Xbox One vs PlayStation 4: Feature list showdown

Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4 have both arrived in the UK now, following the PS4’s launch last Friday (the Xbox was out the week before). The battle for console supremacy has officially begun – one shall stand, one shall fall.

Well, actually, if history is any indication, both will be great successes, with equally loyal fan bases, and (eventually) comprehensive game libraries. But they are two high-tech machines fighting each other, so we'll stick with the Transformers reference.

We’ve tested and rated both systems – see our full Xbox One and PlayStation 4 reviews – and each has its own strengths and weaknesses, so we thought it would make for an interesting post-launch exercise to take a look at how each console fares feature by feature.

In terms of physical design and feel, the PlayStation 4 wins with a slimmer, more stylish console design and one of the best gamepads we've seen yet. For media features, the Xbox One jumps ahead. For actual gaming, which is the main reason to get any console, the systems are pretty much neck-and-neck. Each pulls ahead in different categories, and you'll have to read our breakdown to find out which game console is best for you.

Whichever one you choose, remember that each system has only just launched, and you can expect to see more games and features unveiled in the coming months.

So, without further ado, let the battle begin!

Design

This is rather a matter of taste, of course, and I find the Xbox One’s big and clunky design charming, but the PlayStation 4 is the slicker looking system. It’s slimmer, sleeker, and shaped like a parallelogram, which gives it a little more style than the boxy Xbox.

Also, unlike the Xbox One, the PS4 can be used in a vertical orientation with an optional stand. Furthermore, the coloured indicator stripe is more attractive than the plain black finish and white Xbox logo of Microsoft's console.

Winner: PlayStation 4

Controller

The PlayStation 4 wins hands-down. The DualShock 4 controller is the most comfortable gamepad I've used yet, and even though it has some useless features like the touchpad that does nothing right now, and the light bar that might annoy you if your screen is reflective, it just feels really good in your hand.

The Xbox One controller isn't bad, by any means, and the force feedback triggers feel quite good, but the bumper buttons are a little awkwardly placed, and it just isn't quite as satisfying to hold as the DualShock 4.

Winner: PlayStation 4

Price

It's a pure numbers game here, and the PlayStation 4 wins at £349, compared with the Xbox One's £429 – though you do get the Kinect camera bundled with the Xbox, whereas the PlayStation Camera is an additional £55 purchase. The PlayStation Camera offers fewer features and functionality compared to the Kinect, though, so you really don't need to get it. You do need a PlayStation Plus subscription at £40 per year to play games online, but you can use online media services without it, while the Xbox One requires a £40 subscription to Xbox Live Gold to use most of its interesting features.

Winner: PlayStation 4

Launch title line-up

This isn't a very fair comparison, because launch line-ups don't really mean much in the long run. Most launch titles, if they aren't system sellers, are forgotten, and disappointing launch line-ups are lost to history when libraries fill out. Both systems have a good selection of cross-platform ports and versions of games from the previous generation like Battlefield 4, Call of Duty: Ghosts, and Assassin's Creed 4, so you won't be lacking for games. However, the Xbox One has much more compelling launch exclusives, with Killer Instinct, Crimson Dragon, Forza Motorsport 5, and Dead Rising 3 all making solid cases in favour of Microsoft’s console. The PlayStation 4 has Knack and Killzone: Shadow Fall. For more details, check out our favourite Xbox One and PS4 launch games.

Winner: Xbox One

Upcoming games

Most major games will appear on both platforms, but each system is getting its own marquee titles. The Xbox One has Sunset Overdrive (from Ratchet and Clank developer Insomniac Games), Quantum Break (from Max Payne and Alan Wake developer Remedy Entertainment), and a Halo game to be named later. It will also be getting the only console version of Titanfall, although this will be available on the PC, too.

The PlayStation 4’s got an upcoming Uncharted game, The Order: 1886, InFamous: Second Son, and Driveclub, but much of its appeal will come from console exclusives of indie games like Hotline Miami 2 and Mercenary Kings. Overall, it's pretty much a wash here.

Winner: Tie

Interface

Both systems sport major interface overhauls from their previous versions. The PlayStation 4 replaces the XrossMediaBar with the PlayStation Dynamic Menu, which populates the screen with the social activities of friends related to the item you've highlighted. The Xbox One goes with Microsoft's Metro (or new-style as it got renamed) interface design, and it really works well on a big screen. The menus are easy to navigate, and the ability to “snap” apps to the side of the screen while you play games or do other things is incredibly useful.

Winner: Xbox One

Media services

Both systems integrate streaming media services like Netflix, and both can play Blu-ray discs. The Xbox One has the edge with its HDMI input and OneGuide feature (although the latter won’t be released until 2014 in the UK). You can plug your cable or satellite box into the console and it will let you watch TV, browse channels, and even show picture-in-picture programming while you play a game. See our article on which is the best console for non-gaming content for more details.

Winner: Xbox One

Sharing and streaming

Recording and streaming your gameplay is a new feature for this console generation, and both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 can do this. The Xbox One has Game DVR and Upload Studio, which you can use to capture video by voice and edit clips. You can say “Xbox, record that” to capture the last 30 seconds of gameplay, and Game DVR can save clips of up to five minutes in length.

The PlayStation 4 has the dedicated Share button on the DualShock 4, which instantly takes a screenshot and records the last 15 minutes of gameplay, or lets you stream to Twitch.tv and UStream in addition to the PlayStation Network itself.

The Xbox One gets a boost for aspiring YouTube stars, because you can upload your clips to SkyDrive and then download them to your computer as files you can further edit and upload anywhere, while the PlayStation 4 doesn't currently offer anything outside of Facebook and PlayStation Network posting. The Xbox One, though, doesn't offer Twitch or UStream streaming support right now, and the PlayStation 4's triple capacity for clips and convenient Share button means that Sony’s console is better by a nose here.

Winner: PlayStation 4

Camera

The Xbox One comes with the new Kinect camera, but the PlayStation Camera accessory is an optional £55 purchase. Placed head to head, the Kinect wins. It fixes almost all of the problems the original Kinect had, while adding genuinely useful voice controls and an infrared blaster for controlling your TV and cable box. It also supports Skype, which the PlayStation 4 doesn't.

Winner: Xbox One

And the overall winner is?

By the numbers – it's a tie. In terms of pure gaming, the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are pretty evenly matched. However, the Xbox One succeeds in being much more than just a game system with its comprehensive media features. The Kinect and TV integration turn Microsoft’s console into a comprehensive voice-controlled entertainment hub that brings media together in a way we haven't seen before. The Xbox One might more expensive, and the controller isn't as comfortable, but it's an entire entertainment experience.

For more on the two new consoles, see our Xbox One vs PlayStation 4 speed showdown, and our piece which asks whether Microsoft's Xbox One is a true living room revolution in the making, or a mere box of gimmicks.