Xbox One vs PlayStation 4
Since the original announcement of the Xbox One back at E3, Xbox was very clear about its used game policy. If you purchase an disc based game from a retailer, as soon as you play that disc on your Xbox it would be registered virtually to that Xbox and could only be shared with ten “family” members. Meaning the game could no longer be lent out freely or traded in at retail stores. Xbox One would also require daily online check-ins in order to play any single or multiplayer game. If you couldn’t sign into Xbox Live at least once every 24 hours then you were more or less screwed.
Many believed that Sony were going to adopt a similar policy for the PlayStation 4 but as it turned out, Sony announced to the press that anyone who purchases a disc based game from a retail supply is free to do what they want with that game, they can trade it in or lend it out to friends without reserve. Not only that, but PlayStation 4 would not require any scheduled check-ins to play any of its games. This announcement delivered a one-two punch in the face of Microsoft and it seemed like the whole Xbox One vs. PlayStation 4 debate was over before it even began, with PlayStation claiming the crown unchallenged.
Since then, however, things have changed. Microsoft realized the error of its ways and have done a complete 180 on its DRM and used game policy, and in doing so revived the question of which console is better: Xbox One or PlayStation 4?
The Design -
Aesthetics wise, both consoles opted for a rather simplistic design this generation, ditching the curves and opting for a more “boxed” shape. The Xbox literally resembling a giant box, which many critics have likened to the old VCRs from the 80s and 90s. The PlayStation 4 has gone with a similar look but with a more angular design, and the console is notably smaller in volume than the Xbox One.
Both consoles have finally done away with the component cable and have opted solely for a HDMI cable instead. The Xbox one also includes a separate HDMI IN as well as the standard HDMI OUT, this is because one of its main features was the ability to view and control your cable TV directly from the Xbox One. A feature which won’t be available on the PlayStation 4.
Nonetheless, you are still able to watch TV shows and films from your PlayStation 4 through services such as Netflix, Lovefilm, BBC iPlayer and other on-demand services that are available in your country. Sony made it clear to everyone that its main priority is to keep the PlayStation 4 a video-game console above all else.
The Spec -
Looks are important, but it’s what’s on the inside that counts, and never has that been more true than with the console wars. When it comes to performance power, neither console is found wanting. AMD is at the forefront for both consoles, Microsoft using a custom built 8 core x86 processor and PlayStation 4 deciding to go with an AMD x86-64 “Jaguar” CPU. According to Sony, the console is meant to be highly developer-friendly compared to its predecessor, a statement that has since been backed up by many 1st and 3rd party developers who are currently producing games for the console.
The GPU used in the Xbox is integrated with the CPU in an SOC (System on a Chip) format and will support DirectX 11.1 outputting speeds of around 800MHz but has just recently been boosted by Microsoft to 853MHz.
The PlayStation 4 is also using a next generation AMD Radeon GPU inside its console with 1152 GPU cores and a Peak Shader Input of 1.84TFlops to process graphics. Here’s the official word on Playstation 4’s GPU from its unveiling back in February 2013:
“The Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) has been enhanced in a number of ways, principally to allow for easier use of the GPU for general purpose computing (GPGPU) such as physics simulation. The GPU contains a unified array of 18 compute units, which collectively generate 1.84 Teraflops of processing power that can freely be applied to graphics, simulation tasks, or some mixture of the two.”
During the days of the PlayStation 3, the RAM was a huge letdown. 256Mb of letdown, to be exact. The lack of RAM meant you could only download a game, a movie or play a game but not at the same time, even cross-game chat was impossible on the PS3; features which were readily available on the Xbox 360. Sony have rectified this by giving the PS4 an impressive 8GB of GDDR5 RAM. This lets you download and play at the same time and chat to your friends across all games.
Whilst this might sound impressive and, granted, the ability to download and play games simultaneously is much better than having an untold wait (depending on your internet speed) to download a game beforehand, it has to be taken into account that part of the RAM is used to run the operating system. With the Playstation 4, 3.5GB of the RAM is dedicated to the OS, leaving 4.5GB for the developers to use when making games for the console, which is slightly less than that of the Xbox, which has a guaranteed 5GB out of 8GB worth of DDR3 RAM for developers to play with, since 3GB of it is assigned to the operating system.
On to the controllers now, and it appears both Sony and Microsoft have gone for the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” approach to their control pads. Beginning with Microsoft’s controller, nothing revolutionary has happened to the overall feel. The battery pack is now built into the controller but will still require batteries or a play and charge kit as an optional extra, and the bottom left D-pad is now a more traditional plus shape design. The triggers will now have a rumble system which Microsoft have dubbed “impulse triggers”.
The Menu and View buttons are also new additions, replacing the original ‘start’ and ‘back’ buttons. ‘Menu’ will bring up content specific to the game which developers can use to further the user experience. ‘View’ will also enhance the user experience. Developers can build around this button, and pressing View may bring up maps or a leaderboard depending on what game you are playing at the time.
The PlayStations DualShock 4 controller has gone through some dramatic changes in comparison to its PlayStation 3 counterpart. Mainly the introduction of the touchpad on the top of the controller, which provides an all new way to play and interact with games. On the back of the Dual Shock 4 is a light bar allowing people to identify each player as well as displaying useful information such as when a player has taken damage.
PlayStation have also replaced their Start and Select buttons with ‘Share’ and’ Option’ buttons, the former allows for users to stream content to Ustream or upload video to Facebook and other social networking sites. The latter is simply the same as the traditional ‘Start’ button, accessing the game’s settings and change audio, gameplay and other such options.
As previously mentioned, the lack of cross-game chat was a major upset for PlayStation 3 users, now with the upgraded RAM it will be readily available. The DualShock 4 controller will have a headphone jack, and the headset that is bundled with the controller will allow for you to chat with connected friends across all games.
Along with the new consoles and new controllers comes new motion control sensors. Bundled with the Xbox One will be the all new Kinect 2.0 outputting 1080p video and can process 2GB of data per second, it can recognize up to 6 individual users at any one time and the motion camera is able to pick up more intuitive movements, as it is able to analyse more joints and detect even slight movements such as the rotation of a wrist. PlayStation 4 also has a new motion sensor camera however this will not be bundled with the console on launch.
Two cameras at 1280×800 pixels are in the unit and is able to pick up users just like the Kinect 2.0 however, the light bar on the DualShock 4 controller can also be recognized by the camera allowing it to identify each individual user by the colour emanating from the light bar. This feature is particularly good in split screen play, if a player gets up and swap sides the camera recognises this and swaps the screens over. Not to mention that the “very popular” PlayStation Move controller is compatible with the new PlayStation Eye Camera.
The Cost -
The Xbox One console comes with the console, the all new Kinect 2.0 motion camera and new controller and if you are purchasing this on day one of release you will also get an exclusive commemorative controller and exclusive day one launch achievement, retailing for $499 in the US/£429 in the UK.
The PlayStation 4 will include the console, along with the new Dual Shock 4 controller and USB charger. Unlike the Xbox One, it will not include its own PlayStation Eye motion camera. You can pick up the PS4 console for $399 in the US/£349 in the UK. If you were to include the PlayStation Eye camera, it will put you back $59 in the US/ £54 in the U.K, which still makes it a cheaper package overall if you were to purchase the camera separately.
Each console is expected to be released around the holiday season this year in the UK and US, whilst eight countries, namely Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland will not be able to own an Xbox One console until sometime in 2014 it appears the demand for the console is rather high which is causing the console to be delayed for many of the above countries.
A supposed release date was leaked by UK toy chain Toys ‘R Us back at the beginning of August, that the Xbox One would launch in the U.K. on Nov 29, with the PS4 following two weeks later on Dec 13. A spokesperson from the company went so far as to confirm the release dates as accurate. However, since that time, Toys ‘R Us has been forced to submit an apology for the confusion, stating that the dates given were only placeholders.
In response to this, Microsoft have confirmed that their console will be arriving sometime in November but have yet to give a firm date. They released an official statement which reads:
“We have announced that Xbox One will launch this November, but have not shared any further details. It’s common practice for retailers to use placeholder dates for pre-order items without an official launch date. Please stay tuned to news.xbox.com, where we share the latest official details about all things Xbox One.”
Whereas Sony have been even more tight-lipped on the matter, indicating that the PlayStation 4 will arrive at some point during the holidays.
The Games -
Both Sony and Microsoft have their fair share of developers working on titles for these platforms and there is a plethora of games in store for both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Games such as Call of Duty: Ghost, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and a whole bunch of sport games from Electronic Arts will be heading their way. Not only that, each console boasts a number of its own exclusive titles coming out as well. A full list of games coming out for both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 on day one can be found below:
PlayStation 4 Exclusives
DC Universe Online
Killzone Shadow Fall
Planet Side 2
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
Call of Duty: Ghosts
Just Dance 2014
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes
Madden NFL 25
NBA Live 14
Skylanders: Swap Force
Both consoles are truly impressive and will be raising the bar for game developers to bring out some amazing games in the coming years and it’s important for each company to bring new and enticing features to bring in new gamers year by year.
Sony recently started a Subscription based system known as PlayStation Plus. For $49.99/£39.99 a year users are able to get exclusive access to free or discounted games, early access to Betas and demos and an assortment of other content which could potentially save you £1000s every year.
Whilst playing games online for the PlayStation 3 is free, to do so on the PlayStation 4 will require a subscription to PlayStation Plus, a small price to pay for what you get back in return.
Microsoft also announced that they will be offering free games to download each month for their Xbox Live Gold members, a subscription which also costs $49.99/£39.99 and will offer games such as Assassin’s Creed 2 and Halo 3 as free titles for members to download with more games to come in the future.
Xbox also focused on its SmartGlass Application for tablets. Using this app will give the user additional information for the game they’re playing; this could be a map displayed on the tablet, which would remove the need to pause the game constantly to bring up the in-game map. Sony’s answer to this comes in the shape of their handheld console, the PlayStation Vita.
If you own a Vita and a PS4, every title available on PS4 will be remotely playable on the Vita. The Vita can also be used as an extra controller, a feature that is already in use for some PlayStation 3 titles, namely LittleBigPlanet 2, and it will display more information on its screen similar to Microsoft’s SmartGlass.
A major let down for both consoles was the lack of backwards compatibility, neither console will support previous generation games, however Sony may have the upper hand though through its new cloud service Gaikai which will allow you to stream previous PlayStation titles through them on the PS4 much like what it will be doing with the Vita and PS4 games via remote play.
Xbox and PlayStation 4 will be able to record content directly from their console without the use of an external DVR or other form of capture card. Just recently it has been announced that to record gameplay on Xbox it will require an Xbox Live Gold account to use the DVR features whilst it will be free to use on the PlayStation 4.
Streaming is becoming more and more popular as well, both Xbox and PlayStation 4 will be able to stream live from their console without the use of an or other form of capture card. Xbox have partnered with the popular video gaming site Twitch and Sony have partnered up with U Stream. The ability to stream content live and have your content viewed by millions of other gamers is a great form of social interaction, something that both consoles or aiming for.
The Summary -
It’s a tough call to decide the overall winner. A few months ago everyone would have backed the PlayStation 4 with its policy on used-games and its considerably cheaper price tag. But since Xbox’s dramatic turnaround on their DRM and online requirements, it really is anybody’s guess. There’s very little between both consoles in terms of capabilities, and they each have an outstanding line-up of next generation exclusives coming out on launch and the near future, as well as offering equal benefits via the respective PlayStation Plus & Xbox Live Gold subscriptions.
When I began writing this article, I did so as a die-hard PlayStation fan and that still hasn’t changed. I’ve got my PlayStation 4 and a whole bunch of games pre-ordered already, but the Xbox One isn’t all that different and no doubt I will end up purchasing one at some point in the future, as it has its fair share of exclusive appeal. Up until both consoles are released, I don’t think we can definitively say which console is ‘better’ (not that it will stop fanboys arguing the toss). But regardless of what system you are buying, 2013 and beyond looks to be promising time for console gamers!