The UPS delivery came around 2:30pm on Friday, and my PS4 was on the truck. I had pre-ordered my PS4 on Amazon immediately following the Sony presentation at E3 in June, and it was in my hands only five months later. Over the weekend, I installed upgraded the PS4′s hard drive, desperately tried to connect to PSN, downloaded a ton of games, and played remotely on the PS Vita. The launch experience was a mixed bag for me, but I was left feeling nothing but enthusiasm for the potential of this new generation of hardware.
After the initial announcement of the PS4 in February, I knew I wanted to remain digital-only this generation. I’m spoiled by the simplicity of Steam, so it didn’t make much sense to stick with physical media for a modern console. Sony has a decent track record of pushing for day-one digital distribution of major titles, and the PS4 has delivered on that promise so far. With the exception of the inherently analog Skylanders, just about everything you could possibly want is available on the PlayStation Network. That said, I knew going digital-only was going to be intense on my hard drive, so I decided to upgrade before I did anything else.
Hard drive upgrade
Earlier this month, Sony released an incredibly detailed FAQ for the PS4, and revealed that the included drive would be a 2.5-inch 500GB SATA II HDD running at 5400RPM. An SSD would likely be the best option for minimizing load times, but those are still relatively expensive. If I wanted a 1TB SSD, I’d likely end up spending over $ 500 — more than the price of the console itself. As a compromise, I ended up purchasing an $ 88 HGST Travelstar 1TB 2.5-inch SATA III HDD running at 7200RPM. Not only is it twice the size of the default hard drive, but the increased RPM level should have a noticeable impact on load times as well.
Swapping out the PS4′s hard drive is incredibly easy, so that process only took a few minutes of fiddling. As a nice side benefit, I was able to move the 500GB drive to my PS3, and get rid of its aging 160GB drive. I slapped the PS4 system update on a USB stick, booted up into safe mode, and I was good to go in just a few minutes.
If you’re interested in going all-digital, a hard drive upgrade is absolutely a no-brainer right now. A year or two from now, 1TB SSDs will be more affordably priced though. (Check out our Storage Pricewatch series for more details.)
At around 3:30pm on Friday the 15th (launch day), I tried to connect to the PlayStation Network. I already had an account ready to go, but I was met with nothing but server errors and timeouts. Sadly, my desire to live in a world without physical media bit me hard. Until I could connect to PSN, my PS4 wasn’t really capable of doing anything meaningful. I had no games, I couldn’t connect to my Vita, and even Blu-ray playback required a one-time internet connection.
For all intents and purposes, I had a $ 400 paperweight on my hands. It would be an extreme understatement to say I was disappointed at that moment.
Some time between 7 and 8pm that night, my PS4 finally connected to the PlayStation Network. After that, my experience was silky smooth. The connection never dropped out, my downloads were speedy, and all of the features worked as advertised. I used the device heavily all weekend during different times of day, and I never once encountered an issue after my initial connection. After all of the heat Sony got for the poor PSN performance with the PS3, it’s very pleasant to see that the engineering team nailed it this time around.
In addition, I’m a paying PlayStation Plus member, so I was greeted with two free games right out of the gate. Resogun and Contrast are very enjoyable small-scope games, and it’s a very promising example of what PS+ members can expect going forward. Three different free-to-play games are available on day one as well, so even non-paying members have something to try right away on their shiny new consoles.
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