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In unveiling the next generation - the 8th generation - in video game systems, Sony and Microsoft are introducing two distinct consoles that will appeal to game players in different ways.
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One noticeable difference between Xbox One and PS4 is the price. PS4 costs $399 and a comparable Xbox One costs — with many of the same features, including 500 GB of storage, 8 GB of memory, voice command, state-of-the-art AMD processors, and cloud storage — now costs only $349. The 1 TB version of Xbox One costs $399 and Xbox One with the integrated Kinect camera and motion sensor is priced at $499. Indeed, the Xbox One costs $90 more to build compared with the PS4, and most of that additional cost is due to the Kinect system.
Both consoles look similar - each is a simple black box with vertical or horizontal standing capability.
New York Times tech columnist Molly Wood reviews both consoles in terms of design and usability and declares a winner in the following video:
The Xbox One interface appears similar to the newer Windows 8 computer operating system. You can navigate the interface using the controller, Kinect, or voice commands. Xbox One offers “snapping” of applications - that means you can open your app window on screen while you play.
A 'dynamic' menu system exists on the PS4, allowing you to select games, view your profile, see activity on social media, and more. A major new feature on the PS4 is the ability to share a recording of your gameplay online; this can be done easily by pressing a button on the controller. Xbox One offers a similar service, but only to Xbox Live gold subscribers.
One major difference between Xbox One and earlier consoles is that it won’t allow you to play older Xbox 360 or Xbox games directly. Microsoft has said that it’s possible to rig an Xbox 360 through an Xbox One using an HDMI cable to play older games.
Similarly, PS4 won’t offer backward compatibility, though Sony may offer a cloud-based emulation service for PS3 or older games.
Well-known blogger and hardware reviewer Anand Shimpi of AnandTech had this to say about the graphics capabilities of the PS4 vs. the Xbox One:
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In fact, the PlayStation 4 has appreciably more graphics horsepower under its hood than the Xbox One, there's no way around that fact.Both firms have licensed the same GPU (graphics processing unit) architecture, but Sony's chip has 1152 'cores' compared to Microsoft's 768.Microsoft runs its cores at a slightly higher speed, but the maths works out to Sony having about a 40% peak potential graphics performance advantage.
Microsoft attracted criticism for a now-revoked policy that would’ve restricted the sale and reuse of used games. Integral to that old policy, the Xbox One unit would require users to connect to the Internet once in every 24-hour period to synchronize games. If a user refused to do this, they would not be able to use stored games. Microsoft retracted those policies in June 2013, eliminating the connection requirement, among others.
Sony does not restrict trading of disc games between PS4 users. Neither system allows digital game sharing.
The PS4 DualShock controls feature a game DVR share button, a clickable touchpad, a built-in mono speaker and headphone jack, a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, and a stereo camera interface that senses players’ surroundings. The controller uses Bluetooth 2.1 to connect to the console.
While the Xbox One controller appears similar to older Xbox controllers, Microsoft touts 40 upgrades. Microsoft added “menu” and “view” buttons. Users can recharge the controller using a USB cable.
Xbox Elite Wireless Controller
In June 2015 Microsoft announced the release of their Xbox Elite Wireless Controller, priced at $149 and with availability starting in October 2015. The new controller adds swappable parts that allow gamers to personalize it to fit their needs, preferences and playing style. The new parts include 4 bumper pads (under the grips), hair-trigger locks for more precise control and faster firing in FPS games, and a textured rolling pad to replace the standard D-pad.
Removable and External Hard Drives
Only the PS4 offers a removable hard drive, which means that users can upgrade the factory 500 GB unit if necessary.
Xbox One also offers a 500 GB hard drive, but users cannot replace. Xbox One does include two USB ports intended to offer external storage in case console owners use up all 500 GB. There is also a 1TB version of the Xbox One that costs $50 extra ($399 total), which is a better choice for gamers seeking more storage space.
In March 2017, Sony announced the 4.50 'Sasuke' update to the PS4 and PS4 Pro consoles. This update lets PlayStation VR headset owners watch 3D Blu-ray movies and also supports external hard drives up to 8TB. The external hard drive connects to the PS4 via USB and you can install games on the external hard drive instead of the PS4's built-in hard drive. The Xbox does not support external hard drives.
Unlike Xbox One, Sony will sell the motion-sensing PlayStation 4 Eye separately for $59.99. Microsoft’s Kinect camera is included with the Xbox One. The Kinect allows users to control the Xbox One system using biometric scanning. The Kinect can recognize different users based on the sound of their voice.
PS4 will offer free access to some applications, including Amazon Prime, Netflix and Hulu Plus. Subscriptions to these services do not come free with the system, only access to the applications. Xbox One users must subscribe to an Xbox Live Gold subscription to access those apps, as well as Skype.
Only the PS4 will use Bluetooth technology for connecting console peripherals. Aside from the controllers, PlayStation Move and, PS4 headsets, the console can connect with Bluetooth keyboards and mouse.
Both PS4 and Xbox One will require subscriptions to their respective services to play games online. This is a first for PlayStation gamers, as a PlayStation Plus membership was free with prior versions of the console. The PS+ subscription will run gamers $5 per month.
Similarly, Xbox One requires a $60 per year Xbox Live Gold membership to access many features of the console, including online game play, free game demos and previews, and face-to-face chat using the Kinect. The subscription to the Xbox Live Gold service is often available at a discount on Amazon.com.
Xbox Live Gold
Before June 2014, Microsoft required an Xbox Live Gold subscription to use apps like Netflix and Hulu. Microsoft has since opened up the Xbox One platform so all owners can use these streaming apps, as well as other online services like OneDrive, Skype without needing a subscription.
Xbox Live Gold subscribers now get the benefit of the Games with Gold and Deals with Gold programs, which offer free games and discounts on games and content in the Xbox Store. Membership cost is around $60 per year.
In December 2014, a hacker group calling itself Lizard Squad took down Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network via DDoS attacks. While Microsoft was able to bring Xbox Live back up relatively quickly, Sony took more time before being able to get PlayStation Network back to normal operations. Sony's security record has been spotty given several hacking incidents that it has been a victim of.
Writing for Forbes, Paul Tassi said that the exclusives gap between the PS4 and Xbox One has widened:
Sony has grown a garden of must-play games on PS4, while you can only say the same for a few titles on Xbox One, and even in that case, it helps to be a huge fan of X series in the first place. ..the power dynamic has shifted, and Microsoft feels lost, like they’re clinging on to old series that have long stopped improving or innovating much, and they’re failing to plant seeds for the future. Sony isn’t perfect and has its own missteps (*cough* The Order), but trying to be as objective as I’m able, I just don’t think the exclusive line-ups of both systems are even comparable at this point. Sony is coming out on top time and time again, and as we prepare to have The Last of Us 2 square off against State of Decay 2 and God of War 4 against Crackdown 3, and so on, I just don’t think that’s going to change.
There are many popular games that are available on both systems, including Call of Duty: Ghosts, Madden 25, NBA Live, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Plain, and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.
But each console also has exclusive games that are only available on that console.
PS4 exclusives include Horizon Zero Dawn, Until Dawn, Uncharted 4, Bloodborne, The Last Guardian, Nioh, The Last of Us 2 and God of War 4. Older PS4 exclusives announced at the time of launch are Dark Sorcerer, Deep Down, Drive Club, Killzone Shadow Fall, Infamous Second Son, Knack, Secret Ponchos, Order 1866, PlayRoom, RIME, Shadow of the Beast, and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture.
Xbox One exclusives include Halo, Gears of War, ReCore, Forza, Sunset Overdrive, Dead Rising, and State of Decay. Older exclusives for the Xbox platform were games like Titanfall, Below, Crimson Dragon, D4, Dead Rising 3, Forza 5, Killer Instinct, Powerstar Golf, Quantum Break, and Ryse: Son of Rome. Microsoft commissioned but then cancelled exclusives like Phantom Dust, Scalebound and Fable Legends.
Early Problems with PS4
In mid-November 2013 when the first PS4 units started shipping, many customers reported that the units they received were dead on arrival.
In spite of these problems, Sony reported strong sales of the console. The company said they sold 1 million units on the first day and expect to sell 5 million PS4 consoles in the first 5 months of launch.
Early Problems with the Xbox One
The Xbox One also faced some problems when it was first launched, with some customers complaining about noisy or non-functional disc drives.
Xbox One vs PS4 sales figures
In March 2016, games company EA estimated that the Xbox One and the PS4 have sold a combined 60 million units worldwide. Considering that Sony had reported 36 million units a couple of months before that, it was estimated that a little over 20 million units of the Xbox One had been shipped as of March 2016.
As of January 2016, PlayStation 4 sales have reached 35.9 million units worldwide, with 5.7 million units sold in the December 2015 holiday season.
In late November 2015, the Wall Street Journal reported that Sony had sold over 30 million units of the PS4, making it the fastest-selling PlayStation product in history, considering the first two years since launch. The WSJ news story also reported analyst opinion that the PS4 is 'running far ahead of Xbox One' [in terms of sales figures].
As of March 1, 2015, Sony had sold 20.2 million units of the PS4. The latest available official sales figures for the Xbox One were announced in November 2014, when Microsoft announced they had sold nearly 10 million units. The holiday shopping season was strong for Microsoft so the current number is certainly much higher; however, the Xbox still trails the PS4 in worldwide sales.
Sony's PS4 outsold the Xbox One in the U.S. in every single month from January to June 2014. In June, Microsoft announced a $399 version of the Xbox One without the Kinect and said the move led to a doubling of its monthly sales but did not release any specific numbers.
As of April 17, 2014, Microsoft had sold over 5 million Xbox One consoles worldwide and Sony had reported sales of over 7 million PS4 units globally.
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The lower price of the PS4 helped sales and Sony's console outsold Microsoft's Xbox One in first few months of release. In January 2014, the PS4 outsold the Xbox One two to one in the United States.
But in February 2014, perhaps bolstered by the upcoming release of Titan fall in March, the gap narrowed significantly. Sales for the PlayStation 4 were still higher than Xbox but the margin was much smaller. Another theory for the surge in Xbox One sales in February 2014 is that Sony was unable to manufacture enough consoles to ensure that supply meets demand:
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Sony is still well ahead of Microsoft in global sales. The company has said that it sold more than 6 million PlayStation 4s worldwide as of March 2 . Microsoft shipped 3.9 million Xbox Ones through the end of 2013, the last time it released such a sales figure.
On March 21, 2014, Best Buy and Walmart started a promotion offering the Xbox One and Titanfall combo for $450, which is a $50 discount on the combined price.