Despite being designed with different philosophies, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are more alike than their predecessors. There are some key differences that people will debate for years to come, but both systems overlap more often than not. For a full breakdown on the specs, check out the comparison at the bottom of this article.
But that doesn’t mean you should simply flip a coin and buy one. Having spent a considerable amount of time with both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, we’re ready to take a closer look at differences.
There are quantifiable things we can point to, categories where one system has a clear edge. From controllers to app availability, each system has clear strengths and weaknesses today. These might all change in the next few years as these systems grow and evolve – the reality is that the best games for either system won’t be out for years to come. But for now we put the two systems head to head and see which comes out ahead.
If you haven’t already, we highly encourage you to check out our reviews on both systems. They break down the consoles and could help determine which is a better fit for you specifically, rather than which is a “better” piece of hardware.
Apps at launch (Tie)
For the Xbox One you have ESPN, but you need to be a subscriber of an “authorized” cable provider. The same goes for its NFL app. The PS4 has its own Music and Video services featuring all content Sony had a hand in (which is an awful lot), but they require paid subscriptions as well.
Game streaming is a different story. The PS4 can stream games right now, directly to Twitch and Ustream, with the press of a single button. The Xbox One will also be able to stream gaming video, but for now it is still “coming soon” and won’t be available until next year. This category will likely change again and again over time, but given the way things are right now, we call it a tie.
As a media device (Xbox One)
How times change. The PS3 was (and still is) an excellent media device, capable of streaming music and video from a PC and playing or displaying content off of a USB-connected device. The PS4, however, does none of those things. Sony has hinted strongly that these functions are coming, and their omission was simply a matter of launch timing, but the result is a console that is less capable as a media device than its predecessor. There are always the apps, but this is still a chink in the PS4’s armor.
The Xbox One, on the other hand, is designed to integrate with media, specifically cable TV. If you are a cable TV subscriber, your experience is improved by connecting it to the console. Both consoles can play Blu-ray discs, but only the Xbox can integrate your cable guide right into the system menu and switch over to TV. At the moment, this is really no contest.
One thing many (although certainly not all) gamers can agree on is that the Xbox 360 controller is one of the best ever released. It’s just a better design than the DualShock 3, especially for people who play first-person shooters – of which there are many. The next-gen controllers change that dynamic, though.
The Xbox One controller retains many of the core elements of the 360 controller, plus it adds two more rumble motors and loses the bulky battery pack on the back. It also has smaller thumbpads on the analog sticks, which is step back when you find yourself losing your grip. The DualShock 4, on the other hand, is improved all around. It is bigger, offers better, outward-curving triggers, features a clickable touchpad on the front, and the lightbar has multiple functions. Plus the thumbpads are normal human-sized. This round goes to Sony.
This is one of the easiest categories to pick a winner for. The PS4 is slim, sleek, and lightweight, featuring an attractive light bar on the side and a sloping front and back. The Xbox One is a much bulkier box. It isn’t ugly by any means, and it sort of resembles one of the new-generation cable boxes, but put the two next to each other and you have to wonder why it is so much bigger, especially since it still requires a brick for the power cord, where the PS4 does not.
Games (Xbox One)
Although the PS4 has several downloadable games and a handful of disc exclusives like Killzone: Shadow Fall and Knack, the Xbox One has Forza Motorsport 5, Dead Rising 3, and Ryse: Son of Rome, plus its own downloadable games. And although it isn’t out just yet, you can’t ignore the fact that Titanfall is coming in March to PC, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. For now, the edge goes to Microsoft.
When it comes to ease of setup, Sony’s console wins hands down here. Even if you discount the extra step of hooking the Xbox One up to a cable box, the install process is just much easier on the PS4. So is updating the firmware, something both systems require to unlock their full functionality – or in the case of the Xbox One, any functionality.
Beyond that, learning how to use and speak to Kinect may help in the long run, but it can be confusing at first if you don’t take the time to learn the peripheral’s unique vocabulary. Sony’s menus, on the other hand, are immediately intuitive and easy to grasp.
This may seem like an obvious one, but there is more to it than just the price of the console itself. The Xbox One costs $100 more than the PS4, but it also comes with Kinect. The PS4 offers the PlayStation Camera as a separate $60 purchase, but it is not as necessary to the PS4’s operation as the Kinect is to the Xbox One. It’s worth owning and it will only get better over time, but after dropping $400 it’s nice to wait a bit before spending even more money.
Then there is the cost of cable TV, which the Xbox One is designed to interact with. To get the most out of your system, you need to pay the monthly cable fee, which is rarely cheap. It’s something to consider. Regardless, the PS4 is just a less expensive investment all around.
Peripherals (Xbox One)
This really comes down to the cameras each system offers. It’s nice that Sony allows you to purchase one at a later date for $60, and the PlayStation 4 Eye does offer some nice gesture controls through the Move integration with the DualShock 4. But really, there is no contest here.
The new Kinect is a remarkable piece of technology. It goes so far beyond just gesture controls. The voice commands are integral to the Xbox One interface, and the camera’s multiple imaging functions means it can even be used as a tool – not just a gaming peripheral – in judging things like exercise. It can accurately judge your movements, estimate your heart rate through how flushed your skin is and more. The list goes on and on, just like the camera’s potential.
User interface (Xbox One)
The PlayStation 4’s interface is designed to be accessible. It’s simple and anyone can figure it out. It lacks customization though, so the games and apps you have used at some point are displayed in an increasingly lengthy horizontal display. The more games and apps you have, the longer it will take to go through.
On the other hand, the Xbox One’s UI is a bit more complex, but it’s also more robust and functional. Built on Windows 8′s Modern user interface, it may take some time to acclimate to it, but once you do you’ll see why Microsoft decided to go in this direction, especially if you’re using the Kinect’s voice command options to elevate it.
OK, this might seem like a bit of a copout and, well, that’s because it is. But not for the reasons you might think!
There is no right or wrong here, no best or worst console, no matter what the chorus on the Internet tells you. Sony and Microsoft both released systems that are similar, and yet they each appeal to a slightly different group. To put it in vastly oversimplified terms, The PS4 is a machine made specifically for gamers first, while the Xbox One is designed as an entertainment center for gamers.
Both consoles are forward-thinking devices, and what you see now is going to ultimately be completely different from what the systems become years down the line. So choose your system based on the potential and what you plan to use it for. This generation of consoles is already shaping up to be one of the most interesting gaming battles in history. You probably won’t regret purchasing either system, but choose wisely.
13.1″ x 10.8″ x 3.1″ (WxHxD)
|12″ x 2.09″ x 10.83″ (WxHxD)|
|Weight||8 lbs||6.1 lbs|
|Processor||CPU: TBA eight-core, x86 processor||CPU: Eight-core X86 AMD Jaguar
GPU:1.84 T-FLOPS, AMD Radeon Graphics Core Next Engine
|Memory||8GB RAM||8GB GDDR5 RAM|
|Hard Drive||Built-in, 500GB HDD||Built-in|
|AV Output||HDMI 1.4 in/out, 4K, and 1080p support; Optical output||HDMI, Analog-AV out, Digital Output (Optical)|
|I/O Output||USB 3.0 X TBA, AUX||Super Speed USB (USB 3.0) X 3, AUX|
|Communication||IEEE 802.11n wireless with Wi-Fi connect||Ethernet (10BASE-T,100BASE-TX, 1000BASE-T), Bluetooth 2.1 (EDR), IEEE 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi|
|Controller||Unnamed Xbox One controller (similar to Xbox 360 Wireless Controller, but with dynamic impulse triggers and a redesigned D-pad)||1000amAh DualShock 4 (210g, six-axis motion sensing, 2 Point Touch Pad)|
|Camera||250,000-pixel infrared depth sensor and 1080p camera||1280×800 @ 60Hz, 640×400 @ 120Hz, 320×192 @ 240Hz|
|Optical Drive||Blue-ray/DVD||BD 6xCAV, DVD 8xCAV|
|Availability||November 22nd, 2013||November 14th, 2013|