Alpha vs. the Competition
So should you get a traditional gaming console or go Alpha? The Alpha's smaller dimensions frees up space in your entertainment set, and with the customizable lighting, it's a nice little showpiece. And during those intense gaming sessions, the Alpha is quiet as a mouse compared with its larger contemporaries.
Those small dimensions come at a price, though. The lack of an optical drive means that gamers used to handling physical disks are out of luck, as are movie buffs looking to cue up a Blu-ray movie. However, game publishers and retailers are slowly but surely moving toward a more digital format. And with streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Plex, you can stream most of your favorite movies and TV shows.
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In terms of games, the Alpha has a clear advantage, with Steam boasting more than 3,500 games. While Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are working to build their libraries, it will be quite a while before either can hope to match Steam's massive catalog. Best of all, the Alpha can play games in 4K, a feature neither console can do.
However, depending on your configuration, the Alpha can experience rendering difficulties on more graphically taxing games. It's a problem you're less likely to encounter on a regular console, since developers are developing for a specific set of specifications on the PS4 and the One.
Socially, each console has an established community. However, Steam has the advantage of robust forums, where players can assist each other troubleshooting games or hardware. Plus, Steam doesn't lock social features like multiplayer behind a paywall like Xbox Live and PlayStation Network.
However, both the Xbox One and PS4 allow players to jump into their favorite games while they're still downloading as well as live-streaming to Twitch or YouTube. The consoles also have proprietary apps that deliver a second-screen experience.
On the PlayStation 4 side, SharePlay will allow gamers to jump into each other's games to assist when someone hits a rough patch in the game. PS4 also has Remote Play, which lets you stream your game to a waiting PlayStation Vita or Sony Xperia device.
Xbox One owners with Kinect can take advantage of the peripheral’s voice commands as well as track their moves in Xbox Fitness. It comes in handy when you're trying to achieve maximum burn in your Insanity session. I'm particularly a fan of the Snap feature, which allows me to play a game in one window while chatting with a friend or watching the Giants lose in a second window.