The rudimentary built-in video editor is easy to use, and the PS4’s ability to act like a DVR and keep a running video buffer of your game is clever. But the console compresses the video aggressively, and as a result, the footage comes out somewhat muddy. (I've embedded a sample above.) Hobbyists who want to record higher-quality footage are out of luck for now, because the PS4 copy-protects its digital video output, and unlike the PS3, there are no analog outputs. But Sony, in a surprising move, has promised that an upcoming software patch will disable the copy protection for game footage.


That’s a minor policy change that only affects a small portion of the game-playing public, and it wouldn’t be worth mentioning except that it’s representative of the friendlier, more subdued attitude that characterizes the PS4. The Xbox 360 and the PS3 both evolved into overbearing machines that made it progressively more difficult to simply play games or watch a movie. They jealously grabbed for more of your attention and put up roadblocks if you resisted. By comparison, the PS4 plays it cool.

Maybe the PS4 is more graceful than those other consoles simply because Sony hasn’t larded it up with “content partnerships” and revenue-generating schemes yet. But it doesn’t feel that way. The console holds the promise of an enduring philosophical shift. The PS4 does have a slew of new features, after all; it’s just that Sony isn’t so insistent about shoving them in your face. Instead, the most appealing features of the PS4 do their work in the background—recording your game video, installing new games, adapting its menus to fit your tendencies.


None of these comforts is spectacular, but the PS4 doesn’t aspire to be a spectacular machine. It is, in a word, dull. And that’s a compliment. The console shouldn’t be the star of the show. The games and the players deserve the spotlight. Sony seems to recognize this, and the PS4 hews closer to the notion of a “platform”—a blank infrastructure on which amazing things can be built.

Players have plenty of time to wait and see if the platform grows into its potential, as there’s no killer exclusive title that makes it worthwhile to run out and buy one right now. But Sony has laid solid groundwork, both in its powerful hardware and its austere software, for a machine that can stand back and let players occupy the stage. If only every console were so boring.