PlayStation 4 vs Xbox One

Xbox One

We put Sony and Microsoft's next generation consoles head to head and see how they compare

Hardware

When it comes to the CPU (central processing unit, essentially the heart of the machine), both consoles resemble a current mid-range PC. They’ve opted for 8-core x86 architecture from PC component manufacturer AMD which means developers will have a much easier time working cross-platform and there should be much greater parity between PS4, Xbox One and PC games. In order to make games shine, the single most important component is the GPU (graphics processing unit) and here again they’ve both gone with manufacturer AMD and variations on their 7000-series chips. Both machines feature 8GB of RAM (memory) and here we have the first clear difference between the machines as the PS4 will use GDDR5 RAM compared with Xbox One’s DDR3. There are pros and cons with either type but if the PS4 has a slightly faster CPU and GPU than Xbox One (as is rumoured) then GDDR5 could have give it a substantial edge over its rival.

Controllers and Design

Microsoft has slightly redesigned its handheld controller to add more localised rumble and improve its ergonomics. It appears to have significantly tweaked its motion sensing device (Kinect) and claims it can now detect heart rates by tracking blood flow using its infrared camera. However, after the overenthusiastic claims preceding the launch of Kinect 1.0, it’s worth waiting to see just how accurate this will be. The display model at the Xbox launch was a chunky monolithic slab but then that never hurt sales of the original Xbox.

Sony’s DualShock controller now integrates a touchscreen and Move functionality (Sony’s less novel but more accurate equivalent of Kinect). It’s a slightly more radical overhaul than its competitor but we’ll have to wait and see how well developers incorporate the new functions into games. Sony have yet to display their console but, given their reputation for innovative design, expect something sleek, and possibly featuring a curved top so that owners of both systems yet again have to keep their PlayStation on top of their flat Xbox.

Functionality

Here the PS4 seems to have the lead. After a disastrous design decision prevented cross-game chat on the PS3, Sony is trying its hardest to get people playing together. Players will be able to join in gaming sessions with friends, even if they don’t own the same game, using streaming demo technology. That same technology will enable players to seamlessly transfer some games to their PlayStation Vita handheld consoles mid-session, and play from the back catalogue of current PS3 games. And at last users will be able to run games and other software simultaneously, much like a PC has managed since the mid-1980s.

Microsoft is touting Xbox One as a complete media centre solution for the home (thus its name), with integrated film rentals and recordable TV, both of which feature in some form on the current consoles (the PS3 has had a plug-in recordable TV tuner since 2008). It’s an odd decision: are people really going to turn their backs on their Sky boxes and PVRs to watch TV on their console instead? Furthermore, this will only initially feature on US Xboxes, while Microsoft is ‘anticipating a global release over time’. Microsoft wants Kinect voice activation to condemn remote controls to the bin, although the very people who struggle with multiple fiddly remotes are unlikely to be first in the queue to buy a games console.

Games

Microsoft’s practice of persuading publishers to lock games content to its own console has reared its ugly head yet again. Call of Duty: Ghosts (finally using a new game engine which nevertheless makes it look remarkably similar to 2011’s Battlefield 3) will feature Xbox One exclusive DLC, as will the next FIFA game. It’s also been announced that games will install on the console’s 500GB hard drive and lock to gamers’ Xbox Live accounts. This is similar to how Valve’s Steam client works on the PC and it controversially prevents second-hand sales as well as the ability to lend or borrow games between friends. This could have a huge impact on high street game shops which rely on used game sales to stay afloat and it’s likely to make cash-strapped gamers very wary indeed. Sony has made no mention of any similar system.

Price and Launch Date

No word from either manufacturer about this, one of the most critical elements. Both are waiting for the other to make a move but most recent estimates suggest each console will go on sale for around £250-£300. Considering the relatively minor increment in graphical fidelity (compared with the leap between the last two generations), that seems a sensible price range. Consoles almost always launch at a loss, and it’s rumoured new games could rise in price by around a tenner to help claw back a profit. Xbox One is due to launch in time for Christmas while PS4 may not see European light until early next year.

Conclusion

While Sony’s announcement in February was full of surprise and innovation, Microsoft’s Xbox One launch felt very underwhelming. By moving its focus away from gaming and towards an all-in-one entertainment hub the company risks losing many of its hardcore fans, particularly when one of its main selling points (the integrated TV) won’t initially launch outside of the US. Microsoft’s decision to lock games to individual Xbox Live accounts is a hugely controversial one and, as long as Sony doesn’t follow suit, could convince many Microsoft devotees to jump ship. But both consoles will need to work hard to convince gamers to part with their hard-earned cash, and more so with this next generation than ever before.

Official Call of Duty: Ghosts Reveal Trailer

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