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

an image representing Xbox One vs PS4
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The Xbox One vs PS4 is somewhat moot now that we have the Xbox Series X and PS5. But the long tail of the past console generation with cross-generation games rather common, now might be a good time to pick up which ever console you don't have. 

Or you could be feeling nostalgic an want to know which console comes out of top all these years after their initial release. 

So take a look at our PS4 vs Xbox One breakdown to see which last-gen machine is the current winner. 

Xbox One vs PS4: Still worth getting? 

Given that tracking down PS5 restock or Xbox Series X restock is stupidly tough, at the time of writing, one of the easier ways to get a 'new' console is to op for one from the previous generation. 

Both the Xbox One and PS4 are still worthy consoles offering gaming at 1080p, though the Xbox One X can hit up to 4K. Furthermore, with a mature library of games, you won't be short on things to play as you wait for the new Microsoft and Sony consoles to become easier to buy.

Xbox One vs PS4: Game library

Given both consoles are now last-generation machines, there's not a huge gulf between the game libraries of the PS5 and Xbox One. Both have access to some of the best games ever like Red Dead Redemption 2 and The Witcher 3, as well as a suite of indie games. 

There are some core differences. The Xbox One gets access to a wider range of backward compatible games dating back to the original Xbox, as well as access to Xbox Game Pass, which provides a huge suite of games, old and new, to play for a monthly fee. 

But the PS4 has access to a range of simply kilter exclusive games from The Last of Us 2 and Ghost of Tsushima to Uncharted 4 and God of War. These games are very good and arguably give the PS4 the edge.

God of War (2018) image

(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. 

Winner: PS4. Both systems have a lot 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

If you have a library of existing Xbox 3060 and original Xbox game, then the Xbox One is the console to get for backwards compatalbity. It'll play nice with a lot of older games, including classics like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Ninja Gaiden Black and Jade Empire.

Plus, with the 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. 

And as the extra cherry on top, Xbox One games that get optimized and upgraded for the Xbox Series X and Series S will be free to download on the newer hardware for people who already own them. 

star wars: knights of the old republic

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

You can play older games on PS4, but the need to be digital editions, as the console can't read older PS3 or PS2 discs. PlayStation Now lets you stream and download older PlayStation games on the PS4 for $9.99 a month or $59.99 for 12 months in the U.S., £49.99 for a year in the U.K. 

But overall, the PS4 lacks the depth and ease-of-use of backwards compatalbity on the Xbox One. 

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.

Additionally, Microsoft has promised widespread compatibility for Xbox One accessories with the Xbox Series X. Just about any accessory you buy for the Xbox One will also function with the Xbox Series X later this year, meaning that your headsets, racing wheels, fightsticks and other immersion-building gadgets will continue to function on the next generation of consoles.

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

On paper both the PS4 and Xbox One have similar specs. They use a custom 8-core x86-64 AMD Jaguar processor that's backed up by 8GB or RAM, with graphics taken care of by an AMD Radeon GPU. Both consoles use 500GB transitional spinning disc drive. 

Yet despite these specs, the PS4 is actually better at putting down its power than the Xbox One. That's because Microsoft's games console uses some of its resources to power the operating system, meaning it has less grunt to bring to bear on games. As such, in some games the Xbox One kicks out a resolution of 900p, whereas the PS4 hits the Full HD 1080p resolution. So the PS4 has the edge when it comes to delivering the crispest of last-generation graphics. 

But this is flipped when comparing the Xbox One X against the PS4 Pro. Microsoft's console tends to target a native 4K output, whereas Sony's powered-up PS4 used chequerboard rendering to take lower resolution images and upscale them to 4K rather than hit native 4K. For a comprehensive breakdown of how these consoles compare, check out our article pitting the Xbox One X vs. PS4 Pro face-off.

Winner: PS4. Games still look great on both consoles, but the base PS4 offers better resolution for many titles.

Xbox One vs PS4: Interface

While the Xbox One interface started out life as a bit of a sluggish mess it's not much improved. It runs well and is feature rich, with access to a myriad of tools and settings from as simple push of the Xbox button on the controller. 

Its tiled interface perhaps isn't as slick as other the UI on other game consoles, but it's information rich, flagging things like the latest Xbox Game Pass games. And thanks to Xbox Cloud Gaming, you can now stream games from the cloud to the Xbox One providing your internet connection is fast enough. There's also Amazon Alexa voice control should you wish to shout commands at your console. 

The PS4 menu takes a different path and arranges game and setting in a single line, with drop down option below. It's dead easy to use and there's are neat features like being able to tap the DualShock 4's Share button lets you record a clip, broadcast your gameplay or take a screenshot.

There are plenty of option in the menu, but they are kept out of the way. Arguably the PS4 doesn't serve up as much information as the box One, but it certainly keeps things neater and cleaner. Plus the soothing background music is pleasant to the ear. 

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: Draw. Both interfaces have their merits and minor drawbacks. providing you're willing to familiarize yourself with the UI, both are fit for purpose. But the PS5's interface is definitely the more attractive in our opinion. 

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 Game Pass vs. PlayStation Plus

Xbox Live Gold on the Xbox One will set you back $9.99 a month, but it grants you online multiplayer access as well as some free games to download each month and game discounts. But we suggest a subscription to Xbox Game Pass for the same monthly price. It provides access to more than 100 of the best Xbox One games and other games for older and newer consoles, as well as online multiplayer access. 

Opt to shell out for $14.99 and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate gives you access to Xbox and PC games, as well as cloud streaming and save syncing between all three platforms. Game Pass is basically a must have for Xbox fans and is one of the best bargains in gaming. 

Comparatively, PlayStation Plus members on the basic tier get two free games per PlayStation console for $10 a month, as well as game save cloud storage; Xbox One gets this for free. Discounts on on some of the best PS4 games can be had with PlayStation Plus memberships. 

Winner: Xbox Game Pass. Xbox Game Pass is such a bargain that it's hard for Sony to compete against it. And with new games set to launch day one on Game Pass, it's now an essential service for Xbox players.

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

It may seem odd to come to a conclusion on the best last-generation console, but as these machines are still getting games made for them, they are far from irrelevant. Ultimately, the PS4 is the overall winner, all down to its larger selection of exclusive games. 

However, you can't go wrong with an Xbox One S, especially when combined with the the frankly absurd bargain that Xbox Game Pass offers. 

In basic terms, if you don't have an PS4 and have an Xbox One, then it's still worth snapping up Sony's last-gen console, especially if you can find it at a bargain price, And the same applies in reverse. There is a overall winner here, but it's basically you, the console gamer. 

Michael Andronico

Mike Andronico is Senior Writer at CNNUnderscored. He was formerly Managing Editor at Tom's Guide, where he wrote extensively on gaming, as well as running the show on the news front. When not at work, you can usually catch him playing Street Fighter, devouring Twitch streams and trying to convince people that Hawkeye is the best Avenger.