If you’re after a next-gen game console this year, the Xbox One and PS4 represent two great choices. Both consoles combine power and affordability, and also give gamers access to an expansive library of games. This year will see the release of AAA titles such as Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Gran Turismo Sport and Quantum Break – and with great games such as Star Wars: Battlefront already available, it’s only going to get better for gamers.
But which one should you buy? To help answer that question, we’ve put Sony and Microsoft’s next-generation consoles head to head, and compared them in all the areas that matter. That means we’ll be looking at everything from controller design and online play to exclusive games to help work out which console you should buy. So, PS4 or Xbox One? Press START to begin.
PS4 vs Xbox One: Controllers
Controllers are the most intimate, personal component of a games console. They’re the part of the console you touch and hold, they’re the link between you and the games you play – so they need to be excellent.
The PlayStation 4 features the biggest change to Sony’s controllers since the original PlayStation. All the key components such as the analog sticks and L2 + R2 triggers are back, but the whole package is wrapped up in a far more hand-friendly, ergonomic design. As you’d expect from a next-gen controller, Sony has also added a range of new features. Along with improved triggers, the PS4 controller includes a clickable touchpad – where you’d usually find the PlayStation button – as well as a speaker. Each PS4 controller includes a coloured light at the front, and it can be used for everything from showing your health to distinguishing multiple players.
The Xbox 360 controller was rightly seen as one of the best on the market. Featuring satisfying triggers and a solid joystick, its controller was chunky without being too large, and had everything where you wanted it – but the Xbox One’s controller is even better. In addition to slightly improved directional pads, the new controller also includes independent rumble on the left and right triggers.
Verdict: Xbox wins. Although the PS4’s controller is the best Sony has made, it can’t compete with that of the Xbox One. Sony’s touchpad is rarely used in the games – and when it is, it’s hardly a game-changer. In contrast, the Xbox One’s independent rumble triggers may seem like a gimmick, but really transform how you play games – especially racing ones. Combine that with the more comfortable design of Microsoft’s controller and the Xbox One is a clear winner.
PS4 vs Xbox One: Console design
Both consoles will form a permanent fixture of your audiovisual setup, so it’s important they look good. After the somewhat generic design of the PlayStation 3, the PlayStation 4 is a return to form for Sony. Featuring a mixture of gloss and matte plastic, and a sophisticated status light separating the two, the PS4 is neat and compact – and looks a lot like a PlayStation 2 in italics.
Better yet, Sony has also managed to integrate the transformer into the console, so you won’t have to make room for a power supply. The PlayStation 4 is available in black and “glacier white” models, but Sony also releases limited-edition designs when consoles are bundled with larger titles.
After the curvy designs of the Xbox 360, the Xbox One is a boxy rectangular affair, looking more like a PC or old-school VCR than anything else. That’s not to say it’s an ugly device – Microsoft has used a combination of gloss and matte finishes along with splashes of chrome, to make the Xbox One look like a seriously sophisticated bit of kit.
In contrast to the PS4’s touch-sensitive buttons and status light, the Xbox One features a unique glowing On switch. There is, however, one catch. Despite its larger footprint, the Xbox One doesn’t feature an integrated power supply, so you’ll need to make room for a cumbersome and sometimes noisy power brick behind your audiovisual setup.
Verdict: PS4 wins. Both consoles look great, and although the Xbox One is bigger, it’s still a handsome device. But considering its larger footprint, the Xbox One’s need for an external power supply is pretty disappointing.
PS4 vs Xbox One: Exclusive games
Although most games are available on both consoles, some titles are exclusive to either the PS4 or the Xbox One. While this is sometimes because of licences or deals, it’s often because the games are developed by either Sony or Microsoft. For example, headline games such as Halo 5, Forza 6 and Gears of War are only available on Xbox One, while Bloodborne, The Order: 1886 and Driveclub are only available on the PlayStation 4. As you’d expect, third-party games such as FIFA, Fallout 4 and Destiny are available on both the Xbox One and the PS4.
Verdict: A draw. Both consoles have their fair share of killer apps, and most are evenly matched. Forza 6 and Gears of War are particular highlights for the Xbox One, but the PlayStation 4 will also see the likes of Uncharted and Gran Turismo Sport in 2016. Unless you’re drawn to a particular game, the consoles are pretty much even.
PS4 vs Xbox One: PSN Plus vs Xbox Live Gold
Games of the past pit you against the computer – or if you were lucky the person next to you, but the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 open up the gates to an entire globe of competitors. Destiny, Call of Duty and Star Wars: Battlefront can place you in firefights with up to 31 other people, while titles such as FIFA 16 and Madden 16 put you head to head with people from anywhere in the world.
Both the PlayStation and Xbox offer online services in the form of PSN Plus and Xbox Live Gold, and both offer relatively similar experiences. Both cost £40 for a year’s membership (easily the best-value option) and both offer a range of additional benefits in addition to online play. You get two free games every month with both PSN Plis and Xbox Live Gold, and both offer heavily discounted digital versions of older games too.
PlayStation Plus also adds Share Play, a novel feature that lets your friends play whatever your playing – even if they don’t have a copy of the game themselves. At the same time, Online Storage lets you save your most important game saves to the cloud, so you won’t lose your progress if your console’s HDD happens to fail.
Xbox Live Gold, on the other hand, doesn’t allow for game sharing, but does offer Xbox Fitness – an useful collection of workouts that can help you get in shape. However, there is a catch. The titles track your movement using the Xbox One’s Kinect sensor, so you’ll have to shell out if you want one.
Verdict: A draw. Both services cost the same, offer similar features, and they’re identical when it comes to lag and matchmaking. Of course, the PlayStation 4’s Share Play represents a good benefit, but both services are fairly evenly matched.
PS4 vs Xbox One: Streaming apps
In 2015, consoles aren’t just about gaming. Alongside social features, and the ability to manage saved games and downloadable content, both the Xbox One and PS4 are also compatible with a wide range of apps – from BBC iPlayer to Spotify. That means that if you don’t have a smart TV, your games console could be a gateway to a huge amount of content.
Both consoles are fairly even when it comes to apps. Although there are certain applications exclusive to either console – such as Spotify on the PS4 and NFL on the Xbox One – both have all the main services such as Netflix and BBC iPlayer. In addition to streaming services, the Xbox One also lets you run content from a set-top box or tuner through your console. The result? You’re able to use your Xbox One as a PVR, complete with a EPG.
Verdict: A draw. Both consoles are evenly matched when it comes to apps. There are a few apps exclusive to either console, but they aren’t significant enough to make a difference.
However, it should be noted that although the consoles offer the same apps, the PlayStation makes them slightly easier to find. Although I’m a fan of the Xbox’s new dashboard, I find it less straightforward to use than the PlayStations – even after 4 months use.
PS4 vs Xbox One: Graphics and performance
Most games are available on both consoles, and that means it’s easy to compare their relative graphical performance. The PlayStation 4 is capable of producing 1080p or 920p and often 60fps content, making games look rich, but also smooth. Although the Xbox One certainly looks next-gen – and significantly better than the Xbox 360 – in most multi-platform games, it appears to lack the polished-look of the PS4. Often lighting effects are less subtle, models are more jagged, and the end result is a game that looks slightly less refined.
Verdict: PS4 Wins. Although both consoles offer impressive graphics, multi-platform titles tends to provide crisper visuals when on the PS4.
PS4 vs Xbox One: Price and verdict
Although the Xbox One originally launched with an asking price of more than $572, price cuts mean a 1TB version of the console can be now bought for $500. A 1TB version of the PlayStation 4 can also be picked up for $500.
Verdict: PS4 wins on points. The Xbox One is better than ever, and with a range of new exclusives on the horizon, and Windows 10 compatibility, it’s finally beginning to reach its potential. However, the PlayStation 4 is still far more popular, and enjoys slightly better graphics that truly show the power of next-gen.
After owning both consoles for the past two years, the PS4 has become my primary console – but I still use my Xbox One. I find myself buying most multi-platform games for the PlayStation, but still find myself firing up the Xbox One for the amazing NFL app, as well as Forza 6, Halo 5 and Gears of War. My advice? The graphics are so similiar that it’s worth checking the exclusives of each system, and also seeing which machines your friends already own. After weighing things up using both those factors, go with the one that suits you best.