PS4 vs Xbox One: which is best?

It's been three years since Sony's PlayStation 4 (£279) and Microsoft's Xbox One (£215) were released. In that time Sony has soared ahead of its closest rival.

With over 40 million consoles shipped, Sony leads Microsoft, a reverse of the situation where the Xbox 360 outsold the PS3. However, despite the disparity in sales, there's not much difference between the two in terms of performance.

So, how do they compare with each other? And should you buy the cheaper launch versions, opt for the upgraded consoles or wait for the next-generation to arrive?

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

PS4 vs Xbox specs

The original Xbox One had 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. The aim of this was to yield faster read and write times for a slicker, smoother performance.

Sony's launch PS4 took a 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.

PS4 vs Xbox storage

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

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

Each console comes with 500Gb minimum, but more space is needed in this age of massive installs, demos, updates and downloadable content (DLC). Thankfully, adding storage to both is fuss free.

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

You can buy 1TB consoles (PS4 1TB, £255). We think an upgrade is best (and cheaper) especially if you use a lot of space. A recent update has allowed drives up to 4TB.

The Xbox has an internal 2.5in hard drive in 500GB and 1TB versions (Xbox One 1TB, £249). We wouldn't advise upgrading, as this will void the console's warranty.

Instead Microsoft 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, if not all, gaming needs.

PS4 vs Xbox One connectivity

Connections on the launch PS4

Connections on the launch PS4

The launch PS4 had 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.

With the release of the slim PS4 a few changes have been made. The USB ports on the front have been spaced out, 5GHz wi-fi is supported and the optical audio connection has been removed. The latter can be found in the premium PS4 Pro console.

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

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

The Xbox One has an HDMI output and input. The output allows set-top boxes and AV receivers to be passed-through so you can watch live TV on your console or connect to an AV system.

The original Xbox had three USB 3.0 ports (one on the side, two at the rear), a proprietary port for Kinect, a S/PDIF optical audio out. An IR out, wi-fi (2.4ghz and 5ghz) and a gigabit ethernet port.

With the launch of the Xbox One S, the arrangement of connections has been changed and there's no longer a dedicated Kinect port.

Neither console supports composite or component connections, so it would be wise to leave your SD TV behind and upgrade to a HD TV.

MORE: Best TVs 2016

Xbox One S vs PS4 Slim

Microsoft's revision of the Xbox One, the Xbox One S, is 40 per cent smaller, supports 4K and HDR visuals and can play Ultra HD Blu-rays.

The 2TB version has sold out, but it's not the last we'll see of it. It'll be back for special edition bundles such as the upcoming Gears of War 4 Console (£400).

1TB (£300) and 500GB (£250) are now out ensuring the Xbox One S is the cheapest UHD player on the market.

MORE: Microsoft Xbox One S review

The PS4 Slim continues the company's legacy of smaller form factors without drastically changing the specs.

Externally, changes are minor with a new matte finish, the addition of USB port and the removal of the optical out. The PS4 Slim is more power-efficient and not as noisy as before.

It doesn't support 4K UHD but it has HDR support, as do all PS4s after an update was released in mid-September.

MORE: HDR TV: What is it? How can you get it?

PS4 vs Xbox One controllers

After three generations, Sony redesigned its DualShock controller.

In some respects little has changed. The angular design and placement of the buttons (square, triangle, circle, cross) remain.

Improvements have been made to the thumb-sticks' dead-zone and there's the 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.

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

The ever so slightly upgraded DualShock 4

The ever so slightly upgraded DualShock 4

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

The pad comes with ion-lithium rechargeable batteries, which Sony says lasts for 7-8 hours. Once depleted, it will fully recharge in two hours.

The PS4 Slim and PS4 Pro come with a slightly tweaked controller (above). The lightbar can be seen through the touchpad and the lightbar itself is smaller.

There's also a slight reduction in Bluetooth lag thanks to the DS4 now being capable of transmitting data over USB cable. Speaking of which…

The controller comes with a short cable, so if you want to play as the pad is charging, you'll need to buy a longer one.

MORE: Best wireless Bluetooth headphones

There are two different versions of the Xbox pad available; the Elite and the Controller S (£49.99 above).

The Controller S has all the improvements the original had – the thumbsticks' reduced deadzone, haptic feedback, snappier bumper buttons, a more responsive D-pad, a redesigned battery compartment and 3.5mm jack.

The S controller's new additions include a textured grip on its underside and thumbsticks that are more resistant to wear and tear. The pad connects via Bluetooth, increasing the controller's range.

It effectively replaces the original controller and is compatible with all Xbox consoles.

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

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.

All flavours of the Xbox controller come with two AA batteries but we'd opt for the Play & Charge kit. At 9ft-long, you can charge while you play.

Xbox Live

Xbox Live has a tiered approach with free (Silver) and paid (Gold) levels. Gold grants access to online multiplayer, Game DVR, Twitch broadcasting, voice messaging and voice/party chat.

A year's subscription costs £40 and a three-month sub is £15 - but both can be found for less.

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

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

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

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

PlayStation Network (PSN)

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

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

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

There's both a free and premium tier. The latter includes PlayStation Plus (PS+), which is needed for online multiplayer on the PS4.

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.

Every month the Instant Game Collection features free games across PS4, PS3 and PS Vita. They can be played until your membership expires and will be available again when you re-subscribe.

PS+ costs £40 a year or £15 for three months.

PS4 vs Xbox One features

Sony retired its Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited apps, moving the latter to its store and revamping the former. It's now PlayStation Music (powered by Spotify).

Anyone with a free or premium Spotify account can log in and find their saved playlists and albums. The PS4 supports background music so you can play music during game sessions.

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

SHAREfactory channel allows players to take content and edit it before it's broadcast.

Friends can try out your games or join you in a gaming session, even if they don't own the game, via Share Play. Cross Buy unlocks another version of a game if it's bought digitally.

For example, if you buy Hotline Miami on the PS4 you automatically have access to the Vita version.

Remote Play allows PS4 games to be played on a PS Vita (or PC or Mac) over a wi-fi connection.

The console can multi-task with the PS4 able to shuffle between apps. It also has DLNA capabilities, so you can play content from a connected USB or stream from a computer.

With the Xbox's HDMI input you can watch TV or pass-through surround sound via the console. Despite the One S 4K upgrade, you cannot pass-through 4K video.

BT Vision, Freesat, Freeview, Sky Q and Virgin Media boxes are compatible. 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 still need to use the set-top box to record content.

If you don't have a set-top box, you can buy the Xbox One Digital TV tuner (£20.85) that grants access to free-to-air HD channels.

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

MORE: Digital TV box reviews

With its Backwards compatibility program, you can play Xbox 360 games on Xbox One – so long as you already own them.

As the Xbox runs on Windows 10, Xbox games can be streamed to the PC. This is only possible with Windows 10 PCs.

If you buy a game digitally and it's part of the Xbox Play Anywhere scheme, a Windows 10 copy is available at no additional cost.

Saves, add-ons and achievements can be transferred and progress is synced between the two versions. For a list of Play Anywhere games, look here.

For music, 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.

However, it will be discontinued in 2017.

PS4 vs Xbox One graphics

The PS4 has a better GPU and this translates to a 1080p/30fps performance, a slightly clearer image and in some cases better textures.

Xbox One versions are often rendered at 900p resolution and then upscaled to 1080p. Frame rates – and overall performance – tends to be more stable on the PS4.

It's not a deal breaker as graphical differences aren't always noticeable. For a smoother gaming experience, the PS4 leads the way.

PS4 vs Xbox One exclusive games

Several Destiny strikes and raid gameplay modes are PS4 exclusive

Several Destiny strikes and raid gameplay modes are PS4 exclusive

Each console has its share of exclusive titles, but it's likely that you'll be playing multi-platform games.

Destiny's downloadable content (DLC) is tied to Sony consoles until 2017. It also snapped up the DLC for Batman: Arkham Knight and Call of Duty games for a short period of time. Street Fighter V is a PS4 exclusive.

In turn, Microsoft gets The Division's DLC first. Square Enix's Rise of the Tomb Raider was a timed exclusive and EA's Access service is exclusive to Xbox.

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

Best PS4 games

Sony has a diverse range of exclusives but quality varies.

Driveclub is a racing game that greatly improved after it's poor launch. Adventure game Uncharted 4: A Thief's End is among the generation's finest.

If you want to play the previous Uncharted games, there's Naughty Dog's The Uncharted Collection. The Last of Us: Remastered is a remake of the brilliant PS3 game from the same company.

Horror game Until Dawn surprised players its immersive action, and the latest Ratchet & Clank continued the series' trademark humour.

There's plenty of digital titles and in Hotline Miami and its sequel, you have two of the most memorable. Everybody's Gone to the Rapture and Journey offer unique experiences that you're unlikely to get on the Xbox.

Best Xbox One games

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

Forza Motorsport 6 returns to form after the barebones fifth version. It's one of the finest terms racing simulators out there.

If you fancy a more carefree racing game then Forza Horizon 3 is a great choice. It's open world and errs towards a more 'arcadey' handling.

Halo 5: Guardians makes up for the iffy Halo 4 and is a great showcase for the console. The Master Chief Collection brings together all four of the Halo series main games in single player and co-op.

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

PS4 vs Xbox One verdict

What should you buy? In a way the decision has already been made - if your friends are on one console that's reason enough, with online gaming such a big part of the experience.

However, gaming performance is better on the PS4. There's more variety and the difference in online performance between Live and PSN is now largely negligible.

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

The flipside is that while the Xbox's focus on entertainment put some off at first, it does things the PS4 cannot.

As an all-purpose box under the TV - and as the cheapest Ultra HD player on the market - the recently released Xbox One S is a more attractive option from that perspective.

The main reason to get a One S or PS4 Pro is 4K video and HDR. If you don't have a 4K TV, there's not much point. If you want a true 4K gaming console you may have to wait until Project Scorpio comes out.

For the here and now, and for gamers, the PS4 gets nod, but don't rule the multi-purpose Xbox One out...


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