Xbox One or PS4? It’s the hottest question of the holiday season – and although both are considered next-generation gaming consoles, their respective visions of said “next generation” are wildly different (and equally exciting). Both systems aren’t for everybody – and with that in mind, we’ve got a few suggestions for different types of gamers looking to pick up a new console this winter.
Xbox One or PS4: which one is better…
… For the dedicated gamer?
For many, the next generation console war comes down to one simple question: which system has the best games? Unfortunately, there’s no winner in this category just yet: after a fairly mediocre lineup of launch titles (many of which were multi-platform and multi-generation, released on both Xbox 360/PS3 and Xbox One/PS4), there isn’t much difference between the gaming experiences on the Xbox One or PS4. That’s not to say there aren’t some solid exclusives available: Xbox One’s zombie-infested Dead Rising 3 and PS4’s indie shooter Resogun only scratched the surface of what these systems are capable of.
At this point, there isn’t a winner or loser in the games category just yet: if anything, the PS4’s ability to run multi-platform titles like Call of Duty: Ghosts and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag at native 1080p resolution gives it a slight advantage over the Xbox One. We’ll have a better idea once the many, many indie titles and spring exclusives (like Xbox One’s Titanfall or PS4’s Infamous: Second Son) start making their way to the shelves. For now, we’re going with the PS4, thanks to its pure graphical power and much-lauded Dual Shock 4 controller, with its superior analog sticks and absurdly comfortable, responsive shoulder triggers.
…For the casual gamer and avid media consumer?
One thing is clear about the next generation of gaming consoles: being just a gaming console is no longer acceptable. The PS4 and Xbox One have very different visions about what that exactly means, but the idea is basically the same: both next-generation systems are designed to provide a wide array of entertainment options, be it playing Blu-Ray discs, streaming media from Netflix – or in the case of the Xbox One’s ambitious plans, existing as the only entertainment device in one’s living room.
In this sense, the Xbox One is endlessly more ambitious than the PS4, even if many of the premium features only come with an Xbox Live Gold membership (for example, PS4 can stream Netflix without a PS+ account; the Xbox One does not without Xbox Live Gold). The ability to connect everything from cable boxes to other game systems make it a true “all-in-one” solution for the living room – even if it’s still an imperfect one, with a sometimes-awkward Windows 8-based interface and Kinect 2 voice controls that still don’t quite work as well as one would like.
At the end of the day, the PS4 and Xbox One are aiming to be very different devices: PS4 wants to be a gaming console first, while the Xbox One wants to separate itself by being the all-in-one solution to someone’s living room. For those who aren’t considered with “console exclusives” (games released on only one console, or “timed” to be exclusive for a period of time) and just want something that plays mainstream game titles between video streaming, the Xbox One‘s higher price tag ($100 more than the PS4) is worth the cost.
… For the social gamer?
There are a few ways to look at the Xbox One or PS4 as “social” systems. Both feature the ability to capture screenshots and game video to upload, both are compatible with Twitch streaming (though Xbox One hasn’t released an update unlocking this feature as of yet), and both cater to gamers who like to play with friends, with features like cross game chat.
When it comes to actually sharing content with friends, Xbox One currently has a slight advantage. Despite the PS4’s useful “Share” button (which has multiple commands for taking screenshots, capturing the last 15 minutes of gameplay, or recording a new clip), the PS4’s video-sharing feature is limited to uploading to Facebook only (at least for now). The Xbox One‘s ability to upload videos to Skydrive, along with its robust video-editing tools, give it a slight edge for the gamer who doesn’t like to just play with his friends, but share those experiences with thousands of others on the web.
… For tech-savvy gamers and their cutting-edge living rooms?
The 4K generation is nearly upon us – and thankfully, both the PS4 and Xbox One are 4K-compatible, ready to deliver the most beautiful virtual worlds imaginable. But it’s not quite clear how well both are prepared for this next generation of television technology: looking under the hood of both the Xbox One and the PS4, there are a few key differences that push Sony’s signature device past the Xbox One’s.
The biggest difference comes in the system RAM: the XBox One’s 8GB of GDDR3 memory finds itself with two big disadvantages, at least a month into the new generation. The first is the RAM itself: with the PS4 adopting the new GDDR5 standard for its memory, the PS4 is able to deliver more pure processing power than the Xbox One (hence why COD: Ghosts and ACIV: Black Flag are optimized to run at 1080p, rather than the Xbox One’s 720p offerings).
More importantly, the Xbox One’s complex OS (based on Windows 8 tiles) naturally requires more memory to run: Xbox One games can only use six of the system’s eight computer cores, reserving a much higher percentage of processing power for the operating system. Yes, the Xbox One’s smooth, tile-based system is pretty and easy to navigate, but it appears to come at the cost of having the most detailed, graphically impressive games – though the continued development on the Xbox One (especially the system’s ability to use Microsoft’s cloud servers to handle data) will hopefully level this playing field in the near future.
The other big difference between the two systems are their peripherals – and in particular, their voice-command cameras, better known as Sony’s PS Camera and Microsoft’s Kinect 2. Those who think that talking and gesturing to their systems is the future of multimedia experiences, the Kinect 2 – while still a limited piece of equipment, particularly with gestures – is a far more impressive piece of technology, with the ability to understand a wide range of commands and a UI design that almost encourages the use of gestures to navigate menus.
In other words, this category is a pure toss-up: the PS4’s under-the-hood advantages and ability to stream games right to a PS Vita might give it more beautiful games to play all around the house, but with all the exclusive titles coming out for release in 2014, it’s not clear whether the PS4’s graphical prowess or Vita-streaming capabilities will amount to anything substantial. The Xbox One, despite being more closed in its design (unlike the PS4, the hard drive on the Xbox One can’t be replaced by the user), offers a lot more potential in terms of what it could do in the future: and in the present, the advanced voice controls and well-developed (if not a little hard-to-grasp) user interface present their own unique set of advantages.