Sony’s PlayStation 4 has been on the market for over four years now and in that time, it’s managed to carve out a reputation as the number one gaming console of its generation. With over 76 million units sold worldwide, the PS4 has built an impressive install base and much of that can be attributed to its reputation as a “games first” console. It’s not controversial to say that the PS4 has the best exclusives lineup in gaming right now (although the Nintendo Switch is rapidly starting to catch up) but as with most gaming hardware these days, the PS4 can do much more than just play games. While playing games remain the PS4’s primary (and best) function, Sony’s console has a lot of nifty features under the hood that aren’t always given enough attention. While playing the latest games, you might want to spend some time delving into these really cool features that you may have missed.
Note: For simplicity’s sake, we’ve decided to only highlight features that are possible on ALL iterations of the PS4 hardware. That means that there won’t be any PS4 Pro-exclusive features discussed on this list. If you’re curious about what the benefits of the Pro over the standard PlayStation 4, TechRadar has an in-depth guide breaking down all the differences that you should really check out.
21. Import Custom Wallpapers via USB
If you’re into customizing your PS4 Home Screen but would rather have your own wallpaper rather than one of the ones Sony has available in the PlayStation Store, you can now import your own images from a USB stick and set them as your console’s wallpaper. The best part is you don’t need to worry about the image not scaling properly, as you can zoom and crop images so they appear correctly on the dashboard. To access this feature, go to Settings > Themes > Select Theme > Custom > Select Image > USB Storage Device.
20. PS Plus Tab
If you’ve had a PlayStation Plus subscription for awhile now, it’s a safe bet that you’ve accumulated a pretty substantial collection of free monthly games. Keeping track of which games you’ve actually purchased and which ones you got through PS Plus can get a bit confusing but fortunately, Sony’s added a tab that clarifies which games in your library are from PS Plus. The tab is located in the sidebar on the Library screen and if your PS Plus membership has expired, a lock icon will appear next to any free games to let you know you can’t access them unless you re-subscribe. Not the coolest feature, sure, but a handy one all the same.
19. Play Time Management
Alright, so parental features don’t exactly scream “cool” but for any PS4 owners with young gamers, the console’s ability to monitor and manage a child’s playtime really is nifty (and useful!). Introduced in the 5.50 system software update, Play Time Management has a number of options that allow parents/guardians to better manage their child’s gaming time. You can check to see your child’s playtime each day and if necessary, set a playtime restriction to ensure they’re only playing for a set amount of time, or within a specific set of hours. Notifications are then sent to the child while they’re playing to let them know when they should save or quit. These settings can also be monitored and changed via smartphone or PC. To set up Play Time Management, simply go to Settings > Family Management on your PS4.
18. Create A Device Link With Your TV
One handy feature that is buried in the PS4’s menu options is the ability to create a device link between your TV and PS4. It’s called HDMI Device Link and it basically allows you to turn on both your TV and PS4 by pressing the PS button on your controller. Most Smart TV manufacturers support this feature, but you can still do a Google search for your specific model to see if it’s supported. You’ll have to enable HDMI CEC on your TV first and then t’s just a matter of going to the PS4’s System Settings and enabling HDMI Device Link.
17. Appear Offline
Having consoles connected to the internet at all times is both a blessing and a curse for a multitude of reasons. For instance, while it’s great to always be connected to your friends and be able to hop into a game or chat with them with the press of a button, sometimes you just want to be left alone to play in peace, without interruptions. For times like this, the “appear offline” status option is a godsend but for whatever reason, it took the PS4 a few years to get it, so there’s a good chance you didn’t even know it was there!
To change your status to offline, simply highlight your profile on the profile selection screen and hit the options button. A window will pop up with the option to log in with your status set as offline, so you can proceed to play without the threat of having to engage in any unwanted social interactions.
16. Listen To Your Spotify Playlist While Gaming
Custom soundtracks were a big deal back when the original Xbox came out, but listening to your music while playing games has become one of those features that few of us give much thought to. That’s kind of a shame because things have come a long way since the days when you had to rip your CDs to your Xbox hard drive in order to have access to custom soundtracks. With the PS4’s Spotify app, you can make custom soundtracks to your heart’s content and the app will still run while you’re playing a game, meaning that you can access pretty much unlimited music while you game; a welcome feature if you’re sick of the in-game soundtrack of whatever title you happen to be playing.
15. External Hard Drive Support
We’ll admit that this may not sound much like an “awesome feature” but the fact that the PS4 actually has external hard drive support now after years of going without is a pretty big deal. When the PS4 launch, the only way to upgrade the system’s storage space was to swap out the internal drive. Not only are internal hard drives generally more expensive than external ones, but because the PS4 only supported 2.5″ inch drives, you were pretty much capped at a 2 terabyte drive limit. Fortunately, the 4.50 firmware update released in March 2017 fixed this issue by finally adding external drive support, thereby increasing the PS4’s storage capacity potential considerably. Sure, swapping out internal drives isn’t all that complicated, but if you don’t mind a bit more clutter in your entertainment setup, plugging in an external drive is the way to go.
14. PS4 To PC Streaming
Remote Play through the PlayStation Vita has been one of the most highly-touted PS4 features since the console’s launch, but Sony went one step further earlier this year when they added the ability to stream PS4 games to PC. It works pretty much the same as it does on Vita, where you can operate your PS4 on any PC in your home as long as both are on the same wireless network; you just need to download the Remote Play app from Sony. The update also now makes it possible to use PS4 controllers on a PC or Mac as long as they’re connected through a USB cable. While this isn’t a feature many PS4 owners are likely to ever use, it’s great for anyone who doesn’t own a second TV or just needs an alternate screen once in awhile when the TV is being used by someone else in the house.
13. Share Button Customization
The Share button is one of the PS4’s most significant features, allowing users to instantly save and broadcast screenshots and video of their gaming sessions. The default functionality of the Share button is that a short press will display the Share menu, with options to save a screenshot or video clip, while a long press (one second or more) will take a screenshot without displaying the menu or saving a video. The button can also be double pressed to set a start point for video recording. The neat thing is that the button’s functionality can be changed in the [Share Settings] menu; so if you want a quick press to take a screen shot instead, you can change it to do so.
12. Trophy Rarity
Trophies are little rewards doled out to players in every game for specific achievements and were carried over from the PlayStation 3. In one of Sony’s frequent firmware updates, trophy rarity was introduced. Now, players can see what percentage of other players have earned a given trophy for each game. The lower the percentage, the rarer the trophy. It’s not exactly a breakthrough feature, but it’s a nice little detail that helps make the already dangerously addictive hunt for trophies even more so.
11. Typing Made Easier
The Dualshock 4 controller is a device for playing games, but it doesn’t exactly offer an ideal typing experience. While the most obvious solution would be to attach a full keyboard, this isn’t always going to be practical. Thankfully, Sony implemented a feature that makes use of the Dualshock’s built-in gyroscope that, with a bit of practice, makes typing with a controller much quicker. Simply hit R3 and use the on-screen cursor to make typing less of a headache.
10. PlayStation App on Mobile
The PlayStation smartphone app isn’t exactly a feature of the console itself, but it’s still worth highlighting because of its usefulness. The app allows users to access their PS4 from wherever they are and can perform functions like sending messages, purchasing content through the PlayStation Store, and even turning mobile devices into a 2nd screen for the PS4. The App has been available since the console’s launch, but it doesn’t seem to get much attention. It won’t change your life, but any PlayStation fan should give it a download on their phone.
9. PlayStation Live
On the PS4’s dashboard, any highlighted game will show little advertisements for live streams of that game. It’s easy to ignore these stream windows, but the Playstation Live functionality is actually a really cool feature. Basically, you don’t need to log into Twitch or other streaming services on your PC to watch streams because they can all be accessed from the PS4 dashboard. There’s even an option to start the game and stream it yourself if you like what you see. PlayStation Live isn’t the most thrilling feature, but it’s a good example of the highly-touted social functionality of the PS4.
8. Share Factory
Being able to share your games with other people is all well and good, but you probably won’t get many views if your videos don’t look very good. Share Factory is a free editing app on PlayStation Store that allows users to spruce up their recorded game videos. Options include being able to add commentary, soundtracks, and a variety of effects. Going 1 step further, users who want to get into streaming in a big way can add intros and outros to each video. Share Factory is one of those apps you’d probably skip over, but it actually has a lot of useful functionality.
7. Application Quick Swap
The Dualshock 4 inherited the PS button from the PS3’s controller, but its functionality has been greatly improved on the PS4. The button is mainly used for accessing the system’s dashboard, but one of the neat hidden features of the button is its ability to quickly swap between two applications. By double-tapping the button, you can instantly switch between the two most recently used applications, saving time in the process. The quick swap falls into the category of a barely mentioned function that nonetheless improves the user experience.
6. The Library
The Library was a post-launch addition to the PS4 that handily gathers every single game tied to a user’s account. The great things about this app is that it not only organizes all of your games in an easily-accessible format, but also shows any games you may have purchased, but not downloaded yet. This ends up being really handy for PS Plus subscribers who have a large backlog of free games that they may have forgotten about, as they will still appear in the Library, even if you’ve never downloaded or played them.
5. Controller Headphone Jack
One of the PS4’s most useful functions that seems like a no-brainer in retrospect is the addition of a headphone jack on the Dualshock 4. Thanks to this simple addition, any pair of headphones can be plugged into the controller to hear game audio, eliminating the hassle of plugging them into a TV. Headsets with voice-chat capability can also be plugged into the jack, which means that a Sony-branded headset isn’t actually necessary in order to use voice communications. Nifty!
4. Game Footage Voiceover
Using the Share button and posting a video is really cool, but this function goes so much deeper than just being able to post to Facebook. Believe it or not, the PS4 enables users to stream their videos while giving audio commentary with the use of a headset. PC streamers have long had this ability, so it’s nice to see that Sony supports this on their console, eliminating the need to fiddle with complicated audio equipment.
3. Voice Commands
The Xbox One’s voice command functionality got a lot of attention when that system was 1st announced, which makes it surprising that Sony didn’t really publicize the fact that the PS4 had very similar functionality. Once voice commands are enabled in the options menu, most primary functions can be operated through voice, including starting games, selecting different apps, and browsing the internet. This is definitely one hidden PS4 feature you’ll want to check out.
2. Vita Remote Play (also can be used as a controller)
One of the most highly-touted PS4 features has been Remote Play with Sony’s handheld system, the Vita, and for good reason. Remote play allows users to operate their PS4 with the Vita, effectively making every PS4 game playable on the Vita as well. The PS3 had a similar feature, but it never worked very well. Remote Play on the PS4, in contrast, is the real deal, and is actually really useful. The only main problem (besides the fact that Vita’s controls don’t tranlate to some games well) is that a very good internet connection is required on both ends, meaning that it’s only truly operable when used on your home internet connection. Still, features like Remote Play will only get better as internet speeds continue to improve.
One of the most recent additions to the PS4’s feature list is Shareplay, which is probably the coolest thing you can do on the console. Basically, you can now share your game with your friends in a number of ways; they can watch while you play or even take control of the game from their own system. Some games, like Far Cry 4, even take this 1 step further by allowing a player’s friend to play the game without even needing a copy of their own. No other feature better exemplifies the PS4’s commitment to social play and this feature will likely only expand and improve with time.
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