What the PS4 Can and Can't Do
This article was updated on 11/12/13.
With only two weeks left until the PlayStation 4 launches in North America, Sony has taken some time to set the record straight on everything the system does — and doesn't do. An extensive FAQ clears up a few of the PS4's remaining mysteries but has some bad news for day-one purchasers.
Most of the information in the FAQ is very straightforward: The PS4 will launch on Nov. 15, cost $399.99 in North America, and include a console, a controller, a charging cable, a headset and an HDMI cable.
Keep in mind that, unlike the PS3, the PS4 requires an HDMI connection, so SDTVs or HDTVs with only DVI or component connections won't cut it without some kind of adapter (which you'll have to purchase separately).
PS4 storage capacity
Sony has also set the record straight on external hard drives: You can't use them. The PS4's default hard drive is 500GB, and you can swap it out for other higher-capacity 9.5-mm hard drives. This capability will be handy, considering that many PS4 launch titles weigh in between 30 and 50GB.
HD and 4K support
Users hoping for the PS4 to lead the way in gaming applications for 4K TVs might want to temper their expectations, too. The PS4 supports up to only 1080p resolution for both games and video.
On the other hand, users no longer have to rejigger the system's resolution manually. The PS4 can automatically detect its optimal output every time it's connected to a new TV, eliminating some of the hassle associated with moving the system around.
Blu-ray and DVD video hassles
Like the PS3, the PS4 will support Blu-ray discs, but if you don't plan on hooking your system up to the Internet, you're going to have to do a little legwork. Neither DVD support nor Blu-ray support is endemic to the system, and both will require a day-one software update. Otherwise, you will need to contact Sony's customer service, which will send you an activation disc.
Reduced music playback
Speaking of discs, the days of listening to audio CDs on your Sony console are over. That may not sound like a big deal, but the system will also not support MP3s, either those loaded onto its hard drive or streaming from your computer.
No streaming from PCs
In fact, you won't be able to stream anything from your PC. The PS4 does not support media servers. This feature allowed PS3s to stream video and music from a user's PC, or a third-party service like PlayOn. Without media servers, you will be limited to the PS4's native video apps (like Netflix) or whatever runs through the system's built-in Web browser.
Virtually no free online play
As Sony hinted at E3, playing online for free will also be a thing of the past, for the most part. Only PlayStation Plus ($49.99/year) members will be able to play most games online with their friends and foes. Certain free-to-play titles, like "Blacklight: Retribution" and "DC Universe Online," however, will be accessible to the hoi polloi.
Limits on recording video
The FAQ also touches on the ability to record and share gameplay footage, and the feature is not as robust as many game video producers had initially hoped. The system will automatically keep in a cache the last 15 minutes of whichever game you're playing. You can then choose to upload and share this footage via Facebook (but not YouTube).
Aside from setting starting and ending points, though, your editing options are fairly limited. You can't add narration (unless you were speaking into a headset while you were playing), and you can't copy your footage over to a PC for editing, although Sony has stated that this functionality will arrive in the future.
The good points
Otherwise, all the good stuff is still good: The system has a large launch library with a number of Sony exclusives. Vita owners can stream PS4 games to their handheld systems to free up the big screen. The PlayStation Camera is totally optional, and offers some fun augmented-reality games, if you choose to invest in it.
One final thing to keep in mind: While many PS4 games are enormous, you won't be required to download or install each game before you can start playing it. Certain games, like "Killzone: Shadow Fall," will let you start playing before the installation is complete.
Beyond that, check the FAQ if you have a specific question. Alternatively, wait two weeks, buy a PS4, and see for yourself what it can and can't do.
UPDATE: Based on Sony's Software Usage Terms, we've added some additional information on privacy and reselling games:
Section 14 of the PS4's Software Usage Terms is titled "Are we monitoring PSN?" This details how Sony keeps track of users and user-generated media (UGM), including but not limited to written messages, voice messages and uploaded videos.
At present, neither Sony nor any publisher has announced any plans to put restrictions on reselling games. By purchasing a PS4 and its associated software, though, you are agreeing to let Sony restrict how you sell your games if it ever so chooses.