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Xbox One vs PS4: Which console is right for you?

Xbox One vs PS4
(Image credit: Sony / Microsoft)

Even with new consoles around the corner, the Xbox One vs PS4 battle is still going strong. Both consoles have access to thousands of fantastic games, extra features like VR support and streaming apps and robust online offerings for multiplayer fans. And with the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro, there are even options out there for folks who want to enjoy titles like Gears 5 and God of War in 4K. For more details, you can check out our full Xbox One X review, and our PS4 Pro review.

The Xbox Series X and PS5 are due out by the end of this year, promising features such as ray tracing, blazing load times and 8K output. But with hot titles such as The Last of Us II, Cyberpunk 2077 and Doom Eternal on the horizon, confirmed backwards compatibility for both consoles and some incredibly low prices on the PS4 and Xbox One, now's an amazing time to pick up a current-gen console.

Check out our full PS4 vs. Xbox One breakdown below to decide which console is best for you.

Xbox One vs PS4: Game library

Both PS4 and Xbox One play many of this generation's best titles, from third-party blockbusters such as Red Dead Redemption 2, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Resident Evil 2 and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order to beloved indies like Celeste, Stardew Valley and Dead Cells. Battle royale titles like Apex Legends, Fortnite and PUBG are available on both systems, and highly anticipated third-party releases such as Doom Eternal and Cyberpunk 2077 will come to both.

Still, PS4 is winning the exclusives war by a mile. Between big hits such as Uncharted 4, Marvel's Spider-Man, Horizon: Zero Dawn, and God of War, the PS4's exclusive offerings include some of the biggest and highest-rated AAA titles of this generation. PS4 owners also have The Last of Us II to look forward to later this year.

Despite a few middling releases like Days Gone and Detroit: Become Human, the vast majority of Sony's first-party PS4 output has been excellent. The system also excels at local multiplayer, as you can see on our list of the best split screen PS4 games.

Xbox One vs PS4: Spider-Man

(Image credit: Sony)

That's not to say the Xbox One is devoid of great first party games — titles such as Gears 5, Forza Horizon 4, Halo 5, Ori and the Blind Forest and Sunset Overdrive are all major standouts. 

There's also Halo: Infinite, which will come to both Xbox One and Xbox Series X in 2020. Microsoft also keeps scooping up top developers such as Double Fine and Ninja Theory, which should lead to some compelling exclusives in the coming years. 

Most sports games come to both systems. Sony's MLB: The Show series has long been exclusive to PlayStation, though the company recently announced that its popular baseball sim is going multiplatform

Winner: PS4. Both systems play tons of great games, but Sony's system has more hit games that you can only play on a console.

Xbox One vs PS4: Backwards compatibility and services

You don't necessarily need an Xbox One to play some of Microsoft's biggest first-party games. As part of Microsoft's Play Anywhere initiative, you can buy digital versions of games such as Sea of Thieves and Forza Motorsport 7 once and play them on Xbox One and on Windows 10. While this is a great value, those who have a decent gaming PC arguably have no reason to buy an Xbox One.    

Microsoft's Gears of War 5.

Microsoft's Gears of War 5. (Image credit: Microsoft)

If you have a massive library of old Xbox games, however, the Xbox One might be a better buy for you. More than 400 Xbox 360 games are currently playable on Microsoft's new console, including Mass Effect, Splinter Cell: Conviction and the entire Gears of War series. The system even plays a handful of games from the original 2001 Xbox, including such classics as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Ninja Gaiden Black and Jade Empire.

You can play older games on PS4, but not without paying up. A small selection of digital PS2 classics are available on Sony's new console, each scaled up to 1080p with earnable trophies and support for features such as Share Play and Remote Play. While the PS4 lacks direct backwards compatibility with older PlayStation games, Sony has already confirmed that the next-gen PlayStation will support PS4 games when it revealed the first PS5 specs.

The PS4 plays PS3 games via PlayStation Now, which allows you to stream hundreds of last-gen titles (and a few PS4 games) from the cloud for $9.99 a month or $45 for three months in the US, £84.99 for a year in the UK. As of Sept. 2018, you can also download PS2 and PS4 titles from the service directly. PlayStation Now recently gained top PS4 hits such as God of War, Grand Theft Auto V, Uncharted 4 and Infamous Second Son, likely in a bid to better compete with Microsoft's red-hot Game Pass.

In contrast, Microsoft's Xbox Game Pass grants access to over 100 Xbox One and Xbox 360 games that you can download for $10 (£7/AU$10) a month. Game Pass has truly become a game changer since it first launched, providing access to big titles such as Forza Horizon 4 and Gears 5 at launch while also delivering AAA and indie hits such as Dishonored 2, Devil May Cry 5 and Hollow Knight.

Xbox One is also the exclusive home of EA Access, which lets you play an ever-growing library of EA games for $29.99 (£19.99/AU$39.99) a year or $4.99 (£3.99/AU$6.99) a month a month.

Xbox One has a much better track record when it comes to supporting cross-platform play, allowing you to play games like Minecraft, Fortnite, Ark: Survival Evolved, Rocket League and Astroneer with friends on other platforms such as Switch and PC. After years of fan demand, Sony finally jumped on the cross-platform train in 2018, with cross-platform betas currently available for Fortnite and Rocket League. Monster-hunting game Dauntless supports PS4-Xbox crossplay, as does PUBG and Mortal Kombat 11. 

It's also worth considering what console you'll be buying next generation, as the Xbox Series X and PS5 are both confirmed to be backwards compatible with Xbox One and PS4 games, respectively. Xbox Series X may have an edge here with the console's Smart Delivery feature, which will allow you to buy an Xbox One game (such as Halo: Infinite or Cyberpunk 2077) and enjoy the enhanced Xbox Series X version at no extra cost. The Series X will also support every backwards compatible Xbox and Xbox 360 game that already works with Xbox One.

Compare and contrast with the PS4, which will use a different style of emulation to ensure backwards compatibility. Sony has explained that the PS5 is already backwards compatible with the vast majority of the 100 most popular PS4 games, but it's not guaranteed to work with every title. While you'll probably be able to play all the big hits, some of the cult classics may get lost in the shuffle. Further speculation is probably counterproductive until Sony gives us another update, however.

Winner: Xbox One. Xbox One plays hundreds of Xbox 360 games, offers cross-play with PC and lets you binge on three generations' worth of games for a good price.

Xbox One vs PS4: Hardware

The PS4 Slim and Xbox One S are both impressively sleek, offering attractive designs that look great under a TV and can fit into a backpack without a problem. The newest PS4 has a slight edge in terms of sheer smallness, though it lacks an optical input for high-end gaming headsets. 

Credit: Tom's Guide

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Sony's 4K-ready PS4 Pro has a chunkier, hamburger-like design, while the Xbox One X, which is even more powerful than the Pro, is somehow slimmer than the Xbox One S.

Both consoles start with 500GB of storage that you can easily expand by connecting one of the best external hard drives for PS4 and Xbox One. PS4 owners also have the option of opening up their consoles to swap in a new 2.5-inch or SATA drive.

The Xbox One S and Xbox One X. Credit: Tom's Guide

(Image credit: The Xbox One S and Xbox One X. Credit: Tom's Guide)

Each controller has its perks — the Xbox One pad has textured grips and can be customized via the Xbox Design Lab, while Sony's DualShock 4 is highly ergonomic and has a touchpad and reactive lightbar. The PS4 controller is the only one that supports micro USB charging right out of the box — Xbox One owners will need to rely on AA batteries or buy a $25 charging kit.

Thanks to the $299 PlayStation VR headset, PS4 is the only of the two consoles to currently support virtual reality. The PSVR's game lineup has grown quite compelling over the years, too, headlined by such major titles as Tetris Effect, Resident Evil 7, Astro Bot: Rescue Mission and Moss.

There's currently no equivalent for Xbox One, and it doesn't look like Microsoft plans to bring VR to Xbox anytime soon.

Microsoft's console is currently the only of the two to support mouse and keyboard controls for gaming, with select titles such as Fortnite and Warframe supporting PC peripherals such as the Razer Turret.

Winner: PS4. Sony's console is more attractive, packs a more feature-rich controller and currently is the only of the two to support virtual reality.

Xbox One vs PS4: Performance and graphics

If you're concerned about nuts and bolts, the starting versions of both consoles have an 8-core x86-64 AMD Jaguar processor with 8GB of RAM, an AMD Radeon GPU and a 500GB hard drive.

While games generally look and play great on both systems, PS4 has the edge in terms of resolution. For example, according to IGN's database, games such as Batman: Arkham Knight and Shadow of Mordor all run at full 1080p on PS4, while Xbox One gamers have to settle for 900p on those titles. If getting the best possible crispness for most games is a priority, PS4 comes out on top.

However, when it comes to the premium versions of both consoles, Xbox has an edge. The $499 Xbox One X plays many titles in native 4K, and has the most powerful overall specs of any console out there. The $399 PS4 Pro technically plays games in 4K, but the experience is oftentimes upscaled rather than true 4K. For a detailed look at how these consoles stack up, check out our Xbox One X vs. PS4 Pro face-off.

Folks with HDR-ready TVs should also consider High Dynamic Range support, which allows for richer colors and better brightness. The Xbox One X, Xbox One S, PS4 Pro and standard PS4 all support HDR, though the list of HDR-enabled games varies by console.

Winner: PS4. Games look stunning on both systems, but the stock PS4 offers better resolution for many titles.

Xbox One vs PS4: User-friendliness

After years of updates, the Xbox One interface has gone from sluggish and messy to snappy and highly customizable. Microsoft continues to roll out useful new features, such as the ability to gift games to friends, get instant tech support with Xbox Assist and even avoid those pesky notifications with Do Not Disturb mode. And thanks to the new Xbox Skill, you can even control your Xbox One with your voice using Alexa devices such as the Amazon Echo Dot.

Still, the PS4 menu simply feels better to navigate, and Sony's console is still king in terms of capturing gameplay moments and sharing them with friends. A quick tap of the DualShock 4's Share button lets you record a clip, broadcast your gameplay or take a screenshot. And the PS4-exclusive Share Play feature lets you give control of your game to an online friend for up to 60 minutes, so long as that person has Plus.

Both consoles can broadcast gameplay directly to Twitch, though only PS4 can stream to YouTube. PS4 players can share their screenshots and videos to Facebook and Twitter, whereas Xbox owners are limited to the latter network. Xbox One gamers have the option of streaming to Microsoft's Mixer service.

Both systems also permit off-TV play, for those times the family is hogging the living room. Sony's Remote Play feature lets you stream PS4 games to a PlayStation Vita handheld, select Xperia devices, or your PC and Mac. Xbox One players, on the other hand, can stream their games to their Windows 10 laptops or tablets.

Winner: PS4. The PS4 interface is slightly more user-friendly, and has better options for sharing gameplay with friends.

Xbox One vs PS4: Entertainment

For sheer options, Xbox One is the superior entertainment machine. The system has the unique ability to transmit your cable box's TV signal, allowing you to quickly switch between playing a game and watching a show. The Xbox One S, Xbox One X and PS4 Pro can all stream 4K content, but only Microsoft's consoles can play 4K Blu-rays. However, the new Xbox One S All-Digital Edition has no disc drive at all, and is limited to 4K streaming.

Unlike PS4, Xbox One supports Dolby Atmos, allowing folks with compatible home theater products to enjoy immersive spatial sound, and will soon support Dolby Vision for improved HDR quality.

The Xbox One is also the only console that features Kodi, a highly popular media server app that lets you access any movies, TV shows, images or songs you have stored on any of your devices around the house.

Other than that, both PS4 and Xbox One cover most entertainment essentials, from major apps like Netflix and Hulu to more niche stuff like WWE Network and Crunchyroll. PS4 and Xbox One both offer Spotify, which lets you rock out to tunes in the background of whatever you're playing. Xbox One features a few other notable music services such as SoundCloud, Pandora and Deezer.

Winner: Xbox One. The Xbox One offers a 4K Blu-ray option, better media apps and Dolby Atmos support.

Xbox Live Gold vs. PlayStation Plus

Microsoft's Xbox Live Gold ($60 yearly, $10 monthly) and Sony's PlayStation Plus ($60 yearly, $10 monthly) online services are both required for you to play any game's online multiplayer mode, and both come with their fair share of extra goodies. Xbox owners also have the option of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate ($15 per month), which bundles together Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass for a modest discount.

PlayStation Plus members get two free games per PlayStation console per month, while Microsoft's Games with Gold provides the same service for Xbox gamers. Both programs have given away everything from new indie games to older blockbusters from franchises like Assassin's Creed and Metal Gear Solid.

The value of each of these free-game programs largely depends on the hardware you own; PlayStation Plus covers PS4 (the program stopped supporting PS3 and Vita in March 2019) while Games with Gold applies to Xbox One and Xbox 360. Xbox One has a slight edge here, as all Xbox 360 Games with Gold games are backward-compatible. The free games offered by either service will remain in your library for as long as you're subscribed to Xbox Live Gold or PlayStation Plus.

Both services offer frequent discounts on digital games, and both provide cloud storage in different capacities. PlayStation Plus provides 100GB of cloud storage, whereas all your Xbox One saves are backed up to the cloud regardless of whether you have Xbox Live Gold.

Even more important than free games and cloud storage is online stability, an area in which Xbox Live's reputation is better. The PlayStation Network has suffered some pretty infamous outages, including a few recent ones that occurred after Sony hiked the annual price up to $60 (£49.99/AU$70). 

Xbox Live has long allowed users to change their gamertags -- free for the first change, and $10 (£10/AU$15) for any change after that. Sony has finally followed suit as of April 2019, with same basic rules and pricing for its PSN name changes (though there are some caveats around potentially losing some online data).

Winner: Xbox Live. Xbox Live is more stable, has better cloud storage, and gives Xbox One players more to play every month.

Xbox One vs PS4: Value

The Xbox One S starts at $299 (£300/AU$399), putting it on par with the $299 (£300/AU$399) PS4 Slim. However, it's worth noting that both consoles go on sale all the time, and you can often find them both for as low as $200 (£200/AU$320). The One S doubles as a 4K Blu-ray player, so you're arguably getting the most tech for your money with that machine.

If you're on an extra-tight budget, you can opt for the Xbox One S All-Digital Edition ($249), which has no disc drive and includes Forza Horizon 3, Minecraft and Sea of Thieves. However, the standard Xbox One S drops to that price frequently, so you're probably better off waiting for a sale and getting the 4K Blu-ray drive for cheap -- especially if you don't want to rely entirely on digital downloads.

Microsoft has recently brought back the Xbox All Access program. This lets you lease an Xbox One S, Xbox One X or Xbox One S All-Digital Edition starting at $19.99 a month for 24 month. According to Microsoft, this program saves you more than $100 compared to purchasing the console and bundled games separately. All Access members can upgrade to the upcoming Xbox Series X console starting late 2020, though there's no word yet on how much the upgrade will cost.

If you want 4K gaming, Sony's PS4 Pro costs $399 (£399/AU$600), while the Xbox One X runs a hefty $499 (£499/AU$649). That's a pretty big price gap, though Microsoft's console offers a richer 4K gaming experience. (You can follow our PS4 deals and Xbox One deals coverage for the latest sales).

Winner: Xbox One. The $249 (£300/AU$399) Xbox One S is the cheapest console out there and doubles as a 4K Blu-ray player.

Xbox One vs PS4: Bottom line

The Sony PS4 is our overall favorite game console, but only by a hair. The PS4 edges out the Xbox One thanks to its stellar exclusives, with titles like God of War, Uncharted 4 and Spider-Man being some of the best you can find on any platform. Its comfortable, versatile controller, intuitive interface and handy social and sharing features certainly help too.

That said, the Xbox One is still well worth the money if series such as Halo, Gears of War and Forza are more your thing. Microsoft's console still gets most key multiplatform games, and Xbox Game Pass is the single best value in gaming. Microsoft also wins on the hardware front in some key ways, with a value priced Xbox One S that can play 4K Blu-rays and an Xbox One X that offers the best performance of a current-gen console.

It's also worth keeping in mind which console you plan on jumping to next generation. The PS5 and Xbox Series X will both be backwards compatible, so if you buy a PS4 or Xbox One now, you'll be building your game library for the future.

  • seoguy
    Archived comments are found here: http://www.tomsguide.com/forum/id-2418090/ps4-xbox-2014-console.html
    Reply
  • Phatso Brown
    Brilliant write up, and I agree that the XBox One is slightly ahead, even as it struggles to match PS4 sales. Great time to own both systems. One in the bedroom, one in the living room. Good to be a gamer.
    Reply
  • Nednarb_1
    It's all matter of personal preference when it comes to choosing the right console for yourself or a loved one. The Xbox One seems to be more worth it because of it's entertainment features alone and it's backwards compatibility. Where the Xbox One may be a flop in the visual department it's damn good pick for casual Gamers like myself I don't need fancy hardware to have a good time.
    Reply
  • Jwdkillz
    If you had your PSN for a long time before the PS4 came out, you can play online without the purchasing of Playstation Plus.
    Reply
  • Megabeing
    It may be worth noting that none of the Xbox One cable tv features are available in the UK, but we do get access to BBC iplayer, although that is also on the PS$ along with ITV, All4 and 5Hub
    Reply
  • Megabeing
    Sorry - PS$ should be PS4 - fat fingers on the shift key of a UK keyboard!
    Reply
  • ryan_154
    but out of your comments which is better ps4 or xbox1
    Reply
  • Megabeing
    I own both and I prefer the dualshock controller and the PS4 interface, but that is purely personal taste. I own several of the exclusive games and all have their merits, so the real deciding factor is which platform your friends play on - mine are on the PS4.
    Reply
  • Mahmoud_21
    by my experience

    PS4: hardware design dualshock controller online and connecting to PS vita and Xperia more technological with touch board in the controller

    Xbox one : kinect

    PS4 FTW !!
    Reply
  • Julian_16
    Since nobody wants to give a clear cut answer, I will. I had the PS4 when it originally released. After having the 360 (and loving it) I decided to go back to my original gamer console..the PlayStation. I first was disappointed with the PlayStation and decided to trade it for the one, I thought it still had the arcade on it and come to find out it didn't, that initially pissed me off but I just figured to keep it and wait on some games. It literally has been almost three years and Xbox has yet to deliver anything that moves me. They have only two exclusive titles (I'm not interested in halo or gears of war..and sunset overdrive is a joke so that doesn't count) and Microsoft doesn't give its consumers what they want, they promised us fight night on backwards compat...we NEVER got it, by the time it comes on there I probably won't even have an Xbox one anymore. If all you care about is graphics and gaming, LISTEN TO ME!! Get the PS4 and don't think twice. All that other shit that Xbox does on the interface and online gadget like attractions is all smoking mirrors. To me in my eyes, the Xbox one is a failure.
    Reply