We compare the specs, features, games and more for the Sony's PlayStation 4 and Microsoft's Xbox One, and look ahead to the next generation Xbox One S and PlayStation Neo...

It's been nearly three years since Sony's PlayStation 4 (£279) and Microsoft's Xbox One (£215) were released and, in that time, Sony has reclaimed bragging rights over its rival.

With over 40 million consoles shipped, Sony has a 2:1 lead over it's main rival, a reverse of the situation with the previous console generation that saw Microsoft's Xbox 360 outsell the PS3. However, despite the disparity in sales, performance-wise there isn't much between the two.

So with updated consoles on the way, how do the two compare? Should you buy an Xbox One or PS4, or wait for the next-gen consoles to arrive?

MORE: Microsoft unveils Xbox One S with 4K, Ultra HD Blu-ray and HDR support

PS4 vs Xbox specs

Getting straight down to the technical nitty-gritty, the Xbox One has an eight-core 64-bit AMD CPU clocked at 1.75GHz, with a 800Mhz AMD GPU.

Onboard is 8GB of DDR3 RAM and 32MB of eSRAM (embedded memory) that's tied to the CPU. In theory, this should help yield faster read and write times for a slicker, smoother performance.

Sony has taken a slightly different approach, employing a single-chip CPU (1.6GHz) and GPU in an 8-core 64-bit AMD processor that works in concert with 8GB of super-fast GDDR5 RAM.

This means the Xbox has more grunt in the CPU department, but the PS4 wins thanks to the GPU. It's both more powerful and, with the GDDR5 RAM, has an advantage in terms of graphics power.

The Xbox's CPU has a bit more grunt, but the PS4 wins thanks to its GPU

PS4 vs Xbox storage

The PS4's top is detachable. The HDD caddy on the left is where your new hard drive goes

Each console has a 500GB option, but in this age of game installations, demos, updates and downloadable content (DLC), you'll need more space. Thankfully, adding storage to both is fuss free.

The PS4's hard drive is the same as any PC or laptop and can easily be upgraded. Any 2.5in hard disk drive (HDD), solid state drive (SSD) or hybrid solid state hard drives (SSHD) will suffice and each has its benefits.

If you prefer not to tinker there are 1TB consoles available (PS4 1TB, £292). Regardless, we'd suggest you upgrade if you expect to use a lot of space. A recent update has allowed the installation of drives up to 4TB.

The Xbox has an internal 2.5in hard drive in 500GB and 1TB versions (Xbox One 1TB, £256). We wouldn't advise upgrading the internal drive as this will void the console's warranty.

Instead Microsoft has included support for external hard drives. Game installs and data can be saved to one or multiple HDDs, a feature not supported by the PS4. All you need is a drive that's USB 3.0 compatible and bigger than 256GB. The Xbox supports drives up to 16TB, enough to satisfy most gaming needs.

PS4 vs Xbox One connectivity

There's nothing out of the ordinary about the PS4's connections. There's Bluetooth 2.1 and wi-fi (802.11 b/g/n), an ethernet output, two USB 3.0 ports (on the front), a HDMI output, an auxiliary port for the PlayStation Camera and an optical audio connection.

The Xbox One has both an HDMI output and input. The output means set-top boxes or AV receivers (and even a PS4) can be passed-through, so you can watch live TV on your console or connect to an AV system.

The Xbox One has a HDMI out, which you can use to plug in a set-top box or an AV receiver

Otherwise there are three USB 3.0 ports (one on the side, two at the rear), a proprietary port for Kinect, a S/PDIF optical audio output (cable not included). An IR out, wi-fi (A/B/G/N dual-band at 2.4ghz and 5ghz) and a gigabit ethernet port.

Neither console supports composite or component connections, and with both consoles designed for full HD performance, you would be wise to leave your SD TV behind and upgrade to a HD TV.

MORE: Best TVs 2016

PS4 vs Xbox One controllers

After three generations, Sony redesigned its controller for the DualShock 4.

In some aspects, little has changed as the DualShock's angular design and placement of the buttons (square, triangle, circle, cross) remain the same.

However, improvements have been made to the thumb-sticks' dead-zone to improve accuracy and there's a two-point clickable touchpad, underneath which is a small speaker.

On the back is an integrated light bar, which is used to identify and locate the player. It also reflects what's happening in the game. In Grand Theft Auto V, for example, the controller flashes red and blue if you are being chased by the police.

The 'Start' button is now 'Options' and the 'Share' button has replaced 'Select'. Pressing it allows you to share video and screenshots to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, as well as broadcasting live streams to Twitch.

The DualShock 4 has concaved shaped triggers and the pad's grip has been made, well, grippier. Sixaxis motion control has carried over from the DualShock 3 and there's support for both Bluetooth and wired headsets.

The pad comes with ion-lithium rechargeable batteries, which Sony claims lasts for 7-8 hours. Once depleted, it will recharge in two hours. It's worth noting the controller comes with a short cable. If you want to play as the pad is charging, you'll need a longer one.

MORE: Best wireless Bluetooth headphones

Microsoft has slowly improved its controller since release, with three different versions of the pad soon to be available (two are on sale now, and the new Xbox One S will launch with number three).

The thumbstick's deadzone has been reduced to improve accuracy, haptic feedback is added to the triggers, the left and right bumpers snap back into place after being pressed, and the D-pad is now more responsive and 'clicky'.

The battery compartment was redesigned and rotated 90 degrees to take up less space and for better grip, while a 3.5mm headphone jack was added in 2015.

It comes with two AA batteries but we'd discard them and go for the Play & Charge kit. At 9ft-long, you can charge the pad while you play.

 

The Xbox Elite controller will set you back around £120. And it has paddles

The Xbox Elite (above) is a customisable controller for pro-level gamers. It comes with interchangeable paddles and thumbsticks, as well as a D-pad that can be swapped out for different shapes and sizes. It costs £120.

With the Xbox One S console coming (£350, pre-order, due August 31st), there's now a third pad. The S controller has a textured grip on its underside, with the thumbsticks now more resistant to wear and tear. The pad connects to the console via Bluetooth, increasing the controller's range.

It will arrive in August for £50 and is compatible with existing Xbox consoles.

Xbox Live

Xbox Live has a tiered approach that features both free (Silver) and paid (Gold) levels. Gold grants access to more of the service's features (online multiplayer, Game DVR, Twitch broadcasting, voice messaging and voice/party chat, plus apps like Netflix). A year's subscription costs £40 and a three-month sub is £15 - but both can usually be found for less.

Games with Gold offers free games twice a month to Xbox One and 360 owners. Access to these games is lost if the subscription expires, but restored once membership is renewed.

Saves, profiles, music and videos are uploaded to the cloud and available to use on any console you log in to.

Over the years the service has slowly transitioned into a social media-like experience. Each profile is a channel where others can see what games you've played, the content you've shared and other vital stats. Profiles can also be "followed".

The friend limit has been expanded from 100 to 1000, and privacy tightened. Friends can see your profile in full, whereas others only get access to parts of it. You can also deny profile access.

More after the break

PSN

Sony's PSN lagged behind (in more ways than one) but it's made up the ground on Xbox Live in recent years.

Like Microsoft, Sony has embraced social networking by including friend updates. The limit is 2000 friends, and you can can assign your real name to your profile, if you like.

There's a free and a premium tier, the premium tier includes PlayStation Plus (PS+) which is needed for online multiplayer on the PS4. PS+ covers all Sony gaming devices (PS4, PS3 and PS Vita) so you won't need to resubscribe for each one.

Cloud game saves, Share Play and the Instant Game Collection (IGC) are locked to PS+; messaging, party chat, live broadcasting, free-to-play games, game DVR and remote play are free to use.

PS+'s most interesting feature is the Instant Game Collection. Every month there are free games across PS4, PS3 and PS Vita, which can be played until your membership expires. PS+ costs £40 a year or £15 for three months.

Profiles and saves are uploaded to the cloud and each user has 10GB of storage space.

PS4 vs Xbox One features

Sony retired its Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited apps in 2015, confining the latter to its store and revamping the former – it's now PlayStation Music (powered by Spotify).

That means that anyone with a Spotify account (free or premium), can log in and play their saved playlists and albums. The PS4 supports background music so you could play your favourite tunes while you're playing games.

All the standard streaming apps are available on the system including Netflix, Amazon Instant, Sky, Now TV, BBC iPlayer and All 4.

MORE: Spotify review

There's also live broadcasting, with its own channel within the PS4 UI. SHAREfactory allows players to take shared content and edit it for broadcast.

There's also the Share Play feature where friends can try out your games or join you in a gaming session, even if they don't own the game.

Cross Play is supported so if a game is available on the PS4 and Vita, a single purchase can unlock both versions. Remote Play allows PS4 games to be played on a PS Vita (or PC or Mac) over a wi-fi connection.

Thanks to its extra processing power the console can multi-task, the PS4 is now able to shuffle between apps. After omitting it at launch, the PS4 finally has DLNA capability, boosting the console's multimedia ambitions.

 

We mentioned the Xbox's HDMI input earlier, which is useful if you have a set-top box or home cinema amplifier as you can you watch TV or pass-through surround sound via the console.

BT Vision, Freesat, Freeview, Sky Q and Virgin Media boxes are compatible and once plugged in, the console overlays its OneGuide interface, which is not too dissimilar to your set-top box's EPG.

OneGuide can track your habits and tell you when a show is starting – or if you have missed part of it, where else you can watch it – and provide stats and social media posts as you're watching. You'll need to go into the set-top box to record content though.

If you don't have a set-top box, you can buy the Xbox One Digital tuner with access to free-to-air HD channels.

Again, like the PS4, there's Netflix, Amazon Instant, Sky, Now TV and others for streaming content.

MORE: Digital TV box reviews

At launch the Xbox didn't support Xbox 360 games. That's now been rectified with its Backwards compatibility program that's making Xbox 360 games available for free – so long as you already own them.

The Xbox runs on Windows 10 and as a consequence Xbox games can be streamed your PC if you have a Windows 10 PC and a decent wi-fi connection.

At E3 2016, Microsoft introduced Xbox Play Anywhere, meaning that if you own a digital version of an Xbox game, you will have access to the Windows 10 copy at no additional cost.

For entertainment, there's Groove – Microsoft's answer to Spotify. Xbox Movies & TV has a selection of titles available to buy or rent and there's Xbox Fitness, a free app (with paid DLC) that helps you get into shape. It's best not to use the app though, as it will be discontinued in 2017.

PS4 vs Xbox One graphics

Games on the PS4 tend to have a performance advantage of their Xbox counterparts

The PS4's GPU is better than the Xbox on paper and this translates to games being rendered at 1080p, having a slightly clearer image and in some cases better textures.

Xbox One versions of multiplatform games often have a resolution of 900p (upscaled to 1080p). Frame rates – and overall performance – tend to be more stable on the PS4.

It's in no way a deal breaker as the differences in graphics aren't always noticeable, but for a smoother gaming experience, the PS4 leads the way… so far.

The differences in graphics between the two consoles aren't always noticeable, but for a smoother gaming experience, the PS4 is in front

PS4 vs Xbox One exclusive games

Several Destiny strikes and raid gameplay modes were only available on the PS4 for the first year of the game's release

Each console has its share of exclusive titles (the PS4 has more), but it's more likely that you'll be playing games that appear on both. 

Destiny's DLC was tied to Sony's consoles for a year. It also snapped up the downloadable content (DLC) for Batman: Arkham Knight and Call of Duty games for a short period of time. Street Fighter V is a PS4 exclusive and unlikely to appear on the Xbox.

In turn, Microsoft struck a deal with Ubisoft to get The Division's DLC to be an Xbox One exclusive. Square Enix's Rise of the Tomb Raider was a timed exclusive and EA's Access subscription service is only available on Microsoft's platform.

While it might not seem much, these deals may influence your choice of console. For those prepared to wait a few months, it's likely that the content will (eventually) appear on both consoles.

Best PS4 games

Sony has more exclusives and while the quality varies, it's more diverse.

Driveclub is a racing game that started off poorly but has improved massively with regular updates. In the absence of Gran Turismo we'd argue it's the best racing game on the system.

Uncharted 4: A Thief's End launched in May and is considered to be one of the best titles on either system as Nathan Drake's story is brought to a close. There's The Uncharted Collection, which contains cracking remasters of the original PS3 games and The Last of Us: Remastered, another a remake of a brilliant PS3 title.

Horror game Until Dawn surprised with its cinematic take on the horror genre. Ratchet & Clank – based on the original from 2002 – carries over the series' trademark humour and penchant for ridiculous gadgets.

When it comes to downloadable games, the PS4 has lots of interesting titles. Hotline Miami and its sequel recall the punishingly hard 2D classics from the 80s, while Jonathan Blow's The Witness is an epic puzzle game. Everybody's Gone To The Rapture and Journey feature emotionally engaging stories that bigger games rarely attempt.

Best Xbox One games

In terms of Xbox exclusives games, the console has a strong, if small lineup.

Forza Motorsport 6 is a return to form after the fifth version lacked new features. The handling is subtle (even with a gamepad), and the roster of cars and tracks offers more variety than Forza Motorsport 5. In terms of racing simulators, this is one of the best.

If you fancy a more laidback racing game then Forza Horizon 2 is a great choice. It's an open world game that features a more fun, 'arcadey' handling compare to the more precise driving of the Motorsport series.

Halo 5: Guardians makes up for the iffy Halo 4 and is a great showcase for the Xbox One's graphics. The Master Chief Collection brings some nostalgia, with all four of the series main games available to play in single player or co-op.

We've heard good things about Ori and the Blind Forest, a gorgeous platform game that's one of the Xbox's few outstanding indie games.

Xbox One S, Project Scorpio and 4K gaming

The 2TB Xbox One S will retail for £349. 1TB for £299 and 500GB for £249

August will see the arrival of Microsoft's latest console, the Xbox One S. It's 40 per cent smaller than the original, supports 4K output and HDR visuals, has a 2TB drive (there's also a 500GB and 1TB option) and can play Ultra HD Blu-rays. That should ensure that when it's released, it'll be the cheapest Ultra HD Blu-ray player on the market.

MORE: Panasonic DMP-UB900 vs Samsung UBD-K8500 - 4K Blu-ray players

The processor has been given a boost but this is not expected to improve the gaming performance - the additional power is there for HDR support. The HDMI port is being tweaked to support 4K video output but the Xbox One S will not play games in native 4K. Instead, it will support the likes of Netflix 4K.

For 4K gaming, Microsoft's Project Scorpio is on the horizon. This is a new console that's been built from the ground up to support native 4K gaming. We won't see that until Christmas 2017, however.

MORE: Microsoft unveils Xbox One S with 4K, Ultra HD Blu-ray and HDR support

PlayStation Neo 4K and PlayStation VR

A new console from Sony – codenamed Neo – is expected later this year. Unlike the Xbox One S the Neo's processors have been upgraded, with a third more power from the CPU, double from the GPU and an increase in memory bandwidth.

It's not intended to replace the existing console, but to act as a higher-end option for those who want a 4K-capable console. It's likely gaming performance won't be native 4K but upscaled instead.

There won't be any games exclusive to the PS Neo and content is not expected to differ from the PS4, though games are expected to have some sort of enhanced mode that takes advantage of the extra horsepower.

Also arriving later this year is Sony's VR proposition called PlayStation VR (£349). It will work with all PS4s on the market (the PlayStation camera is required), but expect it to benefit from the PlayStation Neo's improved performance.

PlayStation VR will be released on October 13th, around the same time as the PlayStation Neo is expected.

MORE: Sony rumoured to be launching 4K-ready ‘PlayStation 4.5’ console

PS4 vs Xbox One verdict

So which games console should you buy? In some ways the decision has already been made - if your friends are playing on one console that could be reason enough, with online gaming such a big part of the experience.

However, the gaming performance is better on the PS4, the variety of games is better and the difference in online performance between Live and PSN is now largely negligible.

For a purely gaming console the PS4 seems tailor made and with VR coming to the console and the terrific Instant Game Collection, we believe it beats the Xbox One for gaming options.

The flipside is that while the entertainment focus of the Xbox One may have put off some at first, it does things that the PS4 cannot. As an all-purpose box under the TV, it's the more attractive option.

Should you buy a console now or wait? The main reason to buy an Xbox One S or the upcoming Playstation Neo is to take advantage of 4K video and HDR. If you don't have a 4K TV, it will be hard to make the case for the new consoles.

For the here and now, and for gamers, we'd give the PS4 the nod, but don't rule the multi-purpose Xbox One out... Roll on the next updates and new consoles.

MORE: PS4 review

MORE: Xbox One review

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