Xbox One vs PS4: The verdicts are in, so which is better?
So the wait for the Xbox One and PS4 is over, but now the real battle begins. Both consoles nailed their colours to the mast in individual launch events, at E3 and then Gamescom, where declarations were made, reversed in many instances. It's been a turbulent time for both Sony and Microsoft, and one would hope there are many exciting times to come.
But the big question right now is, which of the two consoles is better?
Pocket-lint has compared them to each other in a feature and specification head-to-head before, but we have now reviewed both next-generation consoles in considerable depth. We've played with them a lot. A lot. And feel we're in a good position to answer that question.
So, using segments of our reviews, we can give you an idea of what console to go for right now. You might have other opinions. You might be a die-hard fan of one brand or the other. But this is a summary of our opinions on what you get on day one for each console. Come a year from now, the map will no doubt look different, but right now, this is where we're at.
As this features several snippets of our thoughts, you are also encouraged to check out the full reviews of the Xbox One and the PS4, and some of their games we've reviewed separately, before you make any final decisions on which one to buy.
READ: Xbox One review
READ: PlayStation 4 review
Which has the best design?
"We get the feeling that the Xbox One console has almost been designed to be not noticed. It's not showy; it's not about the dramatic looks that the PlayStation 4 is more at ease with. It's designed to be integrated, to nestle in and make itself part of its surroundings.
"Some have called it massive but it really isn't, that's a cheap shot. It's taller than your average set-top box, but measuring 335 x 280 x 83mm, it's not really huge. AV receivers are huge, Xbox One isn't. We'll admit that PlayStation 4 is more eye-catching, but external design is never going to be driving your purchasing decision when it comes to adopting a next-gen platform."
"By now you probably already know what the PS4 looks like. It's a flat prism-looking box with minimal fuss that measures 305 x 275 x 53mm in size. It's black, but of course, and like the Xbox One, is a combination of shiny and matte. Unlike the One, however, it's less brutal and smaller in scale. The front, which slopes away backwards, features separate touch-sensitive power and eject buttons, and that PS4 logo.
"Unlike the Xbox One the PS4's power supply is in the main box and that makes a big difference in placing it under your telly or on your hi-fi rack. You can place it vertically if you've got the height for it and there's a second logo so it still looks cool from its second angle. The Xbox One, meanwhile, is designed to lie flat only."
Conclusion - PS4 wins
Although the Xbox One is not as huge and cumbersome as some have suggested, it isn't quite as sleek as the PS4. It can't stand on end (if that's your thing) and comes with the Microsoft trademark power brick, which you have to find extra room for among your power sockets.
Which has the best controller?
"In the hand, the new controller feels great. It's a refinement of everything that was good before, but it's still very much the Xbox controller you know and love. If you're familiar with the former, then the new controller will just fall into your hands and go to work as it always has.
"There's more opportunity for the controller to give you feedback during a game by vibrating the triggers under your fingers. Sometimes, it feels spot on, really bringing the on-screen action into your hands and making it more immersive. Other times it seemed that it was too much for the controller which was buzzing away, sometimes sounding like a wasp in a jar, or an old dial-up modem. So far we feel this feedback feature still needs to be harnessed better as the noise from vibration is a little irritating. Of course, you can turn it off."
"It's an all-round better experience than the current PS3 DualShock. Sadly for PS3 owners hoping to benefit from the new design, you won't be able to: it isn't backwards compatible.
"In play we've been getting around seven hours from a single charge, and because it's got a micro USB port you can charge it from elsewhere in the house if you don't want to do so via your console.
"However, at £50 a go they really aren't cheap. You'll get one in the box, and the console can cope with up to four in total - if you have a spare £150 extra to fork out. We'd imagine it's a case of asking friends around to bring their own."
Conclusion - tie
A second Xbox One controller would cost you around £45, so there's a slight advantage in the cost, but on the whole, both controllers are excellent to hold and use. It's really a case of the new DualShock catching up with what was already considered by many to be the best controller experience in gaming.
READ: Knack review
Which has the best user interface?
"The Xbox One brings with it a new interface. It's familiar in that it uses tiles and side scrolling in the same way as the old Xbox, Windows 8, Windows Phone and so on. We actually like it a lot, because it's bright and vibrant and from the central Home section, it's easy to return to what you were doing, as it's filled with the apps you were recently using.
"...using an app-based system like this means that individual apps can be easily updated without it being a system-wide update and it also means you only need to install what you will actually want and need."
"The PS4 has a considerably more refined and simplified take on the old one. Firing up the console for the first time you will see links to What's New, PlayStation Live, a browser and your Library where all your downloaded content is stored. What options you see will vary by region, though, and the UK download store isn't yet up and running at the time of writing.
"User interfaces are important and Sony's XMB has always been enjoyed, but not necessarily liked by all. The update for the PS4 enhances what we've been used to and thankfully doesn't add in any crazy annoyances.
"What's most important is that the interface is very quick. If all you want to do is play games, you'll be able to do that near instantly - and certainly faster than ever before. We like it a lot."
Conclusion - Xbox One wins
Although we really liked both user interfaces, especially the speed at which they operate, the PS4 home screen looks rather sparse in comparison to the Xbox One's. It's much more simple to use, but feels less personal than the highly customisable one from Xbox. Some might prefer that, of course.
Which has the best second-screen experience?
"Xbox One SmartGlass is much slicker than the previous verison and we found it connected quickly, giving a tile-based home page that reflects what you've been doing on your console. Like the One's Home page, there's a current window at the top and recent, featured and pins down the page. You can use this as a remote control for your Xbox One, as when you tap on an item, it will open on the console.
"You can use it to Snap items too, so from your phone, you can switch to a game, open Xbox Music and away you go. You can access details about your friends as well as send them messages, so you get to use your phone's keyboard, rather than having to mess around with the Xbox One's on-screen effort."
"One of the other fun features of the PS4 is that you can play games on it using the PS Vita. Sony hopes the feature will appeal to gamers keen to carry on playing games, but not just in front of their console.
"Keen Sony gamers will probably have the Vita already and if not then here's your excuse. We've already used it to carry on gaming from our bed, and as we work from home, the home office - naughty. However, an attempt at playing on the Tube failed.
"The iPhone app, we ran it on the iPhone 5S, is simple and to the point, allowing you to use the phone as a keyboard - that's handy for typing comments when you come to share those videos and screenshots."
Conclusion - PS4 wins
The PlayStation 4 essentially wins this battle as it has a mobile app, PlayStation App, and Remote Play functionality for the PS Vita, turning the handheld console into something like a Wii U GamePad. You can carry on playing games remotely while the rest of the family are watching TV.
That does mean you'll have to shell out for another device though, if you don't have one already.
Which has the best games line-up?
"Games are delivered via download or on disc and in the process of reviewing the console, we've used both. Dead Rising 3, Zoo Tycoon, Forza 5 and Ryse: Son of Rome all on disc, with Kinect Sports Rivals, Kinect Fitness, Killer Instinct and Crimson Dragon via download. All need to be installed on the hard drive, but you don't have to install the entire game to start playing.
"From the games we've seen so far, both from preview events and from our time with our review console, we can happily say that the Xbox One will give you some stunning visuals. Forza Motorsport 5 is a delight with its 1080p 60 frames per second gameplay, something that Turn 10, the game's developer, has been very happy to highlight.
"The gaming offering, just like the app offering, will steadily grow following launch."
"Day one for PS4 has a handful of titles available. So far we've being playing Killzone: Shadow Fall, LegoMarvel Super Heroes, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, Call of Duty: Ghosts, and Knack. Some of the games are good, some not so much, but the experience underwhelming really. It is the first wave after all, but where's that killer PS4 exclusive?
"One issue is that Sony's own efforts are a bit lacklustre. Killzone is okay, Knack really isn't, but it's not the gobsmacking must-buy stuff we'd hoped for. Had Sony held back The Last of Us, the story would have been very different.
"All this is made more apparent by the presence of desirable Xbox One exclusives: Dead Rising 3 and Forza 5 to name but two available from day dot. Wait until spring for Infamous: Second Son and the PS4 might start to shift that lead around."
Conclusion - Xbox One wins
Much has been said and written about the launch line-ups for the two consoles and having played all of the exclusive games on offer (and many of the third-party titles), the scales are tipped in the favour of the Xbox One, sorry PlayStation fans. Yes, some of the third-party titles are rendered in higher resolutions on PS4, but a great game depends on great gameplay, not just visuals.
Which console has the best additional features?
"Voice control of Xbox One is comprehensive, it covers a lot of ground, giving you access to a full range of functions without having to use a controller at all. It might look like a gimmick, it might sound like a gimmick, but having lived with Xbox One, it really does make a lot of sense and it really does make navigation of the console much faster.
"Skype is one of the other great features of Xbox One. Microsoft is aiming to make the Skype experience on Xbox One the best of any platform and on day one, we have to say it works really well.
"Xbox One comes with Internet Explorer so you can browse to your favourite websites. It's a fully featured browser, although there's no support for Flash which limits some video content online - BBC iPlayer for example.
"One of the headline features is the multi-tasking mode offered by Snap. This will let you open an app in a sidebar, so you can keep your eyes on two things at once. Most of this can be controlled by voice, but we've found that once you have two things open, using the controller makes it all a little simpler."
"Browsing the net is pretty awful - that's the best way to describe it on the PS4. It's as if the only reason Sony has included a browser for the console is to authenticate your Twitter feed. Turn to Xbox and you'll see Internet Explorer and all manner of integration.
"If it's not the huge resolution that makes the text minuscule, it is the laggy experience the PS4 gives. To make matters worse, Sony has opted to allow you to zoom in by pressing R3 rather than using the small touch-sensitive pad on the top of the DualShock controller.
"The Sony PlayStation Camera is an optional extra, unlike the Xbox One's Kinect which comes included in the Microsoft package's box. The Sony Camera costs £45 and works in a similar way to the previous camera on the PS3.
"The Camera is a lot better than previous PlayStation efforts through incorporating two cameras that have wide-angle lenses with 85-degree diagonal angle views to identify the depth of a space more precisely."
Conclusion - Xbox One wins
As well as the included and vastly improved Kinect sensor, the Xbox One comes with a range of features and apps from day one. The PlayStation 4 is more geared towards its game-playing functionality and is fairly bare-boned in that sense. You get a feeling that there's much more to come from Sony, while Microsoft has already started to build its ecosystem from the off.
You should read the full reviews to find out more about what we think of recording and sharing games footage and the social aspects of each machine.
But which is the best overall?
From this round-up the final winner is the Xbox One by coming out top on three of the six categories to the PS4's two. It's a result that reflects in the final scores we gave each machine in the actual reviews.
It's a close run thing though, and if we were to find either console under our tree at Christmas we'd be ecstatic. What really swung it for the Xbox One however is that much of what Microsoft promised is available from day one, while the PS4 - as good as it is - feels a little like a work in progress.
Come 2014, things will not only even out but also heat up dramatically, with games like inFamous: Second Son for the PS4 and Titanfall for Xbox One further enhancing each console's reputation.
For now though, the Xbox One shades it. Just.
For more on the Xbox One and PS4 games consoles, check out our dedicated hubs for all the coverage:
Xbox One @ pocket-lint.com/xbox-one.
PS4 @ pocket-lint.com/ps4.