The highly anticipated next generation of video game consoles from Sony and Microsoft launch just in time for the holiday season. With hot new hardware, apps, games, and interactive features, these systems go from simple gaming systems to full on do-it-all black boxes. So how to decide which of the two to buy? We break down the fight with our pre-game analysis.
Sony Playstation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One
Sony's PS4 is reminiscent of the old PS2 upright console.
Microsoft's Xbox One looks like an oversized DVR or retro VCR deck.
Sony's Playstation 4 is slated to launch this Friday, November 15. Microsoft's Xbox One arrives just one week later on Friday, November 22 (or now for a few lucky gamers due to a Target error). Both units arrive before Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but deals on the console prices themselves are unlikely. Buyers can hope to scoop up discounted peripherals and games. There's plenty of time to add desired games to Christmas wish lists.
Winner: PS4. Earlier isn't always better (see Nintendo Wii U), but the extra week helps Sony grab early buyers who don't yet have a preferred platform and are eager to jump into the next generation video game systems.
Whereas Sony's last generation Playstation 3 was the heavy hitter in the pricetag arena, it's actually Microsoft's new Xbox One taking the high dollar road with a $499.99 pricetag on release. Sony's Playstation 4 is priced at $399.99. To be fair, the Xbox One comes packed with the 1080p Kinect 2 motion sensing camera right out of the box, while the optional PS4 Camera will add an additional $59, bringing the console prices within 10% of one another.
Winner: PS4. As a one-time initial purchase though, forgoing the camera with the PS4 saves $100 or buys two games at launch.
Both the PS4 and Xbox One pack plenty of power under the hood, with AMD eight-core CPUs and graphics processors. Both systems will have 8 GB of RAM, 500 GB hard drives, and Blu-ray playback. The PS4 will provide motion sensing features with its PS4 Camera while the Xbox One gets an upgrade with its Kinect 2 sensor. Rechargeable wireless controllers, USB ports, Gigabit Ethernet, WiFi, and HDMI output are all standard. From a hardware perspective, the two systems look almost identical in features. The PS4 does come with Bluetooth while the Xbox provides HDMI input and infrared output. Those looking for an in-depth look at the hardware specs can check out Ars Technca's detailed comparison.
Winner: Tie. There's really not much practical difference in power that any gamer will notice - at least for now. It remains to be seen how game developers leverage each console's capabilities, but there's no clear difference or advantage gained by either system at launch.
The controllers for both systems are more of an evolution rather than revolution. Sony's DualShock 4 controllers add a touchscreen, speaker, and headset jack as well as a "Share" button to record or stream gameplay. The Xbox One controller builds upon their past efforts with force feedback added to the triggers.
Winner: PS4. Even if all of these new features aren't utilized by developers or don't work out as expected, the controller still retains the strong form factor of the previous generation, and that's a baseline win, especially for those against change.
Playstation Camera Vs. Kinect
The Xbox One brings motion control to the next level with even more sensors and accuracy. Voice technology adds hands free control with the ability to command the Xbox One from anywhere, even in a crowded room. Sony's Playstation Camera brings the same features but apparently support is lacking in and integration isn't near the level of Kinect.
Winner: Xbox One. Microsoft set the standard with its original Kinect motion tracking technology and ups the ante with the Kinect 2.
Ps4 and Xbox One games are actually already on the shelves in a fairly brilliant strategy to spread out buying dollars to the weeks before the game consoles hit the shelves and impact our wallets. Sony's policy of supporting independent developers has paid off with a much larger initial set of games, although actual publisher titles are about equal to the Xbox One. IGN has a great comparison chart of titles available exclusively to the PS4 or Xbox One as well as games that will be released for both platforms.
Winner: PS4. The pure number of independent games means the PS4 will have a lot more to play with releasing a week before the Xbox One and carrying interest levels through the Xbox One launch. Really though both systems have quite a number of quality games available that's nothing like the dearth of available games from system releases of yesteryear.
The PS4 continues with Blu-ray movie support just as the PS3 helped usher in the format, while the Xbox One finally supports Blu-ray discs where the previous Xbox 360 did not. Both systems will have access to streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and an expected large library of apps. The Xbox One steps up its efforts in becoming an all-in-one entertainment unit with its pass-through HDMI input and program guide.
Winner: Xbox One. While Microsoft simply played catchup with inclusion of a Blu-ray disc player, its new HDMI pass-through requires one less TV or receiver input as well as brings television services to the Xbox One with the vision of a unified experience.
PlayStation Plus Vs. Xbox Live
It's an argument that gets as heated as Apple vs. Android. Which subscription service is better, PlayStation Plus or Xbox Live? Sony's jump into paid multiplayer gaming should help it gain ground on Xbox Live's powerful online service. Both cost money and provide access to a game market, video content, multiplayer services, and more. Neoseeker has a great comparison of the two massive online systems.
Winner: Xbox One. Microsoft's pre-existing structure, content, and experience make for a much more stable. Not to mention the existing 50 million or so subscribers currently in the system will make multiplayer with your friends more likely. With free games for a year immediately on signup, Sony's network gets a thumbs up for value.
Xbox SmartGlass brings a unique perspective to gaming that Nintendo originally pioneered with its dual screen gaming options. A SmartGlass app for Windows 8, Android, and iOS lets a tablet or phone "extend, enhance, and control" the Xbox One. Sony's Remote Play streams PS4 gameplay to a PS Vita via WiFi, allowing for handheld gameplay away from the television set and the PS4 game console.
Winner: Xbox One. Bringing additional functionality to a tablet or smartphone is a brilliant idea and doesn't cost us anything more than what's already in our pockets.
So Which One To Get?
Both next generation video game consoles pack plenty of power in the hardware and features department. Sony touts its Playstation 4 as "The Best Place To Play" and probably suits the power gamer best. Casual gamers and multimedia system lovers will enjoy Microsoft's Xbox One which aims to be the centerpiece of a home entertainment system with its rich-entertainment features.