PS4 vs Xbox One: which is better?
4th Jan 2014 | 10:04
Sony PS4 and Microsoft Xbox One compare with specs, contrast with price
However, the record-breaking sales haven't brought to light which new system will be favored over the next decade, so the Xbox One vs PS4 comparison needs an update.
That's good because we know a whole lot more about Microsoft and Sony's consoles today than we did when they were officially announced in early 2013.
With PS4 in hand and Xbox One in, well, two hands, we've extensively tested everything: the final specs, the graphics performance, right down to the latest firmware updates.
- Order Xbox One now from: Amazon | Zavvi | Tesco | GAME
- Order PS4 now from: Amazon | Zavvi | Tesco | GAME
Xbox One vs PS4 dimensions, design
Looks do matter when you're buying expensive electronics that are going to sit front and center in your living room entertainment system for the next ten years.
The hardware specs are comparable, but Microsoft and Sony really contrasted when it came to the designs of Xbox One and PS4.
Hands on: Xbox One review
Our first impressions of Microsoft's new Kinect-powered games machine.
Xbox One is a menacing gaming beast that looks like a black Monolith straight out of 2001: A Space Odyssey. It's 13.5 in x 10.4 in x 3.2 in and it's completely filled with vents. No Red Ring of Death this time around.
It towers over everything (though you're advised not to stand it up vertically), and completely dwarfs our smallest electronics like the app-filled Chromecast.
The PS4 presents a sleeker design that has a unique angular shape to it. The widest regions of Sony's half-matte, half-gloss machine are 10.8 in x 12 in x 2 in.
That's fairly compact, especially when weighed against the Xbox One. And on the subject of weight, PS4 is 2.75 kg while Xbox One is a more hefty 3.56 kg.
PS4 also hides its ports rather well, though, as we pointed out in our video comparison of the consoles, this makes it difficult to plug cables into the back of the system in a pinch.
The future of gaming, in association with O2 Guru
PS4 vs Xbox One CPU, graphics chip comparison
Hands on: PlayStation 4 review
We've fondled the hardware and we've played the games. Check out what we think of the PS4 so far...
It's what's inside that counts, and even though Nvidia thinks these specs are comparable to a low-end CPU, Xbox One and PS4 multiply the power of Xbox 360 and PS3. More importantly, they boast smarter designs internally, drawing from mistakes made last generation.
Nvidia rival AMD can be found inside both systems. Xbox One has a custom 1.75GHz AMD 8-core CPU, a last-minute upgrade over its original 1.6GHz processor.
That's actually the CPU speed thought to be behind PS4, which contains a similar custom AMD 8-core CPU with x86 based architecture. Sony hasn't confirmed the official speed.
This would represent a roughly 10% increase in processing power for Xbox One, though it's certainly going to be some time before developers can fully take advantage of accelerated hardware on either side of the console war.
The opposite is true when it comes to the graphics processor. PS4 boasts a 1.84 teraflop GPU that's based on AMD's Radeon technology. Xbox One graphics chip, also with an AMD Radeon GPU, has a pipeline for 1.31 teraflops.
PS4 has an edge when it comes to RAM
One of the more controversial areas under the consoles' matte black hoods is the memory. It's not the amount of memory that has everyone ready to fight about RAM - both Xbox One and PS4 contain a meaty 8GB of RAM - it's the type of memory used.
Xbox One has 8GB of DDR3 RAM, while PS4 has a distinct advantage with faster 8GB GDDR5 memory. But wait, there's more. Both consoles require a portion of the RAM to run the operating system.
PS4 reserves up to 3.5GB of memory 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.
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 has a clear advantage by including the older 802.11a band and both 2.4GHz and 5GHz channels. PS4 limits connections to 2.4GHz, which is likely to have more interference.
The hard drive situation is a toss up. PS4 comes with a 500GB spinning hard drive and supports user-replaceable internal drives. Xbox One's 500GB spinning hard drive cannot be upgraded even though an Xbox One teardown found that it's a standard-looking hard drive. Instead, users will eventually be able to add external storage to the monster-sized system, something that isn't supported by Sony.
Xbox One vs PS4 front and rear ports
The front of the PS4 and Xbox One are devoid of remarkable characteristics. They both have Blu-ray/DVD combo drives to the left and their respective, muted-color logos to the right. PS4 has a pair of USB ports tucked between its sandwich-like halves 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.
Price and availability
When all is said and done, if the feature-set is a stalemate in gamers' minds, the Xbox One vs PS4 price and availability come to the forefront of the debate.
That gives Sony a clear advantage at face value. Sure, the Xbox One does come with its Kinect camera, while the PS4's camera is a separate $59 (£54, AU$89). But PS4 is still cheaper even when the cost of the console and camera are combined (except in Australia).
It should be noted that the PS4 is hard to come by right now and it wasn't readily on store shelves during the peak Christmas shopping season. Retailers were heavily promoting that Xbox One was readily available in stores, possibly swaying some gamers and, more likely, parents eager to buy any next-generation gift in stock.
What's included with Xbox One, PS4?
With differing console prices, it's important to dive deeper into what's included in the Xbox One vs PS4 console bundles and, more importantly, point out what's not included.
Xbox One launch bundles came with the console, one controller and the Kinect camera. The box also contains an HDMI cable, wired mono headset and a 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.
All pre-ordered Xbox Ones systems and those bought at launch (and a couple thereafter) have "Day One 2013" in bold letters on the cardboard box and at the center of the controller. A nice little perk for all of the Xbox loyalists out there.
PS4 launch bundles came with the console, one DualShock 4 controller and no camera. It has an HDMI cable (Sony learned its lesson after some backlash for not including one in the PS3) and a 30-day subscription to PlayStation Plus. Instead of a wired mono headset like the Xbox One, PS4 comes with a wired mono earbud.
The Xbox One controller vs PS4 DualShock 4 controller debate won't be won any time soon, mostly because gamers' already have a locked-in preference.
That's why Microsoft and Sony haven't radically changed their respective gamepads over the years - they're more like evolutions from the 2000 PS2 launch and 2001 original Xbox launch.
The good news is that both feel more comfortable than their predecessors. The Xbox One vs Xbox 360 gamepad comparison illustrates some of the 40 design innovations. The tweaked D-Pad on the bottom left and extra rumble effect via "Impulse Triggers" in the analog shoulder buttons make Xbox One's controller nearly perfect.
An even bigger improvement can be seen in our PS4 vs PS3 gamepad comparison thanks to the fact that the DualShock 4 is a little bigger this time around. Its handles are easier to grip during long gameplay sessions and its dual analog sticks have a recessed divot, so precision movement is easier.
The PS4 controller's front touchpad and mono speaker, while not widely used, could be a unique way to interact with games once developers fully take advantage of the DualShock 4 controller.
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
Microsoft and Sony are still pushing controller-free camera inputs, even though the first Kinect and PlayStation Move didn't exactly wow gamers three years ago.
One company is betting on its camera more than the other, though. Microsoft designed its 1080p Kinect to keep track of up to six skeletons at once and process 2GB of data per second. It can pick up heart rates, facial expressions and 25 joints, thumbs included.
More importantly for some frustrated users of the previous Kinect, Kinect 2.0 can now detect people as close as three feet from its industrial-sized camera lense. 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.
Microsoft's always-listening (except if you turn that feature off) time-of-flight camera is only supported by a handful of games like the jet-ski-filled Kinect Sports Rivals Preseason demo. The camera-based controls work rather well, but we're looking for full games that utilize Microsoft's powerful new tool, and not just ones that use its built-in microphone.
The PS4 Camera, formerly called the PlayStation Eye, isn't as monstrous and that's a good thing for the most part. It's easy to appreciate the compact size of this camera bar that still managed to feature two 1280x800px cameras. However, the lightweight construction means that the cord sometimes dictates where the camera is pointed on its flimsy stand.
Like the Xbox One Kinect, we're still waiting for more PS4 games to take advantage of Sony's new camera. Its ability to recognize faces for logins and receive voice commands for hands-free shortcuts like the Xbox One is convenient. But when it comes to games, we can only toy around with the Sony's preloaded The Playroom augmented reality game for so long.
Xbox One and PS4 Games List
More than the subtle differences in tech specs, the games that result from those specs is what will determine which console gamers choose.
Xbox One launched with first-party exclusives Ryse: Son of Rome, Dead Rising 3, Crimson Dragon, Zoo Tycoon and Forza MotorSport 5. Downloadable on day one were the free Kinect Sports Rivals: Preseason demo, the free-to-play Killer Instinct, LocoCycle and Powerstar Golf.
Peggle 2 lobbed itself onto the Xbox Live Marketplace on December 9. Max: Curse of the Brotherhood and Halo Spartan Assault did the same on December 20 and 24, respectively.
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 gamers have Titanfall, an exclusive from ex-Call of Duty developers, to look forward next year thanks to a March 2014 release date. Quantum Break, Project Spark, Fable Legends, Sunset Overdrive and Planet vs Zombies: Garden Warfare are all planned for 2014 release dates too.
PS4 launch games exclusive to Sony's console include Killzone: Shadow Fall, Knack, Resogun and The PlayRoom. A few downloadable games also made their next-generation console debut like Contrast, Warframe, Blacklight: Retribution and Trine 2: The Complete Story.
Flower and Sound Shapes are two cross-buy games that should be available on the PS4 free of charge if you already bought them in the PlayStation Store using a PS3 or PS Vita. DC Universe Online adds PS4 to its multiplatform roster after having served gamers on the PS3 and PC.
This year, Sony is making room for its delayed DriveClub racing game, inFamous: Second Son, The Witness, Deep Down and The Order 1886. On the PS4 launch eve, the company finally revealed that an Uncharted 4 game is also be developed for PS4 care of Naughty Dog.
Xbox One and PS4 share more games than there are exclusive thanks to third-party support that doesn't always divide the games list into two. Notable next-generation games available on both consoles include Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Battlefield 4, FIFA 14, NBA 2K14 and Madden NFL 14.
Here's another split decision: Sony got out in front by supporting independent game developers, attracting names like Supergiant Games, Red Barrels Studio, and Young Horses at the time of its E3 press conference.
At first, Microsoft maintained that Xbox One games would require be fronted by a publisher. That changed recently when he company did another 180, announcing that not only would it allow self-publishing, every console acts as a dev kit.
A free dev kit sounds appealing, especially when PS4 developer kits cost thousands of dollars.
Sony has the indie developer crowd right now, but such pricey technology for tomorrow's basement-run teams could decrease the company's indie following over time.
Xbox One vs PS4 apps
Xbox One and PS4 have comparable apps with a few exceptions. You've got your Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, Crackle, Vudu and Redbox Instant in the US.
In the UK, both systems share Netflix, Crackle, Amazon's Lovefilm and Demand5.
Xbox One in the US corners the app-filled market with ESPN, Fox Now, FX Now, NFL, Ted, Twitch, Verizon FiOS TV and YouTube. It also has Microsoft's own Internet Explorer, 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, 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 and the free music video playing app VidZone. The UK has VidZone 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, while Xbox One delivers a better lineup: Crackle, Ted, Twitch and YouTube.
Each region is expected to see dozens of other niche apps as time goes on, so this is hardly the final list of apps for Xbox One and PS4.
No DRM, no backward compatible gaming
Microsoft wisely ditched its draconian DRM policies, even though it considered making Xbox One downloadable-only as late as June 2013. Sony used this to its advantage. It marketed PS4 as a gamer-friendly console that could play used games and function offline from the beginning.
Unfortunately, neither Xbox One nor PS4 will play previous generation games. That means you'll need to keep your Xbox 360 and PS3 in order to replay Halo 4 and Uncharted 3, for example. 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.
While there are indications that Xbox One could play older games via the cloud and PS4's Gaiki initiative could bring Sony's catalogue of past games to a whole new generation, these announcement have fallen short of concrete promises.
Enabling Xbox One and PS4 owners to replay older titles could be a game changer for either system. For now, though, the specs, controller designs, apps and current crop of video games end this to-be-continued next-generation system comparison in a stalemate.
The look of the console, the feel of the controller and the way the games make you feel make up the main differences from which consumers will decide.
However, there are smaller factors potential PS4 and Xbox One buyers should consider when going to the store in this new year.
It's a good idea to converse with friends to know which system they're going to buy. 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 only Microsoft is going to lock apps behind its Xbox Live paywall. Sony graciously made streaming video content like Netflix, Hulu Plus and MLB.TV free to use on PS4, so you won't be required to purchase a PlayStation Plus subscription if you don't want one.
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.