Whether it’s Apple vs Microsoft, iOS vs Android or Facebook vs Twitter, the tech world loves a good head-to-head. In recent weeks we’ve seen one of the greatest heavyweight battles yet as both Microsoft and Sony launched their much-anticipated next-generation consoles. The reviews are in, but which machine has the edge? If you’re thinking about making a purchase in time for Christmas, or are just curious about who’s offering what, we’ve pulled together a rundown of opinion from some of the most influential sites on the Web.
Microsoft Xbox One
Unlike Sony, Microsoft has a phone and desktop ecosystem to consider as well as a gaming one, and these other platforms make themselves felt on the Xbox One. The Verge picks up on this, saying that it’s both a games device and “a sprawling, ambitious attempt to be the most important thing in your living room for the next decade.” The review also notes the importance of Kinect: you can use voice commands to launch games, run searches and record gameplay, though it’s often frustrating to use. It’s even clever enough, in theory, to recognise your face and log you on automatically.
The digital media handling of the Xbox One is praised, though the review suggests the PS4 has the superior controller and the faster loading times. The theme running through the piece is that the Xbox One has lots of unfulfilled potential in terms of its Kinect functionality, TV integration and support for Windows apps. The article concludes:
“The Xbox One is here for a decade. If Microsoft can deliver on all its promises in that time, it will have built a console truly worthy of Input One — but that’s a big if.”
This overarching idea — lots of potential, but not there yet — is continued by Keith Stuart in the Guardian. The review compliments the Xbox One’s improved interface, advanced multi-tasking capabilities and helpful Kinect integration while lamenting the rather lacklustre selection of launch day games. Ultimately, writes Stuart, “something about the PS4 feels fresher and more seductive”.
At games site IGN, the Xbox One picks up a respectable 7.8 out of 10 score, and again the main theme is the “split focus” as Microsoft looks to please gamers and more casual users with the breadth of its offerings. According to IGN’s Fran Mirabella, the software and hardware ” isn’t totally ready for what the Xbox One’s trying accomplish.” Gameplay and Kinect integration are much improved over the Xbox 360, says the review, and there’s praise for the integrated digital media apps and television functionality.
In the end though, MIrabella comes to the same conclusion as many other reviewers, that while the Xbox One’s attempts to own the living room are laudable, the functionality isn’t quite there yet (and for the moment the PS4 beats it as a gaming machine). His final verdict:
“If you’re purely interested in gaming, you may want to wait until the platform stabilises or drops in price. However, if you’re more like me and are tired of the dumbest screen in your house being your TV, the Xbox One will change your living room forever.”
Sony PlayStation 4
If the Xbox One is trying to broaden its appeal, then the Sony PlayStation 4 is built primarily for gamers. According to the Verge, the PS4 is an attempt to build “the game console of our dreams”. The DualShock 4 wireless controller is described as “the best gamepad Sony has ever built” and the on-screen interface is described as putting games and associated apps front and centre.
Sharing and broadcasting your exploits is also a big deal for Sony’s console — there’s even a Share button on the controller. You can capture a screenshot or video of the last 15 minutes of gaming action and even broadcast your screen live. It has its own basic Kinect clone in the form of the £55 Playstation Camera, and then there’s the £180 PlayStation Vita, the portable console that can act as a second screen and complementary controller for the PS4.
In the end, The Verge argues, the PS4’s problem may not be the Xbox One but the PS3: “The PS3 was a media powerhouse, and the PS4 goes way too far the other way.” As the wrap-up puts it:
“Right now it’s a fast, powerful console with a great controller and a mostly useful interface… For right now, though, there’s little incentive to spend $399 on a PlayStation 4. Not only are there few games worth the price of admission, the vast library of PS3 games is more compelling than anything the PS4 currently offers.”
Over in the Guardian, Keith Stuart is once again on reviewing duties. “Everything is geared towards making the technology accessible to programmers,” writes Stuart. The trackpad is more comfortable, the interface is better, and the social and sharing aspects are better than its rival, claims the review.
The PS4 earns itself an 8.2 score at IGN, putting it slightly ahead of the Xbox One. “The PS4 not only brings the PlayStation platform into a more modern era, but establishes a strong foundation for long-term evolution,” writes Scott Lowe. While the PS4 has similar specs to the Xbox One, Lowe points out that Sony’s console runs more quietly in a smaller form factor. There’s praise for the DualShock 4 controller and the “gorgeous, straightforward” operating system, while Lowe also has good things to say about the PS4’s social and sharing features. The review concludes:
“The PS4 is an exceptionally well-crafted console. It’s impressively small and attractive design sets a new bar for the industry, and its powerful hardware offers not only stunning visuals, but higher player counts, constantly connected experiences, and larger, more detailed worlds.”
It isn’t difficult to pick out the common themes from the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 reviews on the Web. Both machines have the potential to be great, but lack any outstanding titles at launch. The PS4 offers a purer, faster, more sophisticated option for gamers; the Xbox One has more strings to its bow in terms of digital media and app support. The advice seems to be wait and see, unless you’re desperate to get your hands on a next-generation console: the final verdict on these two heavyweights won’t be made for several years yet.
We’ll give the final word to Keith Stuart in the Guardian: “If you love games, PS4 is a smart choice, and if you want a progressive media hub, Xbox One is your thing.” You can pick up the Xbox One for around £430 online, with the PS4 retailing at £350 or thereabouts; don’t forget, though, that Microsoft’s console comes with a Kinect camera included, whereas the Sony equivalent is £55 extra.
PS4 image © Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc.