Wow, the console market has gotten complicated hasn't it? What started as a simple two horse race between the PS4 and Xbox One back in 2013 now consists of a massive six different pieces of hardware, and that's not even including what Nintendo's been up to over the years.
It's no longer a simple choice between a single piece of hardware from Microsoft against a single piece of hardware from Sony.
Sony's lineup currently consists of two pieces of hardware that are currently on sale. You've got the slim PS4 that replaced the original console back in 2016, and the PS4 Pro, which plays all of the same games but is designed for use with 4K televisions.
Meanwhile, Microsoft's lineup currently consists of just one machine, the Xbox One S, which has now superseded the Xbox One as the default Microsoft console. This will be joined by the Xbox One X later this year, which is a 4K version of the console.
This guide will compare the two ecosystems as a whole rather than comparing specific pieces of hardware, which are contained in separate guides below. We'll consider their respective specs, graphics, prices, controllers, games and non-gaming functionality.
In terms of sales, Sony has a comfortable lead. According to VGChartz, the company has sold almost 60 million consoles compared to Microsoft's 30 million Xbox Ones.
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.
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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 the Xbox One X on the horizon, which will offer 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.
Even beyond PC/Xbox cross-play, Microsoft has also been very open with allowing cross-platform multiplayer with the flagship gaming being Minecraft, which will shortly support cross-play with a number of other pieces of hardware.
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We've put together a short video to explain the major differences between the two consoles.
Xbox One vs PS4 hardware versions and design
- The PS4 is available in two different versions, the PS4 Slim and the PS4 Pro.
- Meanwhile the Xbox One is available in just one, the Xbox One S, which will be joined by the Xbox One X later this year.
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 three and a half years.
The Xbox One platform has so far seen two hardware versions, the original Xbox One and 2016's slimmer Xbox One S. These will be joined by the Xbox One X later on in 2017.
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, not including a hefty external power brick. It was riddled with vents, a design decision to avoid another Red Ring of Death overheating scenario.
Meanwhile the Xbox One S is a much more diminutive machine. It's smaller, measuring just 11.6 x 8.9 x 2.5 in 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.
The Xbox One S is, for all intents and purposes, the default Xbox One now being sold by Microsoft.
- 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.
Meanwhile the PS4 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 in at its widest regions.
This was replaced by a PS4 that was entirely matte, while retaining the same dimensions.
Finally, the PS4 saw a slim model released in 2016, which shrunk its dimensions down to 10.4 x 11.3 x 1.5 in, 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 in.
- 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 two consoles 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 light 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 might end up being very important indeed.
Let's look at the rear of the Xbox One S first. It's got two HDMI ports, one for receiving an input from a cable or satellite box and one to output to your TV. In addition it's got two USB 3 ports, an IR out, an optical audio output, Ethernet port, and finally a two-pronged power port.
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.
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.
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 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.