Introduction and design
- Update: As our PS4 vs Xbox One comparison heads into 2015, we consider Microsoft’s price drop, HBO Go app coup, and how it contrasts with Sony’s specs, games and graphics power.
PlayStation 4 has surpassed 18.5 million systems sold worldwide, while Microsoft’s numbers for the end of 2014 indicate 10 million Xbox One consoles have shipped to stores.
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 is also the sole console with EA Access, and Microsoft has added some much-requested features – like the ability to take screenshots – in recent months.
Sony is preparing PS4 for a streaming and virtual reality future with PlayStation Now, PlayStation TVand Oculus Rift-rival Project Morpheus. This year’s exclusive games include Uncharted 4 and The Order 1886. It’s also stepping up its entertainment game, morphing Music Unlimited into the Spotify-powered PlayStation Music and doing the same for Video Unlimited.
And both consoles are rumored to be getting a 4K hardware refresh for their second birthdays.
"We have have the advantage in powering gamers through the next decade," say both companies. To see if that’s true, our Xbox One vs PS4 comparison needs another 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, a design decision to avoid another Red Ring of Death overheating 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.
- See the Xbox One price drop: Amazon | Best Buy | Tiger Direct
- Click for the latest cheap PS4 price: Amazon | Best Buy | Toys R Us
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.
The future of gaming, in association with O2 Guru
Xbox One vs PS4 front and rear ports
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 compatible.
External storage isn’t an option that Sony supports in its "go big or go home" internal approach.
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. PS4 has a pair of USB ports tucked between its sandwich-like halves next to where the disc drive is located.
It’s party in the back Xbox One connections. That’s where it has two USB ports, 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. But are you really going to use this feature? PS4 lacks this passthrough technology, opting to stick with gaming as its top priority.
Is PS4 or Xbox more powerful?
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 can reclaim 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 of RAM 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.
A gameplay video on YouTube of GTA 5 pans between the two next-gen versions of the game with a definitive answer. The PS4 GPU is able to handle more foliage in environments.
Yes, you literally have to get into the weeds to see the differences, though both the PS4 and Xbox editions of GTA 5 look stellar compared to their last-gen counterparts.
In the Metal Gear Solid 5 comparison, there’s slightly more clarity to the PS4 version. Specifically, 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. You won’t miss the extra grass in GTA 5.
Second, everyone’s hopeful that as developers mature with these two year-old 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
One year ago, the PS4 price was the more tempting deal: $399 for the console and DualShock 4 controller. Xbox One was expensive at $499 for the system, Xbox One controller and Kinect.
After two official Xbox One price drops, the cost comparison is actually in Microsoft’s favor in the US. The new list price is $349 with a game, but without Kinect included.
That’s $50 cheaper than the PS4 that doesn’t come with a game. In the UK, Xbox One bundled with Sunset Overdrive is £349, just £20 more than standalone PS4 that’s still officially £329.
In Australia, Xbox One is now AU$499 selling with multiple games included and retailers are selling the PS4 for $549 with one game for free.
The early PS4 vs Xbox One price difference gave Sony an lead at face value, and gamers didn’t seem to mind that the PS4 camera was a separate purchase. Also, for almost a year, it was the only console of the two being sold in countries like India, Japan and Turkey.
Price and availability made for Xbox One’s assured shortfall in the beginning. Now, the price point is moot. Can it catch up?
What’s in the box?
There was more value in the original Xbox One Kinect bundle, accounting for some of the initial 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 have included Titanfall or Sunset Overdrive 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 twelve months. Microsoft reshaped the argument at E3 2014 with price-matched Kinect-free Xbox One. The question is, will gamers bite in the new year?
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 came out this year. It also supports two Xbox-exclusive workout games, Just Dance 2014 and a pair of 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
Titanfall stands above all others on Xbox One 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. Sunset Overdrive feature just as crazy-frantic gameplay, while Halo: The Master Chief Collection lets us relive old classic.
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. It’s been joined by the more arcade-like exclusive Forza Horizon 2.
Call of Duty Advanced Warfighter and CoD: Ghosts, while not exclusives to Xbox One, has downloadable content (DLC) that is going to be a timed-exclusive (by a month) held over PS4 gamers’ heads.
Xbox One games in development include the Halo 5: Guardians, the next Gears of War game, Quantum Break, Fable Legends and LittleBigPlanet-like Project Spark.
PS4 exclusive Infamous: Second Son couldn’t match the groundswell of attention generated by the Titanfall beta in the spring, but it’s superpower-filled gameplay is nonetheless entertaining. Even newer exclusives to PS4 include LittleBigPlanet 3 and DriveClub
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.
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
All gamers have access to Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, Crackle, Vudu and Redbox Instant and baseball subscription service MLB.TV.
Xbox One corners the app-filled market with the first next-gen access to HBO Go, ESPN, Fox Now, FX Now, NFL, Ted, The CW, Twitch, Univision Deportes, Verizon FiOS TV and YouTube. It also has Microsoft’s own Internet Explorer, OneDrive, Skype and Xbox Music and Xbox Video services.
That contrasts with PS4. Sony’s console features Crunchyroll, Epix, NBA Game Time, NHL GameCenter Live, YuppTV, the WWE Network and the free music video playing app VidZone.
More niche apps are expected as time goes on, so this is hardly the final list of apps for Xbox One and PS4. Sony backers who are also HBO subscriptions can expect equal next-generation treatment for the the premium on-demand network "eventually," which just cements Xbox One’s app-filled advantage.
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’s PlayStation Now is in open beta and it costs money to rent games like The Last of Us, God of War: Ascension, Dead Space 3 and Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes on the PS4.
Sony has expanded its Gaikai-based video game streaming service to PS Vita and PlayStation TV, with plans to add even Bravia TVs, and then include PlayStation and PS2 to the so far 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 foolproof 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.
The expert views
Keza MacDonald – Editor, Kotaku UK
For me it comes down to the variety of games, and PS4 has that sewn up right now. You can play all the biggest games on both consoles, but if your tastes are eclectic, Sony’s indie and in-house lineup is irresistible.
Matt Hill – Editor, Gizmodo UK
PS4 for me. The majority of multi-platform games run better on it, the PS Plus subscription service serves up a stream of good, cheap games – even better if you also have Vita and PS3 – and it looks nicer in the living room. Is that a valid reason? Damn straight it is.
Sophia Tong – Global Editor in Chief, GamesRadar
I have both because I like having options and access to everything (I even own a Wii U). For me it’s about the games, but if I had to choose I do like the Xbox One’s interface more because I can bark commands at it.
Hugh Langley - UK News Editor, TechRadar
It has to be the PS4 right now. Between PlayStation Plus, PS Now, Vita cross-play, and the promise of Morpheus, the whole PlayStation ecosystem feels like it’s growing into something truly terrific. That said, don’t get comfortable, Sony – the Xbox One is definitely beginning to close the gap.