First Impressions Of The Playstation 4 UI

Written by Jon Sutton on Sun, Dec 1, 2013 4:00 PM
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Since its announcement back in February, the Playstation 4, and its UI in particulal, have been shrouded in secrecy. This is probably because even Sony themselves didn't quite know what to expect from the machine, but after finally getting our hands on one we can see what to expect from Sony's next-gen interface.

Here we have the first details of how Sony's new UI looks, feels and responds as it tries to keep pace with Xbox One's attention-grabbing feature set...

Powering on the console you’re greeting with a couple of quick questions on date, time and Playstation Network details before you’re in, and that’s it. From power on to main menu took no more than 2-3 minutes, so it’s out of the box as you can get in this day and age.

Thanks to the ethernet cable by the time I’d got through the setup process the day one update was already done and ready to go. I installed that and it took around five minutes or so and involved a couple of nervy reboots. Having heard tales of woe regarding the American launch it ended up being plain sailing.

From there, you’re in. The UI is swift and snappy in the way the Playstation 3 can only dream of, allowing you to switch between applications with ease. As an interface it feels extremely stripped down, slightly expanding on the Cross Media Bar (XMB) seen in the Playstation 3 but broadly splitting it into three tiers. The main tier contains all of your installed games and applications, including television viewing, PSN downloads, internet browsing and the Store.

A tier down from here on the front tier is the application details such as specific trophies, or video applications such as Netflix and BBC iPlayer. A tier up on the back tier is where all of the system settings are congregated, including notifications, friends lists, video settings and more. The friends list now has room for up to 2000 for the less socially select, although scrolling through them is sure to be pain; I didn't notice it so a favourites option would be much appreciated.

It’s a very similar setup to the Playstation 3 but split up onto an additional tier to segregate the system settings from the rest of the setup, meaning there’s less in the way between you and your gaming. In terms of gaming everything is at your fingertips, although there currently isn’t an option to manage folders etc so it remains to be seen how well the system copes when there are 30+ games and applications installed; it’s currently only sorted by most recently used.

Neveretheless it’s quick and to the point, if not exactly feature-rich at the moment. It doesn’t contain the glut of features seen in the Xbox One and currently very much seems like a device designed almost exclusively for gaming, and when it comes to gaming it couldn’t really be much simpler. After worrying reports that the Playstation 4 would have to install every disc-based game to the tune of up to 39GB for Killzone: Shadow Fall, I was expecting quite a wait upon putting it in. Popping a game in for the first time it automatically installs the first playable segment of the game within around a minute. This gives you all you need to immediately start up the single-player portion of the game, while the rest of the game installs.

It’s a relatively painless experience although it’s still slightly unclear exactly what it needs installed at any one time. Putting in Call of Duty: Ghosts I went straight into the multiplayer after a minute-long install with no problem, so it seems it must still be able to run the game from a disc.

I dug my Playstation Vita out for an attempt at the much-touted remote play experience and was shocked by the ease of use. Linking the two devices allows you to remotely power-on the PS4 using the PS Vita and begin playing immediately over wi-fi. A test-run with Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag proved totally lag-free over the home wireless, if there was any it wasn't perceptible to me. It's a strange feeling to be captaining your ship bound for Havana on the stormy oceans from your tiny handheld device, but kudos to Sony for it does indeed work very well. 

Launch day on Friday 29th November proved to be extremely problematic when it came to signing into PSN, it wasn't until late in the evening that I successfully managed to squeeze my way in to Sony's online network. It works fine now after Sony were forced to roll back and restrict some network features, including redeeming game codes, but for those users hoping to go down the all-digital route it would have been a disappointing game-free launch day. 

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11:46 Dec-03-2013

Drooling
Thanks a lot, Jon! There goes another 449€... :P

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11:53 Dec-03-2013

You have one

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21:49 Dec-01-2013

I love the UI. its simple and straight forward

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18:00 Dec-01-2013

Playing Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag on the toilet...
My dream has come true... :3

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01:45 Dec-02-2013

Or use it while sitting in the bath :P

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08:56 Dec-02-2013

And risk it falling in the water?

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16:28 Dec-01-2013

the ability to stream from the ps4 to the vita is a feature i feel jealous about as a traditional pc gamer.

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16:52 Dec-01-2013

I don't get why people want to stream something from a 40 inch screen into a tiny 5 inch screen. So no aciv in the toilet.

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17:24 Dec-01-2013

Well, if someone else wants to watch TV?

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22:16 Dec-01-2013

i want to play when i am in bed etc xD

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18:34 Dec-01-2013

if you had an nvidia card, i'd suggest the Nvidia Shield...

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22:18 Dec-01-2013

yeah but i dont :/. and if nvidia doesnt improve its value for money ratio i wont be getting one any time soon.

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15:09 Dec-02-2013

true true. but still, the shield is one hell of a piece of tech. personally, i'd upgrade my card just to get better access to it

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16:05 Dec-02-2013

@draugenpain yes apart from the fact that its ugly it is an interesting device. i love handheld devices with buttons. sorry tablets i just love buttons.

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01:15 Dec-03-2013

Agreed. I love my tablet, don't get me wrong, but a good solid button setup would be nice. If the Shield had a 7 inch screen like my tablet does, I'd buy one tomorrow even if it was 1000$, no questions asked. But as it stands the small screen size really does work against it. I can get a similar effect with my tablet seeing and being able to run my PC from a distance, and 7 inch of screen space is really the absolute minimum that I would want to have. Even gaming on the tablet is fun, but a smaller screen would be very annoying.

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