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Xbox One vs. PS4: Which console is king in 2017?

Joe Donovan

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The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 have been out for a few years now, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve made the next-gen jump yet. If you’re still on the fence, we’re willing to bet you probably have a few questions. Perhaps you’ve caught some of the ongoing debate between Xbox and PlayStation diehards, or are merely new to gaming and aren’t sure what distinguishes Microsoft’s flagship console from Sony’s offering. While there are certainly pros and cons to each, they’re also remarkably similar in some important ways — and drastically different in others.

More: Xbox Scorpio will live and die by its games, not its power

Though the original versions of both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are technically outdated at this point, thanks to the arrival of the Xbox One S and the PS4 Slim. You can buy both of these new and improved consoles for the console’s standard $300 price, but the original models are still out there as well. At this point, you should only buy a first-generation Xbox One or PS4 used or on sale. We’ve put together a detailed analysis of each console’s game selection, performance, design, user interface, controllers, and more.

Spec Comparison

Xbox One

Xbox One

PlayStation 4

Playstation 4

Dimensions

13.1″ x 10.8″ x 3.1″ (WxHxD)

12″ x 2.09″ x 10.83″ (WxHxD)
Weight 8 lbs 6.1 lbs
Processor CPU: TBA eight-core, x86 processor CPU: Eight-core X86 AMD Jaguar
GPU:1.84 T-FLOPS, AMD Radeon Graphics Core Next Engine
Memory 8GB RAM 8GB GDDR5 RAM
Hard Drive Built-in, 500GB HDD/1TB HDD Built-in, 500GB HDD/1TB HDD (can be swapped for larger drive)
AV Output HDMI 1.4 in/out, 4K, and 1080p support; Optical output HDMI, Analog-AV out, Digital Output (Optical)
I/O Output USB 3.0 X TBA, AUX Super Speed USB (USB 3.0) X 3, AUX
Communication IEEE 802.11n wireless with Wi-Fi connect Ethernet (10BASE-T,100BASE-TX, 1000BASE-T), Bluetooth 2.1 (EDR), IEEE 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi
Controller Unnamed Xbox One controller (similar to Xbox 360 Wireless Controller, but with dynamic impulse triggers and a redesigned D-pad) 1000amAh DualShock 4 (210g, six-axis motion sensing, 2 Point Touch Pad)
Camera 250,000-pixel infrared depth sensor and 1080p camera 1280×800 @ 60Hz, 640×400 @ 120Hz, 320×192 @ 240Hz
Optical Drive Blue-ray/DVD BD 6xCAV, DVD 8xCAV
Price Starting at $200 Starting at $250
Availability AmazonBest Buy, GameStop AmazonBest Buy, GameStop

Performance, Design, Controllers, Ports & Storage

Performance

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Both systems can play many of the same games. Performance, though, is dependent on the console you’re using. The PS4 is the more powerful machine, albeit slightly, with the ability to display games in 1080p resolution (as opposed to the Xbox One’s upscaled 920p). The difference isn’t always drastic, but on most TVs, PS4 titles will simply look better. There are some claims of the PS4 dropping frames on some games, and while it hasn’t been reported as a widespread issue — many games run at smooth 30 or 60 frames per second without issue — it’s still worth keeping in mind.

The best course of action is to see how your favorite games perform on each before making your decision. Many gaming websites upload side-by-side graphics comparisons for big releases, which can give you an idea of what to expect.

In any case, these differences only really apply to third-party games where the two versions can be compared side-by-side. First-party titles tend to take better advantage of the system they’re developed for, and therefore will look great regardless of which console they appear on. Still, the third-party performance concerns are enough to give the nod to PS4 in this regard.

Winner: PS4

Design

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The PS4 is slim, sleek, and lightweight, featuring an attractive light bar on the side and a sloping front and back. The Xbox One is a much bulkier box. It isn’t ugly by any means, and it sort of resembles one of the new-generation cable boxes, but put the two next to each other and you have to wonder why it is so much bigger, especially since it still uses a cumbersome external power supply brick. The PS4 doesn’t, yet it still manages to pack more power within a smaller build.

Winner: PS4

Controllers

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One thing many — though, certainly not all — gamers can agree on is that the Xbox 360 controller is one of the best ever released. It’s just a sturdier, better design than the DualShock 3, especially for people who play first-person shooters. The next-gen controllers change that dynamic, though.

The standard Xbox One controller retains many of the core elements of the 360 controller, plus it adds two more rumble motors and loses the bulky battery pack on the back. It also has smaller thumbpads on the analog sticks, which some will find refreshing, others frustrating. Microsoft also released an “Elite” version of its controller, one that allows for numerous customization options and multiple triggers for different input variations. While the Elite controller is certainly exciting, it also costs a whopping $150. Unless you’re the hardest of the the hardcore, it’s likely not something you’ll need.

The DualShock 4, on the other hand, showcases vast improvements across the board when compared to the previous DualShock controllers. It’s bigger and comes outfitted with outward-curving triggers, along with a clickable touchpad on the front and a multi-function lightbar. There’s even a little speaker in the controller that some games make effective use of. The embedded thumbpads are larger than the Xbox controller’s, though that’s simply in line with the controller itself. Overall, the PS4 controller feels a bit more hardy, and will fit most gamers’ hands better. It’s a slim margin of victory, but a victory nonetheless.

Winner: PS4

Ports and Storage

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Ports are a telling distinction between the Xbox One and PS4. Microsoft packed an IR Blaster and two HDMI inputs into the One, thus allowing you to connect the console to satellite boxes and cable TV. Considering Sony omitted these ports, it’s clear that Microsoft wants to win over a wider demographic of consumers. Both consoles do tout a camera and Ethernet port, as well as two USB inputs.

Both consoles are available with 500GB or 1TB of storage space, which is enough to house a decent collection of games and other media. Still, 1TB of storage is the bare minimum for most desktop PCs, and nearly four years into the life cycle of these consoles, space can be at a premium if you’re getting new games regularly. Luckily, both systems’ storage can easily be expanded via external hard drives and the like. 

Altogether, there’s little separating the Xbox One and PS4 in terms of connectivity and storage. The Xbox gets the win due to its wider selection of ports.

Winner: Xbox One

Game Selection, Backwards Compatibility, Online Services, Peripherals

Game Selection

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After more than three years, both the Xbox One and PS4 have libraries with hundreds of games, and each console has their own set of exclusives. In many ways, this is one of the major selling points for choosing one console over the other. Though most third-party games are available on both systems, there are exceptions, and both Microsoft and Sony make deals to secure console exclusives now and then (though most Microsoft games these days are also available on PC).

There’s a pretty long list of exclusives for the Xbox One, mostly full of high profile titles from the Halo, Gears of War, and Forza franchises. These are all great games that you’ll (probably) never be able to play on a Sony console. For a few years, the list of PS4 exclusive titles paled in comparison to those available for the Xbox One. More recently, though, a veritable buffet of award-worthy games has swung the scales in favor of Sony’s black box. Below, check out a list of the most acclaimed — and popular — exclusive titles for each console.

PS4 Exclusives Xbox One Exclusives
Bloodborne Halo 5: Guardians
Horizon: Zero Dawn Gears of War 4
NieR: Automata Forza Horizon 3
Until Dawn Halo Wars 2
Uncharted 4 Killer Instinct
The Last Guardian Quantum Break
Street Fighter V Sunset Overdrive

The latter half of 2017 promises to bring more joy to Xbox players, with highly anticipated games like State of Decay 2Crackdown 3 and Sea of Thieves set to hit digital and physical stores sometime this year. Unfortunately for Microsoft, the list of PS4 games still expected to release this year is absolutely loaded:

  • God of War 
  • The remastered Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy
  • Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, from Devil May Cry developer Ninja Theory
  • Pyre, from Bastion creators Supergiant Games
  • Uncharted spinoff The Lost Legacy (though it doesn’t have an official release window yet)
  • Spider-Man (not confirmed for 2017)

Most of the time, unless you’re a diehard fan of a certain franchise or a particular exclusive catches your eye, you’ll be able to play the biggest games on either console. Landmark games such as The Witcher 3 and Fallout 4 are available on both systems. Several AAA titles are scheduled to release on both platforms this year, including Destiny 2, Star Wars: Battlefront II, and Middle Earth: Shadow of War. Despite Sony’s clear advantage overall, no matter which console you own, 2017 looks like a good year in gaming. 

WinnerPS4

Backwards Compatibility

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For those who don’t know, backwards compatibility is a console’s ability to play titles initially released for older systems in the same family. The previous generation was, frankly, a mess when it came to playing old games on current platforms. While certain PlayStation 3 systems could play PlayStation and PlayStation 2 games, others could only read PS3 discs. Furthermore, the Xbox 360 had to go through a complicated update process in order to enable backwards compatibility, and only a small number of original Xbox games were supported by the end of the 360’s life cycle. This generation is a lot less complicated but, sadly, still somewhat restrictive.

As was the case with the Xbox 360, the Xbox One offers backwards compatibility for a select number of games, though that number has grown substantially since the feature debuted in 2015. If you insert an Xbox 360 game into the Xbox One, you’ll be able to download a digital version of said title. Some games are even available for purchase through Microsoft’s digital store, and there are even some titles that come bundled with a free digital copy of an older Xbox 360 game (i.e. Fallout 4). That’s not all; each month, Xbox Live Gold members will receive a free Xbox 360 game as part of Microsoft’s Games With Gold program.

More: The NES Classic is sold out, but these emulators do the same thing for free

When it comes to playing old games on the PS4, you currently only have one option: PlayStation Now. PSNow is a streaming service that allows you to play PS3 games (and even some older PS4 titles) for $20/month, or $45 for three months. Unfortunately, depending upon your internet speed, game performance can be slow due to latency lag. The catalog isn’t exactly comprehensive either, and even if you own a physical or digital copy of an older game, you’ll have to pay to play it. It was rumored that Sony planned to bring some PS1 and PS2 classics into the PSNow fold, but it has yet to happen. Simply put, you can’t insert an older PS disc in your PS4 and play it. If you need to scratch the retro PlayStation itch, you’ll probably want to keep those old consoles around.

Winner: Xbox One

Online Services

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Both Sony and Microsoft offer similar online services. Sony’s PlayStation Plus and Microsoft’s Xbox Live Gold give users access to online gaming, free monthly games, sale discounts, and other special features for an annual fee. Both services clock in at $10 per month, or $60 for a year. 

Both services offer a decent library of games, too, with new titles each month. The services also remain compatible with other consoles, meaning that Xbox One and Xbox 360 users can both reap the benefits of Xbox Live Gold, while PS4, PS3, and PS Vita users get the perks of PS Plus. Since both the PS4 and Xbox One require subscriptions to their online services in order to play multiplayer games online, you’ll likely find yourself paying for the online benefits with each passing calendar year. There are basically zero differences between Gold and PSN Plus at this point. 

Xbox users can also subscribe to EA Access, which nets them 10% discounts on EA titles, as well as access to a sizable stable of (mostly) older EA games for $5 per month, or $30 for a full year. Sony reportedly declined the program, citing a perceived lack of value for the gamer. Xbox gamers can also purchase game bundles from the digital store, which often include downloadable content and/or in-game virtual currency, for less money than the contents would cost if purchased separately. Additionally, the Xbox Play Anywhere initiative, which includes select titles, allows gamers access to games on both their Xbox One and their Windows 10 PC at no additional charge.

PS4 users do have a few advantages of their own; PlayStation Now, mentioned above, allows gamers to stream a litany of PS3 titles from their PS4. It’s a cool service, though you’ll need a really good internet connection if you want the games to play smoothly. Sony also offers PlayStation Vue, a cloud-based streaming service that functions similarly to Sling TV, offering access to more than 75 different networks. It’s a respectable option for cord-cutters, though if you don’t have high-end internet, the quality can be iffy.

Winner: Xbox One

Peripherals

Source: Sony

Sony

The Kinect is a remarkable piece of technology. It goes so far beyond just gesture controls. The voice commands are useful for navigating Xbox One interface, and the camera’s multiple imaging functions means it can even be used as a tool in judging non-gaming elements such as exercise. For instance, it can accurately judge your movements and estimate your heart rate based on how flushed your skin is, among other action. The list goes on and on, just like the camera’s potential. The PlayStation camera is pretty cool, too, featuring a bevy of gesture controls via Move integration. It mostly feels tacked on, and it’s not nearly as versatile as the Kinect, but that’s okay — most of the compatible games are for kids, so it fits into a nice niche.

In addition, Xbox gamers in possession of an Oculus Rift VR can stream any Xbox One game to the Oculus headset, and choose from one of three immersive VR environments: “Citadel,” “Retreat,” and “Dome.” It’s a pretty cool feature, allowing players to essentially game in IMAX, but unfortunately, there’s no additional Rift functionality. On the other hand, we were blown away by Sony’s PSVR when it released, and as the list of compatible games grows, so too will the value of the VR set itself. You’ll need the Playstation camera; if you don’t already have one, you can get it bundled with PSVR for $500.

In any case, PSVR is surprisingly refined, and extremely fun. A cool “social screen” feature feeds the display from the headset to your TV, so people can see what you’re seeing. PSVR-compatible games are designed with the experience in mind, so it’s more than just a mammoth screen. Some games work better than others, but it’s absolutely an experience most PlayStation gamers will want to have.

Winner: PS4

User Interface, Media & Apps, Streaming

User interface

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The PS4’s interface is designed to be accessible. It’s simple and anyone can figure it out. It lacks customization though, so the games and apps you have used at some point are displayed in an lengthy horizontal display. The more games and apps you have, the longer it will take to go through.

The Xbox One’s UI is a bit more complex, but it’s also more robust and functional. The interface is designed to work similarly to that of Windows 10, and though it may take some time to properly acclimate, the design is far more accessible and intuitive once you do. If you have a Kinect, voice command options only elevate the experience.

In addition, Microsoft updates the Xbox One interface regularly, adding features at the behest of the gaming community. While the PS4’s menu is simpler to navigate for newcomers, the Xbox simply has more features to help you find the games or apps you’re looking for.

Winner: Xbox One

Media Interface & Apps

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Both the PS4 and Xbox One were built with more than simply gaming in mind. Microsoft has spoken time and time again regarding its bold vision for a world where the Xbox One is the only box in your living room, and believe it or not, the One is quickly achieving that vision. The One is now equal parts streaming box and gaming console, and unlike Sony’s next-gen counterpart, the system is designed to operate your cable box and record regular programming.

Both consoles feature the usual third-party subscription services such as Netflix and Amazon Instant Video, along with app offerings like Hulu Plus, HBO Go, Twitch, Ustream, and Crackle. While there was a long period where the Xbox store offered far more apps than its PlayStation counterpart, that has largely been remedied, and there are few — if any — apps that you can’t get on both consoles.

The Xbox naturally outputs uncompressed PCM audio data, while the PS4 supports DTS HD; there’s little difference (if any) in terms of audio quality. A recent update added bitstream passthrough support for the Xbox One, so connected AV receivers can now decode audio natively. This means newer, object-based audio formats like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X are now supported via Blu-ray disc audio. while The PlayStation 4 has always supported bitstream passthrough.

Winner: Tie

Streaming

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The PS3 was — and remains — an excellent media device, one capable of streaming music and video from your PC and playing content directly off of a USB-connected device. The PS4 took a while to grow into its potential, but today it qualifies as a fully-fledged streaming console. Sony’s PlayStation Now service offers more than 100 PlayStation games for instant streaming, that is, so long as you opt for either the $20 or $45 subscription. PSVue, similar to Sling TV, provides an opportunity to ditch cable altogether, if your internet is fast enough. Packages range from $30/month to $65/month, with more than 90 channels available overall. You don’t even need a PS4 to subscribe — lots of streaming devices have a Vue app — but that doesn’t really matter here.

Microsoft has taken a different approach to media streaming. The company optimized the Xbox One as a media device when it tore down the Xbox Live paywall, granting users free access to streaming services such as Netflix (although for apps like Netflix, you will still need a subscription to that particular service). If you’re a cable TV subscriber, you can even connect your cable to the console for greater functionality and performance. Previously, we crowned the Xbox victor here due to its cable integration, but the introduction of PSNow and PSVue has effectively evened the odds.

Winner: Tie

The Future

PlayStation 4

After a slow start, 2015 and 2016 saw the release of several acclaimed PS4 exclusives, and it looks like the future won’t be much different. From the hotly anticipated Crash Bandicoot collection to the mysterious Hideo Kojima production Death Stranding, there’s no shortage of awesome PlayStation games on the horizon (no pun intended). You can also expect to see many more PSVR games for sale, which can only help Sony’s claim as the creator of a superior console.

Xbox One

Despite the PlayStation’s clear advantage when it comes to game libraries, Microsoft clearly has a long-term vision for the Xbox One. The Xbox Play Anywhere initiative is off to a good start, allowing gamers to switch seamlessly back and forth between their Xbox One and their Windows 10 PC. In the future, look for the program to expand, and for cross-platform play to become a more prominent feature.

We’re hoping to see a more fleshed out Oculus VR experience tied with the Xbox in coming years, but we have no new information to share on that front. For now, if you’ve got an Oculus, its Xbox functionality is essentially limited to projection within the headset.

In addition to VR, Microsoft is betting on a slightly different technology. The Microsoft Hololens is an augmented reality device (AR) that will give users the ability to meld Microsoft’s ecosystem into their living room. Games like Minecraft have even been shown with AR capabilities. How well Hololens will compete with VR is yet to be seen, but it will at the very least open up new types of experiences for Xbox One users. Currently, commercial and developmental kits for the Hololens are available for purchase, but they cost $3,000-$5,000, so most gamers will want to wait until a consumer version shows up, and we’re not holding out breath.

Overall Winner: PlayStation 4

Taking everything above into account, while both consoles certainly offer a lot, we have to give an edge to Sony’s PlayStation 4. The Xbox One is slightly better for non-gaming applications and content, but let’s be honest: If that’s what you care most about, you can get those features in a Roku, Apple TV, or any number of other dedicated devices that will stream content for a fraction of the price. If you’re buying a PS4 or Xbox One, you want to play games, and, in this case, Sony has built a better dedicated gaming machine.

Sony has shown stronger support for independent developers so far, and both the current and future game lineups look better for PS4 than for Xbox One. Most AAA games these days are released for both consoles — after all, cash is king — but the PS4’s list of exclusives easily trumps the Xbox’s. Another point in Sony’s favor? The Natural Resource Defense Council called out the Xbox One for being an unnecessary energy hog. Although the Xbox One S addressed this issue (it consumes about half the energy as the original Xbox One), the OG system isn’t getting any better. 

Ultimately both devices are quite good, so feel free to follow any brand loyalty you may have. If you want to simplify your living room setup, and only have one box hooked up to your TV, then the Xbox One is a slightly better option, but if you’re looking to game, then the PS4 will give you more bang for your buck.

Note: To reiterate, these consoles are technically outdated, as of the release of the Xbox One S and PS4 Slim. Only buy them refurbished, used, or at discounted prices. If you’re paying $300, make sure you are buying a newer model.

Updated April 6, 2017, by Nick Hastings to account for various updates to hardware and firmware, and new game selection.