Typically, E3 is all about new game announcements. Though we still had a few of those this year, 2013 was more about hardware: the Xbox One and PS4. Both push the technical boundaries of gaming consoles, offer their own mixes of strengths and weaknesses, and release at around the same time. So how do you choose? Allow Gizmag to lend a hand, as we compare the specs (and other features) of the Microsoft Xbox One and Sony PlayStation 4.
Both consoles sport 500 GB internal hard drives. In terms of future-proofing, though, the PS4 might be the better choice. Like the PS3, it will let you upgrade the hard drive. The Xbox won't.
There is one option for expanding your Xbox One storage though. It lets you attach an external hard drive via USB. You can do everything with that drive that you can with the internal one.
We don't yet know whether the PS4 lets you use USB drives for storage, but we do know that it has two USB 3.0 ports.
Both systems have 8 GB of RAM. The PS4's GDDR5 memory, however, is faster than the Xbox's DDR3 RAM. Will this be something that you actually notice in day-to-day use? It's still too early to say.
AMD cashed in on this generation of gaming consoles, as it provides the octa-core processors for both the Xbox One and PS4.
Both consoles also feature AMD Radeon GPUs, which are integrated into their respective Accelerated Processing Units (APUs).
This is obviously a simple visual that doesn't begin to tell the full story, but that's only because we don't yet know the full story. Developers will need time to tinker around with both consoles, and we might not even have a definitive "graphics winner" a year after both consoles have been on the market.
One thing worth keeping an eye on is how easy or hard it is to develop for each console. Last generation, the PS3 was, on a specs level, graphically superior to the Xbox 360. But the Xbox 360 was easier to develop for and port to. Thus side-by-side comparisons of cross-platform games often favored the Xbox.
You'll want to take this with many grains of salt, but there have been early whispers that the PS4 is a joy to develop for. It might not sound like much now, but software can make or break hardware. This could be an encouraging sign for the PS4.
Having said that, we spent some time with both unreleased consoles during E3. The early games we saw on both systems look terrific, with graphics that are roughly in line with recent PC games.
Unless you're cramped for space under your TV, this probably won't be a deal-breaker one way or the other. But, for what it's worth, the Xbox One is the bigger console. In terms of surface area, it's 21 percent larger than the new PlayStation. And that isn't counting the new Kinect, which ships with every new Xbox One.
Note that the Xbox One's listed dimensions aren't official, but are based on some clever calculations (based on the USB port) by PSMania.
Last time around, the PS3 had a big leg up on the Xbox 360, in that it played Blu-ray discs. No worries with either next-gen console, as (unsurprisingly) both will play your Blu-rays and DVDs.
Neither Sony or Microsoft had the gall to go digital download only (probably a wise decision). Both systems will play physical discs as well as downloaded games.
Sorry, Xbox 360 and PS3 owners. None of your old games will play on your next-gen console.
Sony might offer cloud-streamed PS3 games at some point down the road. But, even if that does happen, be prepared to pay for your old games all over again.
Microsoft had originally stated that the Xbox One would give publishers the option of blocking used games. But after an extremely vocal customer backlash, Microsoft changed course and abandoned its DRM mania. So the Xbox One's used game policy is now in line with the Xbox 360's policy. In other words, not much to worry about.
The PS4's used game policy is the same as the PS3's. PS4 game publishers have the option of using Online Passes, which can restrict online or multiplayer portions of a game to the original owner. But, like the Xbox One, the PS4 will not block used game discs altogether.
It's refreshing to see a company listen to its customers. Will this turn out to be a profitable decision by Microsoft?
The Xbox was originally going to require you to go online once every 24 hours, or make your games unplayable until you went back online. But, like the used game policy switcheroo, Microsoft also abandoned those always-online requirements for the Xbox One. It will only require that you go online for an initial system setup when you first buy the console.
The PS4 doesn't require an internet connection either.
Look familiar? Both next-gen controllers borrow heavily from their respective predecessors. We handled both of them at E3, and they only feel slightly different in hand. Both feel a bit lighter (particularly the PS4's DualShock 4) and more comfortably contoured for hands.
The biggest addition is the DualShock 4's touchpad. Similar to the one on the back of the Vita, it supports multitouch, and will give developers a new toy to play with.
The new DualShock also loses the Start and Select buttons. They get replaced by a new Options button. The Xbox One's controller also loses Back and Start. Its replacements are Menu and View, which might end up serving similar functions.
Sony didn't emphasize the PS4's motion controls during E3. We do know that the PS4's Move and Camera (formerly PlayStation Eye) will be sold separately. The PS4's DualShock 4 also includes some baked-in motion control. Our initial impression, though, is that none of it is in the same league as the Kinect 2.
As we already mentioned, Kinect will ship with every Xbox One. In a private demonstration with Microsoft at E3, we caught a glimpse of the new Kinect's capabilities. The level of precision here is like nothing any other current gaming console can give you. Imagine pointing your finger at something on the screen, and having the sensor know exactly what you were indicating. This could open all sorts of doors for developers (hopefully not just of the gimmicky kind).
Alongside the Kinect 2's motion control, it also lets users control certain things via voice. This includes elements of games, system functions, and live TV.
Sony hasn't mentioned any similar functionality in the PS4, though the PlayStation Camera does have a built-in microphone.
Speaking of live TV, this is a big area that Microsoft focused on with the Xbox One. Steve Ballmer and company don't want this to be an extension of the traditional gaming console. This is Microsoft's attempt to own the 21st century living room.
From the in-person demo we saw at E3, it looks promising. We're talking voice control, gesture control, seamless multitasking, notifications ... in many ways, the Xbox One is what some of us expected from the long-rumored and unannounced Apple TV set. We believe the Xbox One has a chance to be a real game-changer in this respect.
Both consoles will, of course, also let you watch streaming services like Netflix and Hulu Plus.
Microsoft was a little more specific with the Xbox One's November release date, but both consoles should ship at around the same time. We're guessing October or November for the PS4.
The PS4 costs US$100 less than the Xbox One. But remember that the Xbox One ships with Kinect. The PS4's motion accessories (PS Move and PlayStation Camera) not only aren't on par with Kinect 2, but they're also sold separately. So, depending on your priorities, pricing may or may not be an advantage for the PS4.
Our initial view was that the PS4 might be the better choice if you only wanted a classic gaming console, due to its lack of DRM. But, now that the Xbox's always-online and used game concerns are null and void, the PS4's niche isn't quite as clear. Perhaps it will now be known as the cheaper console, provided you aren't worried about motion control.
Of course this comparison is far from complete. There are still many unknowns, and we've yet to see side-by-side comparisons of cross-platform games. And, like we already mentioned, developers will need time to do their thing.
The picture of these two next-gen systems is gradually forming, but that image will continue to evolve. Stay tuned for more as this is far from the last word on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
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