Both of the major contenders in the Console War are finally here, Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4, but there is a lot to know about each of these consoles before making a purchase.
Sure, the Wii U, which we reviewed and quite liked, has been out for a year, and there are some arguments to be made for why gamers should give it a try, but it really can’t stand up to the might of these two next-gen consoles.
Now try to keep an open mind here; just because you loved your PS3 or Xbox 360 doesn’t mean that the next-generation version of it might be best for you. Each console has its own small advantages and disadvantages that could sway you either way.
Price and Availability
The Xbox One is available now in 13 markets: Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, the UK, and the US. Depending on the currency, it sells for 499 USD, 429 GBP, 599 AUD, or 499 euros. Across the board, this makes the Xbox One the more expensive of the two consoles; Microsoft justifies this by including the Kinect sensor which will be discussed later.
However, if you’re in Asia, the Xbox One won’t be available for another year, with Microsoft planning to launch the console in late 2014. Considering the growth of the gaming market in Asia, this is an unfortunate move by the Redmond-based company. Other markets will be waiting until an unspecified time in 2014.
The PS4, on the other hand, launched on the 15th North America, and on November 29th in Europe, Latin America, and Australia, and it will be coming to Japan in February. It is 399USD, 350GBP, 549AUD, or 399 euros depending on your market, undercutting the Xbox One significantly, but not including the PlayStation Camera with Kinect-like features; that sells for $60 separately.
On paper, the PS4 beats out the Xbox One here. Both of them have ditched their older processor architectures for more PC-like x86 eight-core AMD processors. The only difference in CPU is that the Xbox One is clocked slightly higher, at 1.75GHz instead of 1.6GHz like the PS4.
As for the GPU, the Xbox One’s is most like the Radeon HD 7790, while the PS4’s is most like the HD 7870, making it about 50% faster. Whether this will translate to noticeable real-world differences in Xbox and PS4 games is debatable, but the PS4 should technically have more graphics power.
Both have 8GB of RAM, but the difference here is that the Xbox One sports 2133Mhz DDR3 RAM, whereas the PS4 sports newer and faster 5500MHz DDR5 RAM. Again, it’s hard to say how much of an advantage this gives Sony’s console, but it is the better choice on specs alone.
The PS3 had free online multiplayer, a big advantage over the Xbox 360’s comparatively expensive $59 per year Xbox Live Gold subscription fee. But in this new generation of consoles, you need to pay to get the most out of your device.
To play online multiplayer on the PS4, you’ll need to purchase Sony’s PlayStation Plus subscription service for$49 per year, still a bit cheaper than Microsoft’s offering. However, the Xbox One is nearly useless without Xbox Live. Some of the notable features that require Live are the Game DVR and OneGuide, both of which will be discussed shortly, Skype, and Netflix.
Could you use a PS4 or Xbox One without a subscription? Sure, but the experience will be greatly subpar, especially on the Xbox.
Disc or Digital
Hello next-gen consoles, goodbye last-gen discs. The PS4 and Xbox One are ushering in the era of digital downloads. With these new consoles, the digital versions of games are available the same day as the disc versions, meaning that you might never have to go to a brick-and-mortar store for your video games again.
However, downloading games digitally has its setbacks. Once you’re done with the game, you can’t sell or lend your digital copy; it’s yours and yours alone. Buying the disc version, though, means that the disc will have to be in your console while you play.
I know some of you may scoff at the idea that some people may be too lazy to simply change discs, but I think there is a big appeal in being able to have all your games tied to your account rather than a physical disc. Plus, if visiting a friend’s house, any of your games can be downloaded to their consoles for you two to play together.
The Xbox has some great exclusive games, and the PS4 does too. As of right now, the Xbox has notable titles like Forza Motorsport 5, Dead Rising 3, Ryse: Son of Rome, and Killer Instinct. The PS4, meanwhile, has Killzone: Shadow Fall, Knack, Resogun, and DC Universe Online.
While both devices come with 500GB HDDs, the PS4s is user-replaceable with any compatible laptop HDD or SSD, but the Xbox’s hard drive isn’t. How will you upgrade the Xbox One’s 500GB HDD then when you reach full capacity? Well, Microsoft hasn’t answered that question for us yet.
This is a strange decision for the Xbox, since modern games can take up anywhere from 10GB to 40GB of space, and whether you go disc or digital, the game has to be downloaded to the hard drive.
If you plan on having so many games that 500GB won’t be enough, the PS4 should be more attractive. Although hopefully Microsoft will release some form of external storage for the Xbox One soon.
Both consoles have a Game DVR feature that will keep an ongoing recording of your recent action. For the Xbox, it will be your last five minutes of gameplay, and you can automatically save the last 30 seconds by saying, “Xbox, record that” at any time if your Kinect is on. As for the PS4, it will keep the last 15 minutes saved and you can use the “Share” button on the controller to save the portion you want.
As of right now, the PS4 only supports uploading these videos to Facebook, and the Xbox only supports sharing them directly with SkyDrive. Although once your video is in SkyDrive, you can easily share it to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, or any other service from your computer. In the future, both consoles should support improved upload to YouTube and other places as well. Right now, only the PS4 supports streaming to Twitch.
The Xbox One is huge. As you can see in the photo below, courtesy of TechCrunch, the Xbox One dwarfs the PS4 in physical size, and on top of that, it has a massive external power brick, but the PS4 has its power supply inside.
Given the similar internals, it’s strange that the Xbox is so much bigger, but it’s possible, given the massive vents on the Xbox, that Microsoft is trying incredibly hard not to recreate the overheating Red Ring of Death issues that plagued the 360.
Also, the Xbox One can only sit horizontally, not vertically, and the PS4 is the same unless you purchase the optional stand that allows it to be propped up vertically.
Both consoles have apps for iOS and Android (and the Xbox supports Windows Phone and Windows 8 devices) that allow you to control your console from your mobile device. The only differentiator here is that the PS4 supports remote play on the PS Vita, a device we have reviewed as the best mobile gaming device, meaning that if you have a PS Vita, you can play your PS4 games on your Vita while at home. That’s a wonderful feature that is unmatched by Microsoft.
Neither console allows for backwards compatibility, so either way, you’re starting over fresh. Although both Sony and Microsoft have said that some older titles will be made available for download in the future.
Motion Sensor And Voice Controls
The Xbox One Kinect is amazingly improved from the old offering; it has a 1080p HD wide-angle lens that is much more accurate than the previous one. You can nearly control the entire Xbox with your voice, and Microsoft has released a list of all the voice commands available for the Kinect. Plus, every Xbox One comes with one, so developers have an incentive to make use of it.
The PlayStation Camera, on the other hand, is $60 extra and isn’t up to the same level as the Kinect. It has voice commands and gesture controls, but it isn’t as accurate and is a lower resolution at 1280 x 800. And Skype? Forget about it. Microsoft owns it, and that service won’t be coming to the PS4 any time soon.
Both devices support facial recognition and can sign you in by matching your face and position with your account, which is an amazingly futuristic feature.
Whichever controller you prefer is really subjective. The Xbox One controller and PS4 DualShock 4 are both great controllers, but many prefer the joystick placement and vibrating triggers in the Xbox controllers, while others treasure the small touchpad area in the center of the DualShock 4.
The PS4’s controller supports charging via micro-USB. The Xbox One, on the other hand, still takes AA batteries. The PS4 also has a standard headphone jack for using any headset, but the Xbox One controller has a proprietary plug that will only work with their headsets.
The Xbox One is meant to be an entertainment center, not just a gaming device. Your cable box can be routed through the console via HDMI, and then you can control your TV through your Xbox. If you have a universal remote, the Kinect has an IR receiver, unlike the PlayStation Camera.
If you want to watch TV through your console, the Xbox One has no competition.
As an early adopter, you’re going to experience some issues with these devices. Many users have complained about their PS4 or Xbox One crashing or not booting up at all, and the PlayStation Network was down for a bit immediately after launch. Be patient. These are fantastic devices, and the kinks will be worked out soon.
Which console will you be getting? Or none at all? Let us know in the comments.