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Xbox One S vs PS4: Which last-gen console is best for you?

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They might not be brand new, but if you're hoping to game on a tighter budget, the Xbox One S and PS4 are still excellent consoles

If you're looking to buy a games console, you have more choice than ever. The next generation of games consoles has made a stylish entrance, with Sony's PS5 and Microsoft's Xbox Series X proving that console gaming is one of the most popular pastimes on the planet.

Of course, you'll generally have to pay more for the privilege of owning one, which begs the question: what about the less expensive options? Fortunately, neither Sony nor Microsoft is ready to give up on the PS4 or Xbox One just yet. Both consoles will still have access to the latest games for a little while longer, making them a great choice for the bargain savvy gamers out there.

And then there's the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, supercharged versions of their respective base consoles that have upgraded capabilities, including 4K HDR playback. Though sadly, these superpowered consoles aren't much cheaper than their next-gen counterparts. You might also want to game on the go: Nintendo's Switch and Switch Lite are both extraordinarily popular and should not be overlooked.

In this article, however, we’ll leave the flagship next-gen powerhouses, "Pro" and "X" machines and Nintendo Switch consoles to one side, and just stick to comparing the PS4 (aka the PS4 Slim) and Xbox One S. From specs and exclusive games to multiplayer services – and, of course, the all-important subject of price – we'll pit both machines against one another in every conceivable way.

Looking for a next-gen console? We pit the PS5 against the Xbox Series X right here

Xbox One S vs PS4

Xbox One S vs PS4: Price

Before you read any further, it's worth noting that the PS4 and Xbox One S are becoming increasingly difficult to find. Microsoft has officially discontinued the Xbox One, Xbox One S and Xbox One S All-Digital Edition, which means retailers won't have much stock left to sell; it also means that what stock is available is a little more expensive than normal.

Ordinarily, the Xbox One S and PS4 sit at £250 and £260 respectively, and it is still very much possible to find both for those prices (as an individual unit or a bundle) if you hunt around. These consoles are available in both 500GB and 1TB variants, with the 1TB PS4 usually costing around £50 more – although again, with stock slowly decreasing you're likely to find all manner of inconsistencies.

If you want to buy a second-hand PS4 or Xbox One S, there's more consistency, at least in terms of stock. Resellers like CeX list the PS4 and Xbox One S at around the £250 mark, abiding by that £50 increase for the 1TB PS4 as well. 

Winner – Draw

At this point in their lifecycles, the PS4 and Xbox One S have gone through so many price changes it's impossible to choose a winner. The bottom line, though, is that both consoles can be had for well under the price of a new PS5 or Xbox Series X – and although they are less powerful, they still run more or less the same games. For now.

Xbox One S vs PS4: Games

Before you even get down to the hardware, controllers and operating systems, you have to talk about games – because they're really what matters most on any console. Thankfully, the transition to next-gen consoles isn't done yet. The PS4 and Xbox One S are still receiving new games, including the likes of Assassin's Creed: Valhalla and Cyberpunk 2077, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. 

There's a huge library of shared titles available on both PS4 and Xbox One S, so let's instead talk about exclusives: the console-specific games that are proving instrumental to a console's success.

Xbox exclusives include the likes of Gears of War and Forza Horizon, although these games are either already available on PC, or will be in the future. True exclusives include Halo 5, Sunset Overdrive, Ori and the Blind Forest, Forza Motorsport, Sea of Thieves and Quantum Break.

On PlayStation, the choice is objectively better. Titles like Death Stranding, The Last of Us (And The Last of Us Part II), Dreams, Gran Turismo, Bloodborne, the Uncharted series, Horizon: Zero Dawn, God of War, Spider-Man (and Spider-Man: Miles Morales), Shadow of the Colossus and many, many more litter the PlayStation store. The main caveat here is that a couple of these games – namely, Death Stranding and Horizon: Zero Dawn – have been ported to PC.

Winner – PS4

Though it is a little less black-and-white than it used to be – courtesy of those PS4-to-PC ports – Sony still has the edge in terms of the quality of its exclusive titles. But no matter which console you choose, you can relax knowing that they will still play the absolute latest games. 

Xbox One S vs PS4: Design

The Xbox One S and PS4 Slim were both designed to be refined versions of the original consoles and that’s given Microsoft, in particular, a chance to clean up its act. The Xbox One S is smaller and much more modern looking than its predecessor, perhaps because Microsoft has managed to integrate the power supply on its latest console. As you’d expect, the PS4 Slim is smaller than the original PS4 too, but the difference in size isn’t so significant.

Winner – Draw

The original PS4 was a much smarter machine than the original Xbox One, and came with the added bonus of no power brick. However, nowadays they’re equally compact and stylish. The PS4 looks cooler, but the Xbox One runs a little quieter, so take your pick.

READ NEXT: The best TVs for gaming

Xbox One S vs PS4: Specifications

We've known for a while 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 that can either be used for onscreen fidelity, or for in-game effects such as real-time physics.

It also has a simpler memory system, with a single 8GB lump of fast GDDR5 memory, compared to Xbox One's slower DDR3 memory and 32MB high-speed cache. Simple is always good when it comes to console architecture. Developers have in the past criticised Microsoft's design and the fact that some multi-platform games are forced to run at a lower internal resolution than on Sony's hardware.

Microsoft has tried to catch up by bumping the CPU and GPU speeds slightly. According to developers, the American tech giant dedicated a small but significant amount of resources to quick-switching between apps – a much-needed upgrade which has helped to close the gap.

The Xbox One S has certainly suffered in hardware comparisons. Many cross-platform games run at a resolution of 1,600 x 900 on the Xbox One S, but at a slightly sharper 1,920 x 1,080 on the PS4. The difference isn't huge, and occasionally it's offset by slightly more consistent frame rates on the Xbox One, but overall the PS4 consistently has the edge when it comes to head-to-head showdowns.

Winner – PS4

A clear-cut advantage here for Sony. Its more powerful graphics hardware means games look sharper on PS4.

Xbox One S vs PS4: Multimedia

Both the Xbox One and PS4 slim support premium streaming services including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Now TV, plus a range of catch-up TV services, but only the Xbox One S has a 4K Blu-ray drive.

In terms of power, both are more than capable of playing cinema-quality 4K (or Ultra HD) movie files and both also work as full DLNA receivers to stream files across your local network.

Winner – Xbox One S

The Xbox One S and PS4 Slim are both highly competent multimedia hubs, but the Xbox One just edges it thanks to its 4K Blu-ray support.

READ NEXT: The best gaming monitors to buy

Xbox One S vs PS4: Controllers

In our opinion, the Xbox 360 controller was the best of its generation, and Microsoft managed to make a number of improvements on its Xbox One equivalent.

The headline feature has to be refined vibration control, with extra rumble motors for the left and right triggers providing fingertip feedback linked to in-game actions, such as pulling a trigger or squeezing the accelerator. It really works and gives you useful feedback rather than just fairground-esque effects.

The rest of the controller is great, especially the improved D-pad, although the redesigned shoulder buttons and slightly smaller analogue sticks aren't to everyone's taste.

The PS4 controller, DualShock 4, has certainly come on in leaps and bounds from its predecessor. It's more comfortable to hold, the sticks are much improved with greater resistance and precision, plus the triggers feel more responsive than the spongy messes on the DualShock 3.

The stand out feature on the PS4 pad is the small touchpad. This allows for touch controls in games, swipes and the like, plus easier navigation when using a cursor (web browsing for instance). The whole pad also acts like a button and can be clicked in four different directions. A light bar on the back lets the PS4 camera detect multiple controllers too.

Winner – Xbox One S

It's partly down to what you're used to, but the Xbox One controller has the edge for us with a proven design and those new rumble motors.

Xbox One S vs PS4: Accessories

The Xbox One's Kinect sensor doesn't feature in any bundle deals now, but it's still a useful bit of kit. Kinect will sign you into your console based on facial recognition, which is great for multi-user households. It knows where you are in a room, can read your facial expressions, the force of your movements, your centre of gravity as you move and can even work out your heart rate from the flush of blood in your cheeks.

However, with the rise of VR it has slipped from favour and is now only available as a separate purchase. The last game for Xbox Kinect, Just Dance, came out in 2017.

Sony allows for remote play away from the main console with the PS Vita handheld or the PlayStation TV. With either, you'll be able to play PS4 games streamed over a Wi-Fi network. This means you'll be able to keep on playing even when others want to use the TV, whether that be on a handheld, or on another TV in the house.

However, Microsoft has shot past Sony in this regard, with the Xbox One able to stream games to any PC, laptop or tablet running Windows 10. See our guide on how to do just that right here.

Then, of course, there's PlayStation VR, Sony's virtual reality headset for the PS4 that we've tried, and loved. If you're willing to spend the cash, VR will put you at the centre of the action in any compatible game - it's truly a fantastic experience.

Winner – Draw

The Xbox One has superior remote gaming capabilities, presuming you own a laptop or PC of some sort, but PS4 has PlayStation VR.

Xbox One S vs PS4: Online services

Microsoft charged for its premium Xbox Live service from the off and the investment certainly paid dividends, with a technically great service that simply worked.

Sony offered multiplayer online gaming for free, but always lagged behind in terms of the number of players and the smooth-running of the service – the hacking of the PlayStation Network and its 24-day shutdown in 2011 being the obvious low point.

However, Sony introduced its excellent PlayStation Plus service, giving quality free games away on a monthly basis. Now the two companies are converging, with Microsoft giving away free games with Xbox Live Gold and Sony requiring PS+ to play games online.

Winner – PS4

You have to pay to play online either way. Microsoft has a better track record, but Sony is currently giving away better games.

Xbox One S vs PS4: Verdict

So, it’s three category wins for Sony, and two for Microsoft, with three draws.

The Xbox has recently grown into being the multimedia hub that Microsoft always promised, ideal for those who want to switch easily between games, media streaming, Skype, live TV and more.

The PS4 is a simpler proposition, but it's one that delivers on its promises. To date, both consoles have struggled to consistently achieve 1080p visuals at 30-60fps, but the PS4 is certainly a step ahead in terms of its graphics performance.

In our opinion, the PS4's technical edge makes it the best bet in the long-term. You shouldn’t, however, rule out the Xbox if its multimedia features and keen pricing are of importance to you.

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