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Five improvements we want to see from the PS4

Microsoft needs help too! Check out our post on five things we’d like to see changed on the Xbox One.

For a manufacturer like Sony, selling a new piece of hardware is a marathon rather than a sprint. This is especially true of gaming consoles, more so than almost any other piece of hardware Sony manufactures. There are many more direct competitors for, say, a stereo receiver or a computer than there are with a gaming console. It will be years before Sony considers a replacement. The same is true of Microsoft and the Xbox One. 

That said, a gaming system can fundamentally change over its lifespan, unlike a camera or a TV (even one that has firmware updates). Since the PlayStation 3 was released, there have been over 50 updates. Some were as simple as fixing console stability, while others introduced important new features. The PlayStation 4 will continue that tradition. With that in mind, here are five improvements we’d like to see introduced sooner rather than later. And if you have suggestions of your own, sound off in the comments below.

Background customizations

For no real reason we can uncover, the PS4 won’t let you change the background image. This is a minor issue, but it was something the PS3 offered, so why remove it from the PS4? It would be nice to have the freedom to change the background color scheme of a PS4, or even add an image.

Sony PlayStation 4 screenshot 4

This may simply be down to timing. Customizing a background must be a low priority for developers working under a time crunch. It doesn’t affect anything, and the default blue background is pleasant enough. Still, the Xbox One allows this, as did the PS3 and Xbox 360. No reason not to have it on the PS4 as well. These are powerful pieces of hardware – we should be able to customize their on screen appearance to suit our tastes.

Give us back our media server

Hopefully this is being fast tracked through Sony right now. When it was announced that the PS4 would not feature DLNA or MP3 support, the reaction was overwhelmingly negative. The PS3 had both, and many considered that console to be among the best media servers on the market; losing this functionality is a step back for the PlayStation brand. The PS4 won’t recognize external storage either, meaning you can’t load music onto a thumb drive, transfer your own videos, or view pictures – all things you could do on the PS3. Nor will it accept CDs. The system does recognize a USB flashdrive – you can update your system via thumbdrive if you like – but it apparently won’t recognize an external storage device unless there is a system file on it. This is a software issue, and it can be fixed.

Hearing the chorus of angry fans, Sony President of Worldwide Studios Shuhei Yoshida quickly took to Twitter to confess surprise at the reaction, and claimed the omission was down to time. He then claimed the plan was always to introduce DLNA and MP3 at the very least later. The sooner the better, Sony. The sooner the better.

Organize the menus

As it stands, each time you install a new app or game on your PS4, the list of apps you have used grows horizontally by one. The more apps you have, the longer and more ungainly the list grows. It’s not a bad interface, and it does prioritize the list based on when you last used an app, but it isn’t ideal. It isn’t that different from the PS3’s interface that stacked your downloaded games under the “Game” tab, but at least categories like music and video were separate tabs.

Let users organize the lists how they want. Creating our own categories would be nice too, but at the very least let us organize the apps we want to be able to find quickly. The Xbox One has “pins,” and while Sony shouldn’t copy its competitors, there is a reason those pins exist and people use them. It’s mainly a cosmetic issue, but it would make personalization feel more significant.

The PS4 camera mic must be stopped

This is only an issue for the people that purchased the optional PS4 Camera, but since it is a fairly cool peripheral that is a lot of people. When you are playing a game online and the camera is hooked up, the mic will automatically broadcast what you are saying through in-game chat. If you’ve played any online games on the PS4, you’ve almost certainly heard people faintly speaking in the background. They probably don’t realize their camera mic is on.

Sony Playstation 4 camera lens

The only way to stop the camera mic is to physically unplug the camera, or create your own party and make sure you are in the only one in that party chat. There are very few, if any, benefits to not being able to mute the camera mic, so it is hopefully just an oversight and will be corrected in an upcoming patch.

Turn off the lights

The DualShock 4 is an excellent controller with room to grow. It offers a  more comfortable physical shape than its predecessor, the touchpad presents some intriguing possibilities, and the buttons offer a more responsive design. The integrated Move functionality is nice as well, even though there don’t seem to be many uses for it yet judging by the launch titles. The controller also eats up battery life, almost forcing you to purchase a second controller if you intend to put in some serious gaming hours.  

The rechargeable batteries built into the controller last around 7-8 hours of continual use; that’s a little less than the DualShock 3. It would be nice to have the option to turn off the light bar on the top of the controller completely when you are playing games that don’t need it. That may save a small amount of battery life as a bonus, but in a dark room the light can reflect off of some TVs. If you are playing in the dark and the game is also dark, the controller can shatter that atmosphere. So why not give gamers the option of turning it off, or at least dimming it in games or apps that doesn’t use it? It’s neat, it’s flashy, it is unique, but most of the time it’s unnecessary.

(Update: This article has been updated to reflect that there is a power saving option for the DualShock 4 controller, but it will need to be manually turned on. Head to your Settings, Select “power Saving Settings”, then select “Turn off DualShock 4 Automatically” to enable it. Thanks to our reader Marcello Velocci for the tip!) 

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