Xbox One vs PlayStation 4 speed showdown: Which is the fastest console?

If you’re buying a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One for an exclusive launch title, such as Killzone: Shadow Fall or Forza 5, then you’ve probably already decided which console you’re going to purchase.

But what if none of the launch-day exclusives appeal to you, though? What if you’re more interested in Assassin’s Creed 4, Battlefield 4, Madden 25, NBA 2K14, or one of the other big-name games that are available for both the PS4 and Xbox One? How do you decide which console to get? You could decide based on graphics quality, or which gamepad you prefer – or our favourite option, you could choose the console that’s faster.

To test the comparative speed of the two consoles, we put the Xbox One and PS4 through a few speed tests – not frame rate benchmarks, but tests that actually discern which of the next-gen consoles actually feels faster in everyday use.

To discern which console feels faster, we did some side-by-side comparisons of the following actions:

  • How long it takes the console to go from powered off to the dashboard (cold boot, not hibernate/standby)
  • How long it takes the console to come out of standby/hibernate
  • How long it takes games to install, and how long it takes for a game to be playable (some games can be played while they install)
  • How long it takes to load a game from the dashboard – and then how long it takes to go from the game’s main menu to a playable game
  • How long it takes to go from a playable game, to the console dashboard, and then back to the game

In the video below, you can see all of these side-by-side tests, with the exception of game installation, which takes a long, long time. The results of the tests are then listed in text form afterwards.

PS4 versus Xbox One speed test results

Cold boot to main dashboard

PS4: 20 seconds – Xbox One: 1 minute and 5 seconds

Standby/hibernate to dashboard

PS4: 3 seconds – Xbox One: 12 seconds

Installing NBA 2K14 from disc

PS4: 36 minutes – Xbox One: 46 minutes (see note below)

Time for NBA 2K14 to be playable after inserting disc

PS4: Instant – Xbox One: 6 minutes

Time to load NBA 2K14 main menu from the dashboard

PS4: 38.7 seconds – Xbox One: 29.6 seconds

Time to load a playable Quick Match in NBA 2K14 from main menu

PS4: 37.6 seconds – Xbox One: 31.4 seconds

Time to switch between playable game, to the dashboard, and back to the game

Negligible difference between the PS4 and Xbox One. Both are almost instantaneous.

We repeated most of these tests multiple times, and the results were generally in the same ballpark. The one result we’re not sure about is the time required to fully install a game. For NBA 2K14, both consoles had to download an update from the Internet. We believe that the Xbox One was only “100 per cent” installed after it had installed the Blu-ray content and the online patch. The PS4, however, reported 100 per cent installation before the update had finished downloading. We suspect that if we removed the downloaded update from the equation, both consoles would have reported a similar installation time.

PS4 versus Xbox One: Which console is faster?

So, you’ve watched the video and seen the figures. Unfortunately, there’s no clear cut answer as to which console is faster. It is clear that the PS4 boots up considerably faster than the Xbox One, both from standby and from complete power-down. Beyond that, there isn’t a huge difference either way.

The PS4 appears to install games more quickly than the Xbox One (a finding borne out by figures which have been bandied about by other publications), and the Xbox appears to load games more quickly, but it’s hard to give a definitive answer without further comparative testing.

It’s clichéd, but the consoles are so close overall that your best bet is probably to buy whichever console has the games or features that you most want. If you turn your console off a lot (for some reason), the PS4 will save you a lot of time in the long run. If it turns out that the Xbox One is about 20 per cent faster at loading games across the board, then that’s obviously a huge time saving over a few years of use. But in general, go for the console with the most desirable games and features.

For more on the next-gen consoles, check out our opinion piece detailing the reasons why Microsoft's Xbox One is better than the PlayStation 4. And for another perspective, see: Why is the PlayStation 4 more compact and lighter, and yet still has more power than the Xbox One?