It’s rare to find a piece of cutting-edge technology that won’t be obsolete for years to come – and all for the price of a budget laptop.
Sony and Microsoft are releasing the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, which will both dominate the gaming landscape for at least five years, and cost less than £450.
Released today in the US, the PS4 is first out of the blocks. A UK release will follow in two weeks. Xbox One appears in shops in the UK next Friday.
Unlike the jump from standard definition consoles to HD, the latest generation of consoles does not offer a dramatic leap in graphical performance.
However being dropped into the forest at the beginning of Call of Duty: Ghosts and running through a panicked town as it was being bombarded from space still looked far better than the PlayStation 3 pushed to its very limits.
It’s always hard to judge a console on its launch games, because it takes time for developers to fully utilise the raw power of the new hardware.
But as a blank slate for the future, Sony has it covered.
To begin with, the DualShock 4 controller is a major improvement on its predecessor with reassuringly springy triangle/X/O/square buttons, a subtle re-shaping of the trigger buttons, and an altogether more high-end feel.
However some reviewers who have spent longer with the console claim the controller holds a charge for around seven hours, compared to the 30+ hours achieved by its predecessor.
The device itself looks relatively slick, given that most consoles look pretty rough around the edges. It doesn’t use a bulky power brick meaning less living room clutter, and USB ports and the disc drive are tucked away inside a discreet groove on the front of the system.
While the Xbox One will cater both for gamers and those who wish to use the console as an entertainment centre, the PlayStation 4 is aimed squarely at gamers.
It shows. The power of the hardware delivers vast landscapes, intricate details, and realistic movement and interactions.
But for a platform so squarely aimed at dedicated gamers the launch line-up of games is fairly limp. Consoles usually launch with titles that make consumers want to buy it on day one, but Sony’s offering is lacklustre.
While the headline games aren’t anything to shout about, Sony is known for its support of independent developers, which means there’s the offer of cheap, lovingly crafted games such as Resogun.
It’s a side-scrolling shoot ’em up game with a kaleidoscope of colours, a barrage of sounds and music, and a charming old-school feel that leaves you feeling like you’re playing a souped-up version of Space Invaders.
A nice touch with the PS4 is its ability to link up with its baby brother – the handheld Vita.
Gamers will be able to stream games from the console to the dinky little device up to a distance of around 50ft from the PS4. It’s not a deal breaker, but it’s handy if there’s a constant battle for the main TV screen at home.
One major point in PS4’s favour is the price – £349 versus Xbox One’s £429. It’s even cheaper than the PS3 at launch, which cost £425.
You’d struggle to get a half-decent laptop that price, so for a gaming platform that will likely last until 2020 it’s a bargain.