Hardware Reviews
PS4 vs Xbox One Comparison: Graphics, Specs, Differences

The Escapist Staff | 20 Nov 2013 00:00
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Xbox One Applications and Sharing

The Xbox One has brought Microsoft full circle in their cross-device strategy they began one year ago with Windows 8. With it comes the Xbox's Microsoft Store debut, the central location for downloading all of the applications available for the console, third-party or otherwise. Once downloaded, they seamlessly populate the home screen UI in use order, with further customization available through the app pinning feature, which allows you to keep your most used apps front and center. After being initially launched after start-up, every app continues to run in the background, allowing for easy swapping between games and apps using Xbox's robust voice command feature.

Xbox One UI 01

For those who have already adopted Windows 8 or a Windows phone into their every day life, this app integration will feel just like an old, worn-in shoe. Everything from the store's layout to individual application's launch splash screen mirrors their desktop brethren. While there are many stalwarts that work well with the Xbox One like Netflix, Hulu and NFL, two notable apps available at launch are Skype and the last minute inclusion of SkyDrive. Skype is a major feature upgrade from the 360's Video Kinect while incorporating its best feature: facial tracking. Snap-able alongside any other program or game currently running, you can start or take a call no matter what you are in the middle of. The Kinect camera intuitively follows video subjects around the room, zooming into identified subjects to fill the frame, while its wide view lens can capture groups and entire rooms unlike any of its desktop computer cam counterparts. SkyDrive is Microsoft's cloud storage service, which fully integrates with Microsoft's Office suite of products. While its initial integration allows for transferring of video capture files to your computer and other programs, ease of access to SkyDrive's other services can be only assumed to expand as they are built out and explored.

With apps being the backbone of Xbox One's functionality, it is no surprise that its gameplay sharing and streaming integration is application-based as well, rather than part of its core system. Capturing and sharing pre-recorded game footage on the Xbox is done via two separate apps: Game DVR and UPLOAD. Even though the Xbox One keeps a five minute game play buffer saved natively, the reliance on an app-based platform first requires you to launch the Game DVR separately before any actual capture can take place. You can record gameplay by saying "Xbox record that" but you're better off snapping it to make more granular voice recording commands accessible. Then you jump back into your automatically paused game play and get started on your video recording adventure.

While the snap functionality allows you to easily jump back and forth from your game to the Game DVR once set up, the background running of the DVR does present a slight problem for those looking to capture specific scenes. You have to be aware of your 5 minute cut-off or else risk missing the beginning and having to go back and do it all over again. And even though the Game DVR and UPLOAD are Microsoft built apps intended to work together for one purpose, they do little for seamless integration. You can't share directly from the Game DVR, but instead need to launch a second app, UPLOAD, to save defined segments you have captured. If you want to edit that video segment before sharing it, you then need to launch UPLOAD Studio. And if you want to share your clip beyond the carefully curated walls of Xbox Live, you will then need to save your video to your personal SkyDrive, which has its own Xbox One app, where you can then upload it to Facebook, YouTube and .... Well, you get the drill. You need four apps to share an edited video to the internet.

Overall, applications on the Xbox One allow it to shine in all its multitasking glory. Unfortunately, all the snapping and daisy-chaining currently doesn't feel like a seamless experience, especially with the multitasking's heavy reliance on voice commands and less refined menu controls. You may quickly find yourself searching through multiple screens and menus if your Xbox misunderstands you and inadvertently sends you home instead of back into the game where you belong. As for streaming, with the Xbox One Twitch app now delayed until 2014, we are still a far cry from being able to simply say "Xbox, broadcast."

PlayStation 4 Applications and Sharing

The PlayStation Store is back in full force on the PS4, acting once again as your central hub for all of your downloading and installing needs. Here, you can easily access your application option by making a quick right at games on to "TV & Video." The PlayStation 4 has received some flack for failing to support MP3 playback in the weeks preceding its launch, but the standard entertainment streaming service options are all available now and you'll quickly find Netflix, Hulu and 10 other video-watching options. Sadly, that is all you'll find and they all work exactly like their pre-gen counterparts. If you liked how the PlayStation Store and apps worked on your PS3, you are in luck, but if you were hoping for a major PlayStation Store re-design in the PS4, you'll be sorely disappointed.

PS4 share button

Streaming and video sharing on the PS4 takes a noticeable departure from the PlayStation Store and its application array, with these capabilities being fully integrated into the console's core functionality. Accessed directly from the controller's share button, you can immediately bring up the share window, which gives you access to your choice of uploading either a video clip or screenshot to Facebook, or broadcasting your current game play.

Video sharing on the PS4 is a breeze. The PS4 records and saves 15 minute clips continuously in the background while you play and pressing share video brings up your cache of footage from the game you are currently playing. The only thing standing in your video's way from Facebook is the selection of the clip desired and any editing. Editing will require you to suspend game play entirely. While time-consuming and not allowing you to post and play at the same time, pausing your game is done automatically by the console and it's a minor annoyance at best, especially when you consider that uploading done in the background allows you to play while you post.

Streaming is no less simple and intuitive. Selecting broadcast from the Share window will give you the option of using either Twitch or Ustream. From here, it is simply a matter of entering in your log-in information for your respective streaming choice to get started. Once saved to your account during initial set-up, all that is left is defining a few streaming parameters, such as whether or not to include your microphone audio in the stream, and you are good to go. Selecting "Start Broadcasting" immediately transports you back into the game, but now with a streaming overlay displaying all relevant channel information that was once only accessible from a computer middle-man. Viewer and chat participant numbers are displayed on the bottom right with the chat roll updated live on the bottom left. The overlay does reduce the playable screen size, which may be a problem for players already stuck with a small television to begin with, but turning chat off will remove the overlay in its entirety, returning you back to full screen play mode.

Overlay or not, the share button takes you right back to your broadcast settings, where you can adjust broadcast quality, toggle microphone audio in broadcast and stop broadcasting all together. Returning to the Share screen does not pause your game play, so you need to be prepared to either time your broadcasting starts and stops in advance, or risk some in-game consequences while your attentions are otherwise diverted. The lack of automatic pausing and running concurrent processes aside, the share and streaming features are easy to use, integrate seamlessly into your game play experience, and more importantly, just works and works well.

Xbox One vs. PS4 Applications & Sharing Comparison

While both consoles boast applications, easily accessed through a central marketplace, and a wide array of social media and streaming integration, the similarities end here. The Xbox One's ability to multitask all those applications and functionalities gives it the next-gen feel that rises above past-gen comparisons hinging upon picking apart polygons. Unfortunately, most of those apps don't exist yet, and for those of us seeking primarily a gaming console and not a one-stop tv shop entertainment platform might find themselves disappointed in the Xbox One's current form. The PlayStation 4, on the other hand, achieves this seamless integration with gaming that both consoles were purportedly aiming for right out of the box. We can't forget that the PS4 is currently the only console you can stream live gameplay directly from without any additional hardware, with nothing on Xbox One's horizon until next year. But, unless the PlayStation 4 can keep up with the Xbox One in expanding functionality as it relates to gaming, the Xbox One is poised to dominate once it takes the next few months (or years) to iron out the kinks.

Applications and Sharing Winner: PlayStation 4

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