Next-gen is upon us at last; later this month, we'll finally get our hands on both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One and be able to see once and for all what both systems have to offer -- and if Nintendo's Wii U will be able to compete.
There's still work to do ahead of those release dates, however, and we can probably expect to continue enjoying a gradual trickle of new information in the run-up to release. Today is no exception, as there are three separate PlayStation 4 and Xbox One-related stories to share, each of which show how Sony and Microsoft are preparing for their respective big days. Let's take a look.
Vita Prepares Itself for PS4
Sony's Vita handheld, while excellent, has continually struggled to attain as much traction as its biggest rival the 3DS. It's been improving considerably in recent months, thanks in part to Sony's sterling work courting and supporting independent developers, but it's been clear for a while that the company believes the handheld will really come into its own once PlayStation 4 is on the market.
Vita took a big step towards its new life as a second-screen and Remote Play device for PlayStation 4 today with the release of Firmware 3.0 for the system -- chief among the new additions is a new "PS4 Link" app that allows you to control a PlayStation 4 from your Vita, play PS4 games via Remote Play, and also to make use of second-screen features in those games that support it. You can still also Remote Play those PS3 games that support it; the old "Remote Play" app on Vita's home screen has been renamed "PS3 Remote Play" to distinguish it from the new PS4 features.
The new firmware also provides support for PlayStation 4 trophies -- PS3trophies.org spotted Battlefield 4 yesterday -- and automatic downloads of software updates, as well as Wi-Fi transfer of content from Vita to PS3.
Social features have also been tweaked somewhat, with the Group Messaging app now simply called Messages, and able to exchange messages with PS4 or mobile devices equipped with the PlayStation app. The Party app now allows voice and text chat with friends on PlayStation 4 as well as Vita, and you can sync Gmail and Yahoo contacts to your Vita on the off-chance you've ever used it to send an email. The Friends app has also been improved for better organization and to allow player searches, and a Parental Controls app has been added, allowing parents to limit play time, access to age-restricted content and access to features such as the Internet browser and location data.
Finally, the system camera now allows you to take panoramic photos, then pan around them using the Vita's motion sensor. Vita's camera isn't brilliant, so this is more a curio than anything else, but it's fun to show off with.
Firmware 3.0 should be available now.
Sony Brags About PS4's Tech Specs
Staying with Sony for now, the company has released a new trailer for PlayStation 4, largely designed seemingly to fuel the interminably tedious message board wars over technical specifications. Still, if nothing else it's interesting to see the important parts of the PS4's specs broken down in a very clear manner; we knew most of these specs already, but this is an obvious statement of "look how powerful our machine is" on Sony's part.
In case you were wondering and haven't watched the video, the PS4 is equipped with 8GB of GDDR5 RAM; a Blu-Ray drive that reads Blu-Ray discs at 6x speed and DVDs at 8x speed constant angular velocity, which means the drive spins the disc at the same speed regardless of which part is being read; a built-in 500GB hard drive; a custom x86-64 AMD processor with a 1.84 TFLOPS AMD Radeon graphics processor; HDMI and optical digital AV output; connectivity via "Super-Speed USB" (USB 3.0), 802.11b/g/n wireless networking, Ethernet wired networking, Bluetooth 2.1 and an "aux" port designed for the PlayStation Camera.
For comparison's sake, the Xbox One also has an x86 AMD CPU; 8GB of system memory; a 500GB hard drive; a Blu-Ray drive; 802.11n-compatible wireless networking; Ethernet; HDMI and optical outputs; and USB 3.0. There's really not a lot in it specs-wise -- though Microsoft has kept quiet about a few specific details here and there. The more important comparisons will come after launch, though: how well developers can take advantage of the two systems. Indeed, we've already seen how Infinity Ward struggled for parity between the PS4 and Xbox One versions of Call of Duty: Ghosts due to variations in how the two boxes do things and manage their hardware, so it will be interesting to see how multi-platform titles will compare between the two platforms.
As we get closer to the release of the new consoles, don't forget to check out our features on the best Xbox One and PlayStation 4 launch titles, and stay tuned to USgamer in the coming weeks for our thoughts on the next generation as it gets well and truly underway.