(Pocket-lint) - Sony has had huge success with the PlayStation 4 since its launch two years ago, trouncing rival Xbox One in sales figures globally. But while it has been considered the ultimate current gen games machine - even by Sony with its "this is for the players" tagline - its competition has consistently garnered more headlines for all-round entertainment.
This is something Sony and the PlayStation team are keen to address.
The primary use of a PS4 will undoubtedly still be to play games on, but as a living room machine it is capable of doing much more. Some features that were lacking on launch, when it was targeted at hardcore gamers more often than not, are now present thanks to new apps or firmware updates. And we've been using our console here at Pocket-lint for many things other than play Destiny on (although, to be honest, that too).
Here are some of the things a PS4 offers that aren't part of its gaming DNA - reasons you will consider it as your next home entertainment machine rather than just a console. And with the new 1TB option, there's plenty of storage to ensure you can fit all your games and plenty of media content on board too.
1. Media streaming
One of the features most missed on launch was the ability to stream and playback video and music files over a home network - after all, it was something the PlayStation 3 was able to do for many years beforehand. It seemed strange that it wasn't possible to begin with.
However, from June an update added the ability to stream content on the PS4 through a new application simply called Media Player. And what's more, it is far better than the PS3 was capable of.
Sony's new Media Player app is capable of streaming a vast collection of file types stored on a home server, Mac or PC, all over the home network wired or wirelessly. It includes AVI (as always), but also MKV and MP4 video files. Even MPEG-2 video can be played.
In addition, MP3 and AAC (M4A) music files can be streamed, as well as JPEG, BMP and PNG images too.
Files can be presented through lists or in the more common PS4 tile format, and if they are of video or picture origin, you also get a thumbnail for each.
If you want a more in-depth and content rich media streaming experience, you might want to check out the PS4 version of the Plex application.
Plex is essentially a media server service with dedicated server software stored on a Mac, PC or NAS drive which not only handles conversion of file types a device can't play naturally, but sorts all videos into categories with cover art and rich metadata automatically applied. This essentially turns your home media collection into Netflix - of sorts.
The Plex player app for PS4 isn't as advanced as on some devices yet - it's fairly early days in its development at present. But it still gives access to the movie collection with all the art and details at your fingertips. We also love the "Watch Later" feature where you can tag online content on video sites, such as YouTube, using a browser and then watch them through Plex on a big TV.
3. PlayStation Music with Spotify
Having ditched its own Music Unlimited streaming service, Sony decided to partner with Spotify for the PS3 and PS4. It's a genius move as not can you use a Spotify Premium or free account on a PS4 to playback any of the millions of tracks available, you can also play them in the background of most games.
4. Sky Go support
As well as a Now TV application for subscribers to Sky's streaming only solution, the PS4 has an app - TV From Sky - that gives access to the broadcaster's Sky Go service.
That means Sky TV subscribers can access the channels and catch-up content they pay for as part of their TV package, but in a separate room and streamed over the internet without needing to invest in Sky's own second room set-up.
Even the sports and movie channels are available through the app, if you subscribe to them through Sky already.
We will say though, if you don't subscribe to Sky, a standalone Sky Go subscription is a pricey way of getting the channels. You'll be better off taking a no-contract Now TV subscription instead.
5. USB playback
Prior to adding media streaming through a home network, Sony added the ability to play music files through USB. You can now play the same music and video files through an external USB stick or hard drive plugged into one of the console's ports.
You will need to make sure the stick or drive is formatted to Fat32 rather than NTFS, but you can store your video files anywhere on the drive as long as they are in a folder. You don't need to put them into specific folders, but they can't just be plonked on at top level. You are advised to put music files into a folder labelled "music" though for the PS4 to filter them correctly and recognise them as music files.
All of the media files can be played through the Media Player app, like with streamed content. But for music stored on a USB device, you will also get a built-in USB Music Player app pop up as soon as you plug it in.
Like with the PlayStation Music/Spotify service, you can play music stored on a USB device in the background while you play a game.
6. Bravia TV Player
Owners of specific Sony Bravia TVs can use their DualShock 4 controllers to control their televisions as well as the normal TV remote. The dedicated app, which must be downloaded for free first, also enables gamers to jump from playing to watching TV by just tapping a button the the controller.
You can find out which TVs are supported here.
7. PlayMemories Online
PlayMemories Online is a free picture cloud service run by Sony that can store and organise photos automatically uploaded from an Xperia smartphone or other Android and iOS devices. Owners of Sony cameras with built-in wi-fi can also choose to upload their snaps. And there are PlayMemories Home apps for Windows and Mac to import and sort images through computers.
The PS4 can then access the entire library to view them on a big screen through the dedicated application.
8. 3D Blu-ray
The PS4 has been able to play back Blu-rays and 3D Blu-rays from the middle of last year. Indeed, it is a better 3D Blu-ray player than most dedicated machines on the market.
9. Dolby Atmos
Unlike the Xbox One, the PlayStation 4 is able to output Blu-ray audio as a direct bitstream feed. This means that discs with Dolby Atmos soundtracks can play in that format through compatible amplifiers and set-ups, giving the extra height channels to the movie experience.
It's an option that you can only select when a Blu-ray is playing as it's not accessible from the main settings screen.
After a Blu-ray disc has been inserted and is running, press the options button on the controller and you'll get a menu pop up at the bottom of the screen. Scroll along to settings and from there you can choose "Linear PCM" or "Bitstream (Direct)" from the audio options. Choose the latter and Dolby Atmos audio will be sent to a supporting receiver, such as the Onkyo TX-NR838.
10. TV box sets
Finally, and this is probably the most obvious one seeing as most connected devices have access to a digital store or two, you can buy movies and television shows from the same PlayStation Store as you can digital copies of games.
We particularly like the way that entire TV box sets are placed front and centre though, making it easy to make a decision on what show to binge on next. And with what seems like the entire HBO back catalogue (well, the most important ones at least, such as The Wire, Game of Thrones and True Detective) there's plenty of choice.
Playback of bought content - which appears in the PlayStation Video - My Videos app - is smooth and almost instant.
So there you have it, plenty of reasons why the PlayStation 4 is not just a games console but a valid competitor in the battle to be the hub of a family home entertainment set-up. And if you have already bought the 500GB model, you can even upgrade the hard drive to 1TB yourself. Check out our handy guide on how to do it.