Xbox One vs PS4 - The best next-gen console for you?
Posted on 26 Feb 2014 at 16:20, by Seth Barton
Updated with price changes, promised system updates and game reveals
The Xbox One and PS4 next-gen consoles have been duking it out since late last year. We've got our full breakdowns of each device online, head over to our Xbox One review and PS4 review for all the nitty-gritty.
However, if you want a rundown of the differences between the two consoles then you're in the right place. Here we're going to put the two consoles head-to-head over the most important issues, so you can work out which next-gen console is best for you, and whether you should buy now or wait for later in the year.
Now, it can be a lot to take in if you're fresh to the "which is best" debate, so we've split the decision into several main categories – have a browse through to find the ones most pertinent to you, or just skip to the end for a summary.
XBOX ONE VS PS4 - PRICE
Initially the Xbox One console cost £80 more than Sony's hardware - £349 for PS4 vs £429 for Xbox One – a difference largely accounted for by Microsoft bundling its motion-capturing Kinect controller with every console.
However, a price cut in late February has now dropped the cost of Microsoft's hardware down to a slightly more reasonable £399. The £30 cut is of course welcome, but there's more to it than that.
Microsoft has always felt a little uncomfortable with the price difference, so it initially bundled a free digital copy of FIFA 14 with every Xbox One. That offer ended, though packs with FIFA 14 re-emerged for around £20 more than the basic console.
Now Microsoft is bundling what looks to be this year's must-have shooter Titanfall with the console – for more details on that game read our Titanfall - Beta update, PC spec, release date, exclusive, Xbox One, news and rumours. Again it's a limited edition pack, but for now you can pre-order the console with a digital download of the game included for a very reasonable £399. That effectively brings the console down to a price of around £355.
The PS4 remains at its original £349 price. Most of the stock currently available online comes bundled with at least one game for £389. That's not a problem, after all you've got to pay something on it, but it might irk those who want to download all their games or who are only planning to play smaller download titles for now. For further details on bundles, see stock and availability below.
The next big question is whether the price is likely to drop in the near future, and that is really anyone's guess, but here's ours. We thought Microsoft would hold fire until later in the year, but it has risked angering early adopters by dropping the price now to make the most of the Titanfall launch (even semi-exclusives are few and far between at present, so it makes sense).
Neither company will be keen to enter a price war this early in the console lifespan, you can't put the price back up easily once you've dropped it. So by making a small drop and bundling a game Microsoft retains a respectable RRP while still driving up sales. So those wanting an Xbox One should keep this in mind and time their purchase with such deals.
Further, larger, price drops look tough for Microsoft while it's still bundling the Kinect with the console. Abandoning it would mark a huge shift in strategy and look a little desperate, something that's hardly going to give buyers a sense of security in their new purchase.
Sony on the other hand has the early lead in sales and so is under no pressure to drop the price on the PS4. We can't see a price drop on the console, or a completely free bundled game, happening this year. You may well see some fighting between retailers, bundling an older, launch game with the console come Christmas, but only if there's plentiful stock to meet demand – again, that seems unlikely.
BEST FOR YOU? – If you're keen on Titanfall (and who isn't) then the Xbox One is for now roughly the same price as the PS4, so price isn't a factor for the time being
XBOX ONE VS PS4 - STOCK AND AVAILABILITY
The initial stock shortages of both consoles was mercifully short, but it's still hard to buy both consoles on a whim. Xbox One is now widely available, but with the upcoming release of must-have title Titanfall we're expecting it to be in short supply soon.
Stock of the PS4 is fluctuating badly. Some days you can pick up a console with only a few days for delivery, while at the time of writing Amazon isn't delivering any standalone consoles until late March. Buying a console in a pack with a game is easier, and you have to have something to play on it, but you might not be able to find the game you want bundled.
The highly-enjoyable Killzone: Shadow Fall is the most common bundled title to come across (still in stock at Amazon now), while if you're patient then you can now pre-order a bundle with Infamous: Second Sun, though we'd wait for full reviews to come out before committing your cash to that title.
XBOX ONE VS PS4 - CONSOLE
A new console is at least a five year investment, so picking one on price alone today isn't a great idea. With both consoles going for the all-black look, with differing glossy and matt bits, it would be pretty arbitrary to decide on looks as well - if we really had to pick a winner we would opt for the 'edgier' looking PS4 with its raked angles.
However, the Xbox One's larger, boxier shape looks to be better designed for cooling those internal components. Inside, a single large fan sits above the core chipset and blows air through a vent directly above it. We can't think of a more simple or straightforward way to get rid of heat and do it quietly.
This video from iFixit shows the PS4 in all its glory, inside and out
Based on Wired's PS4 teardown video, above, it uses a smaller 85mm centrifugal fan pushing air outwards around the edges rather than straight up. We aren't engineers, but we've built and cooled a lot of PCs in our time, and complexity is rarely a good thing when it comes to cooling.
Thanks to Eurogamer, we have power usage and decibel figures for both consoles. The Xbox One is reported to have peaked at a power usage of 125W, significantly below the 140W of the PS4. This was also reflected in noise levels, with the PS4 proving to be noticeably louder, both close up and at a distance, plus it pushes out hotter air than the Xbox One. The PS4's cooling system looks to be doing a good job then, but the more powerful hardware, drawing more wattage and so creating more heat, looks to make it the louder console - though not by much.
According to iFixit the PS4 will let users upgrade their hard disk for a larger capacity disk, or faster SSD, simply by removing a few screws. These are regular screws too, so you won't need specialist Torx equipment to get inside the console. The Xbox One hard disk can also be replaced, but it's a far trickier process, again head on over to iFixit for a video breakdown of how to do this.
BEST FOR YOU? - The PS4 looks cooler and has no power brick, but the Xbox One runs a little quieter. Take your pick
XBOX ONE VS PS4 - SPECS
One of the most surprising things about the next-gen battle is how much we knew, and how long ago we knew it. The earliest sketchy leaks of the specifications of both machines were largely accurate, and has now been proven by revelations from developers working on both platforms.
What we know now, as we did some time ago, is that the PS4 has a significant horsepower advantage over the Xbox One. It has 50% more GPU compute units, allowing for greater parallel processing power which can either be used for onscreen fidelity, or for in-game effects like real-time physics. It also has a simpler memory system with a single lump of 8GB of fast GDDR5 memory, compared to Xbox One's DDR3 memory and 32MB high-speed cache. Simple is always good when it comes to console architectures, with some developers already criticising Microsoft's design and some multi-platform games being forced to run at a lower internal resolution than on Sony's hardware.
This video shows the kind of next-gen eye-candy that's available from the PS4 at launch
Microsoft has tried to catch up by bumping the CPU and GPU speeds by small amounts. However, according to developers it has dedicated a small but significant amount of resources to its quick-switching between apps and Kinect device - resources that are much needed.
Both the big shooters to be launched this Christmas, Call of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4, have suffered as a result. Both games run at 1,280x720 (720p) on the Xbox One, but at 1,920x1,080 (Full HD) and 1,600x900 respectively on the PS4. This makes the PS4 version noticeably crisper and sharper. Such a disparity in graphics is a surprise and gives the PS4 a big jump on its rival.
More recently, the two consoles have been put head-to-head with the launch of Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition. Again the PS4 came out on top, although both consoles output 1080p video with some impressive effects, the PS4 had a consistently smoother frame rate. If you want a lengthy blow-by-blow of the differences then head over to www.eurogamer.net.
BEST FOR YOU? - A clear cut advantage here for the PS4, its more powerful graphics hardware is already paying dividends in games
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