Should you buy an Xbox One or a PlayStation 4? Which next gen console is better? Because different aspects of Microsoft and Sony’s gaming consoles are important to different people, only you can ultimately make that important buying decision. Neither the PS4 or the Xbox One is inexpensive. What we can do is provide you with the opinions of our editors, broken down in the following categories, before we give you our final assessment.
- Setup Experience
- Hardware Design
- User Interface
- Controller & Input
- Applications & Sharing
- Second Screen
- Launch Library
PlayStation 4 Setup Experience
Unboxing the PS4 is like those action movies with the build-your-own-rifle suitcases. You open the already trim packaging, and everything is elegantly laid out for you. Console, cords, and controller lay side by side, with every beautiful piece of next-gen hardware visible at a glance. It takes no effort to pull out the components as you need them to get started.
Setup for the PlayStation 4 is unexpectedly simple. There’s no power supply brick, so you just plug the power cord from the PS4 to the wall, hook up the HDMI to your TV, and turn the sucker on. The PS4 instantly recognized our television, so we didn’t have to fiddle with settings or hold down the power button to get the right video output. Within a couple minutes of unpacking the console, we were downloading the updates and ready to go.
Optionally, there’s the PlayStation Camera peripheral, which is just as simple to get started with as the console itself. Just plug it into the back of the PS4, and set it up so it can see you. You can even opt for facial recognition to log you into your PSN account whenever you show your face to the camera. Given about 90 seconds of setup and the additional requirement of flashing the camera with the controller light bar – it’s not quite seamless – but it’s still supremely simple to use. Unfortunately, the camera cord itself seems to be very heavy gauge, weighing about as much as the camera itself. This can make it frustrating to try to set up the camera, since the weight and stiffness of the cord will often move the camera from where you originally positioned it.
Xbox One Setup Experience
Opening the Xbox One packaging for the first time, we were pleased to see very familiar dual-level setup, like you might be accustomed to with the Xbox 360. The Kinect, headset, controller, and cords were on the top, with the console alone on the lower layer. The form-fitting packaging did make it slightly difficult to get the components out, especially for fear of damaging them, but a bit of finesse saw everything unboxed in short order.
The Xbox One setup is remarkably easy – connect and plug in the power brick, connect the Kinect, hook up the HDMI, and voila! The main problem with the existence of a power brick on the Xbox One is that it’s a second piece of hardware that needs to live in a well-ventilated space, given the real possibility of overheating. It’s also ugly next to the sleek finish of the Xbox One, so you don’t want it in sight, if possible. It’s not the end of the world, and it doesn’t add much time to setup, but it definitely leaves some room for improvement for the future.
Even the Kinect setup is a breeze – just plug it in, turn on the console, and you’re on your way. The Kinect facial recognition account login option is flawlessly implemented from our limited experience, as you simply walk in front of the camera and it can log you right in and start accepting voice commands immediately.
Xbox One vs. PS4 Setup Experience Comparison
Both systems are easy to set up and get started playing, but the Xbox One has the power brick conundrum to weigh it down, as well as slightly bulkier split-tiered packaging. The PS4 has simple inputs with no brick, and only presented the slight problem of unwieldy optional camera. The PlayStation 4 gifted us with that feeling of next-gen satisfaction from opening the box to playing the games.
Setup Experience Winner: PlayStation 4
Xbox One Hardware Design
The Xbox One is large. It is an obtrusive, big honking monster of an appliance – but it is not ugly. The alternating matte and glossy finish looks nice – a safe choice somewhere between industrial and home, with the size and straight lines pretty clearly attempting to signal that this is a Powerful Machine. Beyond that, it’s not clear that there was any larger vision for the box other than that it hold hardware inside. It’s bisected, with diagonal slats, but that seems like it’s just to hide the vents. The integrated buttons are nicely hidden and react quickly: The logo doubling as power button and indicator light; the eject incorporated conveniently right into the housing for the disc slot. But the thing is too big, and not too quiet – though not nearly as loud as an Xbox 360. With other electronics, and competitors, shrinking their sizes, Microsoft seems to have found no need to make their console fit into people’s increasingly crowded cabinets – and the huge power brick is a prime example of that. Where other consoles will probably not find a need to sell you a mini or micro version in the next few years, Microsoft will almost certainly want to.
The Kinect is fairly large, as well, without a custom setup you’re not going to be mounting it on top of your TV. You’ll either need a shelf above, or space in front of, your television. Woe to you if you like having a clean wall with a mounted TV and no cabinet nearby. The Kinect is large enough, in fact, that it has its own fan and heatsink. The cord that connects the Kinect to the console is thick, and seems like it’ll stand up to some abuse, but it’s very disappointingly short. Gamers who keep their consoles well away from the television will have to rethink their setups. For a mandatory component, the Kinect shows a distinct and disappointing lack of flexibility.
The Xbox One’s controller and microphone are the best designed thing about it. The controller has a wonderful matte finish, so it won’t show wear or grime very badly. The distracting, flashy home button is kept to the top of the controller, meaning it doesn’t clutter the primary buttons and sticks. The microphone port on the controller is nicely integrated in the bottom center, making a lightweight connection with control buttons for the microphone very welcome. That connection is possibly the most next-gen thing about the console, and we’ll probably see many interesting headphone peripherals by third parties before the life cycle is over. The only grave sin the controller commits, at least from a design perspective, is the omission of rechargeable lithium ion batteries as the default. Microsoft is clearly still paid off by Big Battery.
PlayStation 4 Hardware Design
The PlayStation 4 is clearly, obviously, and attractively designed. From the beveled faces to the single quarter of sleek plastic against the matte finish on the rest of the console, there’s a guiding force here. The hardware accommodates the look and vice versa. With a relatively small form factor, not too much larger than, for example, the much less powerful Wii U, the PS4 can fit easily into nearly any cabinet. Further, it doesn’t have a power brick, with the integrated supply making it much easier to fit the console where you want it to go.
The Playstation 4’s controller looks good, and the buttons are well spaced. It certainly looks good, and the inclusion of rechargeable batteries is great – though the life is a little short for marathon sessions. The glossy finish on the controller is too bad, and easily shows smudges and dirt – you’ll want to polish it fairly often to keep it nice. It’s also disappointing to see a simple headphone jack. Likewise, the included headphone is incredibly basic, and for the vast majority of gamers should be replaced as quickly as possible. The PlayStation 4 camera is quite small, and its functionality isn’t quite as smooth as one wants a voice command system to be. Even the biometric facial recognition to login makes you raise the controller – which ends up taking more time than just logging in normally. Nonetheless, it’s unobtrusive, and only suffers for having a short cable that’s a little too stiff – meaning that a slight brush on it will turn the camera wildly. Look out for your cat while playing.
Xbox One vs. PS4 Interface Hardware Design Comparison
Where the Xbox One is bulky and uninspired, the Playstation 4 is sleek, pretty, and designed to fit where you need it to be. Where the Xbox One wants you to design your living room around it, the PlayStation 4 lets you decide whether or not to do so. While both consoles’ input devices are pleasant, it’s ultimately a wash as the PS4’s are more usable, while the Xbox One’s input is forward thinking.
Hardware Design Winner: Playstation 4
Xbox One User Interface
The Xbox One’s interface looks a lot like Microsoft’s much-belittled Windows 8, but it makes more sense in a gaming console than a PC, honestly. There are a series of hard-edged squares and rectangles, brightly colored, and you can navigate them with the controller easily enough. The voice commands of the Kinect are even easier, and, especially as you explore an unfamiliar interface, it’s amazingly useful to just tell the Xbox what you want it to do.
Removing the barrier between your brain’s desires and action is a definite advantage of the Xbox One interface, at the risk of sounding like a moron talking to yourself. The only problem is the voice commands only seem to work 65% of the time, whether through mumbling or volume problems, or just pure stupidity. No, Xbox, I didn’t say “Search Justin Bieber” – who would do such a thing? The fidelity of the voice commands improves when you learn the inflections the Xbox best understands, but be warned you will sound lame and stilted doing so.
You can still use hand gestures to navigate the UI, but it’s as useless as it was with the original Kinect, perhaps more. This new camera system can detect whether your hand is open or closed in a fist, and it is neat to pretend you are in the future by making a fist, and scrolling the interface to the right or left. When you actually try to select an app with a hand gesture, however, is where that Minority Report illusion crumbles yet again. The Xbox One removed the hand delay function from the 360 to select, and relies on some kind of push or pull gesture that’s impossible to get the Kinect to understand.
The big feature touted at every Microsoft event this year is the ability to run multiple applications side-by-side with a feature called “snap”. You can play Ryse for example, and simultaneously look up strategies in a wiki by snapping Internet Explorer and searching with Bing. It’s possible to do so with the controller, but the voice commands are wonderfully useful here, too. To be sure, snapping is worthwhile for those of us accustomed to working on multiple screens simultaneously and it’s great for gaming in a private, quiet room. It’s just not very practical if your Xbox One is set up in a busy area full of people chatting or kids screaming.
When you start your Xbox One, you’ll see a big rectangle showing what you last did, surrounded by smaller squares that bring you to recently used applications or the revamped achievement screen. It can feel a bit clunky getting to what you want, but you can “pin” apps and games you use often to the left of this pane. You’ll appreciate being able to alter the UI to suit your needs.
Sounds are an oft-overlooked part of Microsoft’s user interfaces. There is no music, and the sounds of moving around the tiles are not updated from the annoying Xbox 360’s bleeps and blurps. It’s possible the UI designers left the sound effects unchanged to allow some familiarity with a new product, but an updated aural experience would have better served the Xbox one.
The Kinect’s facial recognition system automagically signs you in. It even supports multiple logins, so if you’re gaming with your buddy, both of you can earn achievements just by sitting on the couch together. Also tied to your Microsoft account – and not the console – are your digitally distributed games. You can head over to your friend’s house, download LocoCycle, and play it with him even if he hasn’t bought it. Of course, your friend will not be able to play LocoCycle when you’re not there even though it’s taking up space on his HDD. If you have a disc, though, you can play the game on any Xbox One.
The social aspect on the Xbox One is a bit spare, with limited Twitch, Facebook and Twitter integration baked in at launch, and there’s no real way to do so from the user interface itself. We go into more detail in the Applications and Sharing section so look there for more insight.
Even without those functions, the user interface of the Xbox One is designed well to reflect you as a gamer and the ability to modify the interface with pinning apps is an incredibly useful feature. Being able to flit between functions by speaking aloud and snapping apps is something a gaming console has never attempted, and while the Xbox One doesn’t succeed in everything it tries to accomplish, the complete experience of the user interface is exciting to use.
PlayStation 4 User Interface
The first thing you notice about the PlayStation 4’s user interface is the obscenely pleasant background music. The tones seem engineered to make you simultaneously happy playing around with the menus of the PS4 and eager to jump into a game to make it stop. The music wouldn’t sound out of place in a seedy massage parlor or a corporate presentation – and that balance is really hard to pull off, honestly. Kudos to Sony’s composers.
Sony’s UI designers again opted for a horizontal arrangement of menu items for the PS4, with vertical popouts. When you boot up the PS4 from standby – and Sony wants you to always keep it in standby, more on that later – you are shown a pane called “What’s New” which lists all the social activity you or your friends have done with their PlayStation. You can scroll sideways to get to the games or apps you’ve played recently, and jump up to mess with the settings in a streamlined menu system. Each game or app pane can start the software, but – after short delay – it will show you related topics like DLC you can buy from the store or what your friends’ activity with this title has been.
That’s where the share button comes in. It’s a simple procedure to press the button on the DualShock 4 and immediately upload a screenshot to Facebook, or start broadcasting on Twitch. Sony clearly spent a lot of time to make this seamless – the game you’re playing is suspended while you edit video in an intuitive interface. We didn’t think much of the feature when it was announced, but editing and posting videos is surprisingly enjoyable. Sharing when you earn a trophy with a video of what you did to get it brings back the joy of showing off your fancy moves – something I haven’t done since college.
The PlayStation Network is alive and well, and the store looks largely unchanged other than handy links to spend more money in every game pane. It’s important to note, however, that you can activate your PS4 as your primary console and any games you’ve downloaded to it will be playable by everyone that signs in. And PlayStation Plus members who make the PS4 their primary will extend the benefits of that program to all those who sign in. If you’ve got multiple gamers in the same household, the PS4 makes it very easy to share even downloadable titles.
Much was made of the automatic update system to alleviate the long delays on the PS3, and keeping the new console in standby allows for updating to occur when you’re not actively playing a game. The pesky updates needed when you first put in a game disc are still there, but Sony has done a decent job of minimizing the downtime. You can often jump into playing singleplayer or multiplayer – some games even let you choose which – while the other portion downloads in the background.
The optional PlayStation Camera is a $60 addon, but it does add limited voice functionality to the PS4 interface. You can say “PlayStation: Battlefield 4” and the UI will flip to that pane. Saying “Start” will boot up the game, but if you don’t have the disc in the drawer you’ll be shown an error screen you can’t get out of without a controller. The lack of a simple root command like “Go back” or “Go home” makes it seem like the voice integration was an afterthought for the PS4 UI.
The friends system now allows up to 2,000 contacts, up from 100 on the PS3, and Sony would like you to have as many friends as possible. You can even share your real name on the system, instead of just displaying your PSN handle, to make the activity updates more personal. “Justin Clouse played Killzone” makes a lot more sense than “Slycne played Knack“.
Seeing all the stuff your friends have done is neat, but it will only matter to some of you. Unfortunately, if you’re not a social gamer, and don’t populate your friends list, all of the social stuff and the share features of the UI will be useless to you. You can safely ignore sharing, though, and still be satisfied with a solid user experience, but there’s very little innovative or interesting about the PS4’s UI if you remove the social features. It works as a vehicle to play games, and it does that well.
Xbox One vs. PS4 User Interface Comparison
Both the Xbox One and the PS4 have well-designed interfaces, but only one tries something truly new. Sony offers a pleasant experience with an emphasis on displaying social cues to get you interested in games your friends are playing, and then letting you play those games. Even though the interface based on hard, square lines isn’t exactly pretty, Microsoft has made the Xbox One more rounded by allowing you to customize your interface through pins, enabling multi-tasking and more closely integrating voice commands. The PS4 interface is no-nonsense, while the Xbox One’s interface succeeds on that level and then reaches for new heights.
User Interface Winner: Xbox One
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.
Controller & Input Winner: PlayStation 4
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.
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.
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
PlayStation 4 Second Screen
Along with the rest of the world, Sony has embraced the fact that many of us play games while also using our handheld devices like phones or tablets, not to mention the nifty PS Vita. The PlayStation 4 seeks to take advantage of this trend by allowing you to link your Vita with the new console to play remotely, as well as offering a PlayStation App for use in much the same way for Android and iOS devices. The remote play works amazingly well, but the PlayStation App could use an upgrade.
Linking your Vita to the PS4 is not very difficult, but you have to be logged into the same PSN account on both devices and logged in to the same network (wireless or otherwise) for it to function. You can pop up the PS4 Link app on your Vita and either go to “Second Screen” or “Remote Play”. Remote play essentially streams the PS4 gameplay to the Vita, with a different controls scheme to accommodate the back touchpad and lack of shoulder buttons on the handheld. As long as you have a decent connection to the wireless router, you can play next-gen games on your Vita up to forty or fifty feet away from your PS4. There’s occasional lag at higher distances, but Need for Speed Rivals on the couch while your wife watches Scandal on cable is totally doable.
The second screen functions are very slim right now. You can operate the menus of the PS4, but the typing function (arguably the most useful when you are incessantly entering passwords when setting up your console and apps) doesn’t work at all. Some games advertise second screen use, such as Assassin’s Creed IV‘s treasure maps but it didn’t work after multiple attempts and configurations.
The PlayStation App installed fine on Android phones, but many have reported bugs such as endless login loops. If you do get it working, the App can display your PSN stats and trophies, as well as messages, notifications, and so on. If you get it working …
Xbox One Second Screen
The SmartGlass thing was announced at E3 2012, and it didn’t really seem like that big of a deal. Since then though tablets and smartphones have become an even larger part of our entertainment smorgasbord, with even Microsoft’s Surface entering the tablet market to a surprising lack of critics. The Xbox One SmartGlass apps for Android devices and Windows 8 have only been available for a few hours, but so far they show a deep integration with the new console.
Linking your device to the Xbox One is painless, as long as they both on the same network and your router allows devices to communicate with each other. You can use your tablet or phone as a controller, with swipes on various parts of the screen substituting for button presses and the keyboard function means you can use text chat without the need for a USB keyboard.
The app works well with all devices, and allows you to complete most of the functions of your controller necessary for simple viewing of videos or movies. It even allows you to snap in a much more effective manner than the controller or the voice commands.
SmartGlass can also act as an app within an app with companions to individual games that provide a secondary experience to the game itself. Right now, the Dead Rising 3 companion is a robust offering that displays a map of the area, shows hints or tutorial information, and truly serves as a companion to Nick Ramos’ adventures in Los Perdidos.
Microsoft has promised a lot concerning the SmartGlass, and our tests so far have been promising, but there are many features missing at press time. The deep integration with many games just hasn’t arrived yet. Ryse is supposed to have a companion application to view strategies or achievements but it currently displays an image with the words “Coming Soon” on it. Movies in the Xbox video store such as Star Trek: Into Darkness boast of SmartGlass features like behind-the-scenes info and a minigame, but they are absent from the app right now.
Xbox One vs. PS4 Second Screen Comparison
Despite several missing features, the Xbox One’s SmartGlass applications seem like a more well-designed interface than the PlayStation App. Smartglass wasn’t designed to offer the remote play the Vita is able to do very well, but the second screen functions on the Vita aren’t working at all and we’re a few days into the PS4’s launch. The edge has to go to Microsoft for a slick application that is able to impress even with features pending.
Second Screen Winner: Xbox One
PlayStation 4 Launch Library
The concept of the launch library is not quite deserving of the weight it has been assigned over the years. The industry, the media, and the gamers bang on about a system’s launch libraries, but we would rather know what’s in store for me six months from now. Nevertheless, having good games to play on a console you just bought is important, and it doesn’t seem like Sony has provided a large or varied library you couldn’t get anywhere else.
If we discount the ports and the multiplatform titles, of which there are many such as Assassin’s Creed 4, Call of Duty and Madden, there’s not a lot in the exclusive department to really get us excited. We basically have three titles really worth investigating – Knack, Killzone: Shadow Fall and Resogun, and opinion is pretty split about those titles. Knack is fetching some good reviews, but is seen by a fair few as mediocre, while Killzone is the “love/hate” affair it always is, and remains a series targeted at a select group of people. The standout game is, by far, Resogun, a superb title that is well worth buying. It’s free for PS Plus subscribers, too. That’s the PS4’s big benefit at this point.
When you buy it, you’ll get some free-to-play titles in Warframe and DC Universe Online, as well as a number of titles via your PlayStation Plus subscription. There’s also a few gamesOutside of the exclusive retail games, that’s pretty decent, but it won’t wow the crowds. There’s more on the horizon such as Child of Light, but the PS4’s launch never really recovered from the delays of Driveclub and Infamous: Second Son.
Xbox One Launch Library
The Xbox One has a stronger stable of retail games to catch eyes in stores rather than its downloadable library, but Microsoft is even able to offer a strong number of games available only online.
Between Dead Rising 3, Crimson Dragon, and Ryse: Son of Rome, Microsoft is offering not only an established franchise, but two original IPs. When you get the system home, you’ll also be able to nab Killer Instinct and LocoCycle to boot. These games are all receiving a range of scores, so it’s hard to see exactly how well these games will be received by customers, but there’s no denying the fact that Microsoft has finagled itself a stronger looking launch lineup that’ll be able to generate more consumer and press interest in the early goings.
Even though many are sure it’ll be boring, we’re intensely intrigued by Ryse: Son of Rome. Good or bad, that’s a must-have title for us, because it will show off many of the system’s strengths, as well as its faults. That’s really what the Xbox One library is right now – intriguing. In terms of pure audience interest potential, the Xbox One has it in spades.
Xbox One vs. PS4 Launch Library Comparison
Once you cut through the third party titles for both consoles, there’s only a few exclusives available right now for the PlayStation 4. Meanwhile, the Xbox One has a slew of titles that may not be stellar, but offer a greater variety for its audience.
Launch Library Winner: Xbox One
For many gamers and industry professionals, these near concurrent console releases are unprecedented. It’s been more than 7 years since the last non-Nintendo console launch, and Microsoft and Sony have never gone head-to-head in competition in such a spectacular manner. Where before gamers could afford to purchase consoles as they come out, this year it’s more necessary to be discerning in your choices. It’s tough for anyone to drop $1,000 on two new consoles – so many of you will decide to purchase either the Xbox One or the PlayStation 4 this season and our job is to give you the information needed to make that decision.
Which console should you buy? Well, the answer to that question is in you, my pretties. The Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 are focused on different things. Sony opted to deliver a gaming machine that allows you to easily share your experiences with your friends. Microsoft offers a total entertainment apparatus that fully integrates new features like SmartGlass and voice commands through Kinect. The PlayStation 4’s best exclusive titles might be coming in 2014, while the Xbox One’s launch library feels superior. Both have support from big third-party publishers like Ubisoft, EA and Activision so there’s a plethora of game genres available no matter which one you choose.
If it comes down to pure value, the PlayStation 4 is a clear winner at only $400, but you don’t get the full features of the PlayStation Camera or the remote play of the PS Vita at that price. The $500 Xbox One comes at a premium due to the bundled Kinect sensor, but it feels like you certainly get more bang for that extra 100 bucks.
In the review above, we broke down the aspects of each console so that you could decide based on what’s important to you. But if you pinned The Escapist staff down and asked each of us which gaming console we would purchase if we could only buy one – well, the winner would eventually become clear:
The PlayStation 4
Sony’s console combines a sleek visual aesthetic with the greatest controller ever paired with a PlayStation. The DualShock 4’s heft and feel is stellar, and it is a joy to play games with. There may not be a huge amount of games you only play on the PS4, but those you can play just feel wonderful. You can’t do a lot of multitasking with the interface, yet the ease of sharing video clips or streaming from directly within the PS4’s interface is surprisingly engaging, and the social features could make a maven out of even the most curmudgeonly of gamers.
The Xbox One is a fantastic piece of hardware, and many of us look forward to integrating its SmartGlass and voice snapping within our entertainment spheres, but The Escapist editors have discussed and deliberated and got drunk, then sober, and drunk again before finally deciding.
In the month of November, in the two thousandth and thirteenth year of this calendar, The Escapist chooses the Sony PlayStation 4.