PS4 Pro vs Xbox One X: how are the mid-generation consoles shaping up?

Update: We've now had our first look at Microsoft's Xbox One X E3 conference which makes it slightly easier to compare the consoles visually as well as based on their specs. 

Not only that we now have the console's price: $499/£449/AU$649. How does this shape up compared to PS4 Pro? Well, it's not cheaper... let's put it that way. 

Read on to find out more. 

Original article continues below...

At the moment, Sony’s PS4 Pro is comfortably the most powerful games console on the market. However, it has competition fast approaching in the form of Microsoft’s upcoming Xbox One X console which is scheduled for a November 7 release. 

For anyone wondering whether or not they should just buy a PlayStation 4 Pro now or hold out for the Xbox One X, it’s worth taking a look at the details we have now to help you make a decision between these 4K flagships. 

Xbox One X vs PS4 Pro graphics 

The headline feature of both of these consoles is that they’ll both be capable of outputting 4K content either natively or through a process known as upscaling. 

Though the PS4 Pro is capable of playing games in native 4K, at the moment the library of games which do so is fairly small, though growing. While you’ll be able to enjoy games like Skyrim in native 4K, at the moment the majority of Pro supported titles achieve their 4K resolutions by upscaling.

Though upscaling is inferior to native 4K content, the PS4 Pro has a couple of tricks up its sleeve. 

Each game handles its upscaling slightly differently, but a general theme so far on the PS4 Pro has been that games will render at a resolution that’s between Full HD and 4K and then use a more advanced upscaling method called ‘checkerboard rendering’ to fill its 4K pixels. 

When talking about checkerboard rendering things can get complicated very quickly, but the important takeaway from this is that the images the PS4 Pro is capable of displaying look very close in quality to native 4K content by using this method.

Since the console isn't out yet, we don't know the exact specifics of Xbox One X's 4K output, but we can make a few educated guesses. 

For Microsoft's part, Xbox One X will be capable of outputting native 4K content at a solid 60 frames per second thanks to the console's massive 6 teraflops of graphics processing power and its 12GB of GDDR5 RAM.

This is compared to 4.12 teraflops for the PS4 Pro and its much lower 8GB GDDR5 RAM. Essentially, the PS4 Pro just doesn't have the same graphical processing power as Xbox One X and nor does it have the same RAM to set aside purely to run its games. 

Something that stands in Xbox One X's favor when it comes to running 4K games is that the console will support an adaptive screen-tearing technology known as FreeSync, which is commonly used in PCs.  This should see the console cope with instances of screen-tearing much more efficiently than the PS4 Pro, particularly in games which have demanding 4K visuals. 

It will, however, only make the console more effective in this department right away for those that have displays which also support the technology. According to Eurogamer, adaptive sync will only be available on TVs equipped with HDMI 2.1 (a display standard that hasn’t yet been ratified) or computer monitors that support FreeSync over HDMI. 

It's unlikely that a majority of people will have access to these kinds of displays just yet. However, we can expect the majority of TVs in the future to adopt the HDMI 2.1 standard so sometime in the future you're probably going to end up with a TV that will support FreeSync.  

Microsoft has said that in the future all of its first-party titles will run at native 4K. Microsoft Studios general manager Shannon Loftis stated "Any games we're making that we're launching in the Xbox One X time frame, we're making sure they can natively render at 4K.” 

Microsoft's last console, the Xbox One S, relied entirely on a very basic form of upscaling that generated a 4K signal without doing much to clean up the image in the process. However, a recently discovered whitepaper has suggested that Xbox One X's would also make use of upscaling, albeit through a more advanced PS4 Pro-style checkerboarding method.

So while Xbox One X has the edge in terms of raw graphical horsepower, we don't yet know conclusively whether it will be completely free from upscaling. 

After the recently revealed hardware specs for Xbox One X, Eurogamer has also said the the console will run all Xbox One games better regardless of whether or not they've received a 4K patch which will hold a massive appeal for gamers. 

Even though both consoles will be great for owners of the latest 4K TVs, they’re both promising benefits to those with less powerful Full HD screens thanks. 

With Xbox One X it's been revealed that even with a standard Full HD TV you'll be able to choose between performance modes that make the game run better, or resolution modes that will supersample the 4K image down to your display which guarantees excellent image quality no matter what kind of display you have.   

This is something that was made possible on PS4 Pro via the PlayStation 4.5 firmware update recently, which introduced a Boost Mode to PS4 Pro consoles. With this mode activated, even games that hadn’t been patched to upscale will benefit from the increased power of the console with more stable framerates. 

Despite the fact that both consoles are able to improve the performance of games even if they haven't received a patch, the sheer higher levels of power that Xbox One X has will make it better at doing this. 

Xbox’s Phil Spencer said that Xbox One X would also improve game performance but to make the most of both consoles you’re most likely going to want a 4K display.

When you directly compare the GPUs of both consoles, Xbox One X absolutely wins out.

The PS4 Pro is capable of 4.12 TFLOPS with a memory bandwidth of 218 GB/s, and 8GB GDDR5 memory. Xbox One X on the other hand is capable of 6 TFLOPS, has a memory bandwidth of 320 GB/s and has 12GB of GDDR5 memory.

At 320 GB/s the memory bandwidth of Xbox One X is on par with mid-range PC GPUs and it’d give the console an edge when it comes to running 4K and virtual reality. The higher TFLOP measurement and higher memory of Xbox One X also means that it'll be more capable of running sharper and higher resolution images with smoother framerates and it'll even have lower load times. 

However, though the numbers look good it’s hard to make any definite judgement without being able to see Xbox One X in action since it will depend on how efficiently developers make use of that horsepower. Software is the next big test.

Xbox One X vs PS4 Pro appearance

Now that we've seen the Xbox One X in person, we can safely say that it stands up to the PS4 Pro in terms of appearance.

Despite being the most powerful Xbox ever, this is also the smallest Xbox console ever which slightly goes in the face of PlayStation's decision to make its PS4 Pro look like a larger PS4 Slim. 

However, like Sony, Microsoft hasn't decided to do anything overly different from what it's done before in terms of the overall physical design of the console. Though small, it's similar in overall look to the Xbox One S so neither PS4 Pro nor Xbox One X are going to do anything too different from what you already have in terms of changing up your living space. 

Xbox One X vs PS4 Pro games 

4K graphics and impressive hardware are only going to be useful if you want to play the console’s games in the first place. Fortunately, both PlayStation and Xbox have a number of excellent exclusives and there’s a good deal of overlap too. 

Both Sony and Microsoft have promised that though Xbox One X and the Pro will be more powerful than the Xbox One S and standard PS4, they won’t have exclusive titles so you don’t have to worry about being left behind by this new half-generation. Instead, they’ll share all release titles with some being capable of taking advantage of the greater power of the new consoles. 

A point in Xbox’s favor is that its backwards compatibility is currently in a far better state than the PS4’s. Although you can’t play every Xbox 360 game that was ever released during the console's 10-year lifespan, there’s an ever-increasing list of 360 games that will work on the newer consoles and Xbox’s engineering lead Mike Ybarra confirmed that Xbox 360 and Xbox One titles will work on Xbox One X. 

Xbox has also said that with the Xbox One X it also wants to “wipe out” the console upgrade cycle and allow games to work seamlessly across Xbox One, Windows 10 and the new Xbox One X. 

This process has already started with the Xbox Play Anywhere scheme making it possible for gamers to buy select games across the Xbox One and PC when they’re purchased digitally through the Microsoft store.

As its part of the same platform, this scheme will also be open to Xbox One X.

The PS4 has a number of excellent exclusives of its own, though nowhere near the same backwards compatibility or cross platform capabilities. Its exclusives range from Uncharted 4, to Horizon: Zero Dawn, to excellent remakes of The Last of Us and the original Ratchet and Clank.

However, debating over specific releases aside, the vast majority of this generation’s biggest games have come to both Xbox and PlayStation. Titanfall 2, Battlefield 1, Overwatch and Hitman have all appeared on both the PS4 and Xbox One this year, and going forward most third-party publishers are expected to support each of the more powerful console iterations more or less equally (the occasional timed-exclusive or exclusive DLC notwithstanding). 

At this year's E3, Microsoft announced the Xbox One X would have 22 exclusive titles for the console this year, which is a considerable number. Only time will tell whether this is more or less exclusivity than Sony will offer. Some of the titles such as Sea of Thieves and Ori and the Will of the Wisps could be genuinely hardware sellers. 

Virtual Reality 

Both systems will also support virtual reality experiences. While the PS4 Pro has the dedicated PlayStation VR headset, Microsoft doesn’t have any exclusive hardware. Instead, Microsoft will use an existing VR headset like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, though no specific headsets have been named as partners.

Microsoft has also said that Xbox One X and Xbox One will support all Windows Mixed Reality headsets, which include models from Lenovo, Dell, Acer and HP in 2018.

This means that Xbox One X will end up supporting mixed and virtual reality experiences. If this is done right, it could give Microsoft the edge in terms of breadth and perhaps depth particularly as it's much more impressive processing power should make it much better at running virtual reality experiences.

Xbox One X vs PS4 Pro films and media 

Films and media is another area where the two consoles are likely to be similar in some respects, but very different in others. 

The biggest difference is that Xbox One X will have an Ultra HD Blu-ray player which will allow it to play Ultra HD Blu-rays in all their uncompressed 4K HDR glory. 

The discs aren’t all that common at the moment, however when a movie or TV show is available in the format, it’s well worth opting for the 4K version. As time goes on it’s likely that the format is slowly going to overtake Blu-ray in the way that format overtook DVD. The Xbox One X's Ultra HD Blu-ray player is a good way of future proofing yourself in this instance. 

When it comes to streaming, both consoles are likely to be on much more even footing. As the Xbox One S, like the PS4 Pro, is equipped to handle Netflix, Amazon Prime and YouTube in all of their 4K/HDR glory, we can assume Xbox One X will too. 

Both video streaming and Ultra HD Blu-rays have their drawbacks. You’ll need to have a pretty meaty internet connection to get a good quality 4K stream (Netflix, for example, recommends a connection speed of 25mbits or above), and 4K discs are expensive and not available for the vast majority of movies and TV shows. 

However, while they both have their drawbacks, the Xbox One X will give you the choice between them, whereas with the PS4 Pro your choice has been made for you by the lack of an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc drive. 

Xbox One X vs PS4 Pro price 

Although we’d love for money to be no object when it comes to gaming, the reality is that for most people price is a significant factor in determining what to buy, and that’s especially true around the holiday season when Xbox One X will be released. 

At the moment you can pick up a PS4 Pro for around $399 (£349/AU$559.95) and it’s likely that having a strong foothold in the market will allow Sony to offer good discounts when the holiday season rolls around.

The Xbox One X has now been confirmed as having a price of $499/£449/AU$649). This is significantly more than the price for the PS4 Pro and despite having many excellent features as well as exclusives, Microsoft may find it challenging to convince players to part with the extra $100/£100 which could essentially buy them two more games to still enjoy in 4K on the PS4 Pro.

When it comes to price the PS4 Pro wins out on value for money for anyone going through the costly process of upgrading to 4K.

So which looks like it'll be better? 

In terms of pure on-paper power, Xbox One X absolutely wins out over PS4 Pro.

Xbox One X's memory bandwith, RAM, CPU and GPU all outperform PS4 Pro and this should mean that the console will therefore be capable of running native 4K even more efficiently.

Not only that Xbox One X will boast an Ultra HD Blu-ray player and fantastic backwards compatibility that will reduce the disruption you’d usually expect from mid-generational upgrades. 

The Xbox One X also has the benefit of being Microsoft's smallest console ever, despite being its most powerful. 

However, there is the matter of price to consider. At $499, the Xbox One X is $100 more expensive than the PS4 Pro which may give some players pause. That said, it will have 22 exciting console exclusives to offer players this year which may sway some to drop the extra money. 

That said, we haven't seen what Sony has to offer so we'll have to wait until its E3 conference to make any exclusivity judgements.