First up, I didn't just buy it as a gaming console. It's 2018, (ok 2017 when I bought it) and a games console should be able to sit comfortably in the middle of your home and connect all your media together; simply. If a machine has a function, (for example the abolity to play Blu-Ray and other media), I'd expect it to be able to do it competently. As well as having the ability to play amazing games it should be able to access your Network attached storage to play your music and video files and it should also integrate with the rest of your equipment to play any other media you care to throw at it.
So, why doesn't it tick all of the boxes?
First up, it doesn't play surround sound from Blu Ray or DVD. I appreciate everyone's set up is different, but all of the feeds for my amp, come via an optical lead from my TV.
This works fine with other devices. A HDMI cable takes a surround sound signal (and 1080p image) to the TV, and the TV passes an optical 5.1 surround signal to the amp.
During gameplay, this setup works fine. Playing Gran Turismo, you can hear which side approaching cars are on. In FPS games you can hear footsteps and dialogue in front or behind you.
Now here's the weird thing. When playing movies from genuine Blu Ray or DVD, the trailers play in full surround (demonstrating that the setup functions perfectly) but when the film starts, the signal drops to PCM Linear, also known as stereo, or 2.1.
(Audio output is set to Bitstream, in system and in Disc menu settings).
The subwoofer is active, the left and right channels are active, but the front centre speaker, and the rear speakers are inactive.
Trying to get support from Sony Playstation support is like pulling teeth, or getting blood out of a stone. Their final say on the matter? It's the codec, so, basically, it's Lucasfilm's fault. Peculiarly, if I listen to Audio track 4 on the force awakens, it does play in full surround, but I'd need to learn another language to understand the film.
|Sony blame the disc manufacturers for their inability to decode surround sound.|
So that's irk number one which doesn't look like Sony want to resolve.
The second irk is the Media player. Interestingly, if you look at the licence details for the media player, you'll see it belongs to a developer with a gmail account. Yup, the default media player on the PS4 wasn't written by a Sony engineer, with a Sony email, but it is in fact licensed to them by an independent developer.
Which might explain why it's crap. Whilst it scours my home network fine and finds my music collection, there is no Album info, besides whats on the ID3 tag of each MP3 file, and this includes the album art and worse still, the track numbers.
So when you want to use your PS4 to play an album, you've got two choices, randomly mix the tracks up, or listen to them in alphabetical order.
This is a huge disappointment.
As I mentioned first up, as a gaming machine, it's top notch. Graphics are good, I love the design and the unit runs quietly. In addition the PS store is also really competitively priced. I've spent many pounds more than I needed to buying games from Amazon, which I later found cheaper via the PS store only a few days later. Frustrating, but I applaud Sony for their competitiveness. However as a modern machine that promised so much. I have found it to be a very disappointing experience. Something tells me that the Xbox might be a more rounded product, with better blu ray support and hopefully a better media player too. Obviously I'd need one to test it.