http://www.hdtvtest.co.uk/news/ps4-201312173519.htmBy David Mackenzie17 December 2013 Verdict: Qualified Recommendation
New home entertainment console launches only roll around once every 6-7 years, with hardware shortages, pre-release hype, and the rabidly competitive nature of the gaming industry coming together to make each one a noteworthy event. Thatís of course the case with Sonyís PlayStation 4, which has so far been doing fine business for the Japanese giant, and naturally follows in the footsteps of the PS3, which remained of interest to AV users for its perfectly accurate Blu-ray Disc output quality. The PS3′s adeptness at playing Blu-ray was arguably a key point in doing away with the rival HD DVD format.
Sonyís decision to include Blu-ray (BD-ROM) drives in every PS3 unit wasnít a hugely popular one at the time, with the then-fledgling technology contributing to the machineís $599 US launch price tag. But history proved Sony correct, with all three next-gen consoles using Blu-ray in some form. Microsoftís Xbox One is a bona-fide BD machine, and for games, Blu-ray Disc Association founding member Panasonic supplied a ďblack-bookĒ format which is derived from Blu-ray (they also supplied ďDVD-likeĒ technology and drives for the Nintendo Gamecube and Wii, although Nintendo machines have never been officially able to play films from disc).
With Blu-ray now entrenched as one of several possible ways to watch films at home (and obviously the highest quality one) and HD DVD no more than a curiosity, thereís less riding on the success of the PS4 from an AV perspective. In fact, Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) have been playing coy and have marketed their system as the anti-Xbox choice from the earliest opportunity, reassuring players who were disappointed with Microsoftís heavy emphasis on television integration features by reminding them that PlayStation is ďfor the playersĒ and is all about gaming.
HDTVTest took delivery of a Sony PS4 pre-Christmas, and weíve been checking the systemís media playback features out (as well as also playing a good amount ofWarframe, but donít tell anyone that). Itís a games machine first and foremost, but for curious users still on the fence about the next-gen, how well does it fulfil its secondary features? Letís find out.
Note: this review concerns the most recent PS4 system software at the time of publication (December 16, 2013, version SU-30733-6).
Clearly remembering the criticism of the original PS3 design, Sony has (almost) nailed it first time with the styling of the PS4. Most of the system uses sleek matte black plastic, and the entire design is slanted: rather than being boxy, the edges are tilted backwards. The Blu-ray drive is hidden on the front, as are two USB ports. Most impressively, there is no external power supply needed Ė despite the systemís small size, thatís been built in.
Our only real criticism of the machine is that one of the panels on top is gloss black, which means it will no doubt soon succumb to scratches when itís cleaned. Other than that, itís a very sleek unit.
The PlayStation 4 makes an immediate good first impression with its streamlined menus. Theyíre simple but tasteful at the same time in a way which the boxy Windows 8-ish interface of the Xbox One is not. On top of that, thereís (optional) background music. Call us sentimental, but this small touch gives a soothing feeling and might well create a sense of wonder in all but the most stoic of gamers.
There are few AV options to set up, with [Video Output Settings] containing controls governing resolution, TV size (for certain 3D content), as well as video levels settings for RGB and Y/Cb/Cr output formats, which we never had to touch.
To us, the Sony PS4 appeared to have Blu-ray playback software on board from the get-go. Apparently thatís not actually the case, but it was downloaded so seamlessly that it may as well have been.
Unlike the Xbox One, the PS3 happily played back our recordable Blu-ray Discs containing our custom test patterns. BD-R playback isnít a killer issue for most people who are only watching store-bought movies on factory-pressed discs, but blocking it is such a comparatively useless anti-piracy measure that we wonder why Microsoft bothered.
In any case, we were effortlessly able to confirm top-notch, totally accurate, unadulterated playback of Blu-ray movies against several other known-good reference players. Thatís a small advantage over the Xbox Oneís very good Blu-ray playback, which has a small (but generally not noticeable) lightness inaccuracy in its output.
Thereís no noise reduction or other unwanted processing, no loss of resolution in the luma (brightness) or obvious loss of resolution in the chroma (colour) channel, pixel cropping, chroma upsampling jaggies, or other nasties to spoil the party with 24p content, which accounts for the majority of footage on Blu-ray. With 24p content, you provide the disc, the PS4 dutifully reproduces it. This alone will be enough to make the Sony PlayStation 4 a very usable BD player for most gamers.
Thatís the end of the good news, however. If you play 1080i content on the PS4, youíll find that the system deinterlaces it, and does a poor job of it. There doesnít seem to be any semi-advanced motion-adaptive deinterlacing on the PS4 at all, with the entire screen (and not just the moving areas) being deinterlaced with a fairly crude algorithm. Visually, that translates into fine details flickering slightly. Of course, itís more obvious in test charts than it is in content, but the resolution is being lost either way.
Nearly all films are stored at 24p so donít count on seeing any issues with those, but if you play a video-based concert or documentary on the machine, youíll be getting lessened vertical resolution compared to what youíd get from a better Blu-ray player such as the PS3, or nearly any standalone player.
Donít think about setting the output to 1080i to send 1080i discs out in their native format, either: this compounds the problem. Even with the output set to 1080i, all 1080i content is deinterlaced internally and then output. Thereís no native path for 1080i Blu-ray content on the PS4 (yet?), everything goes through the sub-par 1080p conversion process.
The diagonal interpolation test (which tests for a playerís ability to smooth jaggies during interlace to progressive conversion) didnít return good results either, with jaggies being obvious on steep angles.
Unsurprisingly with all of this in mind, there is no provision made for film mode deinterlacing (detecting the presence of film content stored in an interlaced signal). Just so itís clear, here are the tests from the 60hz tests on the Spears & Munsil disc:
- 2-2 (30fps inside 60i): Fail
- 2-2-2-4: Fail
- 2-3-2-3 PF-T (24fps inside 60i with MPEG metadata): Fail
- 2-3-2-3 (24fps inside 60i): Fail
- 2-3-2-3: Fail
- 2-3-3-2: Fail
- 3-2-3-2-2: Fail
- 5-5: Fail
- 6-4: Fail
- 8-7-8-7: Fail
- Time-adjusted: Fail
Likewise, for European users watching European content (BBC TV shows are an obvious example), itís worth knowing that the Blu-ray format does not have provision for 25p, so all of this content is encoded at 50i, and accordingly falls foul of the PS4′s lack of deinterlacing capabilities. With 1080i HD content, this is actually not a gigantic problem, and we imagine most users wonít notice owed to the high HD resolution masking the resolution loss. Itís still poorer quality than many standalone players, however.
Itís a strange decision on Sonyís part, because when first launched, the PS3 system simply output 1080i content as 1080i (natively), meaning that the other components in the userís AV system (AV receiver or TV) would do the deinterlacing. Weíd hope this is something Sony addresses with a system update Ė either give us good deinterlacing with film mode detection, or just output the 1080i content as pure 1080i and let another device that has the same capabilities take care of it.
The PS4′s lack of deinterlacing prowess is a much bigger problem in the standard definition realm, where thereís much more interlaced content, and where every last drop of available resolution is precious.
The good news is that progressively flagged content on DVD is fine. That means that almost every American NTSC DVD containing a film will play back without any obvious artefacts on the Sony PS4. Film content thatís been encoded as interlaced, where the studio has passed the duty of interlace-to-progressive conversion onto the consumerís playback hardware, will display with the aforementioned jaggies, of course magnified owed to the lesser SD resolution. As with HD, there is no film mode detection at all beyond the common reading of MPEG metadata (repeat field flags).
Adding to the PlayStation 4′s suitability as a DVD player Ė for American/Japanese-centric NTSC content Ė is its high quality scaling. The PS3′s spatial interpolation (literally how new pixels are created to fill the HD resolution from the low-res SD source) was novel for its time, and the PS4 appears to follow much of the same lead but without quite as much a synthetic finish (diagonal edges appear slightly less smoothed over, and youíll likely never see a hint of aliasing even if you do find one of the few DVDs that has any sharp high frequency detail in it to start with).
Thatís fine for the NTSC territories, but European users will not be too surprised to hear that PAL DVDs are not optimally handled by the Sony PS4. There are several esoteric features inside the DVD spec that allow a disc and the video on it to be marked as interlaced or progressive, but the long and short of it is that none of the PAL discs we tried played back optimally even if the flags on the disc were properly set (in PAL-land, almost none of them are). There is no 2:2 cadence detection for PAL films Ė in this area the PS4 is beaten by the Xbox One, which does do correct film mode deinterlacing.
The bottom line: the Sony PlayStation 4 treats all standard-def DVD content except for NTSC progressively flagged DVDs as interlaced, and its deinterlacing is not good. At least, the PS4 doesnít make the Xbox Oneís mistake of outputting 50hz content as 60hz, so doesnít create judder. Instead, its lack of film mode detection means that PAL DVD Ė and we imagine many of our readers do have significant DVD collections Ė displays with lessened vertical resolution when compared to a good standalone.
Although at first glance it appears to be a more polished media device than the Xbox One, the PS4 disappointed us in several areas with its media playback capabilities (or lack thereof).
If youíre using the device to play 24p movies on Blu-ray (which admittedly will be most peopleís usage as far as that format is concerned), itís all good news. Outside of that use, itís a worse disc player than the PS3 was at launch, and we hope to see its performance with interlaced video content improved. Also, unlike the PlayStation 3, the PS4 doesnít support 3D Blu-ray playback at this time of writing.
Both next-gen consoles have failed in some areas, with neither the Xbox One or the PlayStation 4 being able to play PAL DVDs optimally: the PS4 produces jaggies owed to the lack of film mode detection for PAL content, and the Xbox One produces stutter owed to using an incorrect refresh rate.
Thatís a little disappointing given the precedent set by the PS3. That Sonyís machine was promoted as being for gamers first and foremost makes it a little more understandable, and perhaps less worthy of scorn than Microsoftís lofty claims of their equally troubled Xbox One being the only box necessary underneath your TV. As with that machine, we look forward to seeing the PS4′s video processing quality improve, because itís a seriously nice-feeling piece of hardware. If youíre a video enthusiast who wants to get the best from all their discs, donít count on either of the next-gen consoles replacing your standalone player just yet.
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Sony PS4 Performs Worse Than PS3 As A Blu-ray & DVD Player
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This is all software, they'll make it better plus the PS4 has a better GPU.
PS3 is a world class Blu-Ray player tho.
They say an uguu a day keeps the doctor away.
Technically it's worse than PS3 in 1080i playback of BD's. Of which I personally, and I suspect most of us have no BD's w/ 1080i content on it. It does the exact perfect reproduction of 1080p24 content which is what your movies are going to be provided in.
All interlaced video content is first de-interlaced and they didn't use as stellar of a de-interlacer as they did on the PS3. No word if this was SW or HW based, but I'm going to assume SW. And if it is SW, this is something that could be updated later, but to be honest, I don't give a rats ass because for me it doesn't mean a thing as I'll likely never watch a BD w/ 1080i content.
You may find in some documentaries, or some personal recordings using old technology to record in 1080i which nobody uses today for recordings - only for broadcast as that's what the standards committees decided would be good HD 20+yrs ago before HD digital broadcast started and TV technology was still CRT which was the reason for interlaced video in the first place.
What blows might be it's handling of 'full screen' DVD's which are often 480i. I frustrated my family for a decade buying exclusively WS DVD's and High Bitrate if I could find them (like my Rush Hour 2 disc).
I'll have to toss in some of my kitchy Kung Fu flicks and see what they look like. On PS3 they are pristinely ugly... in a good way.You can lead a Donkey to water, but you can't make him drink.
And ps3 did not perform as well as some of the best standalone BD players on the market, unlike some people thought. It was pretty good but not on the same level as the best bdp models , including sony's. PQ features available on top end bdp models were for not available on ps3, like sony's SBM which genuinely boosted PQ.
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PS: I'm also a proper aspect ratio guy myself. Star Wars was shot in 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and I damn well want to see it on my TV in 2.35:1 even if it is a 16:9 TV. I have very very few full screen DVDs, and the only ones of those that I bought were ones that the original content was 4:3.
For the ps4, with the price tag it's going for, i wouldn't be surprised if there is no dedicated hardware deinterlacer for 1080i content and it is handled by sw. I wouldn't trust a sw based deinterlacer as it can produce visible artifacting, i'd just want to try switch off the deinterlacing and send it to my avr to handle it, which has Faroudja DCDi.
A really long blabbering article to basically say Blu-ray dedicated boxes play crappy, weird interlace videos and old 480p better than the PS4. Of course, these types of web articles always ignore the fact they find the PS4 to be a superb player for 1080p Blu-ray. Boo-hoo, what is next to cry about. I swear these game journalist wannabes have less than fully developed gonads.
It will get better with the upcoming firmware.
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I'm not surprised tbh, I was really hyped for the PS3, it didn't have much at launch but you knew the games would come and they didn't hold back on the hardware, PS4 has a lot of missing features that PS3 had day one. I still stick by this gen being smaller overall than last gen, people are moving more to mobile games now unfortunately.
No, as a former lead for more than one of the TV manufacturers, i'll say that's a very informative article by a very reputable site.
If your into Home Theater, you needed to read that.
They likely will do a 3-4 month follow up report.
The PS3 took a few months to get great, and i saw improvements as late as 2 years from it's launch in the US to BD and DVD performance.
Not an issue long term. Even if SONY just rewrote all of their PS3 algorithms for PS4 playback we'd be spoiled.You can lead a Donkey to water, but you can't make him drink.
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I don't expect any improvements to PS4 playback of disc based movies or really any video format for that matter, it's Inferior to the PS3 which is why I'm glad I still use my PS3 majority of the time, it's a powerhouse that really does do everything… I only play games, chat and stream on my PS4… I think that's all sony wanted for this generation… I can live with that PS3 won't die anytime in the next 4-5 years." A Toll's a toll and a roll's a roll. If we don't get no toll's, then we don't eat no roll's"
Who buys 720p or 1080i bluray anyway? Its a waste of disc space.
If I'm going to buy a bluray disc, I make sure it's 1080P native.
As an average user who doesn't understand these things, as it plays Blu Ray discs it is on a par with my PS3, that is all.
I don't use my system for Blu Ray anymore as I have one built into my theater system which is superior to the PS3.
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