Which console should I buy – PS4 vs Xbox One?
As we rapidly approach E3 2016, the year is already beginning to shape up to be one of the most defining years in gaming history, it's time to look back over the two-year history of the Xbox One and PS4.
From November 2014 to now, the Xbox One has undergone a rapid transformation, and it needed it. Starting out this console generation as the underdog, a change in philosophy has seen Microsoft claw back the fight for users with a renewed focus on what matters most: games. Gone is the desire to be eerything under the sun, and Kinect 2.0 has been thrown out of the box to boot.
It's now powered by Windows 10 and features a brand new, more user-friendly UI. We still have all the entertainment apps, but the Xbox One is most definitely a gaming system first.
However, there's a reason the Xbox One has remained the underdog, and that's the immense power of the PS4. With a smaller, sleeker design, a stronger PS Plus service, games performing better than their Xbox One counterparts and a new 1TB piece of hardware, Sony has continued to work to assert its dominance in the console space.
The company also shows no signs of slowing down, with the rumoured PS4.5 or 'PS4K' set to bring an incremental, mid-cycle upgrade with even more power.
Microsoft launched the Xbox One Elite Controller to further cater towards hardcore gamers, and despite early rumours of also releasing a mid-cycle upgrade, Xbox boss Phil Spencer quickly denied these reports.
2016 is set to be a huge year for gaming, so when it comes to which console to buy, it's hard to make a bad choice, considering both will be providing excellent exclusives, strong indie game support as well as providing great features. But if you want to see games at their best on consoles, and are also interested in VR, it's hard to not go with a PS4.
On this page we’ll explore the price differences, the key exclusive games, design and connectivity, the all-important controllers and the user interfaces.
If you want to read about accessories, graphics, processors and power, head to page two of this PS4 vs Xbox One comparison.
PS4 vs Xbox One – Video Comparison
Check out our PS4 vs Xbox One comparison video:
Related: Nintendo NX – What we know
Xbox One vs PS4 – Price
As these consoles are both a couple years old, the prices can fluctuate depending on which retailer you choose. The good news is both have dropped significantly since launch, so you can grab a bargain whether you're looking for just the hardware or a bundle.
The Xbox One originally retailed for £429 with the Kinect sensor and no games, but Microsoft released a Kinect-free console last year for £349 – matching the RRP of the PS4.
You’ve also got to consider that both consoles can now be bought with a larger 1TB hard drive, appealing to those of us who love to have our games library stored digitally – or just buy lots of games with chunky install sizes.
PS4 Ultimate Player 1TB Edition – Buy now at Amazon for £299.99
Black/White PS4 console (500GB) – Buy now at Amazon for £269.99
PS4 Bundles available from £299.99 at Amazon
Xbox One 1TB Console – Buy now at Amazon from £255
Xbox One console (500GB) – Buy now at Amazon from £245
Xbox One bundles available from £249 at Amazon
Prices correct at the time of writing 21/04/2016
Xbox One vs PS4 – Design
We could go into the ins and out of the differences between the designs of the PS4 and Xbox One, but if you're the type of person that loves a snazzy looking piece of kit on your shelf, here's what you need to know:
The PS4 is a smaller console
The Xbox One is a lot larger than the PS4, measuring up at 7.9 x 27.4 x 33.3cm compared to the PS4’s 5.3 x 27.5 x 30.5cm dimensions.
That’s quite the difference for your TV unit, but if your new console is being hidden away then the size potentially doesn’t matter.
It’s also too early to tell, even though the Xbox One and PS4 are both nearly two years old now, but the Xbox One’s larger size and additional ventilation system might make it last longer than the PS4.
The Xbox One has a chunky power brick
It’s not just the box itself you’ve to consider when it comes to design. There are the power cables too. The Xbox One has a huge power brick along its cabling that can make your neat wire organisation a little tricky. You’ll need to make space for it behind your TV.
Sony’s PS4, on the other hand, only requires a single power cable that runs from socket to console without a power brick, making it easy to install, but also to move from room to room if required.
The Xbox One has better connectivity options
There’s no point having a shiny new console if you can’t connect it to your TV. And the Xbox One has the edge on connectivity options, including three USB ports to the PS4’s two. We’ll show you more about this in the next section.
The PS4 is ultimately the better-looking console
With its slanted design and light running down the centre, the PS4 is slimmer, sleeker and more attractive than the Xbox One.
Microsoft’s latest console is, after all, an imposing black (or white) monolith. It might have a top that’s half a glossy panel while the other is taken up by vents, but at the end of the day it’s still a big box.
Related: PS4 vs PS3
Xbox One vs PS4 – Connectivity
As mentioned before, the PS4 has far less ports than the Xbox One. So let’s start with that.
Sony’s latest console has two USB ports along the front alongside the Blu-ray disc drive, which you’ll need to use your charge your controller. You’ve also got the power and disc eject buttons.
Around the back, there’s the power port at the bottom left-hand corner, and along the top row you have optical out, HDMI, Ethernet and AUX ports running from left to right.
Related: Xbox One vs Xbox 360
But, on the Xbox One you’ve got a lot more ports to consider. From the front it’s pretty simple. There’s the disc drive and the eject button, with the Xbox logo acting as a capacitive touch power button.
Along the left-hand side of the console is a hidden USB port, which you can use to charge your controller if you’ve purchased the Play and Charge kit. Above that is an accessory-pairing button.
Around the back of the console is a small army of ports, which give it the edge in terms of being the better home entertainment console.
Running from left to right you have the AC port for power, an HDMI out for connecting your console to your TV, optical out and an HDMI for feeding your cable TV box into your Xbox One.
Then there’s a pair of USB ports, the Kinect port, IR out and the Ethernet port.
There’s even a lock port that allows you to connect a laptop security loop to tether your console to something, if you need to.
Related: Xbox One tips, tricks and secrets
Xbox One vs PS4 – Controllers
Before we go into the nitty gritty of the Xbox One and PS4 controllers, take a look at them in all their glory.
Both bear the genetic material of their forebears, but the DualShock 4 feels like more of a change. Microsoft has stuck with what worked so well in the Xbox 360 controller, and as such the Xbox One pad is more of a tweak than a full ground-up redesign.
There are two main changes. The Xbox One pad has rumble motors built into the triggers to give you feedback when, for example, shooting guns. But those rumble triggers easily make the Xbox One the better console to play racing games on – sorry, DriveClub and Gran Turismo. Just having the feedback of the tyres on the tracks in your fingertips is the best feeling.
Microsoft has also made huge improvement to the D-pad. The mushy Xbox 360 D-pad has been switched for one that's much more clicky and responsive. It'll work wonders on Street Fighter-style fighting games.
Sadly, the Xbox One controller still requires a pair of AA batteries as standard, rather than being rechargeable like the PS4's DualShock 4. You'll probably want to buy the Play and Charge kit separately for each controller for £19 a go.
However, if you do stick to AA batteries, you'll definitely see your Xbox One controller pack a longer play time than the PS4 controller, which we seem to have to charge after every single extended play session.
Again, like with the UI, PC gamers will prefer the Xbox One controller because of its familiarity and its resemblance to the Xbox 360 pad.
Related: PS4 Tips, Tricks and Secret Features
The DualShock 4's changes are more marked. It's a bit chunkier than the previous DualShock controllers and a lot heavier too, giving a firmer feel than the last-gen DualShock 3 pad.
Sony has also massively improved the analogue sticks in the DualShock 4. Where the DualShock 3 wasn't really much cop for first-person shooters, the new pad is great for almost all types of console games. There's also a new touchpad on the front, between the sticks and the main buttons, and a Share button to make uploading your gameplay videos easy.
We will say that after nearly a year of using our PS4 DualShock 4, the rubber on the right analogue stick is starting to wear away a touch. We know it's been an issue for some PS4 users, with some even having to replace them already. It hasn't been an issue for us with our Xbox One or for the wider community either.
After all that, have we really found a victor? Not as such. If you loved the Xbox 360 pad, you'll probably prefer the Xbox One controller. However, the DualShock 4 has a robust feel that previous PlayStation pads simply haven't had.
But there’s also the Xbox One Elite Controller to consider, which is available now – albeit in limited quantities. If you’re willing to pay the staggering £120 you can get yourself this customisable controller. It’s just perfect for those looking to get a more professional gaming experience from a pad.
Swappable D-pad and analogue sticks, Hair Trigger Locks, interchangeable rear paddles and a rubberised diamond grip and customisable inputs thanks to a companion app for Xbox One and PC; you pretty much couldn’t want any more from a controller.
See also: PS4 tips, tricks and secrets
Xbox One vs PS4 – Exclusive Games
But of course, a console isn’t a console without the games.
In the nearly two years since the Xbox One and PS4 were released, we’ve seen a basketful of top games launch for both consoles.
For our picks of the top games to launch this year, you should head to our best PS4 games and best Xbox One games features. But for anyone who’s thinking of buying either console in the near future, you should consider the exclusive games expected to launch in the near year or so.
These might just be the games that swing your compass in favour of one console or another.
Top Xbox One Exclusives
The latest title from Platinum Games, Scalebound is a game about a teenager called Drew with some attitude, dragons and hunting monsters. This is a JRPG with many of the tropes you’d find in a Final Fantasy game. There’s lots of awesome combat. And dragons, lots of dragons.
Gears of War 4
Due Q4 2016
We’ve been waiting forever for Gears of War 4 and it was finally announced at E3 2015. It won’t be a new entry in the Marcus Fenix and crew story, but it’ll instead involve two new protagonists called JD and Kait. There are new enemies and a new cast, but no doubt there’ll still be strong elements of the Gears we know and love. Hopefully that involves chainsaw guns.
From the makers of Metroid Prime comes ReCore, a brand-new Xbox One exclusive that tells the story of one of the last remaining humans. In this action-adventure title, you’ll forge friends with robot companions as they join you in the mysterious, dynamic world.
Due April 5, 2016
This game is somewhat of a rare breed. It blends a live-action TV series with a third-person shooter. You play as Jack Joyce, a chap with the handy ability to manipulate time after a science experiment goes wrong. All you've got to do is defeat the evil Monarch enterprise before "the end of time itself". Easy right?
See also: Upcoming Xbox One Games 2016
Top PS4 Exclusives
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Due April 29 2016
Uncharted is one of the defining PS4 exclusive series and Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is the last entry in the Nathan Drake story. Drake, a now retired fortune hunter, has settled into normality but his life is suddenly turned upside down when his long-believed-dead brother makes an appearance. It’s time for Drake to have one last globe-trotting adventure.
The Last Guardian
The Last Guardian is one of those games that’s been rumoured for a number of years. So much so that it became somewhat of a myth. But Sony finally showed a trailer for the game at E3 2015 and it’s coming to PS4. It tells the tale of a young boy who befriends a giant bird/dog-like creature and together they must solve puzzles to progress through the world.
Horizon Zero Dawn
In a tale of a rather different post-apocalyptic world, Horizon Zero Dawn shows an Earth where mechanised creatures are the top dogs and humans have regressed to a tribal hunter-gather existence. You are Aloy, a skilled hunter who goes on a compelling journey to discover the secrets of a forgotten civilisation.
No Man’s Sky
Due June 2016
You’ve probably already heard of No Man’s Sky. This science-fiction game is set in an infinite procedurally generated galaxy, where you are the explorer responsible for discovering and naming its planets, flora and fauna. It’s an infinite galaxy and where you go and what to do is up to you.
See also: Upcoming PS4 Games 2016
Xbox One vs PS4 – User Interface and Dashboard
The PS4 has a simpler, somewhat less ambitious user interface. As it leaves you scrolling in just one direction most of the time, we have always found it a more intuitive experience than the Xbox One's software. There are rungs of content: the lower bar offering all your Recently Used content and holding all your games and apps in the Library icon at the end, while the top rung has the Settings, your PSN account, friends, notifications and other more system-related functions.
There is room for improvement, though. For example, at present you can't bring out the Netflix app to the top 'recently used' layer of the UI, even though it's a PS4 favourite for many people.
However, all your content is easily accessible without having to delve into sub-folders and the like. It's definitely the more straightforward of the two UIs.
See also: PS4 vs PS3
Well, that was until the New Xbox One Experience landed on our consoles. Gone has the Kinect-focused Xbox One UI from launch, instead there's a slick Windows 10 powered version that's far easier to use and access.
Not only is it easier to use than the previous interface, it's faster too and has a strong focus on community, games and news.
At the top there's all your recently accessed content, with their associated Game Hub integrated right into the listing.
Pull the right trigger and you'll be transported to your pins, while pressing RB and LB takes you to the Community, OneGuide and Store hubs.
Double tapping the Xbox logo on your controller anywhere on the UI will also now bring up your new Side Panel – a magical beast that contains your friends list, messages, notifications, Snap Menu and finally an easy way to access the Settings menu.
Related: Xbox One Windows 10 update guide
Top reasons to buy an Xbox One
It’s your all-in-one entertainment system
We said before that we’ve purchased both the Xbox One and PS4 and there’s a clear winner when it comes to all-round entertainment. You can feed your cable TV signal (and Freeview too if you buy the Xbox One digital TV tuner) through the Xbox One to make everything sit within one UI.
The OneGuide works really well, offering all your live TV coverage within your Xbox One with the ability to pause your favourite programme to make a cup of tea. Early next year, you’ll also be able to record live TV and set series links so you never miss an episode.
What’s more, you can make it so your Xbox One turns on your TV too, meaning the whole process is a lot quicker and simpler.
Xbox 360 game backwards compatibility
Although the PS4 might have PlayStation Now, Microsoft wipes the floor with Sony with its elegant solution for Xbox One backwards compatibility for Xbox 360 games.
You can read all about it in our Xbox One backwards compatibility guide, but basically you can insert any supported Xbox 360 disc into your Xbox One and play it natively on your new console. Or, if you owned the Xbox 360 games digitally, you can simply download them from the Games & Apps panel of your Xbox One as normal.
And it’s totally free if you already own the games. Plus, any Xbox 360 titles offered on the Games with Gold service will also be backwards compatible from now on.
Xbox One supports USB drives for external storage
Although you can tinker with the internal hard drive of the Xbox One, it’s a lot easier to upgrade your Xbox One storage by simply plugging in an external hard drive.
And it really is that simple. Nab yourself a USB 3.0 hard drive that’s 256GB or larger (the Xbox One can actually support two of these) and attach it via one of the USB ports and the Xbox One will guide you through the set-up process.
It’s a quick, inexpensive and effective way of getting you a lot more Xbox One storage without you having to reach for a screwdriver.
It’s the only console with EA Access
EA Access is an Xbox One exclusive service that gives you unlimited playtime of top Electronic Arts games for a monthly fee. For £3.99 a month or £19.99 a year, you get to play EA’s best Xbox One games, play some of them before they are released and get a 10% discount off any other EA digital purchases on Xbox One.
The titles we’d recommend on EA Access right now are Titanfall, Dragon Age: Inquisition and, if you’ve not played it, Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare.
All you need to do is install EA Access on your Xbox One.
Xbox One is going to get so much better with Windows 10
Windows 10 is coming to Xbox One this November and it’s going to make it an even better console. A revamped UI, universal apps and more are coming to Xbox One.
And if you have a Windows 10 device, you can plug in your Xbox One controller and stream your console games directly to your monitor, tablet or laptop. The Xbox app on Windows 10 lets you access a load of other features too, including native PC game DVR, Xbox achievements for PC games and more.
Top reasons to buy a PS4
The PS4 UI is better
At present, the PS4 UI is a lot more user-friendly and better presented than the Xbox One version. It’s easy to see where all your content is, you can access the settings within a few steps and you don’t need to learn how to use it.
The PS4 is not only easier to use, but it’s also better looking. Although the new Xbox One UI is rather lovely.
Games look better on the PS4
Even though we’re nearly two years into the life cycle of both the Xbox One and PS4, developers still have a tendancy to launch games with better resolutions and framerates on the PS4.
You usually see a cross-platform game run at 1080p Full HD and 60fps on PS4, while the Xbox One edition might be 900p HD even at that buttery smooth 60fps.
We’re not sure why this happens, as Xbox One exclusives will always run at the maximum resolution and framerate. But at the moment, if you want your console games looking the very best they can be, you need the PS4.
We might argue that you won’t tell the difference between 900p and 1080p in practice though, so how much this matters is very much down to you.
Sony has VR
Sony is investing in Virtual Reality with the PSVR.
With an already extensive list of developers working on virtual reality games for the platform, PlayStation VR is a very enticing and exciting prospect indeed. It also helps that PSVR is the cheapest virtual reality headset on the market right now at £349.99 (if you discount mobile VR platforms). Buying a PS4 AND a PSVR is still cheaper than the Oculus Rift.
The PS4 has Share Play
PS4 Share Play is definitely one feature that you won’t find on the Xbox One. It allows you to let other PS4 owners play your games, play with your co-operatively or watch what you’re playing without having to own the same games as you.
Sony calls it a virtual couch experience, making it feel like you're playing games with your buddies when they’re right there, but it’s all done remotely.
PS Plus is a better service
Although Xbox’s Games With Gold service is slowly improving, PS Plus and its Instant Game Collection is still far better value for money if you buy a PS4.
You always get at least three PS4 games out of the six offered each month, and the PS4-specific offerings are usually exclusive new indie games that you can’t get anywhere else.
Backwards compatibility through PlayStation Now
Although it doesn’t have the elegance or free price tag of Microsoft’s backwards compatibility solution, PlayStation Now is still something you’ll want to consider before buying a PS4.
It’s in a way offering you the ability to play PS3 and older games on your PS4, by streaming them from the cloud as you would a movie or TV series via Netflix. There are hundreds of titles on there to play, but there’s a catch. It’ll cost you.
At the moment the UK doesn’t have access to the PlayStation Now membership options available in the US. Instead you need to rent titles individually, and it doesn’t come cheap. Rental prices start at £2.99 for a two-day rental, going up to 37.99 for a 30-day rental.
It’s a good service for those looking to brush up on older titles before the next series entry arrives.
Sony is also now offering a small selection of PS2 games to purchase and play on PS4. There's only around 10 at the moment, and you'll have to buy them again even if you owned them previously. However, it's a step in the right direction.
Xbox One has come on leaps and bounds since it was initially launched. The change in focus and philosophy since Phil Spencer came on the scene has worked wonders for gaming, and if anything has us excited for what the next Xbox console will look like with him at the helm from inception.
However, it's hard to escape the raw power of the PS4 as a gaming platform. These are, after all, games consoles first and foremost, and Sony took taht philosophy with its hardware from the very beginning. Though it may lack the backwards compatibility of Xbox One, Sony is investing in the future with VR tech, and PlayStation VR promises to deliver an incredibly exciting future for gaming.
There's still plenty left in this race, but as thigns stand the PS4 seems to be the more solid investment.
Turn to Page Two to read more about the processors, graphics and power potential of the Xbox One and PS4