With the release of the Xbox One X (starting at $499), Microsoft's most powerful console yet, the company has raised the bar on console performance. But it still has some stiff competition from Sony's $399 PlayStation 4 Pro. Both focus on 4K gaming and streaming.
But there are plenty of differences. Though the Xbox One X is more powerful technically, it's far more expensive than the PS4 Pro, and Sony has one heck of a backlog of exclusives that Microsoft is slowly trying to fight off. The PS4 Pro has a VR headset available now, and we don't know if or when we'll see one for Xbox One X. We put the two consoles through 10 rounds of combat to figure out which one you should get.
Microsoft Xbox One X
Sony PlayStation 4 Pro
2.3 GHz, 8 cores
2.1 GHz, 8 cores
AMD Polaris architecture, 6 teraflops
AMD Polaris architecture, 4.2 teraflops
4K, HDR Support
Gears of War, Halo, Forza
Uncharted, The Last of Us, Bloodborne
For a console that packs power, the Xbox One X is nice and compact, at 11.8 x 9.4 x 2.3 inches. However, it’s a weighty 8.4 pounds. Microsoft calls it the smallest Xbox ever, but it's only the slimmest — the existing Xbox One S is 11.6 x 9.1 x 2.5 inches, so it's smaller in other dimensions. The new Xbox comes only in matte black (as opposed to the Xbox One S, which comes in white and red), and it looks pretty bland. It's just two stacked, rectangular boxes. It's not ugly by any means, but it's not any sort of radical new approach to Xbox, either.
Illustration: Tom's Guide
The PlayStation 4 Pro is larger all around, at 15.6 x 11.6 x 2.6 inches, but lighter, at 7 pounds. It’s a stack of three pieces of black plastic (it looks like a PS4 and another half on top), which is modern and visually appealing but on the bulky side.
Winner: Xbox One X. It may not be much of a redesign, and it's quite heavy. But you can't argue with fitting a bunch of power into a compact space.
The Xbox One and Xbox One S had plenty of ports, and the One X continues that tradition. Besides its power port, it offers three USB 3.0 (one on the front, two on the back), HDMI-in and out ports, IR out, S/PDIF and an Ethernet jack. As with the Xbox One S, there isn't any direct input for Kinect. On the Xbox One S, it required an adapter, and that's the case here as well.
The PS4 Pro has a pair of USB 3.0 ports on the front and another on the back. The back of the console is also where you'll find the HDMI-out port, optical out port, Ethernet jack, auxiliary port and power port.
Winner: Xbox One X. While otherwise similar, the Xbox One X's HDMI-out and HDMI-in ports let you use it to pass your cable box's signal through your Xbox so you can watch TV on your game console.
Performance and Graphics
The Xbox One X is incredibly powerful on paper. It has a new custom eight-core CPU clocked at 2.3 GHz and an impressive new custom GPU clocked at 1.17 GHz. This GPU includes features from AMD's Polaris architecture and offers up to 6 teraflops of computing power. (That easily outclasses the Xbox One S, which has 1.4 teraflops.)
The Xbox One X also has 12GB of GDDR5 RAM. Microsoft says this is enough for rock-solid 4K (3840 x 2160) gameplay at 60 frames per second. The Xbox One X also supports High Dynamic Range, as well as AMD's FreeSync to prevent screen tearing.
The PS4 Pro has the same AMD processor as the original PS4, but it has been overclocked to 2.1 GHz. (The PS4 Slim is clocked at 1.6 GHz.) The eight-core GPU also includes features from AMD's Polaris architecture and offers a formidable 4.2 teraflops of computing power. It has less RAM (8GB) than the Xbox One X. Its Boost Mode has led to increased frame rates in some PS4 games, but user and press reports have stated that frame rates aren't always consistent. Some of this variability depends on the game. For example, PS4 exclusive Horizon Zero Dawn ran capped at 30 fps, while outputting at 4K on the PS4 Pro.
Winner: Xbox One X. Simply put, its CPU and GPU are more powerful than the PS4 Pro’s, and Microsoft is promising 4K gameplay at 60 fps.
Here's an easy one. The PlayStation 4 Pro can utilize the PlayStation VR headset. The $399 device is also compatible with the original PS4 and PS4 Slim, and it plays games such as Batman: Arkham VR and Resident Evil 7 in virtual reality.
Credit: Jeremy Lips / Tom's Guide
Although Microsoft's partners have released a series of headsets that work on Windows 10 PCs, it has made no announcements about VR on the Xbox One X. In an interview with Polygon, technical fellow Alex Kipman said the company is focusing on that effort and that console VR should be wireless. Whether the Windows 10 headsets like those from HP, Dell and Lenovo will ever be compatible with Xbox One X or when a headset specifically for the console will be announced are questions that may remain unanswered for a long time.
Winner: PlayStation 4 Pro. It's the only option if you want to use VR on a console right now.
Xbox may have a more powerful console now, but it still needs to deliver on exclusives. Both consoles have third-party titles from the likes of Electronic Arts and Ubisoft, but those companies’ in-house titles make their systems more desirable.
Sony has many celebrated titles, including The Last of Us: Remastered; Horizon Zero Dawn; Bloodborne; Uncharted 4; and Nioh. Some older games, like Infamous Second Son, were patched upon the PS4 Pro’s release to support 4K and, in some cases, HDR, while future releases, like Insomniac Games’ Spider-Man, will also support the newer PS4.
Bloodborne. Credit: FromSoftware
Sony’s PlayStation Now subscription allows you to play select PS3 titles for $20 per month. Or, you can shell out $15 per game to play a whole bunch of PS2 games that have been modernized with 1080p upscaling, Remote Play and Share Play.
Xbox has a few of its own first-party exclusives, like Halo 5: Guardians, Gears of War 4, Dead Rising 4 and Quantum Break, but its lineup is not as varied or as widely well-received as Sony’s and we don't have a lot to go on for the next few months. Some games, like Forza Motorsport 7 4K and 60 fps. A bunch of games — including Killer Instinct, Halo Wars 2, Minecraft, Resident Evil 7 and Rocket League — are in the process of getting updates for that kind of support.
Forza Motorsport 7. Credit: Microsoft
The Xbox has a big trick up its sleeve: backward compatibility. Xbox One got access to Xbox 360 games last year, and this year, Microsoft announced that Xbox One systems will be able to play games from the original Xbox as well (both discs and original licenses). Additionally, Xbox allows certain games, like ReCore and Halo Wars 2, to be shared on both PC and Xbox via the Xbox Play Anywhere program.
Winner: Tie. While Xbox gains ground with backward compatibility and shared play with PCs, the PS4 Pro still has more of the best exclusive titles you can get on current-generation consoles.
Interface and Special Features
Both the PS4 Pro and the Xbox One X have modern, snappy interfaces and menus that make it easy to navigate the consoles. We're fans of the PlayStation’s minimalist, linear options, but we can understand why people might go for the Xbox’s big, Windows 8-style tiles.
The Xbox One’s Snap function lets you use two separate programs at once, which is a nice addition, but the PlayStation 4 makes it easy to share your gameplay. The PS4 Pro also has Share Play, which lets you give control of your games to others for up to an hour, regardless of whether your friend owns the game.
The PS4 Pro’s DualShock 4 controller has a dedicated share button that lets you instantly capture screenshots and footage and share them to Facebook or Twitter or start a stream to Twitch or YouTube. Xbox players need to double-tap the Home button and select Options to record photo or video. (The process is easier if you have Kinect, which uses voice commands, but as we discussed above, Kinect needs a special adapter to work with the Xbox One X.) On Xbox, you can only send screenshots to Twitter or stream to Twitch.
Both consoles have Remote Play options that let you play your games on other devices. Sony lets you stream PS4 games to PC, Mac, PlayStation Vita and certain Xperia-branded devices, while Xbox One makes it effortless to stream to Windows 10 computers or tablets.
Winner: PlayStation 4 Pro. The PS4 Pro makes it easier to share your game footage, photos and streams across more platforms than the Xbox One X.
The Xbox One’s roots as an entertainment device were controversial when it launched but still give it a huge lead in this round. The Xbox One X's HDMI-in port lets gamers route their cable boxes through their Xbox to watch live TV on their console.
The Xbox One X also has a ton of entertainment apps, including a number from individual TV and web channels, such as CBS, AMC and Seeso. For music, you can stream from DLNA-enabled devices or put your tunes into the Groove Music app.
The PS4 has a lesser range of entertainment apps, but it does share a number with Xbox, including Netflix and Hulu. The ace up its sleeve is that it offers Spotify, which the Xbox One X doesn’t include.
For TV, the PS4 Pro offers the PlayStation Vue streaming television package, which starts at $40 per month.
Both systems can stream in 4K from apps such as Netflix, but only the Xbox One X has a 4K Blu-ray drive to get 4K off of a disc.
Winner: Xbox One X. Microsoft's system has a better variety of apps. It also has a 4K Blu-ray drive, which the PS4 Pro lacks.
No matter which of the two consoles you get, you’ll have to pay to play online. For Xbox One X, you'll use Xbox Live to do that, and it costs $59.99 annually or $9.99 per month. Sony’s PlayStation Plus is the same price. Both systems require those respective services for you to play online. Each offers two free game downloads per month and sales on a wide variety of older titles.
Xbox Live has proved to be more stable over the years, and PlayStation Plus still has some stains on its reputation from a highly publicized hacking back in 2011, as well as some high-profile outages.
You can access PlayStation Plus’ free games on your PS4, PS3 and Vita, but you’ll have to play them separately on each system. Xbox’s Games with Gold program goes only as far back as the Xbox 360, but you can play any of them on the Xbox One X thanks to the backward compatibility.
Sony offers gamers 10GB of cloud storage for game saves with PS Plus, while Microsoft gives unlimited cloud storage even if you don’t sign up for Xbox Live Gold.
Winner: Xbox One X. Xbox Live is more stable and offers more cloud storage.
How much more are you willing to pay for the Xbox One X’s power? Specifically, it’s a $100 question. The Xbox One X starts at $499 and includes a 1TB HDD. The PlayStation 4 Pro, though, is $399 and also has 1TB of internal storage. Both support external storage, so you can upgrade as you like.
So the big question in what you’re paying for are the differences. The Xbox One X is smaller, plays 4K Blu-ray discs, and promises to run games at 60 fps and 4K. The PlayStation 4 Pro also plays games in 4K (though frame rates have varied from game to game) and has a VR headset that you can grab right now.
If you prefer the best exclusives, the PS4 certainly has the better game library. And at the moment, we’ve yet to be able to test exactly what the Xbox One X will do with old games and upcoming releases.
Winner: PlayStation 4 Pro. The PS4 Pro is $100 less, has the same amount of storage as the Xbox One X and can play games in 4K.
Round by round, the Xbox One X comes out on top. You’ll get stronger performance for both old and new games, even in 4K; a wide back catalog thanks to backward compatibility with Xbox 360 and the original Xbox; 4K streaming; support for 4K Blu-ray discs; and the most stable online gaming network around.
What you’ll give up with that, though, are the best exclusives on the market, which still belong to the PlayStation 4 Pro. That console can also play games in 4K, though its games have had varying frame rates. It’s also the only system with a VR headset on the market. Oh, and it’s $100 cheaper, which is a serious price advantage.
Both systems will stream Netflix and Hulu in 4K, and will support games in both 4K and HDR. But the Xbox One X is the more powerful system and has backward compatibility, while the PS4 Pro is a better value and has more exciting exclusive content.