With the Sony PlayStation 4 releasing across North America this past Friday, the next generation of gaming is finally here. As expected, the graphics and gameplay are a major step forward, but what else might be hiding in the depths of this powerful machine? Now that we've had some time to sit down and explore, we wanted to share with you our top five features that you don't want to miss.

5.) Start a Party

Online gaming has become a very big part of our social lives. In fact, many of us likely call at least one person we've never met a friend. Starting a Party on the PS4 will allow you to use voice communication with up to eight people. This feature is cross-game, so even if you and your friends don't play the same titles, you can still hang out and chat. You'll need a microphone and headset to get this rolling, but you're in luck, the PS4 comes with a microphone and ear buds that can be connected to your DualShock 4 controller.

4.) Parental Controls

If you're young enough, this might not be a feature you're looking forward to, but parents are going to view this as a welcome addition to the PS4. You can now set access restrictions on the games that are played, discs that are used and even the Internet browser. Since we all know that kids are top notch when it comes to circumventing such restrictions, the access code will help you to keep things locked up as tightly as you wish.

3.) Social Networking Integration

Although the PS3 could connect to your Facebook account, things were limited with a very unfriendly format. You can still connect your Facebook account, but now it updates as you play. You can choose to publish as little or as much as you want. You can even choose who can see this information. Although linking Twitter doesn't offer the same customization, linking these two accounts will allow you to share content from the games you're playing in real time.

You can set this feature up under Settings > PSN > Link with Other Services.

2.) Live From PlayStation

Something that we noticed very early on in our time with the PS4 is that everything is connected, or a simple button push away from being connected. This feature allows you to check out the games that other PS4 players are live streaming. Operating much the same way that Twitch.tv does, you can view your favorite games, leave a comment for the player and even launch into your own game from the same location. Maybe you're thinking of picking up a game but want to see it in action first? This feature is perfect for you.

1.) The Share Button

This feature is very much connected to our number two choice, but this time around, you're the one providing the content. Up until now, anyone who wanted to share their in-game content with others needed an external device to capture gameplay. The PS4 will now allow you to capture your game play and broadcast it to a service like Twitch.tv if you connected your accounts. Even more simple, maybe you just found something rather funny and want to take a screenshot. You can do that too. The Share button on the DualShock 4 controller is just above the directional pad. Push it once, choose how you want to share your content and you're done, simple as that.

There you have it, a quick rundown of our top five favorite features of the PlayStation 4. If you're curious as to why we didn't include the Playroom, we wanted to stick with features that could be used without the need for peripherals. 

Be sure to jump into the comments and let us know what your favorite new PS4 feature is.