Last week at E3, the video-gaming industry's biggest trade event, the console war between the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One heated up considerably. A lot more information has surfaced since we did our first point-by-point comparison, so here's the next round in this speculative prizefight. We'll have both consoles in our lab for testing when they are available to make our final determination.
Incidentally, one point of contention would have been the unfriendly and immediately unpopular DRM policies that Microsoft had announced for the Xbox One—restrictions on selling, lending, or trading games, and a required online check-in every 24 hours. The Sony PS4 has no such restrictions, a fact that may have helped Microsoft decide to abandon those polices.
Price. We now know that the Xbox One will go on sale in November for $500, while the PS4 will ships sometime during the holiday season at $400. The $100 price difference is likely because the Xbox One comes bundled with the new Kinect controller. But $100 is not a small chunk of change, so for this category, Sony has the edge.
Peripherals. As mentioned, the Xbox One's higher price includes the upgraded Kinect, which promises to be more sensitive than its predecessor. It can recognize more gestures, and they'll be used for controlling not only games but also menu browsing and entertainment experiences. The same is true of voice commands.
The PlayStation 4 doesn't come with bundled peripherals, but the PlayStation Eye camera will be available as an add-on for $59. The Eye isn't a full-body tracking camera like the Kinect; it tracks the movements of the PlayStation Move controller. And one of the PS4's most touted features is the ability to stream games to the PlayStation Vita, Sony's handheld gaming device. While compelling, it comes with a price: The PlayStation Vita costs $250 for the Wi-Fi-only model. Microsoft provides more value out of the box, so the Xbox One takes this category.
Advantage: Xbox One
Get more reviews and tips at our guide to video games, consoles, and tech toys.
Controllers. At E3, we had some hands-on time with both consoles' new controllers. Microsoft actually had a demo for the Xbox One controller alone, and the vibration feedback was very responsive to what was happening on screen; different parts of the controller vibrate, as opposed to the entire thing. The PS4 controller still has more options available, though, with its touchpad and built-in speaker. Sony should have added trigger buttons in the place of L2 and R2 shoulder buttons and made the analog sticks concave for more control. Microsoft didn't need to make those improvements, as they already existed on the Xbox's previous controller. Still, having more control options is better—so PS4 gets this one.
Online: Both consoles will have a strong online presence with focus on social elements. Note that you'll now have to pay to play games online on the PS4. A PlayStation Plus account is required for online multiplayer gaming though it won't be needed to access streaming media services. Xbox has been using this model with its Xbox Live service as well, though it requires you to pay for a Gold Membership to access media services like Netflix. Both services cost $50 for a year. PlayStation 4 still wins in this category because of innovative features, such as the ability to let a friend remotely take over your game and help you through an area where you are stuck.
Entertainment. Both consoles promise exclusive entertainment options: for example, a live-action Halo series on Xbox One and support from Sony Pictures for the PS4 (though what this support will entail hasn't yet been revealed). These exclusive entertainment options are becoming increasingly important in the battle for entertainment dominance.
The Xbox One will offer far more controls on the entertainment front, allowing you to control live TV with voice and gesture controls. Xbox also has a deal with the NFL that makes keeping up with your favorite teams much easier. Fantasy football fans will appreciate that the Xbox One can track their players' stats and notify them when something relevant to their team happens. You can even watch highlights of those important plays in a picture in picture window while watching another program or game.
Advantage: Xbox One
Product design. We've now seen the product design for both of these consoles, and they're both... black boxes. The PS4 is a bit more angular than the Xbox One and has a glowing blue strip on it. The Xbox One has a glowing Xbox logo on the front. Neither company has really outdone the other here.
Find out how to choose the best TV for playing video games.
Games. Initially, Sony seemed to have a stronger focus on gaming, with Microsoft focusing on entertainment in general. But now both systems have announced some great titles. At E3, I saw demos of exclusive Xbox One titles such as Ryse: Son of Rome, Quantum Break, and Dead Rising 3, which all looked incredible. The PS4 will have exclusives including Knack, KillZone: ShadowFall, and infamous: Second Son, which were also impressive. Popular game franchises such as Call of Duty will appear on both consoles. It's a tough call and we'll have to wait until more exclusives are announced to see if there is a clear winner.
Even though Microsoft has reversed its DRM policies, the proposal will leave a sour taste in the mouth of many consumers. And though you get the Kinect bundled with the Xbox One, the price point is a big determinant in this round, and the PlayStation 4 was able to slot itself comfortably between the Wii U and Xbox One.
Winner (for now): PlayStation 4
More from Consumer Reports:
Top rated TVs, cell phones and other electronics
Best and worst products for your home
Expert, unbiased ratings and reviews
Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission.
- Game Consoles
- Technology & Electronics
- PlayStation 4