Time for an upgrade
If you aren't a die hard Xbot or Sony Pony, deciding between spending your hard-earned money on a PS4 or Xbox One can be a daunting task. Each console has very particular strengths and weaknesses that go far deeper than what's on the consoles' exclusive games lists (though games are certainly a huge factor).
To make your purchasing decisions easier, we've broken down the most important aspects of competition between the two and declared a definitive winner. We'll take a look at the games, prices and bundles, online services, controller quality, and more. You really can't go wrong with either console, but if you really want to know which console stands above the other, we have the full break down right here.
Round One: Games
Xbox One has, at the time of this writing, around 200 games available for purchase. These include Halo 5: Guardians, Forza Motorsport 5, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Sunset Overdrive, and Dead Rising 3 - all of which are console exclusive to Xbox One (meaning you can find some of these on PC). Upcoming games include Gears of War 4, Halo 5: Guardians, and a new Crackdown (finally!). Microsoft is also working to make select Xbox 360 games playable on Xbox One; here's a list of the backwards compatible games.
PlayStation 4's catalog clocks in at around 340 available games. Among them, Bloodborne, Infamous: Second Son, Killzone Shadow Fall, and DriveClub round out the console exclusives. Looking ahead, Street Fighter V, Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, The Last Guardian, and Horizon Zero Dawn are some of your upcoming releases. For backwards compatibility, Sony already has a massive back catalogue of PS3 games available on PS4, the only problem is you have to stream these games through a paid service called PlayStation Now.
Highlight to reveal the winner: PlayStation 4. While Xbox One pulls ahead in terms of high-profile exclusives, PS4 has a superior variety of games, from AAA blockbusters to oddbeat indies.
Round Two: Price
Xbox One at its most basic retails for $349 (assuming you live in the US). That gets you the console, a single controller, a 500GB hard drive, and a download code for a game with certain bundles. If you're willing to pay an extra $50, you can also find bundles with a 1TB hard drive instead. None of these bundles include the now-defunct Kinect. Also keep in mind that you'll probably want to cough up an extra $60 annually for an Xbox Live Gold membership to play online. We'll cover this in more detail on the next slide.
PlayStation 4 at its most basic retails for $399 (again, in the US). That gets you the console, a single controller, 500GB hard drive, and a copy of Batman: Arkham Knight if you get the most recent bundle. Otherwise there aren't a whole lot of options. Other bundles exist, but their limited stock has ratcheted up their prices. Also keep in mind that you'll probably want to drop $50 annually for a PlayStation Plus membership if you want to play online. We'll cover this more in the next slide.
Highlight to reveal the winner: Xbox One. There's only about a $50 price difference between the two consoles, but Microsoft does offer more bundles to suit your preference. Xbox One controllers are also a bit cheaper than the PS4's for the Player 2 in your life.
Round Three: Subscription Perks
Xbox One's subscription service, Xbox Live Gold, will set you back $60 annually and is required for playing games online. A Gold subscription also unlocks Games with Gold and Deals with Gold. Games with Gold is a rotating selection of free games that changes each month and Deals with Gold is just what it sounds like: exclusive discounts on games. For more gaming goodness, there's also EA Access: a separate, $5-per-month subscription service that lets you play select EA classics and gives early access to new EA releases.
PlayStation 4 has a similar service in PlayStation Plus, which will run you $50 annually and is required to play games online. Having a PS Plus membership also unlocks a rotating collection of free games each month as well as discounts for members. But if you really want to go all out, you can also sign up for PlayStation Now, which lets you stream a collection of older PlayStation games to your PS4 starting at $20 per month.
Highlight to reveal the winner: PlayStation 4. Picking a winner here is tough, as both services are nearly identical. Both boxes can access Netflix, HBO Go, stream internet TV (for a fee), play Blu-rays, and more. In the end it all comes down to price, and PS Plus is simply cheaper.
Round Four: Controllers
Xbox One's basic controller retails for about $50 and its design is both comfortable and ergonomic. It has an upgraded d-pad that's (thankfully) superior to the Xbox 360's, and the joysticks have great grip. Additionally, the integrated battery pack keeps the back from bulging out like the 360's did, you can now update the controller wirelessly, and the rumbling triggers are fun (if not essential). However, those triggers are also a bit mushy, and their bumper neighbors are even more troublesome than before. This keeps the Xbox One's controller from being the full upgrade it could have been, but if you're willing to spend a larger chunk of change you can pick up the Xbox One Elite controller. It makes vast improvements over the standard controller, but it will set you back $150.
PlayStation 4's DualShock 4, on the other hand, is a massive improvement over its predecessor in almost every way, with a fantastic d-pad, satisfying buttons, a wider gap between the joysticks, and a headphone plug-in jack. The clickable touchpad in the center remains largely underutilized, typically serving as just a big button in the center of the controller. The only real drawbacks are the option and share buttons, which are too flush with the controller making them needless difficult to press. It's also a bit pricer than the Xbox One's controller, around $60.
Highlight to reveal the winner: PlayStation 4. The DualShock 4 is one of the most hand-pleasing designs ever committed to plastic. Fact.
Round Five: Broadcasting
Xbox One's versatile Upload app is great for capturing clips quickly, editing them, and sharing them online. You can also take screenshots now during games and share them in a similar fashion. For streaming, Xbox One's Twitch app is very robust, letting you archive, utilize multiple audio sources, and do picture-in-picturing if you have a Kinect.
PlayStation 4's share functionality is fool-proof. A simple push of the 'Share' button gives you the option to capture a screen, video, or both. The ShareFactory editor has everything you need to prep a quick YouTube video, or you can go live using either Twitch or Ustream. Finally, SharePlay lets you recreate the couch co-op experience with another player online.
Highlight to reveal the winner: PlayStation 4. Is it any surprise that the console with a 'Share' button won this category? Both boxes are equipped to stream, but the easy-of-use with PS4 pushes it over the edge.
Closing arguments: Xbox One
The Xbox Live service is superb, providing subscribers with monthly free games, reliable connectivity and updates, and, with the new user interface, an easily accessible online Store. But Xbox Live does cost $10 more per month than PSN without much differentiation between the two services.
The new interface vastly improves the speed of navigating the Xbox One Dashboard. Creating Xbox Live Parties with friends has be streamlined, making the process much faster from a processing and user input standpoint. The increase in speed also goes for Snapping achievements in game, sending messages, and engaging with various game communities.
You can use up to two external hard drives for extra storage, but they have to be 256GB or larger and support USB 3.0. Once formatted, they can hold games, apps, DLC, or whatever else is filling up your Xbox One.
Cable TV boxes can be hooked straight into your Xbox One, so you don't have to switch inputs when you want to watch TV, and can even use Kinect to change channels.
Closing arguments: PlayStation 4
The PS4 can hook up with all kinds of devices. Android and iOS tablets can run the PlayStation app for basic interaction with the console, while select Sony smartphones can even remote play games. And using the PS Vita to remote play Destiny in bed is a dream.
You can view global completion rates for individual trophies on PS4. Its a nice bragging right to perform an "Ultra Rare" feat that only 0.10% of players have accomplished.
Spotify is fully integrated on PS4, letting you enjoy your favorite playlists while you play. You can even use your smartphone or tablet to fiddle with the music without interrupting your game.
The PS4 is physically smaller than the Xbox One and does not come with a bulky power brick taking up extra space.
The Winner: PlayStation 4 (for now)
At the time of this writing, the PlayStation 4 is absolutely nailing that ideal triumvirate of great games, robust online features, and slick hardware design. It may cost a little more, but some extra green is worth it in our opinion for what you're getting. But the Xbox One is not far behind. There's a lot to love in both boxes, and this console war isn't going to be wrapping up any time soon. Once Windows 10 is up and running on Xbox One and Project Morpheus takes off on PS4, the battlelines may look very different.
But at the end of the day, one factor should rise above all else: the games. The name of the game is the game, as the saying goes, and if there's a particular game that you really want to play that's only available on one console or another, let that be your guiding light when making a purchase. You won't be disappointed with either box, so get out there and play the games you love.