In the world of technology, nothing ever stays simple, even video games. As seemingly innocuous as they are, games have blossomed into an arms race between a plethora of different pieces of hardware by just Sony and Microsoft.
Gone are the days where you could just weigh Microsoft’s single console against Sony’s and call it a day.
Sony's lineup currently consists of two pieces of hardware that are currently available right now. You've got the slim PS4 that replaced the original PS4 back in 2016 and the PS4 Pro, which plays all the same titles, but features some graphics perks, like 4K HDR and higher framerates at 1080p.
Microsoft similarly has two consoles on the market right now. They’ve got the Xbox One S that stands as the entry-level 1080p machine, which also allows for 4K upscaling and even features a 4K Blu-Ray player – something that even the PS4 Pro doesn’t have, and the more powerful Xbox One X that launched on November 7.
If we sat here measuring each product in Sony and Microsoft’s respective lineups side by side, you’d be here all day. So, instead we’re going to focus on comparing the entire ecosystems to each other. Don’t worry, if you want to really dig into the details, there are separate hardware guides included below where we weigh specs, controllers, graphics, games, prices and media features.
If you just go by sales alone, Sony is in a pretty comfortable position. According to VGChartz, Sony has moved a whopping 63 million units – more than double Microsoft’s 30 million sales.
A very large part of their sales success is the fact that Sony has put all of its effort behind building an extensive library of great exclusive games, not to mention the new slimline model as well as the PS4 Pro, an upgraded 4K machine.
Oh, and it's also the only console to feature a fully-fledged virtual reality headset, the PlayStation VR.
Although Sony has the sales lead, Microsoft has been doing some pretty interesting things more recently. It's got some great exclusives of its own, and it's launched two pieces of hardware in the past two years, the budget Xbox One S and premium Xbox One X.
Both come packing Ultra HD Blu-ray drives, making them excellent media machines. The Xbox One X is also much more powerful than the PS4 Pro, allowing it to run more of its games in native 4K, rather than using intelligent upscaling.
Microsoft is also working to tie these consoles in with its PC gaming ecosystem with its Xbox Play Anywhere program, and it's also been much more supportive of cross-play initiatives from games like Minecraft and Rocket League.
- Check out our Xbox One X bundles, US Xbox One bundles, UK Xbox One deals and Australian Xbox One deals pages.
Xbox One vs PS4 hardware versions and design
- Both consoles are available in two different versions, one budget and one premium
- The PS4 has a slim version and a 4K PS4 Pro
- The Xbox has the Xbox One S and Xbox One X
Whereas previously there were just two pieces of hardware to choose between, there are now close to a half dozen, as Sony and Microsoft have updated and upgraded their console offerings over the past four years.
The Xbox One platform has so far seen three hardware versions, the original Xbox One, the slim Xbox One S and the 4K-capable Xbox One X.
The original Xbox One's dimensions make it a menacing gaming beast that measures 13.5 in x 10.4 in x 3.2 inches, not including a hefty external power brick. It was packed to the brim with vents, a design decision to avoid another Red Ring of Death overheating scenario.
With the Xbox One S, Microsoft removed a lot of the heft of the previous console. It's smaller, measuring just 11.6 x 8.9 x 2.5 inches and doesn't include an external power brick. It's got the same vented design as its older brother, but is generally much sleeker in appearance.
With the Xbox One X, Microsoft reduced the console's size once more. It measures 11.81 in x 9.44 in x 2.36 inches, and weighs in at a hefty 8.4 pounds. Thankfully, much like the Xbox One S, the power supply is internal, so you don’t have to drag around a power brick whenever you have to move it. The design is a lot sleeker and smoother, with an attractive matte finish.
The Xbox One S is, for all intents and purposes, the default Xbox One these days, while the Xbox One X is Microsoft’s answer to the PS4 Pro.
- Our guide to the Xbox One X vs Xbox One S vs Xbox One will clue you in as to the differences in the Xbox family.
The PS4, on the other hand, has seen three different hardware versions in total, of which two are currently on sale.
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 inches at its widest regions.
This was replaced by a PS4 that was entirely matte, while retaining the same dimensions.
In late 2016, Sony released a slim version of the PS4, which shrunk its dimensions down to 10.4 x 11.3 x 1.5 inches, which is smaller than the Xbox One S.
In addition to the PS4 Slim, 2016 also saw the release of the PS4 Pro, which added 4K output to the PS4 ecosystem. A small amount of this 4K is achieved through running games natively at that resolution, while the majority is achieved through upscaling, which doesn't look quite as good.
As well as a boost in power, the PS4 Pro is also a bigger machine at 12.8 x 11.6 x 2.1 inches.
- Our guide to the PS4 Slim vs PS4 Pro outlines the differences between the consoles in more detail.
All these different models of hardware makes drawing comparisons between the Xbox and Playstation ecosystems surprisingly difficult, especially when you start looking at graphical comparisons.
However, from a physical perspective after launching with massive differences in size, the most recent versions are much more equal. If you're more short on space, then the PS4 Slim has the slight edge, but it's not night and day.
Xbox One vs PS4 connectivity
- You can't upgrade Xbox One's internal hard drive, but you can on the PS4.
- Both consoles support the use of external hard drives.
- The Xbox One has more ports on its rear.
Depending on how your gaming setup is organised, the connectivity of your console could be one of the most important aspects for you.
Let's look at the rear of the Xbox One S and X first. They've both got two HDMI ports, one for receiving an input from a cable or satellite box and one to output to your TV. In addition, they've got two USB 3 ports, IR outputs, optical audio outputs, Ethernet ports and, finally, two-pronged power ports.
Between these ports, you should have everything you need, unless you're interested in using a Kinect camera. The original Xbox One came with a dedicated port for the camera, which you'll have to buy an adapter for if you want to use with your new console. That said, with production of the Kinect having recently ceased, it's unlikely this will be an issue for many.
The port situation is similar on the PS4 Pro, albeit slightly slimmed down. You'll find a single HDMI port for outputting to a TV, a digital optical out, a single USB port, an Ethernet port and a power port.
The PS4 Pro does, however, include a port for connecting the PS4's camera. It's not got quite the same functionality as the Xbox's Kinect, but it's nice to have the option.
Meanwhile, the PS4 Slim is identical, minus the removal of the optical audio port. This won't matter for many people, but if your audio system relies on the digital audio connector, then it could matter to you.
In terms of internet connectivity, all three consoles support 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and gigabit Ethernet.
Both systems launched with 500GB hard drives and now have 1TB variants, but only PS4 allows user-replaceable internal drives.
However, both support the use of external hard drives, meaning you can place your bulky game installations externally, if you don't want to fill up your console's internal hard drive – or if you just run out of space.
PS4 and Xbox One are void of remarkable characteristics on the front. There's a Blu-ray/DVD combo drive to the left (which can play Ultra HD Blu-rays on the Xbox One S and Xbox One X) 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.
- Check out our guide to the best soundbars if you want to give your console's audio a boost.