PS4 vs Xbox One: which is better?

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

PS4 vs Xbox One comparison

When it comes to consoles wars, there's never been a battle quick as thrilling as the one being fought currently between the Xbox One and the PS4.

Partly that's because of how the last console generation played out. Sony's PlayStation 3 had a weak start out of the gate, which allowed Microsoft's Xbox 360 to gain a solid lead in the early years.

This soon changed however, as a string of clever upgrades and, more importantly, a price drop from Sony, meant that by the end of the generation the two console's were more or less equal.

But that was then, this is now. The PS4 has had the stronger start out of the two consoles, and Microsoft has been forced to make some significant changes to the Xbox One in order to catch up.

PlayStation 4 is outselling Xbox One 2-to-1 right now, surpassing 40.43 million systems sold worldwide, while Microsoft's sales numbers are at 20.99 million. Now, that number might fluctuate now that Microsoft has released its pared down Xbox One S slim system for the same price as the original hardware. The new system adds 4K Ultra-HD playback into the mix and supports HDR games, giving it a definitive edge on Sony's still-HD system.

If the idea of 4K movies and HDR games aren't up your alley, last November Microsoft began bringing Xbox 360 backwards compatibility to the Xbox One.

This is a lot more substantial than Sony's existing backwards compatibility solution for the PS4, which is based around allowing users to stream games from Playstation Now. It's a neat solution, but it can't compare to playing a game locally on your console.

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Microsoft's come-from-behind campaign consists of adding exclusive games like Halo 5, full DVR capabilities, readying an Xbox Elite controller, gamepad remapping and, further out, experimenting with HoloLens.

In addition to Xbox One backward compatibility, Microsoft also enabled game streaming to Windows 10 presents exciting game streaming possibilities in its November update which came out last year. We've got a full guide on how to stream your Xbox One games to PC.

It's also the only console with EA Access.

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Not to be outdone, Sony has also enabled game streaming on its console, allowing users to use remote play to play their PS4 games on their Mac or PC. If this sounds interesting, we've got a full guide on how to stream your games from PS4 to your Mac or PC.

Sony also has a couple of large, interrelated hardware releases lined up for later this year. Playstation VR, Sony's answer to the Oculus Rift, is set to launch this October, and a more powerful 4K console is due to launch alongside it.

This console, codenamed the Playstation NEO, will be capable of outputting at 4K resolution, and will be fully backwards compatible with existing PS4 games. This enhanced power will not just be used for resolution, it should also work much better with Playstation VR.

In terms of games, Sony's console has just seen the release of the fourth part of its critically acclaimed Uncharted series, and apparently it's pretty good. Meanwhile Doom's hotly anticipated reboot has just launched on both consoles, and Blizzard's Overwatch is set to land in just a couple of days.

"We have have the advantage in powering gamers through the next decade," say both companies. To see if that's true, our Xbox One vs PS4 comparison needs another update.

Xbox One vs PS4 hardware design

Deciding between PS4 and Xbox One is like peeling back an onion, and it starts with the outermost layer, the hardware design.

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.

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.

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

Next gen reviews


PS4 review
We've fondled the hardware and we've played the games. Check out what we think of the PS4.

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

Next gen reviews

Xbox One

Xbox One review
Our first impressions of Microsoft's new Kinect-powered games machine.

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.