PS4 vs Xbox One: which is better?

Microsoft has the new 4K Xbox One S, but can Sony counter?

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.

Yes, 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 has also launched 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 initiative. 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.

Xbox One dimensions

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

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.

Meanwhile, the original PS4 had 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.

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.

That may matter since you're buying into an expensive console that's 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 the Xbox One's internal hard drive like you can with the PS4.
  • The Xbox One has more ports on its rear, but you might not use many of them.

More clear cut is the wireless connectivity situation. PS4 makes room for gigabit ethernet and 802.11 WiFi 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.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Swider is TechRadar's gadget-savvy, globe-trotting mobile editor in Los Angeles. As an expert in iOS and Android, he owns over 120 phones that someone keeps setting the alarms on – simultaneously. He received his journalism degree from Penn State University and is never seen without his TechRadar headphones.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jon Porter is Techradar's UK Home Technology Writer covering everything from TVs to Hi-Fi, gaming and home automation. He's also super into keyboards, and I think we can all agree that the obsession has gone a little too far at this point.