Saturday 21 April 2018

PS4 vs Xbox One: which one should you buy?

The Xbox One
The Xbox One
The PlayStation 4 controller
The Xbox One controller is pictured during a press event unveiling Microsoft's new Xbox in Redmond
Microsoft recently previewed its Xbox One
Sony Computer Entertainment president and CEO Andrew House introduces the new PlayStation 4 at the Sony PlayStation E3 media briefing in Los Angeles

James Vincent

As the release date nears, we compare Sony and Microsoft's latest consoles, which are expected to be a big hit this Christmas.

Price and release date:

The Xbox One will be out from 22nd November (though from the 15th for US customers) and the PS4 arrives a week later on the 29th. The PS4 costs €400 and the Xbox One will retail for €500, with both these packages including a single controller. However, the Xbox One’s basic price includes the cost of the Kinect 2.0 while the PS4 Eye does not come with the PS4.

Design:

This much is clear: they’re both black boxes. The PS4 is a bit slanty and the Xbox One looks a little like a videotape recorder, but they're both very much black boxes.

Reviewers have noted, however, how surprisingly small and light the PS4 is compared with the Xbox One.

Hardware and graphics:

Both consoles have similar hardware though the PS4 undoubtedly has the upper hand in terms of raw power. There’s custom AMD chips in both and 8GB of RAM apiece (although the Xbox One’s is DDR3 while the PS4’s is the much superior DDR5) but the big difference comes from the GPUs (Graphics Processing Unit).

On paper the PS4’s GPU is 50pc more powerful than the Xbox One’s, meaning sharper looking games that run more smoothly than on Microsoft’s console. This prediction has so far been borne out by the side by side comparisons we’ve seen of the  two consoles (see below for video).

However, it’s worth remembering that the differences between the pair will, in reality, be minimal. Games appearing on the Xbox One and PS4 will have been made for both consoles simultaneously, meaning that it simply won’t be efficient for developers to differentiate too between the two in terms of hardware optimisation. However, games developed solely for the PS4 are likely to look nicer than those for the Xbox One.

Hardware is a nice way to compare the consoles as it’s easy to pick a clear winner, but really it depends on what developers do with each console over the course of their life time. It’s also worth remembering that if you can notice the difference between a 1600x900 and a 1280x720 resolution without blinking then you’re probably sitting too close to the TV.

Digital rights:

This was a massive factor in Sony’s favour during the initial launches but fan outrage has forced Microsoft to rethink their position. Now, it's fair to say that the two are pretty much equal.

Neither console will require an always-on internet connection (though both will need one for an initial Day One patch) and used games will be free to play on both. Neither is backwards compatible with old titles, though the PS4 will stream these from the cloud and it’s likely the Xbox One will introduce something similar in the future.

Subscriptions and online services:

This has been a big difference in previous generations, with Microsoft forcing a yearly fee on gamers for online play (this is after you’ve paid for the game, the console and your internet connection) whilst Sony kept it classy and free.

 Subscriptions on both console will be necessary to access third party media content - though these will require separate payment.

This year however, both companies will be charging users for online services that you might have expected to be part of the ticket price. PlayStation Plus is €50 for 12 months; Xbox Live Gold is €60 for the same period.

In terms of social features both consoles will be fairly similar with the likes of video capture, live streams sharing and eight person video chat, although Microsoft is offering what seems like a more fully developing miniature social network for keeping up to date with friends’ escapades.

However, PlayStation Plus absolutely blows Xbox Live out the water where it counts: games. Sony's Instant Game Collection offers customers access to a number of free titles on PS3, PS4 and on the PS Vita including Metal Gear Rising, Uncharted 3 and XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Microsoft also offers freebies but the quality of the titles just don't match up.

Peripherals and controllers:

Whether you prefer Sony or Microsoft’s controllers is mostly a matter of taste though neither camps have made significant updates to their designs.  The PS4’s new DualShock 4 now comes with concave triggers and rubbery thumbsticks, whilst the Xbox One’s controller adds vibration in the triggers that can mimic everything from gun recoil to hearbeats.

Sony’s does have the advantaged of the lightbar on the back of the controller which will be used to identify players, but that functionality is matched and thoroughly beaten by the powers of the Kinect 2.0 – which can identify players when they walk in the room, log them in automatically and even detect their pulse. The PS4 can also Eye will also do automatic log ins, but it doesn’t come bundled with the console.

 The PS4's DualShock 4 controller is slightly heavy and thicker than previous versions.

In a straight battle between the Kinect and the PS4 Eye Microsoft is certainly the winner, though there is the question of whether gamers want the features it offers. I have a feeling they will – the log-in feature is creepy but will prove useful, whilst HD Skype calls will certainly be worthwhile.

And with developers for the Xbox One now certain that any Kinect-heavy games they make will be met by an actual Kinect-owning audience, there’s a chance that there will be some real innovation here after a long string of failures.

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