Have gamers ever been so spoilt for choice? When the Xbox One and PS4 both launched in 2013 – within days of each other – it was clear both consoles would elevate the industry to new heights.
The rival Sony and Microsoft consoles both shipped with higher specs, bigger games, and countless new features to distinguish them from their predecessors – giving gamers a clear reason to upgrade from the Xbox 360 and PS3.
While we had originally thought we'd have to wait another decade before we got a better, more powerful console, we were surprised to find out that both Microsoft and Sony had a different road map in mind – one that would bring us 4K visuals long before we expected to see them.
These sequels, the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro, are even more powerful than the original PS4 and Xbox One – reigniting the strife between the two fan bases and challenging gamers to pick between two outstanding pieces of hardware.
That being said, if you've found yourself at the crossroads of two 4K consoles and can't decide which way to go, you've come to the right place.
A lot of the information you'll find here comes from our much larger PS4 vs Xbox One guide, but we've added additional sections to really narrow in on the consoles' 4K resolutions and higher frame rates.
Xbox One X vs PS4 Pro: specs and graphics
- Xbox One X has much more impressive specs
- Whether or not the Xbox One X's full potential is used is down to individual developers
- Both consoles are capable of native 4K ouput
- Both consoles will upscale 1080p games
- Both consoles will supersample to benefit Full HD TV owners
The headline feature of both of these consoles is that they're both 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. While you’ll be able to enjoy games like Skyrim in native 4K, the majority of Pro supported titles achieve their 4K resolutions by upscaling.
While an excellent solution to improving 1080p outputs, upscaling is still inferior to native 4K content. That said, 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.
For Microsoft's part, the Xbox One X is also capable of outputting native 4K content at a solid 60 frames per second, but the exact specs vary from title to title...
Not better across the board
Not all Xbox One X games will output native 4K at 60 fps. Like the PS4 Pro, developers have the option of patching their games with enhancements for Xbox One X and it's completely up to individual developers what enhancements they focus on, if any.
On launch, though, the Xbox One X boasted a satisfying list of games that feature native 4K at 60 frames per second such as Gears of War 4, Forza Motorsport 7 and FIFA 18. Xbox has also gone so far as to say that all of its first-party games will feature native 4K from here on out and a promising number of third-party developers have committed 4K support for the future.
However, as a result of the freedom Microsoft has given third-party developers, you'll also find that many games will ask you to choose between 4K at 30 fps or 1080p at 60 fps. It's not guaranteed, therefore, that every game on the console will run at full 4K and 60 fps, even though its power allows for that.
Something that stands in Xbox One X's favor when it comes to running 4K games, though, is that the console supports an adaptive framerate technology known as FreeSync. This technology commonly used in PCs 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, which haven't yet hit the market. 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.
Based on previous standards, we can expect the majority of TVs in the future to adopt the HDMI 2.1 standard so sometime in the future you're inevitably going to end up with a TV that will support FreeSync. Look out for compatible sets to arrive in 2019.
Upscaling still required
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.
Games that haven't been patched by their developers for 4K output and continue to run at 1080p will still be upscaled by the Xbox One X, according to the Xbox support page. It confirms that "on Xbox One X, 4K content is displayed in its native 4K resolution, and other content (like games encoded for 1080p) is upscaled to 4K."
However, given the Xbox One X’s greater power, it’s able to improve a game’s performance as well as its visuals. In fact, in many instances you’ll find that if a game sticks to a 1080p output, it’ll make up for it with HDR support and a solid 60 frames per second as is the case with ARK: Survival Evolved and the improved frame rate mode offered by Rise of the Tomb Raider.
The PS4 Pro can also run un-patched games better thanks to its PlayStation 4.5 firmware update, which introduced a 'Boost Mode'. 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 frame rates.
Benefits for Full HD
Both consoles are great for owners of the latest 4K TVs as a result of their native and upscaled output capabilities, but both offer benefits to those with less powerful Full HD screens too.
Even with a standard Full HD TV you're able to supersample the 4K image's of the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X down to your display which guarantees excellent image quality no matter what kind of screen you happen to be using.
A numbers game
On a pure numbers game, the Xbox One X wins out with a massive 6 teraflops of graphics processing power and its 12GB of GDDR5 RAM.
This is significantly more than the PS4 Pro’s 4.12 teraflops and 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.
So, while both consoles are able to output 4K and run games at 60 frames per second, the Xbox One X has some serious power advantages and greater overhead that should make it better at doing so.
Do the numbers actually matter?
Is this the case? Well, real-life comparisons between the consoles are still quite thin on the ground at the moment but we’ve been taking a look at some of Digital Foundry’s comparisons for titles such as FIFA 18 and Middle-earth: Shadow of War.
When it comes to FIFA 18, both consoles were outputting the game at native 4K. In terms of raw image quality there aren’t many big differences between the two.
According to Digital Foundry, despite having much more bandwidth and memory to play around with, the Xbox One X doesn’t really use it for anything. The only element they spot that the Xbox One X doesn’t better is a slight improvement on the grass draw distance which means you can see details in the grass from greater distances.
Despite being Xbox One X enhanced, then, FIFA 18 isn’t really pushing the console to the extent that it could in order to bring tweaks like better texture filtering and improved shadows.
Historically, EA has achieved fairly good parity between the consoles, even on the standard versions where it was the PS4 that boasted more power. A lack of scalability is an issue that may crop up with developers working across several machines as there’s a baseline experience that the development engines might not be capable of going beyond.
Middle-earth: Shadow of War
However, a game where the Xbox One X certainly has used its extra power to beat out the PS4 Pro is the recent Middle-earth: Shadow of War. For one thing, Xbox One X offers 1980p while the PS4 Pro patch is still limited to 1620p (though there are 4K cinematics that can be downloaded which is highly recommended). Neither hit that illusive 4K 2160p, but the Xbox One X has the slight edge.
According to Digital Foundry, there are some seriously notable differences between the textures on the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro. The PS4 Pro just isn’t powerful enough to host the top-tier PC-quality texture packs that the Xbox One X can and still run smoothly.
As a result, the visuals on the Xbox One X are much sharper and clearer than what’s presented on the PS4 Pro. The Xbox One X is able to offer the option to turn Dynamic Resolution on and off, a mode which is hard-set on the PS4 Pro. When turning this off, the game prioritizes the resolution, though there’s the risk that sometimes the game’s performance will dip.
Digital Foundry recommends playing with this mode turned on in quality mode. That way, you get incredible details and draw distances alongside consistent performance despite dropping from 4K. It’s worth noting that even with this combination, the Xbox One X still puts out a higher pixel count than the PS4 Pro.
Diablo 3 is another game where Digital Foundry has noted the Xbox One X has the edge in terms of performance. While both games are in 4K, the PS4 Pro achieves a full 3840 x 2160 only in interior areas while the Xbox One X hits 4K almost perfectly throughout.
Both machines definitely do drop from 4K to maintain performance but the Xbox One X does so less frequently and it solidly maintains 60 frames per second.
Where Middle-earth: Shadow of War has a higher-quality texture pack on Xbox One X than PS4 Pro, Diablo 3 actually has the same texture packs which makes this game a good example of how the Xbox One X's raw power translates into improved visuals.
Overall, the Xbox One X is certainly capable of much better graphics and much greater visual customization than the PS4 Pro thanks to its greater power. Looking at FIFA 18 and Shadow of War together, however, shows that better graphics won’t necessarily be the case across every single game – it’s really down to the developer. That said, the Xbox One X is certainly the more future-proofed option for those interested in getting the best 4K assets.
Winner: Xbox One X
Xbox One X vs PS4 Pro: appearance
- Neither console breaks any new ground with their appearance
- This is the smallest Xbox ever but only by a very small amount
- PS4 Pro has more special edition and color options
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.
Personally, we're slightly fonder of the clean lines of the Xbox One X than the PS4 Pro's three-tier 'sandwich' approach, but your own opinions may vary.
Winner: Xbox One X (barely)
Xbox One X vs PS4 Pro: games
- Xbox has much better backwards compatibility across all of its devices
- Xbox Play Anywhere unites the Windows 10 platform
- PS4 has more exciting first-party exclusives in the works
- Both consoles receive the biggest third-party 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 and original Xbox games that can be played on the console.
Some of them will even receive Xbox One X enhanced patches which will improve their appearance.
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 is also open to Xbox One X.
Where the Xbox falls down is in its brand new first-party exclusives and Microsoft has been continually criticized for this. It’s important that the company invests more here, as it’s the first-party exclusives that will be the most capable of showing just how powerful the Xbox One X is, and give it the content advantage it sorely needs over the PS4 Pro.
The PS4 has a number of excellent exclusives, 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 Rachet and Clank. The most recent to hit shelves is the latest Spider-Man release.
However, debating over specific releases aside, the vast majority of this generation’s biggest games have come to both Xbox and PlayStation.
Assassin’s Creed Origins, Battlefield 1, Overwatch and Wolfenstein 2 have all appeared on both the PS4 and Xbox One, and going forward most third-party publishers are expected to support each of the more powerful console iterations.
Given the continued existence of timed-exclusives, exclusive DLCs and the PS4 Pro’s lower specs, though, this may not always be exactly equal (take Middle-earth: Shadow of War as an example of this).
Winner: Tie. PS4 Pro has a better game library, but games look better on Xbox One X.
PS4 Pro vs Xbox One X: Virtual Reality
- PS4 Pro currently has PSVR
- Xbox One X does not have a VR headset, and may never
At one time we were definitely led to believe that both the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro would support VR headsets. Sony struck first with the PlayStation VR, a dedicated virtual reality platform that has found moderate success (even among its PC-based competition) while Microsoft has been slow to follow.
When we spoke to Xbox's Mike Ybarra to find out what's happening with VR on Xbox One X, Ybarra said the Microsoft team wanted to focus on PC-based VR: “For us, we’re going to continue to invest on the Windows side where people are engaging. Our MR devices work with Steam games now - I love what’s happening there - and in the living room there are still, in my opinion, challenges to be solved. But we’re looking at that and we’re listening to customers and fans, but our investment profile will remain on Windows for now.”
That means if VR has any sort of appeal for you, PS4 Pro is the place to be.
Winner: PS4 Pro
Xbox One X vs PS4 Pro: films and media
- Xbox One X has a built-in Ultra HD Blu-ray player
- Both consoles stream 4K content from services like Netflix and Amazon
- Dolby Vision and Atmos on Xbox One X
Films and media is another area where the two consoles are similar in some respects, but very different in others.
The biggest difference is that Xbox One X has an Ultra HD Blu-ray player which allows it to play Ultra HD Blu-rays in all their uncompressed 4K HDR glory. The discs aren’t all that common, but when the option is available, it’s worth opting for the 4K version.
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.
The other small difference between them is that while both support HDR10, the universal format for High Dynamic Range content, only Xbox One X supports Dolby Vision - the slightly higher-tuned version of HDR that can utilize dynamic scene-by-scene metadata and offer a slightly higher peak brightness.
For audiophiles, the Xbox One X also explicitly supports Dolby Atmos, a more immersive version of surround sound, while PS4 Pro requires a bit of work to get a comparable experience.
Overall, we feel the Xbox One X makes a slightly better claim as the system for videophiles with Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision support, in addition to its 4K Blu-ray player.
Winner: Xbox One X
Xbox One X vs PS4 Pro price
- Xbox One X is $499 / £449 / AU$649
- PS4 Pro is $399 / £349 / AU$559.95
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.
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 next holiday season rolls around.
The Xbox One X, however, is a more recent launch and is priced at $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.
Winner: PS4 Pro
PS4 Pro vs Xbox One X: so which is better?
In terms of pure power, Xbox One X wins out over PS4 Pro. Xbox One X's memory bandwith, RAM, CPU and GPU all outperform PS4 Pro and with Middle-earth: Shadow of War we've already seen evidence that this can have a graphical impact.
However, not every developer will use the Xbox One X's power to its full potential, and at the moment it seems likely that there will be a lot of parity across the consoles for some time yet.
In terms future-proofing, the Xbox One X's power makes it your best bet but a distinct lack of exciting first-party games may make the PS4 Pro more appealing - even if it offers slightly lower performance. After all, What does draw distance matter if it means missing out on games like Spider-Man and God of War?
That said, outside of gaming content, the Xbox One X boasts 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.
If money is of little object and you want the most powerful console ever, a full entertainment system, a good degree of future proofing and you're a fan of the Xbox back catalog, the Xbox One X just makes sense. If, however, you're looking to enter the era of 4K gaming more cost-effectively and you can't stand the idea of missing out on PlayStation's engaging exclusives then the PS4 Pro is the console for you.
Winner? For us, Xbox One X. But for you, it could be PS4 Pro.
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Nick Pino is Managing Editor, TV and AV for TechRadar's sister site, Tom's Guide. Previously, he was the Senior Editor of Home Entertainment at TechRadar, covering TVs, headphones, speakers, video games, VR and streaming devices. He's also written for GamesRadar+, Official Xbox Magazine, PC Gamer and other outlets over the last decade, and he has a degree in computer science he's not using if anyone wants it.