The launches of Xbox One and PS4 are imminent, as both next-generation consoles are about to go toe-to-toe.
Gamers have already put their pre-order money down as if it’s an expensive bet on which video game system will deliver the best performance over the next decade.
Both systems are evenly matched in many respects and should be able to usher in the next generation of gaming that the Wii U hasn’t been able to deliver.
Both Microsoft and Sony went with very box-like designs for their next-generation consoles.
The Xbox One literally put the box in Xbox, with a large black rectangular shape that has been compared to an oversized 80s VCR unit.
The only thing adoring the front is a slot-loading Blu-ray disc drive, while almost all of the cable hookups are in the back, including the HDMI input port for Live TV, something the PS4 doesn’t have.
When Sony finally unveiled what the PS4 looked like at E3, it reminded everyone in the audience of the PS2 design. The stand – not included – really drove that point home.
PS4 is smaller in size compared to the Xbox One and a little bit sleeker thanks to its angular shape and two-halves design.
The Xbox One and PS4 console designs aren’t game changers, especially compared to the more dynamic-looking previous generation of consoles.
But as a teacher may have once told you, beauty is on the inside.
Sony was clearly in command following E3 when Microsoft announced its strict DRM policy that barred used game sales and required Xbox One consoles to connect to the internet once every 24 hours.
The backlash was immediate. Gamers made it clear that physical copies of games should be theirs to own and resell as before.
Likewise, they felt as if offline gaming should be possible, especially if ISPs or Microsoft’s servers go down. It has happened before and will likely happen again.
That’s why Microsoft reverted its policy, sticking to the Xbox 360 method of handling DRM while also getting rid of benefits like the ability to share your Xbox One games with other consoles.
PS4 and Xbox One will function like they did in the PS3 and Xbox 360 era, which is the one area in which gamers are happy to hear hasn’t been “upgraded.”
Sony has managed to position its console as the gamer’s choice, thanks largely to its stance on second hand games but also a significant software line-up.
The PS4 will be home to a raft of great indie arcade-style titles too, including Resogun, Supergiant Games’ new titles Transistor, and more.
Sony PlayStation 4: 4K Support.
The PlayStation 3 was one of the devices which brought Blu-Ray to prominence and its successor could again be the pioneer, this time being the first console to offer 4K resolution capabilities. 4K refers to the resolution of 3840 × 2160, a massive step up from the current console which outputs at 1920 × 1080. While 4K TV’s are rare (Probably because of their outstanding price tags) inclusion in the PS4 could definitely bring it into the public eye.
Microsoft Xbox One: 4K Support
As previously mentioned, the Xbox One will support 4K upscaling for Blu-Ray, but it’s unclear if it will also support games and other media at that resolution.
Sony PlayStation 4: Camera
The PlayStation Camera is a bit of a micro-Kinect, following in the best tradition of EyeToy. Like Move, it reads the light bars on the rear of the DualShock 4s so that you can manipulate items on screen with it, but also reads your flailing arms to interact, too.
The resolution is decent if nothing too scary – it doesn’t track your expression or engagement, but it can tell if you’ve covered your eyes (the crowd of AI bots on the demo hushed, before we pulled our hands away and they all cried in a really quite charming game of Peek-a-boo). It will also set your head on fire – virtually, at least – in that AR style that Reality Fighters and its Vita brethren did.
Microsoft Xbox One: Camera & Kinect
First off, the new Kinect sensor can support up to six players at once, which is a vast improvement on the two- player limit its predecessor could handle.
Rather than reading the player as wiry stick figure with boxes for hands, feet and a head, the new Kinect module can pick up muscle texture, the shape of the player’s head and register the difference between their thumbs and the tips of their fingers.
It can even pick up strain on the player’s body parts, demonstrated to us when we stood one leg and saw our body part slowly turn red on the screen in front of us. Voice activated commands are still part of the package too.
Kinect can now monitor facial expressions, see if the player’s face begins to flush and even read the player’s heart rate. Not only will all of this be useful in the creation of Kinect software – fitness games, for example, will be far more advanced – but it also allows Kinect to gauge the player’s level of engagement with any form of entertainment they happen to be watching through the Xbox One.
If all of this sounds a bit Orwellian, don’t worry. Contrary to some of the rumours flying about the Internet, you don’t have to have Kinect active at all times in order for the Xbox One to work – you can deactivate it entirely. Not only does this mean you can still play games in the nude, should you desire, but you don’t have to allow it collect any data from your viewing or playing habits – although if you do, Kinect and the Xbox One will start to build a more bespoke entertainment experience just for you.
Xbox One vs. PlayStation 4: Specs
Power-wise, the PS4 packs an eight-core CPU custom-made by AMD and aggressively named “Jaguar” and it’s been paired with a next-generation AMD Radeon GPU and 8GB of GDDR5 memory.
Early tests suggest that the PS4 is pumping out about 1.84 teraFLOPS of power (a FLOP being a standard measurement of computer power).
The on-board hard-drive is 500GB – big enough to house plenty of digital downloads, and the optical drive reads Blu-Rays and DVDs.
Another eight-core AMD chip powers the Xbox One, and provides eight times the power of the Xbox 360, whilst being ably supported by 8GB of system memory. The Xbox One hits a peak of about 1.23 teraFLOPS – significantly less than the PS4. But it’s not just how many FLOPS you’ve got, it’s how you use them – this number is just a small part of the power equation, we doubt that the two will be that far apart in terms of power. That said, early impressions have games looking marginally better on PS4.
Xbox One vs. PlayStation 4: Controller
The controller itself is sturdy and definitely weightier than the DualShock 3. It’s not bulky though, and its sleekness is married to an almost textured coating on both the base and dual sticks that helps grip.
The dual sticks feel stiffer compared to the PS3’s, and while this initially jars, we found with more exposure to them we actually preferred it for accuracy, though it takes some getting used to.
The triggers are now really very trigger-like indeed (although Killzone, rather bizarrely, still doesn’t assign them as aim and fire) and their close placement to the shoulder buttons is a good design move that aids quick changes.
The main addition to the controller is the ‘Share’ button, which lets you record, edit and upload gaming footage and share it online with their friends.
‘Second screen’ is a term getting banded about gaming types a lot at the moment. The PS4’s answer: The PS Vita will double as an extra interface for the console, as will your iOS or Android-powered smartphone.
Microsoft has taken the same approach as Sony to their new controller, choosing to tweak the Xbox 360 controller rather than overhauling it completely. However, where Sony has added extra weight to their DualShock, Microsoft’s Xbox One controller is noticeably slimmer.
The grips are smoother and more spacious, with the old chunky battery pack now integrated into the controller itself (although the demo team was cagey about battery life). The thumbstick apparently now takes 25% less force to operate.
In use, the biggest difference is the front triggers. These now vibration motors built in, giving haptic feedback even when you’re not using them.
The noticeably flatter front of the controller is a bit OnLive-esque, and the ‘Back’ and ‘Start’ are replaced by ‘Play/Pause’ and what appears to be an ‘Apps’ button, while the triggers now have isolated rumble for contextual feedback.
Thankfully the controller is now charged by micro-USB, and Microsoft has also invented its own wireless protocol to reduce latency.
So as a quick summary, two very different yet fairly evenly matched consoles, the PS4 appears to be a more hardcore gaming machine where as the Xbox one appears to be more of a do it all box, time will tell if one is better than the other.