If you’re in the market for a dedicated game console, chances are you’re considering either the Xbox One or the PlayStation 4. Microsoft and Sony’s consoles have been fighting for the right to be the centerpiece of your media center for more than four years at this point. You may have friends who swear by the Xbox One and others who champion the PS4. Many of the same games come to both consoles, and it’s often hard to tell the difference between them based on gameplay alone.
So, with all the surface level similarities, how do you know which console is right for you?
First off, you want to know that the Xbox One S and PlayStation 4 “Slim,” both mid-generation redesigns, are currently the standard hardware for their respective platforms. If you are dipping your toes in this generation of gaming for the first time today, your choice will likely come down to one of these two.
While they offer similar experiences, both devices have their own strengths and weaknesses that could sway your decision. From specs, to design, to features, to price, we’ve broken down every factor to help you decide between Xbox One S and PlayStation 4 Slim.
Xbox One S
PlayStation 4 “Slim”
16.9″ x 11.5″ x 4.5″ (WxHxD)
|10″ x 11″ x 1.5″ (WxHxD)|
|Weight||6.4 lbs||4.6 lbs|
|Processor||CPU: 1.75GHz AMD Jaguar eight-core|
GPU: 1.4 T-FLOPS, 12 compute units @ 914MHz
|CPU: Eight-core X86 AMD Jaguar|
GPU: 1.84 T-FLOPS, AMD Radeon Graphics Core Next Engine
|Memory||8GB DDR3 RAM + 32MB eSRAM @ 219GB/s||8GB GDDR5 RAM|
|Hard Drive||Built-in, up to 2TB HDD||Built-in, 1TB HDD. Older models included 500GB.|
|AV Output||HDMI 1.4 in/out, 4K, and 1080p support; Optical output; 4K video upscaling; HDR support||HDMI 1.4, Analog-AV out|
|I/O Output||USB 3.0 X 2, AUX||SuperSpeed USB (USB 3.0) X 2|
|Communication||Ethernet, IEEE 802.11n wireless with Wi-Fi connect||Ethernet (10BASE-T,100BASE-TX, 1000BASE-T), Bluetooth 2.1 (EDR), 5GHz IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac|
|Controller||Updated Xbox One controller (includes Bluetooth connectivity and improved wireless range)||1000amAh DualShock 4 (210g, six-axis motion sensing, 2 Point Touch Pad)|
|Camera||512 x 424-pixel infrared depth sensor and 1080p camera (Kinect — adapter required)||Dual 1280×800 @ 60Hz, 640×400 @ 120Hz, 320×192 @ 240Hz pixel cameras (PlayStation Camera)|
|Optical Drive||DVD/4K-capable Blu-Ray||BD 6xCAV, DVD 8xCAV|
|4K/HDR||4K video streaming and Blu-Ray playback, HDR support for select titles, 4K upscaling for games||HDR support for select titles|
|Price||Starting at $250||Starting at $300|
|Availability||Available now||Available now|
|DT Review||3.5 out of 5 stars||4 out of 5 stars|
The most noticeable difference between the original PlayStation 4 and the current, refreshed hardware is the physical console itself. At about 70 percent of the size, the new system features a redesigned chassis with rounded edges and a matte finish across the entire box (as opposed to the glossy, fingerprint-friendly surface that previously occupied much of the console’s left side). The optical audio port and the auxiliary port have been removed to save space, and the troublesome touch sensors that controlled the disc drive and the power supply have been replaced with physical buttons.
The Xbox One S features a similar but more extreme set of changes, to the point where it resembles the original Xbox One in shape only. It’s a smaller ‘box than its predecessor, reportedly 40 percent smaller than the original Xbox One. Where the Xbox One looked like the Batmobile of gaming consoles — dark, angular, and ominous — the One S looks a little bit more inviting, with a matte-white finish, half of which is covered in small, aesthetically distinctive fan holes, sitting on a charcoal gray foundation.
The power supply has been installed inside the console, so you won’t need to deal with an unwieldy brick-type cable. Just like the PlayStation, some inconvenient touch-sensitive buttons (in this case, the power and controller sync functions) have been turned into physical buttons and relocated on the front of the console. Finally, the Kinect port has been removed, signaling Microsoft’s move away from the Kinect program altogether.
Sony announced that its Dualshock 4 controller will see a few minor design tweaks this year with the release of the PlayStation 4 and PS4 Pro. The light bar on the back of the controller now shines through the touchpad on the controller’s face, so battery life indicators and other uses for the light bar (check out a list here that includes game-specific functions) will be easier to read. The D-pad and the analog sticks also received a new rubber grip, and the controller itself is a shade lighter than before (in color, not weight).
The new Xbox One controller also received updates to the D-pad and analog sticks. The new controller — white, to match the console — also features improved wireless range and Bluetooth connectivity, which should be a popular feature among gamers that want to connect their controller to a PC. A 3.5mm-headphone jack was added to offset the Kinect port’s removal, as well as a textured grip to make the controller feel more comfortable.
Separately, Microsoft also introduced the Xbox Design Lab, a new service that allows you to build create a controller with a custom color scheme for $80. While it doesn’t have the technical improvements of the Xbox One Elite controller, it’s pretty cool to have a unique controller with your favorite colors and your gamertag engraved on the front.
Winner: Xbox One S
In addition to addressing some aesthetic issues with the original PS4’s physical design — like the inconsistent touch-sensitive buttons and the glossy finish that proudly displayed dust and fingerprints as if they were a child’s artwork — the new PS4 has one major technical improvement: The addition of 5GHz IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac support. With improved Wi-Fi compatibility, many upgrading users should expect to see a more stable internet connection when downloading games and playing online. As with the original PS4, the newer system comes with HDR support, provided you have a compatible television. Unlike the Xbox One, the console’s hard drive is removable without voiding the warranty, and you can add additional storage space through an external drive.
Microsoft took a different route with the Xbox One S. On top of the obvious size reduction and ergonomic improvements, the Xbox One S is being marketed as a videophile’s dream. The One S is an affordable 4K Blu-Ray player, though the cost of standalone players has gone down considerably since its release. Since you’d then have an additional box on your shelf or entertainment center, however, the Xbox One S will save you valuable space.
Assuming you have a television or monitor capable of rendering images in such high resolutions, the console can also stream select media in 4K. Though the insane graphical fidelity doesn’t extend to games — certain titles feature HDR visuals, while other games will “upscale” to 4K on televisions that can handle it — the One S would be a good deal if you were just buying it to play Blu-ray; combined with the fact that it has hundreds of apps (including a web browser) and that it plays Xbox games, its relatively cheap price tag is beyond reasonable.
Neither console boasts any notable improvements in terms of actual game performance. For this, you’ll need to pick up the more powerful PS4 Pro or Xbox One X, instead.
Winner: Xbox One S
The 1TB PlayStation 4 Slim retails for $300. Occasionally you can find a bundle with a game or two thrown in such as the Star Wars Battlefront II bundle (also $300). Microsoft, on the other hand, seems to really like bundling its Xbox One S with games. These include bundles with games like Forza Horizon 4, Battlefield V, or Sea of Thieves, as well as a bundle that includes bonus Fortnite content.
Neither of these mid-generation consoles are “changing the game,” per se. The newer PlayStation 4, in particular, doesn’t boast any features to help it stand out from the crowd, and though it’s still more powerful than the Xbox One S, the addition of a 4K Blu-ray player on the Xbox One S is hard to pass up.
That being said, the first reason you buy a video game console is to play video games, and the PlayStation 4 has a sizeable lead in terms of exclusive games. Sony’s first-party and second-party output has absolutely dwarfed Microsoft’s this generation, and if you never want to run out of games to play, the new PlayStation 4 is the system to get. This is a problem that Microsoft can’t fix with new hardware, and it will likely take years for it game library to match Sony’s again.
Both these consoles are objectively worth the price tag, and yet they both feel like stopgap solutions to keep the publicity flowing while newer, more powerful consoles are slowly making their way to shelves and warehouses. For now, however, the PlayStation 4’s library still helps to make it the best choice.
Winner: PS4 “Slim”