Few things garner the kind of passion and attention that choosing a console does. It’s not that all video game consoles don’t do the same thing – at a very basic level, they do. The problem is that asking any informed person about why you should own the console they purchsaed usually gets you a torrent of information that you don’t necessarily need to choose between the Xbox One or PS4.
Don’t misunderstand me. There are definitely some differences between Microsoft’s console and Sony’s. Talking to current owners does highlight these differences. The Xbox One started this race trying to be a single place that every family member could use for all different kinds of entertainment. Sony, seems to have had a singular vision for a console that plays video games the best it possibly can, but still functions well for everything else. The Xbox One had what some would characterize as a stellar library of titles this calendar year. The PS4 didn’t have tons of exclusive titles, but made up for that with smart deals on this year’s must-have video games and a well-timed price cut.
Here’s what you need to know about Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PS4 video game console so that you can make the best purchasing decision for your needs and yours alone.
Hardware & Xbox Live
Microsoft’s Xbox One entertainment console is a black box complete with a Blu-ray drive and 500GB of storage space minimum. It has an Ethernet Port, an HDMI Out Port, HDMI In Port, IR Port, SPDIF port (optical audio out) and three different USB 3.0 ports. Microsoft makes versions of the Xbox One with as much as a 1TB of storage space for games, but users can add more if they choose to. There’s other hardware inside, but that stuff is of no consequence to the end users. Suffice to say, games typically look a bit better on the PS4 than on the Xbox One because of differences in internal hardware.
During the holidays, Microsoft is running a sale that brings the price of the Xbox One down to $299, matching what’s available from Sony.
The Xbox Store is stuffed with digital games, apps, television shows and movies, though video games purchased from GameStop and other stores work with the console too. When the Xbox One was first announced, Microsoft hoped that people would play video games with the Xbox One Wireless Remote or Kinect voice and gesture sensor. That didn’t exactly work out because of cost concerns. Now games are almost exclusively created to only support the Xbox One Wireless Controller.
Buyers of a Kinect bundle can still change channels with Kinect voice commands or navigate the entire Xbox One experience without pushing a single button. The Kinect doubles as high-definition camera and chat system too. The HDMI-in port is for connecting to cable boxes so that you don’t have to switch inputs when using an Xbox One.
Exclusive Games in 2015 & 2016
In the world of console gaming, each ecosystem is defined by titles it has only available to it. In 2015 Microsoft had Halo 5: Guardians, Forza 6 and Gears of War Ultimate Edition. Games in 2016 for the Xbox One include Halo Wars, Gears of War 4, Quantum Break, Recore, Scalebound, Gigantic and Fable Legends. Microsoft recently began letting Xbox One owners play a growing number of Xbox 360 titles on their console through the Xbox One Backwards Compatibility Program.
- Add more storage for games and apps using USB hard drives.
- Video clip and photo capture from within games.
- Xbox Live on Windows 10 allows players to stream their games around the house and stay connected to Xbox Live.
- Using Kinect, Xbox One automatically tracks which players have which controllers so that you don’t have to.
- Xbox Live Gold Free Weekends, Deals With Gold and Games with Gold give cost-conscious players something to play regularly.
- Rechargable batteries are separate purchase for Xbox One Wireless Controller.
- Only console with EA Access subscription gaming service.
- Only video game console with Sling TV
- App snapping for watching video and playing games at the same time.
- Kinect voice commands in some games.
- OneGuide stitches together video content from cable boxes and streaming services. Switch channels by just saying “Watch, and the channel’s name.”
- Games don’t run at as high a resolution as they do on PS4.
- Most experiences are a separate app that requires downloading from the Windows Store.
- In some circumstances media apps are useless when Xbox Live has issues.
- New software improvements introduced performance problems for some users.
- $9.99 a month or $59.99 a year for Xbox Live Gold to play multiplayer online.
- Can’t play games on the entire screen while listening to music.
Hardware & PlayStation Plus
The PS4 is a rectangular box, but one that’s sharpened and angled on both the front and back. It’s the second generation console from Sony to include a Blu-ray drive for video games and movies. The PS4 has Optical Audio Out, HDMI Out, an Ethernet Port and two front-facing USB 3.0 ports. The PS4 also has a key communication tool that the Xbox One doesn’t: Bluetooth connectivity. The technology lets players reuse the headphones and headsets they already have around their home.
A single DualShock 4 controller is included with every PS4 bundle. The DualShock 4 controller comes equipped with a rechargeable battery inside. Depending on what your preference is for having to send off a controller to have its batteries replaced, that could be good or bad. At this point, the PS4 has stepped ahead of the Xbox One in terms of raw power. Games from third-party developers routinely arrive on PS4 with slightly better graphics than they do on Xbox One.
Sony hasn’t yet added the ability to use USB storage for games. That being said, the hard drive inside the PS4 can be easily swapped out for more storage, which is terrific for everyone involved. The PS4’s focus is on providing the best gaming experience, not the best all-around experience for every kind of entertainment. The PlayStation Camera that was meant to compete directly with the Kinect for Xbox One seems mostly relegated to the dustbin. It can record video and provide audio chat, but few apps and games support it.
PS3 owners didn’t need a subscription to PlayStation Plus. PS4 owners do if they want to play online. Included in that subscription is access to a rotating library of titles that changes every month. Sony has placed big bets on next-generation services and ideas of what the future will be.
PlayStation Now lets users rent games from the comfort of their own home. These rentals come complete with each game’s add-on content. Besides one-time rentals, PlayStation Now is available in a $20 month subscription service. PlayStation Vue is a subscription television services expecting to arrive nationwide in the United States sometime in 2016. For one flat fee homes can skip out on their traditional cable subscription.
2015 saw the launch of titles Bloodborne, Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection and Rocket League. This was the first year that Sony console owners got first access to new Call of Duty content before other console owner. Smart deals with publishers for extra content in Batman: Arkham Knight and Star War Battlefront kept the PS4’s sales high when exclusive games ran dry this year.
Next year Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Rachet & Clank, Horizon Zero Down, Street Fighter 5 and No Man’s Sky are coming exclusively to the PS4.
- Share Play lets PS4 owners hand over control of their gaming session to friends if they need some help or just want to watch along.
- Sony is quietly working to bring back some older titles from the PS2 to the PS4 for repurchase.
- Captured video and pictures can be loaded onto a USB storage device for transfers.
- Remote Play lets owners play their games from their PS4 when they aren’t home.
- Spotify music streaming built-into PlayStation Music. Only gaming console that supports Spotify.
- Better graphics than any other console.
- User created Communities help friends and groups organize gaming sessions through PlayStation Network.
- Only console with an official Major League Baseball simulation.
- Coming PlayStation VR headset and games for those who want to experience their games differently.
- Nothing like Xbox One Backwards Compatibility Program, meaning players will need to rent their old games for PS3 through PlayStation Now or keep their old console.
- Can’t change PlayStation Network handle easily.
- All games don’t support running in the background while using a media app.
- No media player app for playing music and video that’s already owned and stored locally.
- $49.99 a year or $9.99 a month for PlayStation Plus.
Which Should You Buy?
Don’t bother asking anyone else what console you should buy. Decide for yourself by looking at the features that are available to each. Don’t hesitate to check out YouTube videos of each console’s software in action either. If you have one of their predecessor’s already, that makes your upgrade choice a little easier for you.
Good luck with your decision.