The Console

Hardware & Design

The PS4 is Sony's most attractively designed piece of hardware. It's a beautiful system, with a sharp, slightly angled profile accented by a light bar that acts as a console status indicator.

On the back, PS4 has gone digital-only with HDMI/optical ports, and no analog audio or video outputs. We appreciate the internal power supply — it sounds like a small thing, but it's one less object to sit on the shelf next to or behind the PlayStation 4.

Rear
Front

In the bad column, it's a collection of moderate to minor annoyances. The PS4 doesn't support the new 802.11ac wireless standard, instead relying on an 802.11b/g/n radio at 2.4 GHz — no 5 GHz support here either, all of which is disappointing to see on a consumer device in 2013. More annoyingly to many on staff, the PS4 doesn't include an IR port for universal remotes, nor does it support Logitech's PlayStation 3 Bluetooth Harmony adapter or the PS3 Bluetooth Blu-ray remote. This omission seems to signal Sony's abandonment of the media aspirations that drove much of the PS3's basic design.

Players who want to game privately on their consoles might be temporarily annoyed at the absence of Bluetooth headphone audio support for the PS4 at launch.

This is offset somewhat: the PS4 can broadcast all game audio (and voice chat) to the audio/mic jack on the DualShock 4, which is compatible with all headphones and mobile headsets using 1/8 inch audio adapters — though enabling game audio output on the DualShock 4 disables all audio via HDMI and optical out.

Despite these problems, Sony nails the fundamentals with the PS4 hardware. The half-gloss, half-matte finish is a pleasant visual compromise. It's a grown-up machine, designed more like a stylish DVD player than a gaudy video game console. It's a small, attractive system, and one that also happens to pack more powerful hardware in its diminutive frame than any other console.

The PS4 is Sony's most attractively designed piece of hardware.

It's an impressive technical achievement. It's also compact enough to fade into your entertainment center without being distracting or ostentatious, and we appreciate that it retains the PS2's and PS3's ability to stand vertically. Those of you with frisky pets or children may want to invest in the vertical stand, sold separately, for some added stability.

Oh, and it will charge controllers over USB while in standby mode. Finally.

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