Hardware ReviewsPS4 vs Xbox One Comparison: Graphics, Specs, DifferencesHardware Reviews - RSS 2.0
PlayStation 4 Controller & Input
The DualShock 4 is without a doubt the best feeling controller Sony has produced to date. The joysticks and shoulder buttons are all very responsive and spring back to place - gone are the big mushy triggers from the DualShock 2. Shooters especially play much tighter, and with Killzone: Shadow Fall being Sony's big system seller at launch, that's certainly not an accident. Also, while still retaining the basic shape of previous iterations, the DualShock 4 has extended and elongated itself. This is actually the first time in 16 years that the shape has changed more than a few millimeters. If your hands are larger than the average, the larger sized controller leads to a much more comfortable feeling of wrapping around the controller. The DualShock 4 is packed with other future-proof improvements like an embedded speaker, touchpad and a light bar. The strength of these additional options will depend largely on how developers find ways to use them, though we've already seen some being used to interesting results, like the light bar alerting you to when you're hidden in the shadows or not.
Unfortunately the microphone headset that comes with the console is anything but a well-designed piece of hardware. It's a chintzy earbud on a flimsy piece of wire. We can appreciate that the console as a whole is only $400 and the headset isn't necessary for the core experience, but we've received better $5 airline headphones and it seems odd to include something so low quality next to everything else. Luckily Sony has promised a firmware update that will enable all existing third-party USB PS3 Headsets, but those with Bluetooth headsets are stuck however and there are no plans to make them compatible.
Then there is the new PlayStation 4 camera, which requires you to shell out an extra $60, meaning it's not as deeply integral to the experience. The camera does allow you to experience The Playroom, but that application is little more than a demonstration of the input technology even if it's amusing for a few minutes or for younger audiences. It's also able to scan your face and automatically log you in when you turn the PS4 on and, while limited, the voice commands the camera uses are quick and responsive. The camera is also able to display you during streaming, but honestly unless you plan to really get into streaming your gameplay, you can probably keep the console's price tag $60 cheaper or wait for more features.
Xbox One Controller & Input
As we get later in the consoles cycles, it seems controllers become increasingly slower changing beasts. Buttons migrate or disappear, but the new Xbox One Wireless Controller still retains much the shape and form of the Xbox S and Xbox 360 controller - apparently no one thought it was a good idea to continue the lineage of original Xbox's bear-claw-sized input device.
The big changes this time around are that the battery pack has been sucked into the main housing for a nice smooth back. There's also a natural grip which lets your fingers spread out instead of needing to death-grip the sides like the 360 controller. The shoulder buttons have been remolded into a single concave button. We think the idea is that it's supposed to allow you to roll your finger up to engage the L1 and R1 bumpers quicker, but we found this design to have poor feedback on where the engagement point is. They have to be mashed in to trigger properly and we often found ourselves needing extra time to get integrated into games that used them extensively.
The new D-pad feels more responsive and precise than the older hat style D-pad. A few other more behind the scenes features round out the improvements like vibration motors in the triggers and infrared Kinnect sensors to more accurately track where users are. On the whole it's not a bad controller, but it doesn't come out as a marked improvement from the Xbox 360 controller.
Similarly, the provided Xbox One Headset takes only some small steps forward. The new inline controls on the connector are much bigger and easier to use during a heated gaming sessions or in response to an interruption of said gaming. The new headset itself is roughly the same quality as the existing Xbox 360 one, passable but not much to write home about. Those hoping to use their existing 3rd party headsets are completely out of luck until early 2014 when Microsoft plans to release a headset adaptor. The new controller uses a redesigned port for headsets, so no existing models are natively compatible. The new port promises higher speeds, which in turn should result in cleaner audio, but it's hard to notice a major improvement on the provided headset.
Kinect doesn't need to be purchased separately, though it's certainly contributing to the $500 price tag of the Xbox One. It has, however, been deeply integrated throughout the Xbox One experience. Whether its gestures or voice commands, you have a ton of freedom to engage with the device without needing to pick up the controller. It's not always immediately apparent how useful this is, but just being able to crash into the couch and call up apps, movies and games without fishing around for the controller is convenient. The voice commands don't work 100% of the time, but it seems to have enough accuracy to get the job done with too much repetition - and if you get frustrated you can always yell "Xbox Go Home... you're drunk." which should get you back to the home screen with a chuckle.
Xbox One vs PS4 Controller & Input Comparison
Even as the consoles become increasingly larger in scope, you're still ultimately buying them as game-playing machines - there are cheaper more straight-forward devices for everything else otherwise. If the controller didn't feel great then it would all be for nothing. The new DualShock 4 feels like a step forward while Xbox One's controller just adds a bunch of smaller improvements to the existing design. The Xbox One does however offer a lot more and deeper options for interacting with the console, but Sony ultimately gives consumers the more meaningful option of not spending an extra $100 on a glorified webcam if you're happy with just the controller.