PS4 vs Xbox One: which is better?
1st Sep 2014 | 08:55
Sony PlayStation 4 sales surpass 10 million, but Microsoft is still in the game
Introduction and design
Update: Our PS4 vs Xbox One comparison considers Microsoft's price drop and how it contrasts with Sony's specs, games and graphics power headed into the holidays.
PlayStation 4 has surpassed 10 million units sold worldwide, while Microsoft's latest numbers indicate just 5 million Xbox One systems have sold.
Microsoft is mounting a come-from-behind campaign, adding more "Only on Xbox" games to its library this year to join must-have next-gen exclusive Titanfall. It also has the sole console with EA Access.
- Order Xbox One now from: Amazon | Zavvi | Tesco | GAME
- Order PS4 now from: Amazon | Zavvi | Tesco | GAME
Sony, meanwhile, is preparing PS4 for a streaming and virtual reality future with PlayStation Now and Oculus Rift-challenger Project Morpheus. Games like Uncharted 4 and The Order 1886 are set for 2015.
Of course, both companies claim to have the advantage in powering gamers through the next decade. To see if that's true, our Xbox One vs PS4 comparison needs an update.
Xbox One vs PS4 hardware design
Deciding between PS4 and Xbox One is like peeling back an onion, and it starts with the outermost layer, the hardware 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 vs 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 internal 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
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, the Xbox One June update finally allowed gamers to add external storage to the monster-sized system. There are strings attached. The drive needs to be 256GB or larger and USB 3.0.
External storage isn't an option that Sony supports in its "go big or go home" internal approach.
Xbox One review
Our first impressions of Microsoft's new Kinect-powered games machine.
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.
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.
Microsoft claims that as of June's Xbox One update, Kinect-free games canreclaim 10% of the GPU that was reserved for system level processing like Kinect-related skeletal tracking data. But developers still have to take advantage of this cache in new games or patch titles.
Right now, the PS4 specs make room for 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 RAM 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
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 these two 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.
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 $499 for the system, Xbox One controller and Kinect.
An official Xbox One price drop has made this comparison a moot point going forward. The new list price is £349 without Kinect included.
That's the same price as the PS4 UK and US and, in an appropriately backwards move, actually cheaper in Oz. Xbx One now costs AU$499, while PS4 still costs AU$549 there.
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 countries like India, Japan and Turkey until September.
What's in the box?
There's more value in the Xbox One Kinect bundle, accounting for some of the original price difference, so it's important to dive deeper into what's included and, of course, what's not included in the box.
At launch, Xbox Ones came with the console, a controller. and the Kinect camera. These systems also had "Day One 2013" emblazoned on the cardboard box and at the center of the controller.
That's a nice perk for Xbox loyalists, though not worth the premium they paid. Subsequent Xbox One bundles included Titanfall for the same price, while newer, cheaper systems make Kinect optional.
All Xbox One boxes 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 price difference between the PS4 and Xbox One was a sticking point for gamers over the lasts seven months. Microsoft reshaped the argument at E3 2014 with price-matched Kinect-free Xbox One. The question is, will gamers bite?
Controller and cameras
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.
The good news is that the new 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.
The camera's 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.
Xbox One Kinect is certainly powerful, it just needs more games. Right now, there are few reasons to keep the 1080p camera plugged in.
There's a free Kinect Sports Rivals demo that's fun, and the full version just came out. It also supports two Xbox-exclusive workout games, Just Dance 2014 and upcoming Harmonix titles Fantasia: Music Evolved and Dance Central Spotlight. Fighter Within, though, is far from playable.
PS4 doesn't have as much to offer at this point either, 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 often sold out.
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 playing Call of Duty-style first-person shooters in which you double jump with a jetpack, wall-run and hop into a giant mech.
Xbox One 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 (by a month) held over PS4 gamers' heads. The same Xbox first policy applies to Call of Duty: Advance Warfighter.
Xbox One games in development include the Halo 5: Guardians, 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 remakes like The Last of Us and digitally distributed indie games.
Resogun and Mercenary Kings were really driving up the points for PlayStation Plus in our book. They were free in April 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 came to Sony's console in April and May. Outlast from Red Barrels Studio made the PC-to-PS4 transition in February.
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, in the future, every console would act as a developer kit.
We're still waiting on this "free Xbox One dev kit," a potential game-changer when PS4 developer kits cost thousands of dollars. Until that shift happens, Sony has the attention of the indie developer crowd thanks to its early lead.
Apps and 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.
In the UK, both systems share Netflix, Crackle, Amazon Instant Video (formerly Lovefilm) and Demand5.
Exclusive Xbox One apps 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's UK app offering. Sony's console features BBC iPlayer, BBC Sports and BBC News, VidZone and Sony's Music Unlimited and Videos Unlimited services. More PS4 apps are expected this summer, including Sky Now TV and Sky Go.
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.
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.
Right now, Sony has rolled out a PlayStation Now public beta in the US with streaming games like The Last of Us, God of War: Ascension, Dead Space 3 and Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes on the PS4.
Sony plans to expand its Gaikai-based video game streaming service to the UK in 2015. It'll also make the streaming software available on PS2, PS Vita and even Bravia TVs, and add PlayStation and PS2 games to the PS3-only lineup.
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 old 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 console generation, whereas PS3 gamers got to log into matches Scott-Free.
Sony sadly moved closer to Microsoft in this way, while Microsoft moved closer to Sony by tearing down the Xbox Live app paywall. You no longer have to subscribe to stream Netflix and other apps.
Microsoft also supports MP3 and DLNA playback with the Xbox One, whereas Sony neglected to add such compatibility. It's promised to rectify that in a future firmware update, but hasn't supplied us with an update in several months.
The PS4 vs Xbox One comparison has evolved in the last ten months, mostly because Microsoft's plans have shifted, from Xbox One price drops to more lenient paywall policies to graphics specs upgrades.
These two next-generation consoles are now on a more even video game playing field, which means Sony and Microsoft are going to start throwing Uncharted 4 to Halo 5 Guardians at you, and that's a win for all gamers.