graphics, speed etc. Countless reviews will tell you that, and they are not wrong. I haven’t seen a lot of reviews for people, such as myself, who wish to use the console not only for playing games, but as a multipurpose media device, as a true replacement for the PS3 and all of it’s functionality. This is where the PS4 falls puzzlingly short, and people should be advised.
I consider the PS3 to be, perhaps, the most perfect entertainment device ever conceived. Sony’s ad campaign from a couple of years ago was “It Only Does Everything” and that was pretty much truth in advertising. I used the PS3 as a multimedia hub for my household. A fully functional Blu-Ray player, with excellent DVD upscaling, and an unrivaled streaming device for Netflix, Amazon Video, Vudu, Hulu, PlayOn and others. A CD player as well, for rare occasions when a playing a physical disc was required. With the addition of a $20 bluetooth remote, this device was the seamless center of my home entertainment system. I expected the vaunted next generation console to possess the same functionality. Strangely this did not happen. While technically, the PS4 can still do most of those things, it does so quite unspectacularly and with an interface so clunky that I have been forced to leave my PS3 connected.
The central problem is that, more than a year after launch, there is still no replacement for the Bluetooth remote control. All media functions must be run using the game controller, which already has poor battery life and provides less than intuitive playback controls. The only remotes available are third party and basically do not work at all. While I can live with this, users with a a less extensive tech familiarity will easily find themselves at sea. Sony does not appear to be developing a remote control and, instead, is emphasizing that the PS4 works with HDMI control, through your television remote. I tried this and it did not work, even though I have a Sony TV. A little research uncovered the fact that it only works with an HDMI control standard rolled out in 2009 and since my, perfectly functional, television was purchased in 2008, I’m out of luck unless I want to invest in a TV I don’t need. That’s a big price tag to replace the $20 remote that works with my PS3.
Leaving the control issues aside, media playback is not impressive. I played a number of Blu-Rays on the system and found that they don’t look very good. I have no idea why this should be, but there is a noticeable difference in quality between this and the PS3 for playing the same media. Ditto for streaming.
Another quirk of this new system, (and this is directly gaming related) is that you can no longer use bluetooth headsets. You can only use wired headsets plugged into the controller. And you can’t use any smartphone headset, if you want a functional mic. You have to use playstation approved gear, or it will not work. I simply don’t understand why this decision was made. It doesn’t seem to be just a transparent money grab, it seems like a generally poorly thought out design. Perhaps this will be changed, but it has been a year and there has not been a whisper of a change yet.