PS4 vs Xbox One: which is better?
8th Apr 2014 | 18:09
Sony PS4 and Microsoft Xbox One compare with specs, contrast with games
PS4 vs Xbox One: Introduction
Update: We retooled our PS4 vs Xbox One comparison with a focus on specs, graphics performance, new games and firmware updates.
Both Sony and Microsoft claim to have the advantage in powering gamers through the next decade. To see if that's true, our Xbox One vs PS4 comparison requires an update.
Xbox One gamers finally received Titanfall, a next-gen exclusive courtesy of ex-Call of Duty developers. It came out in late March and Xbox Live subscribers haven't stopped playing since.
We're not at a point where Xbox One and PS4 price drops mean that the average gamer can afford both, so it's important to go feature by feature and pick the best one.
- Order Xbox One now from: Amazon | Zavvi | Tesco | GAME
- Order PS4 now from: Amazon | Zavvi | Tesco | GAME
Xbox One vs PS4 design
Deciding between PS4 and Xbox One is like peeling back an onion, and it starts with the outermost layer, the design.
Xbox One's dimensions make it a menacing gaming beast that measures 13.5 in x 10.4 in x 3.2 in. It's also riddled with vents as to not overheat for another Red Ring of Death scenario.
It towers over every other device (though Microsoft advises not to stand it up vertically), and completely dwarfs our smallest home theater gadget, the app-filled Chromecast.
PS4 has a more distinctive angular shape with an overall stylish design. This half-matte half-gloss console measures a slimmer 10.8 in x 12 in x 2 in at its widest regions.
These dimensions make Sony's machine more media cabinet-friendly, at least next to Xbox One. The new Xbox also weighs a heftier 3.56 kg to PS4's 2.75 kg.
PS4 has the advantage of hiding ports too, though as we illustrated in our video comparison, this can actually make it harder to plug cables into the back of the system.
In this way, Xbox One represents functionality over form. A lot of the specs are comparable, but Microsoft and Sony really diverged when it came to the designs of Xbox One and PS4.
That may matter since you're buying into an expensive console that's going to sit front and center in your living room entertainment system for the next ten years.
Xbox One vs PS4 front and rear ports
PlayStation 4 review
We've fondled the hardware and we've played the games. Check out what we think of the PS4.
More clear cut is the wireless connectivity situation. PS4 makes room for gigabit ethernet and 802.11 WiFi bands b/g/n, while Xbox One includes all of that plus the older 802.11a band.
Xbox One also supports both the 2.4GHz and newer 5GHz channels that are compatible with dual band routers. PS4 limits connections to 2.4GHz, which is likely to have more interference.
Both systems have 500GB hard drives, but only PS4 allows user-replaceable internal drives. An Xbox One teardown found a standard-looking drive inside, but replacing it voids the warranty.
Instead, Xbox One owners will eventually be able to add external storage to their monster-sized system. That's not an option that Sony supports in its "go big or go home" internal approach.
PS4 and Xbox One are void of remarkable characteristics on the front. There's a Blu-ray/DVD combo drive to the left and their respective, muted-color logos to the right. PS3 has a pair of USB ports tucked between its sandwich-like halves next to where the disc drive is located.
Next gen reviews
Xbox One review
Our first impressions of Microsoft's new Kinect-powered games machine.
It's all around back for Xbox One. That's where it has two USB ports (a third port is on the side), HDMI in, HDMI out, S/PDIF for digital audio, a proprietary Xbox One Kinect port, an IR blaster connection and an Ethernet port. To the far right is a K-lock in case you want to lug this system around to LAN parties.
Sony went with a minimalist approach when it came to PS4's rear ports. You'll only find an HDMI out, S/PDIF, Ethernet and PS4 camera port (marked "AUX") around back.
Xbox One is more feature-packed in this area thanks to its HDMI in and IR blaster connections used for its TV cable or satellite box functionality. PS4 lacks this passthrough technology, opting to stick with gaming as its top priority.
Is PS4 or Xbox more powerful?
PS4 and Xbox One multiply the power of Xbox 360 and PS3. More importantly, they were built with smarter internal designs, drawing from mistakes of last-generation consoles.
Chip manufacturer AMD benefitted the most from these upgrades. Xbox One has a custom 1.75GHz AMD 8-core CPU, a last-minute upgrade over its original 1.6GHz processor.
The PS4 CPU remained clocked at 1.6GHz and contains a similar custom AMD 8-core CPU with x86 based architecture.
This represents a roughly 10% increase in processing power for Xbox One, but the opposite is true when it comes to the all-important graphics processor.
PS4 boasts a 1.84 teraflop GPU that's based on AMD's Radeon technology. The Xbox One graphics chip, also with an AMD Radeon GPU, has a pipeline for 1.31 teraflops.
To that point, the PS4 specs make room for much faster graphics rendering than Xbox One, especially when combined with Sony's choice in superior system memory.
Best PS4 vs Xbox One specs for RAM
Even more controversial is the memory under the consoles' matte black hoods. It's not the amount of memory at issue - both are future-proofed with 8GB of RAM - it's the type used.
PS4 has a distinct advantage with faster 8GB GDDR5 memory, while Xbox One went with the slower bandwidth of the 8GB DDR3 variety. But, wait, there's more to it.
Neither system allocates all of that RAM to game developers - some is reserved to run their operating systems.
PS4 reserves up to 3.5GB for its operating system, leaving developers with 4.5GB, according to documentation. They can sometimes access an extra 1GB of "flexible" memory when it's available, but that's not guaranteed.
Xbox One's "guaranteed memory" amounts to a slightly higher 5GB for developers, as Microsoft's multi-layered operating system takes up a steady 3GB. It eeks out a 0.5GB win with more developer-accessible memory than PS4, unless you factor in Sony's 1GB of "flexible" memory at times. Then it's 0.5GB less.
The PS4 and Xbox One specs have similar AMD architecture at their core, but contrast like apples and oranges when it comes to memory. Only developers can determine how this battle is won.
PS4 vs Xbox One: Graphics comparison
PS4 vs Xbox One graphics comparison
Putting all of these specs to the test, developers have had months to build and demo games to us. We're finally seeing the side-by-side results.
The graphics comparison between multi-console games, like the recently released Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeros, have given us the best PS4 vs Xbox One graphics benchmarks.
A gameplay video on YouTube of MGS5: Ground Zeros pans between the four versions of the game with a definitive answer.
The conclusion is that there's slightly more clarity to the PS4 version. Specifically, more distant textures and moving objects appear softer among the otherwise identical Xbox One visuals.
It's a trend we're seeing from PS4 games that achieve a 1080p resolution at 30 or 60 frames per second when their Xbox One counterparts run at 720p or 900p at 30 or 60fps.
That's the case with Assassin's Creed, Call of Duty: Ghosts, The Witcher 2 and Thief. It's even more evident in Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition where it's 60fps on PS4 vs 30fps on Xbox One.
Battlefield 4 is one of the few PS4 games with a native resolution of 900p. Alas, it was still just 720p on Xbox One. Not that it matters. Both versions were plagued with glitches for months.
This is in no way a deal-breaker for the Xbox One, and here's why. First, it's almost impossible to tell the difference without a side-by-side comparison.
Second, everyone's hopeful that as developers mature with the new consoles, the gap will close and games on both systems will prove what next-generation gaming is all about.
DirectX12 could make that a reality, with Microsoft promising a preview version of its Direct3D 12 graphics toolset by the end of the year. It could make up for the slower DDR3 RAM.
Third, the differences are more noticeable in the Xbox One and PS4 graphics comparisons that include Xbox 360 and PS3. Both Microsoft and Sony leave their last-generation graphics chip architecture and RAM limitations behind, and it shows.
PS4 vs Xbox One: Price
Xbox One vs PS4 price difference
It's expensive to be an early adopter, and the PS4 and Xbox One prices proves just that in each of the countries the systems have launched.
The PS4 price was the more tempting deal at launch: £349 for the console and DualShock 4 controller. Xbox One was more expensive at £429 for the system, Xbox One controller and Kinect.
An official Xbox One price drop in the UK has made this comparison almost a moot point. The new list price is £399 and some UK retailers have an Xbox One bundle with Titanfall for £389.
There hasn't been a similar price drop in the US or Australia, but the Xbox One Titanfall bundle has been carried over to both territories.
The price difference gave Sony an early lead at face value, and gamers didn't seem to mind that the PS4 camera was a separate purchase. It's also the only console of the two available in Japan.
As shoppers know, however, PS4 was hard to come by early on. That lead to an increase in Xbox One sales over the holidays.
Microsoft's console was more readily available, possibly swaying some gamers and, more likely, parents eager to buy any next-generation gift in stock.
The next push for renewed Xbox One and PS4 sales could come during E3 2014, the annual Los Angeles-based video game event that often kicks off price drops. For next-gen holdouts, June can't come soon enough.
What's in the box?
There's more value in the Xbox One bundle, accounting for some of the price difference, so it's important to dive deeper into what's included and, of course, what's not included in the box.
Xbox One comes with the console, a controller, the Kinect camera and, if you purchased the recent bundle, Titanfall.
Its launch consoles originally came with "Day One 2013" emblazoned on the cardboard box and at the center of the controller. A nice perk for Xbox loyalists, though we're sure they would've rather had Titanfall.
The box also contains an HDMI cable, wired mono headset and stingy 14-day free trial for Microsoft's Xbox Live Gold online service. There's no USB charging cable, as the Xbox One controller uses batteries out-of-the-box.
Inside the PS4 box is the console and one DualShock 4 controller. Wires include an HDMI cable (Sony learned its lesson after backlash for not including one with the PS3) and a micro-USB cable for the controller.
Don't throw out the box right away. Tucked inside is a 30-day subscription to PlayStation Plus and a wired mono earbud, contrasting with the just-a-cheap Xbox One headset.
The difference between the PS4 and Xbox One box contents comes down to the camera. When Titanfall and Kinect are included with an Xbox One, its higher prices are negligible.
PS4 vs Xbox One: Controller and cameras
The most important aspects of the PS4 vs Xbox One controller comparison include comfort, size and battery life, but a lot of this is going to come down to personal preference.
The good news is that both conform to your hands better vs the less ergonomic Xbox 360 and PS3 versions.
The Xbox One vs Xbox 360 gamepad comparison illustrates some of the 40 design innovations like a tweaked D-Pad and extra rumble effect via "Impulse Triggers" in the shoulder buttons.
Our PS4 vs PS3 gamepad comparison shows even bigger improvements thanks to the fact that the DualShock 4 is larger this time around. Its handles are easier to grip in long gameplay sessions and its dual analog sticks have a recessed divot. Precision movement is now easier.
The PS4 controller's front touchpad and mono speaker are a unique way to interact with games, and developers are starting to find ways to adopt this technology into their controls schemes.
Which controller is better? There's a lot of satisfaction with the PS4 gamepad, but that may have more to do with people's surprise at how much more comfortable the DualShock 4 is compared to the DualShock 3. That wow factor may wear away soon.
The Xbox One vs PS4 controller comparison ends up being a matter of opinion. Some gamers are accustomed to Sony's parallel dual analog sticks, while plenty of others opt for offset analog sticks that have been part of the Xbox universe since the beginning.
Xbox One Kinect vs PS4 Camera
A robust games list for Xbox One Kinect and PS4 Camera has been slow to materialize, even though Microsoft and Sony insisted on sticking with controller-free camera inputs.
Right now, Xbox One Kinect offers more reason to keep the included 1080p camera plugged in. There's a free Kinect Sports Rivals demo that's fun, and the full version just came out.
The new Kinect also supports two Xbox-exclusive workout games, Fantasia: Music Evolved and Just Dance 2014. Fighter Within also makes use of the camera, but it's far from playable.
The added benefit is that Kinect technology is promising, tracking up to six skeletons at once and processing 2GB of data per second. It can pick up heart rates, facial expressions and 25 joints, thumbs included.
Its 60% wider field of vision compared to the Xbox 360 Kinect remedies the annoying "stand 6 feet away" error messages we experienced last time around.
PS4 doesn't have as much to offer at this point, but it's hard to find in stock. Formerly called the PlayStation Eye, it features two 1280x800px cameras in a body that's slimmer than the Kinect.
Unfortunately, the PS4 Camera games list is also slimmer. The included robot mini-game The Playroom has been updated since the console launch, but little else besides Just Dance 2014 requires the device.
In the future, Project Morpheus will utilize the PS4 Camera for virtual reality, but the a long-off prospect of VR games doesn't really explain why the camera is sold out.
PS4 vs Xbox One: Games
The best PS4 and Xbox One games
The PS4 and Xbox One games list is still under 100 and only a few of the new releases stand as exclusives that make deciding between the two matter.
The aforementioned Titanfall stands above all others if you're into Call of Duty-style first-person shooters in which you double jump with a jetpack, wall-run and hop into a giant mech.
Launch titles Dead Rising 3 and Ryse: Son of Rome provided over-the-top action early on, and Forza Motorsport 5 was the only first-party racing game at launch of either console.
Call of Duty: Ghosts, while not exclusive to Xbox One, has downloadable content (DLC) that is going to be a timed-exclusive (likely by a month) held over PS4 gamers' heads.
Xbox One games in development include the Halo 5, the next Gears of War game, Quantum Break, Sunset Overdrive and LittleBigPlanet-like Project Spark.
PS4 exclusive Infamous: Second Son couldn't match the groundswell of attention generated by the Titanfall beta, but it's superpower-filled gameplay is nonetheless entertaining.
Killzone: Shadow and Knack are the two Sony-made games that released on discs at launch, but the console is benefiting most from digitally distributed games and indie titles.
Resogun and Mercenary Kings are really driving up the points for PlayStation Plus in our book. They're free right now with a subscription to the Sony's paid service.
Further out, we're looking forward to The Order 1886, Uncharted 4 and The Witness the most. DriveClub is also still on our radar after being delayed from the PS4 launch lineup.
Indie games on PS4 and Xbox One
Our most-wanted PS4 games list doesn't end there because Sony got out in front of supporting independent game developers.
Octodad: Dadliest Catch from Young Horses and Transistor from Supergiant Games are coming to Sony's console. Outlast from Red Barrels Studio already made the PC-to-PS4 transition.
At first, Microsoft maintained that Xbox One games would need to be fronted by a publisher. That changed when the company announced that it would allow self-published games and every console would act as a dev kit.
A free dev kit sounds appealing, especially when PS4 developer kits cost thousands of dollars, but Sony has the attention of the indie developer crowd right now.
PS4 vs Xbox One: Apps + backward compatibility
Xbox One vs PS4 apps
The Xbox 360 and PS3 proved to be more than just gaming machines and Xbox One and PS4 are no different. Of course, most are shared across both platforms.
US gamers have access to Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, Crackle, Vudu and Redbox Instant along with baseball season newcomer MLB.TV.
In the UK, both systems share Netflix, Crackle, Amazon Instant Video (formerly Lovefilm) and Demand5.
Xbox One in the US corners the app-filled market with ESPN, Fox Now, FX Now, NFL, Ted, The CW, Twitch, Univision Deportes, Verizon FiOS TV and YouTube. It also has Microsoft's own Internet Explorer, OneDrive, Skype and Xbox Music and Xbox Video services.
Exclusive Xbox One apps in the UK include YouTube, Ted, Twitch and region-specific services like 4oD, Blinkbox, Eurosport, Muzu.tv, Sky's Now TV and Wuaki.tv. Microsoft-owned apps Internet Explorer, OneDrive, Skype and Xbox Music and Xbox Video are all here too.
That contrasts with PS4 in the US and UK. Sony's US console features Crunchyroll, Epix, NBA Game Time, NHL GameCenter Live, YuppTV, the WWE Network and the free music video playing app VidZone.
The UK has VidZone and the WWE Network too, plus BBC iPlayer, BBC Sports and BBC News. All regions have access to Sony's Music Unlimited and Videos Unlimited services.
In Australia, app-deprived gamers have access to VidZone and Quickflix and Sony's own apps. Xbox One delivers a better lineup: Crackle, MLB.TV, SBS ON DEMAND, Ted, TENplay, Twitch and YouTube as well as most of Microsoft's apps.
Each region is expected to see more niche apps as time goes on, so this is hardly the final list of apps for Xbox One and PS4. We're still waiting for a proper next-generation version of HBO Go, with the PS4 app said to be in the development now.
Are Xbox One vs PS4 backward compatible?
Sony and Microsoft keep teasing the ability to bring old games to their new systems in a variety of ways, but we're still waiting for Xbox One and PS4 backward compatibility.
Of course, it's unlikely to be free. Sony is rolling out PlayStation Now beta invites that so far have brought The Last of Us, God of War: Ascension, Puppeteer and Beyond: Two Souls to Bravia TVs and the PlayStation Vita.
As Sony expands its Gaikai-based video game streaming service to PS3 and PS4 and brings additional PlayStation, PS2 and last-generation games to it, we're likely to see a subscription of some sort for games we're more than willing to pay for to play again.
Microsoft could take the same route with Xbox One backward compatibility. The company is working on Xbox 360 emulation for the newer console, but doesn't have plans to bring it to fruition right now.
None of these options are here yet. That means you'll need to keep your Xbox 360 and PS3 in order to replay Halo 4 and Uncharted 3. You can't sell the systems, and that means people won't be able to readily buy them - they're more likely to purchase them directly from Microsoft and Sony.
Other PS4 and Xbox One differences
The look of the console, the feel of the controller and the appeal of the games list are the main differences from which consumers will decide on PS4 and Xbox One.
However, there are other factors at play one should consider before buying into a new system. It's a good idea to converse with friends, keeping mind of their potential bias.
Since there's no such thing as cross-platform multiplayer, you may be split up when playing Call of Duty on PS4 when all of your friends own it for Xbox One.
Both Microsoft and Sony are charging for multiplayer this generation, whereas PS3 gamers got to log into matches Scott-Free.
It should be noted that Sony graciously made streaming video content like Netflix, Hulu Plus and MLB.TV free to use on PS4. You won't be required to purchase a PlayStation Plus subscription if you don't want one. Only Microsoft is going to lock apps behind its Xbox Live paywall.
Microsoft, however, supports MP3 and DLNA playback with the Xbox One, whereas Sony neglected to add such compatibility. It's promising to rectify that in a future firmware update. The Xbox Live requirement for apps is likely to remain.
Next-generation console buyers who don't plan on paying the yearly fee and do plan on using the system for entertainment purposes may want to weigh that into their final decision.