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Nov 23, 2016

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The good The PlayStation 4 serves up dazzling graphics, runs on a simplified and logical interface and boasts a fantastic controller. It has the upper hand in indie games and can stream a constantly growing list of legacy titles via PlayStation Now. The PS4 makes it super-easy to capture and broadcast gameplay online and generally delivers a zippier performance than its direct competition. It also doubles as a Blu-ray player and solid media-streaming box.

The bad The Xbox One has a slight edge in non-gaming entertainment features such as streaming content and media portal apps.

The bottom line The PlayStation 4's beautiful graphics, smart interface, blazing performance, near-perfect controller and better indie offerings give it an edge over the Xbox One -- though that edge is ever-shrinking.

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CNET REVIEW

As the PlayStation 4 quickly approaches its third birthday, let's reassess the current state of Sony's flagship game machine.

When the competing consoles were first released, we gave the edge to the PS4 over the Xbox One. And at this point in time, the PS4 is still looking good. It continues to improve thanks to regular system firmware updates and a consistent stream of console-exclusive independent games. Exclusive AAA-titles are less frequent, but the PS4 has some promising titles coming down the pike, including The Last Guardian and Horizon Zero Dawn, both scheduled to arrive in 2016. But if you're concentrating more on the exclusives 2015 has to offer, the Xbox One wins that immediate holiday battle.

The majority of games are available on both platforms and PC. We call these multiplatform games. In our testing, we've found that a handful of titles perform better on a PlayStation 4. The most recent example of this is Call of Duty: Black Ops III.

To be clear: The PS4 and the Xbox One are very closely matched. Both offer a growing library of third-party games -- mainstays like the Call of Duty and Assassin's Creed series, as well as newer titles like Fallout 4 and Rainbow Six Siege. And both double as full-service entertainment systems, with built-in Blu-ray players and streaming services like Netflix, YouTube and Hulu Plus.

At this stage in the game we're still partial to the PlayStation 4. Our reasoning is below -- along with a few caveats about areas where the PS4 can improve.

Editors' note, November 16, 2015:This review has been updated to reflect the PS4's ongoing maturation, including new firmware features and software offered on the platform. We've raised the overall rating of the PS4 from an 8 to an 8.3 and have added one point each in the design, ecosystem and value subcategories. This review covers firmware version 3.11.

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PS4, unboxed (pictures)

(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

PS4 consoles and bundles

No matter how you purchase a PlayStation 4, it'll ship with an HDMI cable, a DualShock 4 wireless controller, a USB charging cable and an earbud headset for game chat. The standard console goes for $350 though it seems like at almost any given time a PS4 bundle is being offered by Sony or another retailer. After a recent $50 price cut, the PS4 and Xbox One are nearly identically priced.

PS4 bundles usually provide the best overall value if you're looking to get started from scratch. Some franchise titles get exclusive PS4 consoles included in their bundles, most recently seen with the Star Wars: BattlefrontPS4 SKU.

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Major PS4 exclusive games (available now or soon):

- Bloodborne
- Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection
- Infamous: Second Son
- LittleBigPlanet 3
- Until Dawn

Major PS4 exclusive games due by 2016 and beyond:

- Uncharted 4: A Thief's End
- The Last Guardian
- Horizon Zero Dawn
- No Man's Sky (console exclusive)
- Dreams
- Street Fighter V (console exclusive)
- Ratchet and Clank reboot

Sarah Tew/CNET

PS4 ecosystem

The PlayStation ecosystem includes various products with some shared functionality. For example, the PS Vita can stream PS4 games via "remote play" mode. The PlayStation TV(PSTV) can also stream PS4 games as well as play Vita games and legacy PlayStation titles. Select phones from Sony's Xperia line can also stream gameplay from the PlayStation 4.

Sony also offers PlayStation Vue, a cable TV alternative starting at $50 a month available on the PS3 and PS4. PlayStation Now, the company's legacy game-streaming service, is available on every PlayStation platform and lets subscribers play games from the Sony vault. If you purchase in three-month increments, it works out to around $15 a month.

Firmware updates

Sony regularly updates the PS4's firmware -- as of this writing it's currently at version 3.11. Recent updates to the console have brought along features like:

- YouTube live game broadcasting

- Party chat

- Game communities and events sections

- Suspend/resume: The console can be put into "rest mode" and then woken up to resume gameplay without needing to relaunch a game.

- Share Play: Now PS4 owners can "host" a play session and "hand off" the game controller for up to 60 minutes to one of their friends on the PlayStation Network. At the end of the session players can simply restart. Share Play can also work with co-op games that let two players engage at the same time. Share Play works with any PS4 game and only the host player needs a copy of the game and a PlayStation Plus membership.

- Restore: You can now back up data stored on a PS4 and restore it.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The 2.00 firmware had some notable bugs, but Sony has addressed them with a recent 2.01 update. Firmware version 2.02 (also a forced update) brought along more universal stability to the system.

PS4 pros

Here are the areas where the PS4 excels -- and where it has an edge over the Xbox One:

PlayStation Plus

Compared with Xbox Live's Gold membership, PlayStation Plus still makes it out as the better overall deal. The Instant Game Collection titles that come with the subscription can be played across various PlayStation platforms and the quality of these titles tends to be higher, though recently the free games have started to underwhelm. You need PlayStation Plus to play online, and it also offers discounts, exclusive betas and demos, cloud save storage, game trials and automatic system updates.

PlayStation Plus is $50, £40 or AU$70 a year, while Xbox Live Gold is $60, £40 or AU$85 per year, although you may be able to get discounted vouchers from retailers.

System interface

Overall, the PS4's interface feels zippier than the Xbox One's, even with Xbox's new fall 2015 update. Games install quicker and moving around menus is a much smoother experience. It's by far an easier system to navigate, as opposed to the Xbox One's sometimes confusing presentation.

Not included: PlayStation CameraSarah Tew/CNET

Game streaming

Sony's answer to backward compatibility is PlayStation Now, a subscription service that allows PS4 owners to stream a game over the Internet. That said, your experience will vary depending on your Internet connection. Suffice it to say, playing shooters and other "twitch" games on PS Now isn't great, but it's certainly improving -- as is the growing collection of playable titles. When it launched we wrote PS Now off. Now we think it's a viable option for those who are passionate about legacy PlayStation games.

Xbox One recently introduced Xbox 360 backward compatibility, which works with physical media, as opposed to PS Now's digital-only operation.

Performance

Aside from a zippier all-around experience in the system software, the PS4 tends to install games quicker than the Xbox One. There's also some evidence that multiplatform games play better and run in higher resolutions than they do on the Xbox One. In some cases, the PS4 will also play at a higher frame rate than the Xbox One.

Game broadcasting and social sharing

The DualShock 4 controller has a button dedicated to broadcasting and sharing options. The whole feature set is wonderfully tied into the fabric of the system and makes sharing fairly painless. Players can instantly snap screenshots, tweet photos and broadcast gameplay to Twitch (a free online streaming-gaming video service), all within a few clicks.

PS4 owners can also save these videos and screens and put them on a USB drive, edit them on the PS4 or upload them to YouTube, Facebook or Twitter.

It's worth noting that publishers can block the ability to share content -- it's usually done to avoid leaking major plot spoilers in a game.

Independent games

Sony has committed to bringing popular independent games to PS4. While a lot of these titles have previously been available for PC, games like Rocket League, No Man's Sky and SOMA (among many others) will only see console debuts on PS4.

Sarah Tew/CNET

User-accessible hard drive

The PS4 ships with a 500GB, 5,400rpm hard drive (and is also available in a 1TB model), but you can easily swap it out for a 2.5-inch SATA drive with a larger capacity or a SSHD or SSD for potentially increased performance. The Xbox One, by comparison, doesn't allow the swapping of hard drives -- instead you have to attach an external USB drive.

DualShock 4 controller

The DualShock 4 is the best PlayStation controller yet and features a front-facing touchpad that can also be clicked. Players can bring their own headphones and plug them directly into the controller so they don't disturb the neighbors during nighttime gaming.

The controller is very comfortable and can be charged with a Micro-USB cable. The only real downside is the battery: unlike the Xbox One controller's battery, the PS4's can't be replaced. Its battery life is good, but not great.

Media playback

The PS4's media player app supports a wide range of file formats and codecs. Files can be played off a home DLNA server or USB drive.

Sarah Tew/CNET

PS4 cons

Here are the areas where the PS4 could use a little work:

Media apps: Good, but slightly lagging behind the Xbox One

The PS4 offers mainstay media and entertainment apps like Amazon Instant Video, Netflix and Hulu Plus, but is noticeably missing apps that the Xbox One does have, such as ESPN, Comedy Central, Fox and Fios.

There is support for sports, though -- PS4 owners can use MLB, NBA (only on PS4), NFL Sunday Ticket and NHL apps.


PlayStation Plus cloud storage

Cloud save storage was recently bumped up to a generous 10GB worth of data, but only for PS+ members. We also think cloud saves should sync automatically no matter which PS4 you're playing on, instead of gamers having to manually upload saves from machines that aren't their "primary console." In this specific category, Xbox One has PS4 beat.

Wonky eject button

A collection of current PS4 owners have experienced an issue with the PS4's touch-sensitive eject button. Some complain that it can engage by itself, causing the console to either eject a disc during play or randomly make beeps.

Sony has since corrected this and now 1TB consoles ship with a tactile eject button.

sony-playstation-white-and-black02.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

PS4 vs. Xbox One

There's not likely to be a definitive winner in the current-generation console wars. While the PlayStation 4 had a clear advantage at launch, that edge is slowly evaporating as Microsoft has worked feverishly to undo most of the Xbox One's original missteps. The two consoles are now similarly priced and offer a lot of the same features.

Right now the PS4 and the Xbox One are neck and neck with exclusives -- though the PS4 also has a better range of digital-only titles. But taste in games is always subjective; either those games will appeal to you, or they won't. Each console manufacturer has made exclusivity deals with various developers, so the sad reality is you're going to miss out on something great no matter which platform you choose.

You might read about the PS4's specs trumping those of the Xbox One, but it's important to keep in mind how that translates to actual results. You'll remember that the PS3 was originally poised to be a massive powerhouse that would leap past the Xbox 360, but in reality it didn't perform much better. You could even make the argument that most multiplatform games played more smoothly and looked better on the Xbox 360. That said, at the time of this writing (and having considered most of the multiplatform games currently available), the PS4 does seem to perform slightly better than the Xbox One.

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What is the Sony A6000?

Sony’s new a6000 is an update of the Sony NEX-6, a very well-regarded CSC that managed to stay the course for a good four years. That it lasted so long is testament to how special it was, given the brief shelf-life of new models nowadays.



  • The newcomer, then, has a job to do to match or better the popularity and staying power of its prestigious forbear. Of course, no company would bring out a successor to such an impressive camera that’s just a tinkered version of the one that went before. So how has Sony looked to improve the model?

    Well, the distinctive NEX shape has been retained but it’s all change inside, for Sony has included some of best technology it currently has to offer.

    image: http://static.trustedreviews.com/94/00002c36d/add8_oq80_orh234w417/Sony-A6000-product-shot-1.jpg


    Sony A6000: Features

    There are already plenty of sharp elbows in the high-end CSC market. The competition is intense, with Olympus’s OM-D range, Fujifilm’s X-Series and Panasonic’s GX and GH cameras all continually pushing the boundaries of what is possible in a mirrorless camera.

    If that’s not enough, by bringing its NEX kit into the Alpha fold, Sony is also putting the a6000 into competition with DSLRs. As such it has really pulled out all the stops when it comes to features.

    In particular the Bionz-X processor, which is also found in the Sony Alpha 7R, provides incredible processing power – it’s three times as fast as the original version. Where the increase in speed is most notable is in the a6000’s start-up time – just switch on the camera and shoot away, even in hi-speed burst mode.

    You may also like:

    image: http://static.trustedreviews.com/94/00002c36e/2d08_oq80_orh234w417/Sony-A6000-product-shot-2.jpg

    The extra oomph has also allowed faster autofocus of just 0.06 seconds, according to the CIPA standard. So – under ideal conditions – the focusing system should run like a veritable Usain Bolt, outpacing even the impressive Fujifilm XT-1.

    Burst mode shooting of up to 11fps, continuous for 21 frames raw JPEG or 49 frames of fine JPEG is also possible before buffering makes its presence felt, so the a6000 is a great tool for sports and action.

    Like the NEX-6, the a6000 has 25 precision contrast-detection AF points, but there’s been a big increase in the number of phase-detection points – there are now 179 rather than 99, covering almost 100% of the frame.

    The new hybrid autofocus system not only makes it easier for the camera to recognise scenes, but it also allows the a6000 to lock onto the correct subjects and track them with a terrier-like tenacity.

    image: http://static.trustedreviews.com/94/00002c36f/b2a7_oq80_orh234w417/Sony-A6000-product-shot-3.jpg

    The a6000 carries AF-A – a first for Sony’s E-mount cameras – which, when activated, allows the camera’s autofocus to know when to quickly switch focusing mode. So, if your subject is still, the camera will automatically use AF-S focus mode, but if it starts to move the camera will use AF-C focus.

    As an example, let’s say you are in a field photographing a cow happily chewing the cud. All of a sudden it catches sight of you and turns tail. Not to worry, the camera will still select the appropriate focusing mode despite the abrupt movement

    Multi-frame noise reduction is now included in ISO settings in-camera rather than via a downloadable app, as was the case with the NEX-6, and is deployed in low light, firing off six frames in quick succession and then stacking them into a single image to combat noise.

    image: http://static.trustedreviews.com/94/00002c370/b2a9_oq80_orh234w417/Sony-A6000-product-shot-4.jpg

    Diffraction correction, area-specific noise reduction, and detail reproduction technology are also featured.

    Sony has recently updated its PlayMemories app library – which is accessible through the menu when connected to Wi-Fi – and there are a host of additional features to download there too.

    Nestled inside the home menu, the Shooting Tips tutorial offers guidance on more than 100 subjects from camera basics to scenario specific advice such as how to shoot star trails.

    If you like shooting video you will be pleased that the a6000 includes such useful functionality as zebra patterning and can record Full HD AVCHD Ver.2.0 / MP4 video at 1920x1080/60p and 24p.

    image: http://static.trustedreviews.com/94/00002c371/23d9_oq80_orh234w417/Sony-A6000-product-shot-5.jpg

    It also has a type D micro HDMI connection, providing a clean HDMI output for video recording. Slightly disappointingly, there’s no headphone jack to monitor audio although the multi interface hotshoe at least allows you to connect an external microphone.

    One of the biggest changes in the a6000 relates to the sensor. The new 24.3-million-pixel image 'Exmor APS-C sensor has a gapless on-chip phase detection design, like the NEX-6, but covers a much larger area of the frame.

    This light-collecting efficiency allows for improved low-light shooting and reduced noise throughout its ISO sensitivity range of ISO 100 to 25,600.
    Read more at http://trustedreviews.com/sony-a6000-review#woIfHb3VwMUEbjZd.99

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    One of the biggest camera announcements at 2014's Consumer Electronics Show may well have been the little Nikon D3300 and its collapsible 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 VR II lens. It may not shoot 4K video or offer a curved LCD (those shows are all about the tech trends) but it does represent the next generation of Nikon's very popular entry-level DSLR line, and that in itself is noteworthy.

    The D3300 sits at the bottom of Nikon's entry-level series, positioned as the friendliest of beginner-friendly DSLRs, just below the D5300. Don't be fooled by their class bearing though, both cameras use a powerful 24MP APS-C sensor. Opting for the D3300 rather than the D5300 means living with a fixed 3.0-inch LCD, rather than one that's fully articulated, and no built-in Wi-Fi.

    Nikon D3300 key features

    • 24.2 MP DX format (APS-C) sensor
    • Expeed 4 processor
    • Fixed 3.0" 921k-dot LCD
    • 1080/60p HD video
    • 5 fps continuous shooting
    • 700 shot battery life

    The D3300's Expeed 4 branded processor is responsible for many of its gains over the previous model, the D3200. This model gets an upgrade to 1080/60p video recording, an extra frame per second in burst mode, and a higher ISO range up to 12800 (25600 with expansion).

    Specs comparison

    The table below illustrates the differences between this model, its predecessor, and the step-up model. It should be noted that the D3300 appears to give better battery performance than the D5300, but actually they use the same EN-EL14a battery. The D5300's lower claimed battery life reflects a calculation for use of the camera's built-in Wi-Fi and GPS. By any measure, the D3300 is well above its peers in terms of battery capacity.

    Nikon D3300Nikon D3200Nikon D5300
    Sensor24.2 MP DX format CMOS (23.5 x 15.6 mm)24.2 MP DX format CMOS (23.2 x 15.4 mm)24.2 MP DX format CMOS (23.5 x 15.6 mm)
    Image processingExpeed 4Expeed 3Expeed 4
    LCDFixed 3.0" 921k-dot LCDFixed 3.0" 921k-dot LCDVari-angle 3.2" 1037k-dot LCD
    AF system11-point (1 cross-type)11-point (1 cross-type)39-point (9 cross-type)
    Viewfinder0.85x (95% coverage)0.80x (95% coverage)0.82x (95% coverage)
    ISO range100-12800 (expansion to 25600)100-6400 (expansion to 12800)100-12800 (expansion to 25600)
    ConnectivityWith optional WU-1a Mobile AdapterWith optional WU-1a Mobile AdapterBuilt-in
    Video capture max. resolution1080 60p1080 30p1080 60p
    Continuous shooting5 fps4 fps5 fps
    Battery life700 shots540 shots600 shots
    Dimensions124 x 98 x 76 mm (4.88 x 3.86 x 2.99″)125 x 96 x 77 mm (4.92 x 3.78 x 3.03″)125 x 98 x 76 mm (4.92 x 3.86 x 2.99″)
    Weight460 g (16.23 oz)505 g (17.81 oz)530 g (18.70 oz)

    Moving up the chain of Nikon's crop-frame DSLR line AF systems get increasingly sophisticated. The D3300 sits at the very bottom with an 11-point system and a single cross-type sensor at the middle - nothing that would tempt a sports photographer, but perfectly capable for its class. Outside of this, Wi-Fi and a vari-angle screen are the only other clear hardware advantages to the D5300 over the entry-level model.

    The comparison paints a picture of a nicely specified entry-level model with excellent battery life, a new processor and a whole lot of resolution. Aside from the lack of Wi-Fi, there's not much to complain about here and we don't feel that there's anything that this camera is seriously lacking feature-wise.

    However, the days when an entry-level Nikon only really had to worry about its latest rival from Canon have gone. So, although the D3300's specs are very impressive - especially in terms of battery life - it also has to hold its own against the smaller mirrorless cameras that match it for image quality and offer a more compact-camera-like live view shooting experience.

    Though a little long in the tooth, the Panasonic Lumix GF6 offers a tilting touch screen, and the Olympus E-PM2 provides a fixed touch screen (and is a steal price-wise compared to the rest of the class). Elsewhere in the category the Pentax K-500 offers a 100% coverage optical viewfinder and 6 fps burst shooting, while the Fujifilm X-A1 offers twin command dials and built-in Wi-Fi.

    Kit options and pricing

    The Nikon D3300 is available in black, grey and red variants, kitted in the US and UK with a collapsible 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 VR II lens with list prices of $649.95 and £599.99, respectively. In the UK there's also a £499.99 body-only option, not offered in the US.

    Without the D5300's built-in Wi-Fi, D3300 owners will need to add Nikon's WU-1a mobile adapter for connectivity features. The adapter dangles from the camera's AV port, making it possible to wirelessly transfer images to an Android or iOS device. Read more about it in our review of the Nikon D3200. It's available separately for $59.95/£54.99.

    Nikon's DSLRs aren't by any means the cheapest in their respective classes, and that's true of the D3300. It's about $100 US more than a comparable Canon kit, and costs well over twice as much as the (very aggresively priced) Sony a3000. For that premium, you get one of the highest resolution APS-C sensors on the market, a very good 1080/60p video spec, and exceptional battery life among other things. It's slightly pricier, but does the feature set justify the tag? Or would your entry-level dollars be better spent elsewhere?

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    Video: Check out our review of the Galaxy S7


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    Related: Samsung Galaxy S8

    Samsung Galaxy S7 – Design

    After the massive, and much needed, change in design direction Samsung took with the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge in 2015, all rumours pointed to things staying pretty much the same for the Galaxy S7.

    Well, it’s not like Apple, HTC or Sony make drastic changes to their industrial design every year.

    And that’s exactly the case here. Place the Galaxy S7 next to the S6 and you’d be hard pushed to instantly pick which one is which. Frankly, this doesn’t bother me in the slightest. The S6 was already one of the best-looking phones around, and the Galaxy S7 follows suit.

    Both the front and back are covered in Gorilla Glass 4, while a metal rim snakes in between. Two volume buttons sit on one side, with a lock/standby switch on the other. It’s a clean look, with the back free from any markings aside from a Samsung logo.

    The camera lens now sits just about flush with the glass body too. This might seem a small change, but it makes a big difference. I can now tap out an email with the phone flat on my desk without it jumping and rocking from side to side.
    Read more at http://trustedreviews.com/samsung-galaxy-s7-review#1KfWA0UWi28wBWBD.99

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