Black Friday is just a few days away. It may be that you're ready to buy a new game console; both the Xbox One and the Playstation 4 recently celebrated their one year anniversary and there are some good deals out there. But which is the right console for you?
I've been using both machines for a year so I thought I'd share my thoughts. There's a lot to talk about so let's jump right in.
Price: A year ago the Xbox One was $100 more expensive than the PS4, but Microsoft has been extremely aggressive on this front and you can now get an Xbox One for $50 less than the PS4. The only catch is that Microsoft has removed the Kinect Sensor from its cheaper packages.
I'm one of the few Xbox One owners who actually enjoys having the Kinect. I don't use it for gaming, ever, but I do use the voice commands to control my home theater when watching TV or streaming content. That said, if you're buying an Xbox One just to play games on, I doubt you'll miss Kinect much, if at all.
Since we're talking about Black Friday, here're a couple of bundles to look for. If you're buying an PS4, Best Buy, Gamestop and Toys R Us are all supposed to offer a $399 bundle that comes with The Last of Us Remastered and Grand Theft Auto 5. These are both great games. If you're looking for something a bit more family friendly Toys R Us has a $399 bundle with Lego Batman 3 and Little Big Planet 3.
If you're leaning towards the Xbox One, Target has a $329 bundle that comes with Assassin's Creed: Unity, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, and a $50 Target gift card. Keep in mind reviews for Assassin's Creed: Unity were not great, though I haven't played it myself. I did enjoy Black Flag but that one is a year old at this point.
There may be better deals out there; definitely do your research and pay attention to the format of the included games. Sometimes you get a disk, often you get a download voucher. I personally prefer digital copies but not everyone does. After all both the PS4 and Xbox One come with relatively small 500 GB hard drives.
Storage: So let's talk about drive space. It's easy to replace the PS4 hard drive when the system is brand new, but later on transferring your data is going to be a headache. The Xbo One now supports having one or two external USB 3.0 hard drives attached. I run my games from an external drive now and have never had problems with loading times or anything. If you fill up your internal storage and two external drives, you can always swap out one of the external drives. Xbox One wins on storage options.
Exclusives: The truth of the matter is neither console is killing it when it comes to AAA exclusives. In the past couple of months Forza Horizon 2, Sunset Overdrive and The Halo Master Chief Collection have launched for the Xbox One, and all have been well received by critics. The Playstation 4 has seen the arrival of DriveClub and Little Big Planet 3, but the former had a disastrous launch that the developers are still struggling to fix. The PS4 has additional exclusives coming in early 2015 but based on what's available now, Xbox One wins here.
Indies: If you're a fan of Indie gaming on consoles, the Playstation 4 is still the console to have. Microsoft is trying to fight back but they've still got a ways to go to catch up to the PS4 in this department.
Media: If all you want to do is play games, disregard this category. Otherwise give a hard look at the Xbox One. It has more video streaming apps than the PS4, and Microsoft finally added DLNA support so you can play the music and videos that you have on your personal computer through the Xbox One. The PS4 only recently added the ability to play music from a USB device; Sony is falling way behind when it comes to media. Twitch is perhaps worth a special mention. Both consoles can stream to Twitch but only the Xbox One has a proper Twitch app to let you watch any content you want. On the PS4 you can only watch content from other PS4 streamers.
Social: Both consoles make it easy to form a party and play games with your friends, but if you love comparing your progress to how your buddies are doing and the 'meta game' of who is the better gamer, Xbox One will scratch that itch for you. Over the months Microsoft has enhanced the Friends section quite bit. You can now showcase brag-worthy achievements and compare your recent gamerscore increases to that of others on your friends list. Microsoft recently added a TrueAchievements app to make all this stuff even more fun.
Free Games: Microsoft has Xbox Live Gold and Sony has Playstation Plus. Both programs offer free games every month as well as discounts. So far neither of the free game programs have been stellar. We mostly get games that were $10-$15 at launch. However historically Playstation Plus has offered a pretty great selection of freebies on the PS3 and Vita, so I expect things to improve for the PS4. Sony seems to offer better deals too.
Power: At launch almost every cross-platform game looked better or ran at a higher resolution on the PS4. The difference seems to be easing some as developers get a handle on these machines and figure out how to squeeze performance out of them, but the PS4 is still the more powerful machine.
Sharing: I really like the DualShock 4's dedicated sharing button. On the Xbox One (assuming you don't have Kinect) you double tap the Home button and then hit X. It works but it isn't as convenient as hitting the Share button. The PS4 can also capture screenshots (Microsoft says this is coming to the Xbox One). The one thing the Xbox One offers that the PS4 doesn't is access to cloud storage. If you want to move screenshots or video from your PS4 to a PC you'll need to shuffle it onto a USB device first. On the Xbox One you can save stuff to your OneDrive. Still I'm giving the win in this category to the PS4.
Other Stuff: The PS4 has a few systems that set it apart from the Xbox One. The first is Remote Play. Using a Vita, Playstation TV or a select few mobile devices, you can stream gameplay from your PS4 to another device. If you struggle to get time on the big screen TV, this can be a lifesaver. I bought a Playstation TV so I can stream to the upstairs TV via a wired connection and it works great. Remote Play via wireless depends a lot on your wireless environment. Some folks have great experiences and others will tell you its unusable.
The PS4 also has Playstation Now which lets you rent PS3 games via a streaming service. Obviously you need a good broadband connection for this and the prices are higher than they should be, but if you don't have a PS3 and there's a game you really want to play, Playstation Now could be the solution.
Final Thoughts: Microsoft is working hard to improve the Xbox One. They've been rolling out monthly updates since launch (though there won't be one in December) and every one has improved the system in ways big and small. Sony rolls out updates much less frequently and they're starting to fall behind in quality-of-life features like DLNA support and ways to show off your accomplishments.
Speaking very personally, my Xbox One was pretty much a media box for the first six months or so of 2014, but I'm gradually starting to prefer it. I really like where Microsoft is going with the Xbox One environment. Jumping from a game to a TV show and back again is really easy and I get a kick out of seeing how my gaming stats compare to that of my friends.
Also while the Xbox One is physically larger than the PS4, it is also much quieter. I'm not sure if my PS4 is particularly loud or what, but the fan is very audible during gameplay; the Xbox One is virtually silent.