PS4 vs Xbox One: which is better?

A definitive comparison between Sony's PS4 and Microsoft's Xbox One is more important than ever three years into the current generation of consoles.

PS4 and Xbox One prices are at an all-time low, while both videogame systems have spawned mid-cycle upgrades by way of PS4 Slim, PS4 Pro and Xbox One S in 2016 – and, to top it all off, now both systems have rival services that are offering backlog titles for free.

Sure, many of the games are the same, but but the exclusive games are what make each system a worthwhile investment. New features to the respective systems also make this straightforward showdown more complicated than ever.

The latest PS4 sales numbers continue to show Sony with a comfortable lead, crossing 50 million sold over the course of its lifetime. That's compared to just 24 million Xbox One consoles sold as of October 15, 2016.

Sony's comfortable lead is no accident. The company has made sure its system is packed full of excellent exclusive games (just check out our list of the best PS4 games if you're in any doubt), and it's recently received a new slimline model as well as an upgraded 4K machine

Oh, and it's also the only console to feature a fully-fledged virtual reality headset, the PlayStation VR

Not to be outdone, Microsoft has come back strong, and in recent months has narrowed the sales gap with Sony. As well as bringing a number of excellent exclusives of its own (check out our guide to the best Xbox One games for more details), the company also has its own slimline console, the Xbox One S

Whereas Sony has played it safe with the PS4 Slim, Microsoft has been much more adventurous, and has equipped the One S with an Ultra HD Blu-ray drive, and the ability to upscale games to 4K. There's also Project Scorpio on the horizon, which promises native (rather than upscaled) 4K gaming. 

The company has also got big ambitions for Xbox One/Windows 10 compatibility with the Xbox Play Anywhere and Xbox Game Pass initiatives. It's gotten of to a bit of a rocky start, but it has the potential to really take off in the future. 

We've put together a short video to explain the major differences between the two consoles as we head towards the three year mark. 

Xbox One vs PS4 hardware design

  • The original PS4 is the smaller consoles out of the two.
  • The Xbox One's rear ports are easier to access.

Deciding between PS4 and Xbox One is like peeling back an onion, and it starts with the outermost layer, the hardware design.

The original Xbox One's dimensions make it a menacing gaming beast that measures 13.5 in x 10.4 in x 3.2 in. It's also riddled with vents, a design decision to avoid another Red Ring of Death overheating scenario.

It towers over every other device (though Microsoft advises not to stand it up vertically), and completely dwarfs our smallest home theater gadget, the app-filled Chromecast.

The original PS4 has a more distinctive angular shape with an overall stylish design. This half-matte half-gloss console measures a slimmer 10.8 in x 12 in x 2 in at its widest regions.

These dimensions make Sony’s machine more media cabinet-friendly, at least next to Xbox One. The new Xbox also weighs a heftier 3.56 kg vs PS4’s 2.75 kg.

Xbox One dimensions

Xbox One is a monster console with lots of vents, but at least it won’t overheat

PS4 dimensions

PS4 is smaller and a little more stylish

PS4 has the advantage of hiding ports too, though as we illustrated in our video comparison, this can actually make it harder to plug cables into the back of the system. In this way, Xbox One represents functionality over form. A lot of the internal specs are comparable, but Microsoft and Sony really diverged when it came to the designs of Xbox One and PS4.

Now, all of this might sound like a big to-do about nothing, but keep in mind that one of these two systems are going to sit front and center in your living room entertainment system for the next ten years.

Xbox One vs PS4 front and rear ports

  • You can't upgrade Xbox One's internal hard drive, but you can on the PS4.
  • The Xbox One has more ports on its rear.

More clear cut is the wireless connectivity situation. PS4 makes room for gigabit ethernet and 802.11 Wi-Fi bands b/g/n, while Xbox One includes all of that plus the older 802.11a band.

Xbox One also supports both the 2.4GHz and newer 5GHz channels that are compatible with dual band routers. PS4 limits connections to 2.4GHz, which is likely to have more interference.

Both systems launched with 500GB hard drives and now have 1TB variants, but only PS4 allows user-replaceable internal drives. An Xbox One teardown found a standard-looking drive inside, but replacing it voids the warranty. Be careful.

Instead, the Xbox One June update finally allowed gamers to add external storage to the monster-sized system. There are strings attached. The drive needs to be 256GB or larger and USB 3.0 compatible.

External storage isn’t an option that Sony supports in its “go big or go home” internal approach.

PS4 vs Xbox One rear ports

PS4 vs Xbox One rear ports

PS4 and Xbox One are void of remarkable characteristics on the front. There’s a Blu-ray/DVD combo drive to the left and their respective, muted-color logos to the right. PS4 has a pair of USB ports tucked between its sandwich-like halves next to where the disc drive is located.

It’s party in the back Xbox One connections. That’s where it has two USB ports, HDMI in, HDMI out, S/PDIF for digital audio, a proprietary Xbox One Kinect port, an IR blaster connection and an Ethernet port. To the far right is a K-lock in case you want to lug this system around to LAN parties.

Sony went with a minimalist approach when it came to PS4’s rear ports. You’ll only find an HDMI out, S/PDIF, Ethernet and PS4 camera port (marked “AUX”) around back.

Xbox One is more feature-packed in this area thanks to its HDMI in and IR blaster connections used for its TV cable or satellite box functionality. But are you really going to use this feature? PS4 lacks this passthrough technology, opting to stick with gaming as its top priority.

Xbox One graphics specs teardown

Xbox One has a non-replaceable internal hard drive (credit: iFixIt)

Is PS4 or Xbox more powerful?

  • The Xbox has a more powerful CPU.
  • The PS4 has a more powerful GPU.

PS4 and Xbox One multiply the power of Xbox 360 and PS3. More importantly, they were built with smarter internal designs, drawing from mistakes of last-generation consoles.

Chip manufacturer AMD benefitted the most from these upgrades. Xbox One has a custom 1.75GHz AMD 8-core CPU, a last-minute upgrade over its original 1.6GHz processor.

The PS4 CPU remained clocked at 1.6GHz and contains a similar custom AMD 8-core CPU with x86 based architecture.

This represents a roughly 10% increase in processing power for the Xbox One, but the opposite is true when it comes to the all-important graphics processor.

PS4 graphics specs teardown

PS4 has a user-replaceable hard drive

PS4 boasts a 1.84 teraflop GPU that’s based on AMD’s Radeon technology. The Xbox One graphics chip, also with an AMD Radeon GPU, has a pipeline for 1.31 teraflops.

Microsoft claims that as of last June’s Xbox One update, Kinect-free games can reclaim 10% of the GPU that was reserved for system level processing like Kinect-related skeletal tracking data. But developers still have to take advantage of this cache in new games or patch titles.

Right now, the PS4 specs make room for faster graphics rendering than Xbox One, especially when combined with Sony’s choice in superior system memory.

Best PS4 vs Xbox One specs for RAM

  • Both systems have 8GB of RAM overall.
  • But they allocate that memory to developers differently.

Even more controversial is the memory under the consoles’ matte black hoods. It’s not the amount of RAM at issue – both are future-proofed with 8GB of RAM – it’s the type of RAM used.

PS4 has a distinct advantage with faster 8GB GDDR5 memory, while Xbox One went with the slower bandwidth of the 8GB DDR3 variety. But, wait, there’s more to it.

Neither system allocates all of that RAM to game developers – some is reserved to run their operating systems.

PS4 reserves up to 3.5GB for its operating system, leaving developers with 4.5GB, according to documentation. They can sometimes access an extra 1GB of “flexible” memory when it’s available, but that’s not guaranteed.

Xbox One’s “guaranteed memory” amounts to a slightly higher 5GB for developers, as Microsoft’s multi-layered operating system takes up a steady 3GB. It eeks out a 0.5GB win with more developer-accessible memory than PS4, unless you factor in Sony’s 1GB of “flexible” memory at times. Then it’s 0.5GB less.

The PS4 and Xbox One specs have similar AMD architecture at their core, but contrast like apples and oranges when it comes to memory. Only developers can determine how this battle is won.

PS4 vs Xbox One graphics comparison

  • Games on PS4 run at higher resolutions than their Xbox One counterparts.

The graphics comparison between multi-console games such as Grand Theft Auto 5 and Metal Gear Solid 5 have given us the best PS4 vs Xbox One graphics benchmarks.

A gameplay video on YouTube of GTA 5 pans between the two next-gen versions of the game with a definitive answer. The PS4 GPU is able to handle more foliage in environments.

Yes, you literally have to get into the weeds to see the differences, though both the PS4 and Xbox editions of GTA 5 look stellar compared to their last-gen counterparts.

In the Metal Gear Solid 5 comparison, there’s slightly more clarity to the PS4 version. Specifically, distant textures and moving objects appear softer among the otherwise identical Xbox One visuals.

It’s a trend we’re seeing from PS4 games that achieve a 1080p resolution at 30 or 60 frames per second when their Xbox One counterparts run at 720p or 900p at 30 or 60fps.

This is a trend that’s continuing today, with video analysis such as the one below indicating that Battlefield 1 runs at a consistently higher resolution on the PS4 than the Xbox One, with both consoles hitting the same 60 fps frame-rate. 

It’s a similar story when it comes to Titanfall 2, which likewise runs at a lower resolution on Xbox One. 

Xbox One vs PS4 price difference

  • PS4 was initially much cheaper than Xbox One 
  • But price drops have since leveled the playing field

It’s expensive to be an early adopter, and the initial PS4 and Xbox One prices prove just that in each of the countries the systems have launched.

Three years ago, the PS4 price was the more tempting deal: $ 399 (£349.99 / AU$ 549) for the console and DualShock 4 controller. Xbox One was expensive at $ 499 (£429 / AU$ 499) for the system, Xbox One controller and Kinect.

But now after several price drops from both consoles (not to mention now that the Xbox One has dropped its compulsory Kinect peripheral), the two consoles are much more evenly matched. 

The Xbox One S available for the same as the PS4 at $ 299 in the US, while in the UK the Xbox One S is £249 compared to the PS4’s £225. In Australia you can get the Xbox One S for AU$ 399, and the PS4 for AU$ 329. 

The early PS4 vs Xbox One price difference gave Sony an lead at face value, and gamers didn’t seem to mind that the PS4 camera was a separate purchase. Also, for almost a year, it was the only console of the two being sold in countries like India, Japan and Turkey.

Price and availability made for Xbox One’s assured shortfall in the beginning. Now, the price point is moot. Can it catch up?

What's Included

What’s included? Not a PS4 camera, that’s for sure

What's in the box?

  • Both systems come with a controller, trial offers and an HDMI cable

There was more value in the original Xbox One Kinect bundle, accounting for some of the initial price difference, so it’s important to dive deeper into what’s included and, of course, what’s not included in the box.

At launch, Xbox Ones came with the console, a controller. and the Kinect camera. These systems also had “Day One 2013” emblazoned on the cardboard box and at the center of the controller.

That’s a nice perk for Xbox loyalists, though not worth the premium they paid. Subsequent Xbox One bundles have included Titanfall or Sunset Overdrive for the same price, while newer, cheaper systems make Kinect optional.

All Xbox One boxes contains an HDMI cable and stingy 14-day free trial for Microsoft’s Xbox Live Gold online service. There’s no USB charging cable, as the Xbox One controller uses batteries out-of-the-box.

Inside the PS4 box is the console and one DualShock 4 controller. Wires include an HDMI cable (Sony learned its lesson after backlash for not including one with the PS3) and a micro-USB cable for the controller.

Don’t throw out the box right away. Tucked inside is a 30-day subscription to PlayStation Plus and a wired mono earbud.

The price difference between the PS4 and Xbox One was a sticking point for gamers over the first several months. Microsoft reshaped the argument at E3 2014 with price-matched Kinect-free Xbox One, which has allowed it to be much more competitive on price. 

The controllers

  • Both controllers are well-made and comfortable.
  • Which is better is a matter of personal preference.

The most important aspects of the PS4 vs Xbox One controller comparison include comfort, size and battery life, but a lot of this is going to come down to personal preference.

The good news is that both conform to your hands better vs the less ergonomic Xbox 360 and PS3 versions.

The Xbox One vs Xbox 360 gamepad comparison illustrates some of the 40 design innovations like a tweaked D-Pad and extra rumble effect via “Impulse Triggers” in the shoulder buttons.

Microsoft is taking its controller changes even further with the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller. This pro-level gamepad adds four back pedal, two settings for the right and left shoulder triggers, swappable analog sticks and new D-pad choices. It is expensive at $ 150, however.

Our PS4 vs PS3 gamepad comparison shows even bigger improvements thanks to the fact that the DualShock 4 is larger this time around. Its handles are easier to grip in long gameplay sessions and its dual analog sticks have a recessed divot. Precision movement is now easier.

With the new DualShock 4 that’s come out alongside the new slimline PS4 the controller has seen a further improvement with the addition of a wired connectivity mode, which eliminates the input lag associated with Bluetooth connectivity. 

The PS4 controller’s front touchpad and mono speaker are a unique way to interact with games, and developers are starting to find ways to adopt this technology into their controls schemes.

Which controller is better? There’s a lot of satisfaction with the PS4 gamepad, but that may have more to do with people’s surprise at how much more comfortable the DualShock 4 is compared to the DualShock 3. That wow factor may wear away soon.

The Xbox One vs PS4 controller comparison ends up being a matter of opinion. Some gamers are accustomed to Sony’s parallel dual analog sticks, while plenty of others opt for offset analog sticks that have been part of the Xbox universe since the beginning.

kinect vs ps4 camera

Neither have proven themselves worthy

Xbox One Kinect vs PS4 Camera

  • Kinect was promising but is no longer included with the console.
  • Meanwhile PlayStation camera has become an essential accessory if you're looking to use a PlayStation VR headset.

A robust games list for Xbox One Kinect and the PS4 Camera has been slow to materialize, even though Microsoft and Sony insisted on sticking with controller-free camera inputs.

The good news is that the new Kinect technology is promising, tracking up to six skeletons at once and processing 2GB of data per second. It can pick up heart rates, facial expressions and 25 joints, thumbs included.

The camera’s 60% wider field of vision compared to the Xbox 360 Kinect remedies the annoying “stand 6 feet away” error messages we experienced last time around.

Xbox One Kinect is certainly powerful, it just needs more games. Right now, there are few reasons to keep the 1080p camera plugged in, and now that Microsoft has stopped bundling them with the system, it looks like more aren’t likely to be on the way. 

Kinect was good on paper, now it just wears a paper dunce cap

Kinect was good on paper, now it just wears a paper dunce cap

There’s a free Kinect Sports Rivals demo that’s fun, and the full version came out last year. It also supports two Xbox-exclusive workout games, Just Dance 2014 and a pair of Harmonix titles: Fantasia: Music Evolved and Dance Central Spotlight. Fighter Within, though, is far from playable.

PS4 doesn’t have as much to offer at this point either, but it’s hard to find in stock. Formerly called the PlayStation Eye, it features two 1280x800px cameras in a body that’s slimmer than the Kinect.

Unfortunately, the PS4 Camera games list is also slimmer. The included robot mini-game The Playroom has been updated since the console launch, but little else besides Just Dance 2014 requires the device.

You will however need to buy a PlayStation camera if you want to use a PlayStation VR, since the headset uses the camera to know where your head is. With the PSVR the camera has fast changed from an optional accessory to an essential piece of kit. 

The best PS4 and Xbox One games

  • Both consoles have some great exclusive games.
  • Sony's exclusives have tended to be third-person games, while Microsoft has seen a number of high-profile racing exclusives.

Both the PS4 and Xbox One now have substantial games libraries. The PS4 has just over 1200 games, of which over 100 are exclusives, while the Xbox One has only about 876 games, of which just 30 are exclusives.

The Halo and Gears of War series stand above all others on Xbox One if you’re into shooter games, and Sunset Overdrive feature just as crazy-frantic gameplay. Halo: The Master Chief Collection lets us relive all the old classics, although the experience was somewhat spoiled by a number of technical problems that have never been fully solved. But its with its exclusive racing games that the Xbox One really excels, with Forza Motorsport 5 and Forza Horizon 3 being excellent entries in the series.

CoD Xbox One vs PS4

Call of Duty DLC favors Xbox One when it comes to DLC. Does that matter to you?

One Xbox One game on the horizon that we’re excited to play is Crackdown 3, which is sure to join the growing best Xbox One Games list.

The quality and quantity of Sony’s exclusives have really impressed us this generation. Recently we awarded Uncharted 4 a ‘Play it Now’ rating, the highest on the techradar scoring system. Meanwhile, the hard-as-heck Bloodborne and The Witness also impressed.

Finally, remakes of The Last of Us and Ratchet and Clank round out what is a very impressive series of PS4 exclusives, but check out our guide to the best PS4 games for a full list. 

Xbox One Kinect vs PS4 Eye

Indie games like Fez became smash hits in the last generation

Indie games on PS4 and Xbox One

  • Sony's console has the higher-profile indie games.
  • Microsoft's move to make every console a developer kit could be huge.

Our most-wanted PS4 games list doesn’t end there because Sony got out in front of supporting independent game developers.

Octodad: Dadliest Catch from Young Horses and Transistor from Supergiant Games came to Sony’s console in April and May two years ago. 

Meanwhile the Xbox One has also seen some excellent smaller games including Ori and the Blind Forest. 

The amount of indie games on the console could be about to explode really soon if indie developers make use of Microsoft’s recent move to turn every console into a developer kit, which should substantially lower the barrier to entry of developing for the system.

When it comes to apps, Xbox One is in the ever-so-slight lead

When it comes to apps, Xbox One is in the ever-so-slight lead

Xbox One vs PS4 apps

  • Very little to differentiate the two consoles in terms of apps.

The Xbox 360 and PS3 proved to be more than just gaming machines and Xbox One and PS4 are no different. Of course, most are shared across both platforms.

All next-gen gamers have access to Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, Crackle, Vudu and Redbox Instant and baseball subscription service MLB.TV.

Xbox One corners the app-filled market with ESPN, Fox Now, FX Now, NFL, Ted, The CW, Twitch, Univision Deportes, Verizon FiOS TV and YouTube. It also has Microsoft’s own soon-to-be-defunct Internet Explorer, OneDrive, Skype and Xbox Music and Xbox Video services.

That contrasts with PS4. Sony’s console features Crunchyroll, Epix, NBA Game Time, NHL GameCenter Live, YuppTV, the WWE Network and the free music video playing app VidZone.

Initially, Xbox One had first access to HBO Go before PS4, but now both consoles have the premium channel as an app. At least, if your cable provider isn’t Comcast. Neither system has HBO Now, which remains exclusive to Apple TV.

More niche apps are expected as time goes on, so this is hardly the final list of apps for Xbox One and PS4. Sony backers who are also HBO subscriptions can expect equal next-generation treatment for the the premium on-demand network “eventually,” which just cements Xbox One’s app-filled advantage.

Are PS4 and Xbox One backward compatible?

  • Xbox One backwards compatibility list is growing.
  • PS4 offers backwards compatibility through PS Now streaming service.

The Xbox One vs PS4 comparison got interesting at E3 2015. After teasing Xbox 360 emulation, Microsoft announced Xbox One backward compatibility for Xbox 360 games.

“We won’t charge you to play the games you already own,” jabbed Microsoft at Sony during its E3 press conference. Over 100 disc and downloadable Xbox 360 titles will work on Xbox One this year, and the features of the newer console – like streaming and taking screenshots – crosses over to older games.

Microsoft launched Xbox One backward compatibility in November last year and a recent update saw its functionality expanded to include multi-disc games. Since then the manufacturer has continued to bring more and more games to the console. 

Sony’s PlayStation Now service, meanwhile, is a streaming service that costs money to rent games. That’s a bummer if you already paid for The Last of Us, God of War: Ascension, Dead Space 3 and Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes on the PS3.

Sony has expanded its video game streaming service to PS Vita, PC and PlayStation TV, and has even expanded it to include Sony and Samsung made TVs, and then include PlayStation and PS2 to the so far PS3-only lineup.

None of these options are foolproof yet. That means you’ll need to keep your Xbox 360 and PS3 in order to play more niche games that haven’t been made backwards compatible on Xbox One or haven’t been added to PlayStation Now.

You can’t sell the old systems, and that means people won’t be able to readily buy them – they’re more likely to purchase them directly from Microsoft and Sony.

Other PS4 and Xbox One differences

  • Both consoles charge for online multiplayer.
  • Other media player features offered by Xbox One.

The look of the console, the feel of the controller and the appeal of the games list are the main differences from which consumers will decide on PS4 and Xbox One. However, there are other factors at play one should consider before buying into a new system. At the top of that list is a significant question: Where do most of your friends play?

Since there’s no such thing as cross-platform multiplayer, you may be split up when playing Call of Duty on PS4 when all of your friends own it for Xbox One.

Both Microsoft and Sony are charging for multiplayer this console generation, whereas PS3 gamers got to log into matches Scott-Free.

Sony sadly moved closer to Microsoft in this way, while Microsoft moved closer to Sony by tearing down the Xbox Live app paywall. You no longer have to subscribe to stream Netflix and other apps.

Microsoft also supports MP3 and DLNA playback with the Xbox One, whereas Sony neglected to add such compatibility. It’s promised to rectify that in a future firmware update, but hasn’t supplied us with an update in several months.

The PS4 vs Xbox One comparison has evolved in the last three years, mostly because Microsoft’s plans have shifted, from Xbox One price drops to more lenient paywall policies to graphics specs upgrades.

These two next-generation consoles are now on a more even video game playing field, which means Sony and Microsoft are going to start throwing Uncharted 4 to Halo 5 Guardians at you, and that’s a win for all gamers.

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