So, they’ve finally been revealed completely. The next generation of gaming consoles were shown to the public at E3 2013, with both Microsoft and Sony having separate briefings concentrating on their new consoles. Now that pretty much all the information is out there, it’s time for the people to make their choice. Yes, a lot of noise has been made regarding the Xbox One’s DRM and online checking and Sony was hailed as the winner because of the lack of the same. Of course there’s also the price factor, but not everything can be decided just based on these criteria. So check out our complete comparison of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4!
Xbox One vs. PlayStation 4
Design and hardware
Unlike previous console generations which featured more prominent and funky console designs, the new generation of consoles both adopt a more demure approach. They’re not bad looking by any stretch, but adopt different design ethos. While the Xbox One goes for a more rectangular and glossy build, the PlayStation 4 has a rhomboid shape with matte finish. This isn’t a criteria that should really influence a purchase, but can be considered nonetheless. It’s just a matter of personal choice on what you prefer, so there’s no clear winner here.
Ah, the internal specs are a matter of much debate. Most claim that the PlayStation 4 has more power, but that isn’t necessarily true. Even though both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 feature similar processors and RAM, they have a different approach to computing. AMD has created an 8-core “Jaguar” based APU for both the consoles, but Microsoft has done a little more customization on it. The GPU of the PS4, on the other hand, has the capacity to compute 1.84 TFLOPS while the Xbox One’s can manage about 1.2 TFLOPS. If really pushed to the limit, perhaps the PS4 can squeeze out more performance, but that remains to be seen and is in the hands of the developers.
Another bone of contention is the RAM, and in this case shared memory. Both these consoles have 8 GB of shared RAM, that is used by the CPU and GPU. But while Sony has gone with GDDR5, Microsoft has put in regular DDR3 RAM. Techies will know that GDDR5 is the type of memory used in modern graphics cards and has much higher bandwidth compared to DDR3. However, DDR3 RAM has lower latency. In simple terms, the PS4 can process larger data chunks but does it slower compared to the the Xbox One which goes with processing smaller chunks of data faster. GDDR5 is also better suited to graphics related tasks while DDR3 RAM is general purpose. But the Xbox One features 32 MB of ESRAM which should bridge that processing deficiency. Again, all of this information won’t present a clear winner, it’s in the hands of developers. According to Microsoft, 5 GB of RAM is reserved for games and 3 GB is reserved for the OS and other functions, no such information has been given for the PS4 but it’s rumored to be split 7/1 for games and OS.
Microsoft has finally gone ahead and included a Blu-Ray disc drive on the Xbox One like the PS4, and both also have a 500 GB HDD. But PS4 has the advantage here since it allows for swapping and upgrading the internal HDD. The Xbox One allows for expandable storage through USB however, and it can be used for everything the internal HDD is used for. There’s no doubt that both consoles are very powerful and should allow developers to create more immersive worlds, and like a lot of other things, it’s not just having the power, it’s being able to use if effectively.
On a side note, yes the consoles might not match up to a high end PC, but they’re not meant to either. Consoles are far cheaper yet deliver very similar experiences to the PC. The hardware specs don’t stack up exactly, so 8 GB of RAM on a PC is used differently from 8 GB of RAM on a console. A console is built for a sole purpose, so developers can squeeze out much more performance since they know exactly what they’re developing for. If you’re looking at specs objectively, do you think it’s possible for Crysis 3 to run at around 720P on a 8 year old tri core processor and just 512 MB of RAM? It’s not, but an Xbox 360 manages it, because the numbers aren’t same on PC and a console.
Connectivity and outputs
Even in these departments, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are quite similar. For both consoles, games will be rendered natively at 1080P, and UHD support at 4K resolution is limited only to photos, video and interface. There are rumors floating around that the Xbox One might be able to upscale games to 4K resolution, and it depends solely on the developers. If this is true, it’s pretty future proof. The Xbox One and PS4 both feature HDMI and Optical SPDIF outputs, but the Xbox One has an extra HDMI in for it’s TV features and the PlayStation 4 has analog outputs for those with older television sets.
Connectivity wise, both come with USB 3.0 ports, gigabit Ethernet and WiFi support. The Xbox One also supports the new 802.11 ac standard while the PS4 does not. Audio output is also common at 7.1 channel surround sound with Dolby support.
Control and input
The Xbox 360’s controller is widely considered to be one of the best in the business. Microsoft has redesigned the controller but not changed it too much and included a new feature, rumble support for the triggers. The new DualShock controller also looks quite similar to its predecessors, but features a new touchpad and sharing button in addition to redesigned triggers.
Both controllers have some unique features of their own though. The Xbox One controller features differential levels of rumble that extended to the whole controller and triggers included and can even rumble based on direction. This can be used in games such as Forza Motorsport 5, where and idle engine rumble feels different from a full throttled rumble response. There’s also a high speed data port to which peripherals like headsets can be attached. Unlike the DualShock 4, the Xbox One controller uses WiFi Direct to communicate with the console.
The DualShock 4 is the biggest change from all previous controllers, and is unique on its own. The built in speaker and earphone jack is a great addition, and an LED light bar on the backside not only looks cool, but lets the console track the controller. By the way, the light colors can be changed. While the new touchpad isn’t being used for anything yet, it can be programmed for a number of uses.
The biggest difference among the two is motion, gesture and voice control, which is made possible on the Xbox One via the Kinect 2.0. It’s far more powerful and sensitive than the first Kinect, and now allows gesture control as well, which as seen in the first Xbox One reveal, is used to control a lot of the console. If used properly in games, it could change quite a lot. However, for the Xbox One to run, the Kinect 2.0 is necessary and is bundled with every console so that increases costs. PlayStation 4 has a similar peripheral called the Eye, but it is an optional addon and isn’t quite as advanced as the Kinect 2.0.
The PlayStation 4 is being marketed as a pure gaming console with some media features thrown in, while the Xbox One is going for an all in one entertainment device. It runs on a hybrid of Windows 8, the Xbox OS and a virtual machine linker that allows it to do more than the PS4. The HDMI in lets you connect your set top box to the console so that it can overlay a UI on your TV channels. Demonstrations of multitasking on the Xbox One look great and transitions seem seamless. You can Skype, watch TV and game at the same time or even browse the internet. The PlayStation 4 isn’t a one trick pony by a long shot, but isn’t really looking to take over your whole entertainment system. You will still be able to watch movies, stream music and do similar things the PS3 does.
Backwards compatibility and Region locking
Since both consoles are moving to a different architecture from their predecessors, they won’t be able to play older games. However, backwards compatibility will be available in the form of downloadable games somewhere down the line for the PS4. Sony will be using the Gaikai streaming service that it took over a couple of years ago to stream games, while the Xbox One might just get downloadable games from Xbox Live.
The PlayStation 4 has an added advantage of not being region locked. This makes it the first truly global console, and will let you play all games regardless of where you buy your console. The Xbox One will still be region locked, so that is an advantage for the PS4.
Update (20/06/2013): Even the Xbox One will not be region locked.
Cloud capabilities and Extended Control
Microsoft has been really pushing the cloud capabilities of the console, and says that even if the inbuilt hardware gets old, computations can be offloaded to the cloud to keep up with the times. Also, Microsoft is encouraging developers to create persistent worlds so that every game experience is different. A good example is the drivatar feature in Forza Motorsport 5. This is part of the reason that the Xbox One needs to check in to the internet every 24 hours, more on that in the next section.
Extending control to other devices became a real big feature since the Nintendo Wii U hit the block with a gamepad that included a touchscreen. While none of the consoles in question are incorporating that sort of feature, both have some or the other type of extension controller. Microsoft is going with tighter SmartGlass interaction, which lets you see extra information on any compatible device with the app. Sony, on the other hand, is pushing for PS Vita integration, and not only extends control, but also lets you stream PS4 games. Although this feature will be implemented later, it sounds great.
Used game policy, game installs, DRM and game sharing
Now for pretty much the biggest bone of contention between the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Since the Xbox One relies on a lot of things on the cloud, it has to be connected to the internet at least every 24 hours, even if you’re playing a single player game. If you can’t do so, the console won’t let you play games. It basically verifies every 24 hours whether a game is in your collection or not. Games you own can be sold, but only to select retailers at a price set by the publishers, and will involve you giving up the game you own, even if it is installed on your console. Speaking of which, Xbox One has mandatory game installs. Games can’t be shared either, they can only be sent to someone in your friends list for more than 30 days. That seems like an awful lot of restrictions, but the whole idea is to curb piracy and encourage an all digital marketplace.
All of his ties in to one system, that is questionable, yes, but makes sense. So you buy a game and install it on your console, after which the disc is not needed. This game gets added to your library, and can be accessed from any Xbox One console, and by upto 10 people whom you authorize to share your games with. Therefore, your whole library will be on the cloud and accessible by multiple people from anywhere. However, only one person can access a library at a time. This is why the online check is required, to keep your library updated. If you happen to sell a game, it is removed from your library. It’s not very convenient, and probably not feasible for people with spotty internet connections, but the intention isn’t all that bad. Even though Sony says there’s no restrictions on game sharing and no online check, it applies only to first party titles, while third party titles DRM is decided by their publishers.
Personally I prefer the system adopted by Sony, but it’s only a matter of time before DRM is enforced more strictly, because no publisher is going to go against measures that curb piracy. Microsoft’s policy sure drew a lot of flak and negative publicity, but ultimately it might have just taken the step that everyone else was contemplating.
Xbox Live has been the gold standard for online console services since quite a while now, and even though it was criticized initially for being paid, it has thrived. Sony is also going the paid subscription way this time, and for the first time PlayStation 4 users will have to pay to play multiplayer online. The price is pretty much the same as Xbox Live, but considering that it’s going against an established leader, it’s an uphill battle. There have been issues with connectivity and such with PlayStation Plus, so for now Xbox Live is the leader.
For those who love recording and showing off their gameplay, both consoles come with special software that allow you to do so. Even livestreaming is supported, and Xbox One will be using Twitch for interactive livestreaming. Also included is something called the Upload Studio, that lets you edit and make your gameplay videos more attractive for sharing.
There’s one thing for sure, no matter what console has caught your fancy, there won’t be a dearth of games. Absolutely fantastic multiplatform titles like Tom Clancy’s The Division, Watch Dogs, Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag and more have been shown off, but for some it’s the exclusives that matter. In this regard, we think that the Xbox One has a slight edge, since it not only has more exclusives at launch, but also more in the pipeline. With traditional PlayStation exclusives Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts making the jump to Xbox One as well, PlayStation 4 is left with only a handful of exclusives. They may be small in number, but look great nonetheless. Sony is also pushing indie games a lot, and there are a whole load of indie games set to launch on the new PlayStation. Since only the PlayStation store allows indie developers to self publish, expect to see a lot more of such games. This is one area the PlayStation 4 trumps the Xbox One.
Price and launch
And finally, the price could be a gamechanger. The Xbox One will retail for 499$ while the PlayStation 4 will retail for 399$, a whole 100$ less. Keep in mind though, that the Xbox One comes bundled with the advanced Kinect 2.0 and multimedia functionality, so the price is justified. However, for buyers who don’t really want all that, it is an unnecessary cost and that’s where Sony can swoop in and rake in more customers. Basically it comes down to what you want. If you’re interested in a device that does more than just play games, the Xbox One and its price shouldn’t be too much of a problem. But if all you want is a gaming console, the PlayStation 4 is what you should be looking at. Both these consoles should be available in the US and Canada by November/December 2013.
The Xbox One will be coming worldwide a few months later, and us Asian folk will have to wait almost another year. Microsoft has announced that countries like Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and India will be the first to get it in Asia, by “late 2014”. It’s been said that this is due to the fact that these countries have a different kind of satellite TV system that won’t allow the Xbox One to overlay its UI and functionality. Apparently, content will be customized and tailored for these markets for their launch and that’s what’s causing the delay. Microsoft is in a sticky situation right now, all the negative publicity is hurting it and a late launch in some countries could mean a huge loss in sales. Worldwide launch details have not been confirmed for the PlayStation 4 yet, but it doesn’t really matter considering it’s not region locked. Gamers who really want it can import it, albeit at a slightly higher cost.
So there you have it, our comprehensive Xbox One vs. PlayStation 4 comparison! It’s certainly been a tumultuous E3 for Microsoft, and some are already writing off the Xbox One as a failure. We’d like to hold out that decision until both consoles hit the market, because no matter how you put it, the Xbox One does have a pretty solid lineup of games and entertainment. Do let us know what you thought of the comparison and also which console you’re going to buy and why!
Update: Microsoft has given up on all restrictions and DRM on the Xbox One, here’s the official statement:
“An internet connection will not be required to play offline Xbox One games – After a one-time system set-up with a new Xbox One, you can play any disc based game without ever connecting online again. There is no 24 hour connection requirement and you can take your Xbox One anywhere you want and play your games, just like on Xbox 360.
Trade-in, lend, resell, gift, and rent disc based games just like you do today – There will be no limitations to using and sharing games, it will work just as it does today on Xbox 360.
In addition to buying a disc from a retailer, you can also download games from Xbox Live on day of release. If you choose to download your games, you will be able to play them offline just like you do today. Xbox One games will be playable on any Xbox One console — there will be no regional restrictions.”
This means that Microsoft has indeed listened to customer feedback, but this damage control method may mean that a couple of previously touted features like the ability to access your game library from anywhere, the ability to share games and no requirement of the game disc once installed may be scrapped.
Since now discs are required for the games to be played, be prepared to also give up great features like being able to jump into a multiplayer game while you’re playing single player, the ability to share your library and Xbox Live Gold subscription with upto 10 people and redownloading games even if the disc is damaged. In giving up some restrictions for a better future, the gaming community might just have slowed down a whole new model of gaming.