In the past, Nintendo has positioned its consoles as complementary machines that rely on first-party games and the occasional gimmick. As a hybrid console-handheld, the Nintendo Switch, too, has a gimmick that differentiates it from the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Nearly a year after its launch, the Switch has proven it’s more than just a novel concept, as it became the fastest-selling home console of all time. The Switch’s portability, combined with fairly robust third-party support, has changed the console landscape. Nintendo’s latest console has shown signs that it can be the primary console in your living room.
Now that doesn’t mean you should toss aside your PlayStation 4 for a Switch, nor should prospective console buyers automatically pick the Switch over a PS4. Sony’s juggernaut of a platform has built up an excellent library of exclusives and multiplatform releases, and still offers a number of features absent on the Nintendo Switch. Below, we’ve detailed the differences and similarities between the two consoles in order to help you make the best purchasing decision.
Note: Spec comparison is between the Switch and PlayStation 4 Slim. The PS4 Slim has the same internal specs as the PS4, but with a sleeker design.
PlayStation 4 Slim
|Dimensions||10 × 4.2 × 0.5 inches||11.3 × 10.4 × 1.5 inches|
|Weight||0.65 pounds||4.62 pounds|
|Processor||GPU/CPU: “Nvidia customized Tegra”||CPU: 8-core x86-64 AMD “Jaguar”
GPU: 1.84 TFLOPS AMD Radeon
|Storage||32GB of flash storage (expandable through microSD)||500GB removable hard drive|
|AV Output||HDMI out||HDMI out|
|I/O Output||1 USB-C, USB 3.0, USB 2.0 X 2||2 Super-Speed USB 3.1|
|Communication||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, LAN with adapter||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0|
|Controller||Joy-Con or Pro Controller||DualShock 4 or PlayStation Move|
|Built-in screen||1,280 × 720||No|
|Battery life||Up to six hours||N/A|
|Physical media||Proprietary cartridge||Blu-ray disc|
|Availability||Now: GameStop, Amazon||Now: Amazon, GameStop|
|DT Review||4 out of 5 stars||4 out of 5 stars|
Design and features
The PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch don’t exactly feel like “competing” consoles. The PlayStation 4 is significantly larger and heavier, taking up a much larger amount of space on your shelf or entertainment center. The Switch, meanwhile, fits in your hands, and takes up much less space, even when docked into the base station that connects to your TV. The Switch’s small size makes it a much less intrusive addition to your shelf than the PlayStation 4, and its simple, primarily black construction has a “modern” look that the Wii U sorely lacked.
The Switch has a number of ports and slots on its outside to make up for its small size. In addition to the proprietary game card slot — the system is far too small to use discs — the Switch features a microSD card slot that supports microSDXC cards, which currently store up to 512GB. You won’t be running out of room for your games with one of those installed. Taking a page out of Apple’s book, the console also features a single USB-C port.
The Switch has a more sturdy feel and sleek look than both the Wii U gamepad and its Nintendo 3DS cousins. Its screen, however, is plastic and can scratch easily, even from sliding it in and out of the dock. We highly recommend purchasing a screen protector. The plastic screen does help keep it from shattering when dropped.
In its portable configuration, the Switch gets up to six hours of battery life, and requires about three hours in its base station to charge. It’s important to note that intensive games such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey will get closer to three hours of battery life between charges. In portable mode, you can use the Switch’s standard headphone jack, accelerometer, gyroscope, and brightness sensor. These features are primarily replicated by hardware in the Switch’s Joy-Cons or Pro controller when the console is docked.
The PlayStation 4, by contrast, is a relatively “normal” home console, featuring two USB 3.1 ports, as well as HDMI out and a PlayStation camera port. The camera port is necessary for using PlayStation VR, which the PlayStation 4 must connect to via both USB and HDMI. The PlayStation 4 Slim also replaced the sensor-based buttons of past systems with physical buttons, which cuts down on unintended disc ejections.
In terms of storage, the PS4 Slim comes with a 500 GB or 1 TB model, depending on the model, and that hard drive can be replaced with a larger storage option, or supplemented by an external drive.
Though the PlayStation 4 can’t be played “undocked,” if you have a PlayStation Vita, it can stream games from its bigger sibling, letting you play games untethered from a television via Wi-Fi. It’s not the ideal way to play most games, though. Unlike the Switch, few games are optimized for remote play, but it’s the closest corollary to the Switch on the market today.
With multiple controller configurations, total portability, and a tiny footprint, we think the Switch offers a more versatile experience from a design perspective.
Winner: Nintendo Switch
The PlayStation 4’s DualShock 4 controller is relatively unchanged from previous PlayStation controllers. It features a standard face-button layout, symmetrical control sticks, triggers, and a “share” button that enables users to instantly save images, take video, or even stream on Twitch. Inside is a motion sensor, allowing for additional ways to control games, particularly through PlayStation VR. The PlayStation 3’s “Move” controllers are also compatible for use in some PlayStation VR games, but they have largely gone ignored thus far.
The Nintendo Switch has several different control schemes that can drastically change your gaming experience. In the system’s docked configuration, and with both Joy-Con controllers attached in its portable configuration, the control scheme is similar to the PlayStation 4, with two sticks, buttons, and triggers. By removing the Joy-Con controllers, however, each can be used independently to throw punches in a game like Arms, and by handing one to a second player and turning them both sideways, the Joy-Cons can be used much like the Nintendo Wii’s remotes, with a single control stick and four buttons letting players control simple games such as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
While the Nintendo Switch features a wide array of controller options, none of them are quite as comfortable as holding a DualShock 4. That changes if you pick up a Pro controller separately, but from a pure comfort and ease-of-use perspective, the PS4’s DualShock 4 takes the cake.
Winner: PlayStation 4
The Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 aren’t on even footing in the technical department, as the Switch’s portability means it is forced to sacrifice some of the processing power available on larger consoles. Nevertheless, the console only features 4GB of RAM — half of what is available on the PlayStation 4 — and its Nvidia Tegra processor has about 1 TFLOP of power, which is considerably less powerful than the 1.84 TFLOPs of the PlayStation 4. Though the difference between the processors is minimal, that same slight edge has enabled the PlayStation 4 to routinely outperform the Xbox One. Based on third-party games available for both Switch and PS4 like Doom and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, it’s clear that the PS4’s power consistently outperforms the Switch as well.
Winner: PlayStation 4
The Nintendo Switch is capable of displaying games in 1080p on a television, while the system’s built-in screen features a 720p resolution. Not every game meets these thresholds, though. The Switch rerelease of Bayonetta 2, for example, only achieves 720p when docked.
The PlayStation 4, meanwhile, is also capable of 1080p resolution, as well as high-dynamic range, or HDR, which allows for much better contrast on black and white colors. For traditional home console play, the PlayStation 4 is the better choice, though the Switch does provide the added benefit of a quality portable display.
Winner: PlayStation 4
The PlayStation 4 has been out for more than four years now, and its library of both exclusive and multiplatform games is incredibly strong. Series like Assassin’s Creed, Dark Souls, and Batman: Arkham have seen multiple entries hit the PlayStation 4, while Sony’s first- and second-party games have consistently been among the top titles each year. Below are a few of the best PlayStation exclusives:
- Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
- Horizon Zero Dawn
- MLB: The Show 18
- Ratchet & Clank
- Until Dawn
In the Switch’s first year, a handful of superb first-party games arrived, including:
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
- Super Mario Odyssey
- Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
- Splatoon 2
- Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
As it stands, the PlayStation 4’s back catalog of games is just too strong to overlook. The Switch can definitely become a challenger, but it currently trails Sony’s machine by a significant margin.
Winner: PlayStation 4
No contest here. The PlayStation 4 has a robust online service dedicated to providing community-based multiplayer experiences. The Nintendo Switch, on the other hand, won’t officially launch Switch Online until September 2018. You can still play games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Splatoon 2 against people across the world right now, but the systems in place are bare bones. On top of that, you need a separate smartphone app to use voice chat. Nintendo has always been behind the curve when it comes to online multiplayer, so it’s hard to imagine the Switch will achieve parity with the PS4 here.
The only area in which the Switch beats the PS4 in the online department is price. One year of PlayStation Plus (required for playing online) costs $60, whereas Nintendo Switch Online will only cost $20 per year. But since the PS4 is the place to be for online console gaming, the price difference hardly factors into this comparison.
If you plan to primarily use your console to play with friends online, the PlayStation 4 should be your choice.
Winner: PlayStation 4
A new Nintendo Switch costs $300, making it among the cheapest “home consoles” Nintendo has ever released. The PlayStation 4 Slim also goes for $300, though it has gone on sale for $250 to $270 in the past. At that price, you can almost always buy a seasonal hardware bundle that throws in a game or two, such as this bundle with Star Wars Battlefront II.
The PS4 generally offers a better short-term value than the Switch.
Winner: PlayStation 4
Overall Winner: PlayStation 4
The PlayStation 4 has emerged as one of the greatest game consoles ever created since it launched in 2013, with an impressive lineup of games, great social features, and a huge community of players. Its low price point and continuous stream of software support make it a great addition to anyone’s collection.
The Nintendo Switch, meanwhile, has burst onto the scene as a surprisingly popular force to be reckoned with. Its portability gives it a unique advantage that the PS4 simply cannot replicate.
For now, if you must choose between two systems, we still recommend the more established platform, the PlayStation 4.
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