Xbox One, PS4 and what you'll pay for a Steam Machine

Xbox One, PS4 and what you'll pay for a Steam Machine
The game is on as the consoles finally clash

Last week saw the global release of the Xbox One. This week, the UK gets the PS4, two weeks after the US release.

"How is it possible for two competing products to be so similar and yet so different?" asks James Rivington, noting the striking similarities between their processors and architecture. "They're like identical twins with nothing in common."

While the Xbox One and PS4 may be siblings under the skin, they're very different devices - and our in-depth reviews have explored aspect of their next-generation appeal. First, we investigated the PS4, a "great machine" where gaming is "fantastic" and the performance is "really impressive."

Then, we looked at the Xbox One. It "has the stronger launch lineup", Kinect is "surprisingly good" and it isn't the "Jack of all trades, master of none" that many observers feared. It's not perfect, but "the most important things are there: good games, a solid interface and reliable servers for hours and hours of online gaming."

Teething problems

That doesn't mean your gaming experiences will be fault-free, however. British Xbox One owners have been experiencing stuttering images due to a mismatch between the refresh rate of the console (60Hz) and UK TV (50Hz). We've described a workaround and we're waiting on word from Microsoft to see if there's a more elegant solution.

Other gamers are encountering even more serious issues: some Xbox One owners have been experiencing grinding Blu-Ray drives. In a nice touch Microsoft isn't just replacing the faulty consoles, but also giving affected customers a free digital copy of Dead Rising 3, Forza Motorsport 5, Ryse: Son of Rome or Zoo Tycoon so that they can keep playing while they wait for their replacements to arrive.

That's as long as they don't swear when they use their Xbox's Upload Studio. Microsoft has been wielding the ban hammer on users guilty of excessive profanity, with penalties ranging from 24-hour bans to permanent bars on the worst offenders.

It's not just Xbox One owners who've been behaving badly. PS4 punters have been doing it too, forcing Twitch to remove its Playroom app: while the game is meant to show off what the PlayStation Camera can do, some users are using it to show bits of their anatomy instead.

Costing the consoles

We know the Xbox is more expensive than the PS4, but is Microsoft sticking it to gamers or is it offering more power? The answer appears to be the latter: as Matt Swider reports, the difference in price is largely due to Microsoft cramming more stuff into its console. Both firms are probably selling consoles at a loss, initially at least.

One firm who isn't selling anything at a loss is EA, whose PS4 games this week were listed at prices much higher than the same titles for Xbox One. After an initial outcry the price came down a little bit; after another outcry the price came down a whole lot more.

While we're on the subject of money, guess how much a Steam Machine will set you back? If you guessed "pretty much the same as an Xbox One", then you might be right.

The first firm to announce a price, iBuyPower, says its Steam Machine will be US$499 (about £307, AU $547) when it goes on sale next year.

Rather brilliantly, the firms' two prototypes have names that Steam fans may find familiar: the first one's called Gordon, and the second one Freeman.

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