Lots of us have spent time over the past few months putting Microsoft and Sony’s upcoming next gen consoles head to head. And ignoring any controversial policies and 180 degree about turns, it’s a tricky conundrum. Both units are promising in their own ways, and picking between the two could be a very difficult choice.
In order to try an give you a hand, and to put some things into perspective, we’ve taken a good look at some of the most important elements of any console, and have picked our personal winner in each category. Which console will win the most categories? Let’s take a look…
The bread and butter of many a format war argument is the specification of a console, and this generation is no different. Under the hood, both the PS4 and Xbox One are packing some serious hardware, and both will be technical powerhouses, but which is the best?
The Xbox One and PS4 share many similarities. Both utilise a custom AMD CPU running at around 1.6Ghz, and both have 8GM of RAM. 500GB hard disks are standard across the two platforms.
There are differences, though. The PS4 arguably has a more powerful and faster CPU, and it makes use of GDDR5 RAM, unlike the Xbox One, which uses DDR3. The Xbox One’s hard drive cannot be replaced or upgraded, whereas the PS4’s HDD can be removed and replaced with another drive, even one that’s larger than the factory default unit.
We could list full specs as long as your arm pertaining to the actual core performance of both consoles, but in the end, there’s little to separate the two units, at least on paper, and measurable differences will be slight. The PS4 wins out for us, however, as the more powerful CPU and RAM, coupled with the replaceable hard disk, give Sony’s platform a boost, albeit a small one.
Winner so far: PS4
Both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 controllers were superb, and both offered the perfect balance of control and quality. Each had their own supporters, of course, and the next generation will be no different.
Both new consoles have had controller overhauls, with the PS4 arguably having the most work done in this area. The DualShock 4 has been redesigned in almost every way, with a weighted frame, remoulded controls, integrated touchpad, motion tracking and social media sharing abilities.
The Xbox One controller has had over 40 improvements, including the much vaunted ‘impulse triggers’, refined analogue sticks and d-pad, and an improved Xbox button. It’s also smaller and sleeker. The end result is a far more impressive controller, but one that doesn’t fix what isn’t broken.
Here we’d have to go for the PS4’s DualShock 4. Despite the Xbox 360 pad being the superior controller of the current generation in our opinion, with the PS3’s Sixaxis being little more than a gimmick, and the DualShock 3 being a little too light and flimsy compared to the Microsoft alternative, Sony looks to have really pushed the boat out for the PS4. The DualShock 4 looks like a seriously mean piece of kit, and the easy to access touchpad could be a real game changer.
Winner so far PS4
Gamepads are all well and good, but next gen also means new methods of input, or at the very least upgraded ones. We’ve already seen both consoles’ motion control options in their current gen incarnations, but both the Xbox One and PS4 are offering enhanced versions, with Microsoft really going for it with Kinect 2, and Sony offering the new PlayStation camera and DualShock 4 integration.
Kinect 2 is one of the Xbox One’s major features, and one that Microsoft is backing greatly. It improves upon the original Kinect sensor in almost every way, with a full 1080p camera that can handle 2GB of data per second. This means the sensor is very accurate and fast, able to offer smooth 1:1 motion recognition, right down to finger movements. It also features greatly enhanced voice controls, which is another area Microsoft is heavily pushing.
The PlayStation camera offers much the same functionality when it comes to motion sensing, albeit at a lower 720p resolution with less sensitivity, but it can be used in tandem with the DualShock 4. It doesn’t feature any voice command functionality, though, which is a shame.
This round is pretty simple really, and the Xbox One’s Kinect 2 wins easily, thanks to a much more improved feature set. You may not particularly like motion controls or Kinect, but of the two options, Microsoft wins it here.
Winner so far: Xbox One
Although the PlayStation 3 tried to keep up with the Xbox 360 punch-for-punch when it came to multimedia support, Microsoft pretty much owns this arena, and with the Xbox One, there’s simply no stopping the new Redmond console from taking the prize.
Whilst the PS4 will certainly pack its own selection of great multimedia functions, the Xbox One is unmatched in terms of sheer multimedia focus, and unlike the PS4, it’ll also support DLNA clients. The Xbox One’s integration of TV, streaming media, social networking and more means that if you’re looking for a games console that’ll do far more than let you play Call of Duty or GTA, then you’ve got a clear choice.
Winner so far: Xbox One
Haven’t you heard? Online gaming seems to be officially ‘where it’s at’, and if a console hopes to stand a chance of success, then it has to boast a rock solid online service. This is an area where Microsoft and the Xbox 360 truly dominated, and the PS3’s PSN, although it improved as time moved on, never really managed to topple Xbox Live. The Xbox 360 was the go to machine for online multiplayer, and other digitally-distributed services.
The next generation of consoles will be very interesting, however, and less likely to be as one-sided. One area where Microsoft always had the advantage was a far more stable and speedy infrastructure due to the increased funds from mandatory user subscriptions for those wishing to play online. Sony didn’t have this option until the subscription-based PS Plus, but the key word here was optional. Many didn’t choose the service, and so not as much money was ploughed into beefing up PSN.
With the arrival of the PS4 Sony is gong to change this, and the console will use a payment structure very similar to Xbox Live. There’ll be a free PSN option that’ll allow the downloading of games, content and other services, but those who wish to play online will need to subscribe to PS Plus. No subscription, no online play (except some free-to-play titles). This will allow Sony to improve the PSN service, hopefully making it a better contender.
Of course, if any company knows its stuff when it comes to online, it’s Microsoft, and with a proven track record in Xbox Live, mixed in with the impressive multi-tasking and multimedia functions of the Xbox One it’s hard to see PSN, no matter how much improved it may be, topple the mighty Xbox Live. We’d also place our bets on the Xbox One’s cloud services soundly trouncing the PS4’s Gaikai offering, as this is another area where Microsoft has a clear advantage when it comes to prior experience. After all, it’s got a $700 million data centre specifically for Xbox One’s cloud. That’s a promising sign.
Winner so far: Xbox One
This is the big one for gamers and we’ve said it before, and it’ll be said be us and many others time and time again, games consoles are only as good as the games they have available, even if they boast masses of extra features.
It’s far too early to even speculate on which console will have the stronger line-up of games down the line, but it’ll all come down to exclusives, as we can see multi-platform titles being mostly identical given the two consoles’ widely-reported similarities in power (despite each company begging to differ).
We’ve already given our opinion of the stronger launch line-up previously, but as more and more releases arrive, either console could end up taking this one. The Xbox has a strong early start thanks to such exclusive titles as Titanfall, but even this will appear on PS4 when sequels arrive, so in the long term, at the time of writing, we’d have to call it a draw.
Winner so far: Draw
One of the fist hurdles a console has to jump is the price, and actually prying people away from their cash. A good, reasonable asking price can work wonders, and a steep price can dash a platform’s hopes of beating the competition. Microsoft has previously capitalised on this with the initially cheaper Xbox 360, but this generation Sony has the upper hand, as the PS4 will be the more affordable of the two, being around $100 cheaper than the Xbox One in the US, and around £80 cheaper in the UK.
It’s not quite as simple as the basic price, though, as the PS4 also has a PS4 camera option, which adds $59/£44 to the price, closing the gap somewhat for those wanting the motion control feature. Each and every Xbox One includes Kinect in the core price.
Still, many hardcore gamers don’t really see Kinect or motion controls as a major feature, so most will no doubt grab a PS4 without the PlayStation Eye camera, making the price of Sony’s console far easier to swallow.
Winner so far: PS4
Sticking with the initial purchase, we also have to consider which console has the better bundles. Although many will stick with the basic console, picking and choosing games and peripherals at their leisure, many look for potentially money-saving bundles.
Sony has announced a few bundles, including Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and Killzone: Shadow Fall, as well as an option with two DualShock 4 controllers and the PlayStation Eye.
The Xbox One has various bundles in different outlets, including consoles that can be purchased with Forza 5, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Battlefield 4, Dead Rising 3 and Ryse. Then there’s the Day One pre-order FIFA 14 offer.
Sadly, both consoles have lost out on the Watch Dogs bundles, as the game has been delayed until next year.
A big deciding factor here is the game selection on offer, and although we like the Killzone, camera and dual gamepad offer of the PS4, the Xbox One has a less limited and more widely available range of bundles, with some big name games, and UK footy fans who were lucky to grab a Day One Edition will certainly appreciate the free copy of FIFA 14. Because of this, Microsoft wins this round.
Winner so far: Xbox One
Hearts and minds
Perhaps the most important category of them all, especially given the rocky road we’ve travelled up to this point, is the general public feeling towards each platform. Microsoft undeniably shot itself repeatedly in the foot early on, with a horrific initial launch that focused far too much on multimedia, and contained the now infamous trade-in policies and online requirements. A few u-turns later, and plenty of PR negotiation and the Xbox One has actually come out of things looking far better, and is now more than a match for the PS4.
Sony, on the other hand, had a great launch, seen as the saviour of gamers due to its total opposite stand to Microsoft’s much-hated policies. Now that these issues are long gone, Sony hasn’t got the overwhelming advantage of customer love it once had, and with the reveal that the new console is going to have other restrictions, such as the lack of DLNA support or MP3 playback, it may even lose some supporters to the Xbox One.
Although a few months ago you’d never believe it, we’d have to say that this is another draw. Microsoft has done a sterling job clawing back the Xbox One’s public image, and the result is a console battle that’s about what it should have been in the first place, the hardware capabilities and the games.
Winner so far: Draw
Well, those paying close attention will see that the scores here put the Xbox One one ahead of the PS4, with two draws failing to even things out. Does this mean that we consider the Xbox One the console to grab, and the PS4 avoided? No, of course not, it’s not that simple. This is merely a guide, and depending on your own personal preference certain categories may or may not matter. If you want a console purely for gaming, then multimedia isn’t going to concern you. If you’re a solo gamer, online multiplayer won’t be a deal breaker, it’s all subjective.
What is interesting, though, is that the Xbox One and PS4 are now so very close, and each has their own clear pros and cons, and how close the battle is at this point. It’ll make for a very competitive generation, that’s for sure (even if on pre-orders, it looks as if the PS4, for understandable reasons, is well ahead). The battle begins in earnest in just over a week, as the Xbox One makes its UK debut…
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