Thursday, November 27, 2014

PS4 vs Xbox One: which is better?

Updated Sony PlayStation 4 sales surpass 10 million, but Microsoft is still in the game

By Matt Swider

The most in-depth look at PS4 vs Xbox One you'll read

Introduction and design

Update: Our PS4 vs Xbox One comparison is now a year old. We consider Microsoft's price drop and how it contrasts with Sony's specs, games and graphics power by talking to industry experts.
A full twelves months into this PS4 vs Xbox One comparison, sales have proven that Sony is more popular with early adopters of the next-generation of video games.
PlayStation 4 has surpassed 13.5 million units sold worldwide, while Microsoft's latest numbers indicate just under 10 million Xbox One systems have shipped to stores.
But those are sales statistics - all meaningless when you consider the latest Xbox One price drop made the debate a little more even and its system updates have been steady.
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.
    Sony, meanwhile, is preparing PS4 for a streaming and virtual reality future with PlayStation Now and Oculus Rift-challenger Project Morpheus. Games like Uncharted 4 and The Order 1886 are set for 2015.
    Of course, both companies claim to have the advantage in powering gamers through the next decade. To see if that's true, our Xbox One vs PS4 comparison needs an 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 as to not overheat for another Red Ring of Death scenario.

    Xbox One dimensions
    Xbox One is a monster console with lots of vents, but at least it won't overheat
    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.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 dimensions
    PS4 is smaller and a little more stylish
    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.

    Xbox One vs PS4 front and rear ports

    Next gen reviews

    PS4 reviewWe've fondled the hardware and we've played the games. Check out what we think of the PS4.
    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 vs Xbox One rear ports
    PS4 vs Xbox One rear ports

    Next gen reviews

    Xbox One
    Xbox One reviewOur first impressions of Microsoft's new Kinect-powered games machine.
    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.


    Xbox One has a non-replaceable internal hard drive
    Xbox One has a non-replaceable internal hard drive (credit: iFixIt)

    Is PS4 or Xbox more powerful?

    PS4 and Xbox One multiply the power of Xbox 360 and PS3. More importantly, they were built with smarter internal designs, drawing from mistakes of last-generation consoles.
    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 teardown specs
    PS4 has a user-replaceable hard drive
    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.

    Graphics comparison

    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.
    The graphics comparison between multi-console games, like the recently released Grand Theft Auto 5 and Metal Gear Solid 5, have given us the best PS4 vs Xbox One graphics benchmarks.
    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.

    Watch Dogs is just one game that has a higher resolution on PS4 vs Xbox One
    Watch Dogs is just one game that has a higher resolution on PS4 vs Xbox One
    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.


    It's expensive to be an early adopter, and the PS4 and Xbox One prices prove just that in each of the countries the systems have launched.
    One year ago, the PS4 price was the more tempting deal: £349 for the console and DualShock 4 controller. Xbox One was more expensive at $499 for the system, Xbox One controller and Kinect.

    Xbox One vs PS4 price
    Microsoft's Xbox One price drop puts it on an even table or ahead
    An official Xbox One price drop has made this comparison a moot point going forward. The new list price is £349 without Kinect, but with a game included.
    In the UK, Xbox One bundled with Sunset Overdrive is £349, just £20 more than standalone PS4 that's still officially £329.
    That's a better price than at launch, but as always other countries have it better. In fact, the Xbox One has had two official US price drops and the cost comparison is actually in Microsoft's favor there by $50.
    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 Included
    What's included? Not a PS4 camera, that's for sure

    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

    Xbox One vs PS4 controller
    Xbox One vs PS4 controller

    The controllers

    The most important aspects of the PS4 vs Xbox One controller comparison include comfort, size and battery life, but a lot of this is going to come down to personal preference.
    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.

    kinect vs ps4 camera
    Neither have proven themselves worthy

    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.

    Xbox One Kinect games list
    Kinect was good on paper, now it just wears a paper dunce cap
    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.

    Best games

    The best PS4 and Xbox One games


    The PS4 and Xbox One games list is still now over 100 each, but only a few of the releases in the last year stand as exclusives that make deciding between the two matter.
    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.

    CoD Advanced Warfighter
    Call of Duty DLC favors Xbox One when it comes to DLC. Does that matter to you?
    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.

    Xbox One Kinect vs PS4 Eye
    Indie games like Fez became smash hits in the last generation

    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.