Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's PlayStation 4 are constantly evolving — both consoles have gotten slimmer designs, new features and, naturally, lots of big games since they first launched. The Xbox One has tons of entertainment apps and can play a bunch of Xbox 360 games, while the PS4 has continued to double-down on key exclusives and user-friendliness. There are even spruced-up versions of both systems that offer things like HDR video playback and 4K gaming.
More importantly, the Xbox One and PS4 both have tons of great games, and are both available for less than $300. But which console should you choose? We've put the Xbox One and PS4 up against each other in an eight-round brawl to determine which system is strongest.
Latest News and Updates (November 2017)
- Our Xbox One X review is here! Find out what we thought of Microsoft's premium 4K console.
- Curious how the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro stack up? Check out our face-off here.
- The Xbox One now plays a handful of original Xbox games -- here's the full lineup.
Both PS4 and Xbox One play many of this generation's best titles, from third-party blockbusters such as Fallout 4, Doom and Resident Evil 7, to beloved indies like Shovel Knight, Inside and Rocket League.
Still, PS4 is winning the exclusives war by a mile. Between big hits such as Uncharted 4, Horizon: Zero Dawn, and Persona 5, the PS4's exclusive offerings include a healthy mix of AAA blockbusters, niche Japanese titles and notable indies. PS4 players also get first dibs on downloadable content for several big games, such as Destiny 2 and the recent Call of Duty titles.
Sony's Horizon: Zero Dawn
That's not to say the Xbox One is devoid of great first party games — titles such as Gears of War 4, Halo 5, Forza Horizon 3 and Sunset Overdrive are all major standouts. Xbox One is the only console you'll get to play the wildly popular PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds on later this year, and is the exclusive console home to major indie games such as Tacoma and Cuphead.
Most sports games come to both systems, though Sony's MLB: The Show series is exclusive to PlayStation. PS4 has a healthier fighting game lineup (Street Fighter V, Guilty Gear Xrd: Revelator, King of Fighters XIV), though Microsoft's platform is the exclusive home to Killer Instinct.
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.
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 ReCore 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 4.
If you have a massive library of Xbox 360 games, however, the Xbox One might be a better buy for you. More than 300 Xbox 360 games are currently playable on Microsoft's new console, including Mass Effect, Fallout 3 and the entire Gears of War series, and the system even plays a handful of games from the original 2001 Xbox.
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 for about $15 a pop, each scaled up to 1080p with earnable trophies and support for features such as Share Play and Remote Play.
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 $10 a month or $100 a year. In contrast, Microsoft's Xbox Game Pass grants access to over 100 Xbox One and Xbox 360 games that you can download for $10 a month. Xbox One is also the exclusive home of EA Access, which lets you play an ever-growing library of EA games for $30 a year or $5 a month.
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.
The latest iterations of both consoles (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.
Photo: Sam Rutherford / Tom's Guide
Both consoles start with 500GB of storage that you can easily expand by connecting an external hard drive. PS4 owners also have the option of opening up their consoles to swap in a new 2.5-inch or SATA drive.
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 $399 PlayStation VR headset, PS4 is the only of the two consoles to currently support virtual reality (it's pretty good at it, too). There's currently no equivalent for Xbox One, though Microsoft's mixed reality headsets are expected to eventually work with the Xbox One family.
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.
Performance and Graphics
If you're concerned about nuts and bolts, both of these graphically muscular machines 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, the performance conversation is now much more complicated. The new $399 PS4 Pro offers a beefed-up GPU that allows for 4K gaming. Microsoft has answered with the $499 Xbox One X, a 4K-ready console that's even more powerful than the Pro.
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.
The Xbox One's ever-evolving interface is fairly intuitive, with large app icons, shortcuts for getting to your games quickly, and a guide menu that lets you see friends, track achievements and take screenshots with a quick button tap. Microsoft continues to roll out useful new features, such as the ability to gift games to friends or get customer support right from your console with Xbox Assist.
The PS4 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. Sony's system continues to have more-intuitive options for broadcasting gameplay and sharing with friends.
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 upgraded Xbox One S and PS4 Pro can both stream 4K content, but the Xbox One S and Xbox One X are the only consoles that play 4K Blu-rays.
Other than that, both PS4 and Xbox One cover most entertainment essentials. Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube and Amazon Instant Video are available on both systems, as are more-niche apps such as WWE Network, Crunchyroll and NBA Game Time.
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 and Pandora. Microsoft's own Groove Music app will stop offering streaming and paid music soon, but you can connect it with your Spotify account.
Both consoles make it easy to cut cable. PS4 offers Sony's own PlayStation Vue online TV service (starting at $40 a month), which features lots of major cable channels, such as MTV and Nickelodeon; a slick interface; and a nearly limitless DVR.
Xbox One owners have access to Sling TV, a similar online TV service that offers top networks such as ESPN and AMC for $20 a month, with add-on packages that bring in the likes of Epix and HBO. Even if you don't have cable or Sling, Xbox One has the ability to receive basic over-the-air live TV, as long as you have a separate antenna and adapter handy.
Winner: Xbox One. PS4 has PlayStation Vue, but the Xbox One offers a 4K Blu-ray option and more ways to enjoy TV, with or without a cable subscription.
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.
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, PS3 and PS Vita, 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 10GB 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.
Winner: Xbox Live. Xbox Live is more stable, has better cloud storage, and gives Xbox One players more to play every month.
The Xbox One S starts at $249, making it the cheapest option out there right before the $299 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. 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 want 4K gaming, Sony's PS4 Pro costs $399, while the Xbox One X runs a hefty $499. That's a pretty big price gap, though Microsoft is promising a richer 4K gaming experience with its new console.
Winner: Xbox One. The $249 Xbox One S is the cheapest console out there and doubles as a 4K Blu-ray player.
The PS4 is our overall top pick, but only by a hair. While the Xbox One's rich entertainment features, better network stability and backward compatibility are all impressive, the PS4' superior lineup of exclusives, sleeker design and overall user-friendliness give it a slight edge.
Xbox will continue to be the home of Halo, Gears of War and Forza, just as PlayStation will host Uncharted, God of War and Infamous, so your choice might come down to your favorite exclusives. Your decision also might be as simple as which platform your friends are already playing on, because, let's face it — nobody wants to play Destiny 2 alone.
Both Xbox One and PS4 have a healthy lineup of stellar games, making anyone who buys either of these consoles the real winner. But overall, the PS4 is our current favorite.
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