The Battle of the Consoles 2013

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Hit the bell and get ringside as we pit the two talk-of-the-town, next-generation game consoles–Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4–against each other in the ultimate head-to-head console brawl.

ROUND 1: DESIGN

Black is in! Both consoles sport the clean “black box” look, with harder edges than their previous iterations, so it’s a bit of a draw in this department. The Xbox One’s blocky, VCR-I ike exterior earned a mixed reaction from the crowd. On the other hand, the PS4’s vertical parallelogram design was more widely accepted after its big reveal at E3 primarily because of its more modern feel, owing to the glowing blue line that intersects it along its upper third. It looks new, but it still seems to echo its predecessors mainly because of its matte texture. The PS4 is a vertical console, so there’s a chance that you’d need to put it in a shelf with a higher ceiling. It also makes it look a little odd sitting under the TV. The Xbox One makes the set-up look a lot more harmonious, but it does seem to take up more shelf and floor area because of its width.

ROUND 2: BRAIN POWER AND GRAPHICS

We’ve got a bit of infighting here as both systems make use of octa-core AMd x86 CPUs, as well as 8GB of RAM. This is a lot of power, and is more than enough to power the next generation of games. On the surface, these are exactly the same specs. Dig a little deeper, and you will see that the PS4 has a leg up over the One. While both systems have the same amount of RAM, the PS4 has GDDRS memory, while the One has regular DDR3. The PS4 will have much greater memory bandwidth than the older DDR3 variety on the one. Memory bandwidth, or the rate at which data can be read and written onto the RAM, will have a huge impact on performance. An analyst has mentioned that this might not be immediately visible, as developers still have to start working on the ways to utilize the extra bandwidth, but once they have that in the bag, the PS4 is really going to shine. TD;DR: perormance of games as time rolls on will likely be better on the PS4. In terms of power, both consoles support 4k graphics, which makes them both future-proof as 4K HDTVs are invading the market at an increasing rate. This is not likely a problem at launch, but again, looking at the future, this is going to be a pretty significant deal. Both consoles have the hardware to handle the clarity necessary for the next wave of HD TVs. Overall, though, this round will start close, but will see the PS4 getting aggressive and winning it in the middle to later parts.

ROUND 3: OPTICAL DRIVE

Again, it looks like a draw, as both the Xbox One and the PS4 feature a Blu-ray optical drive. Each drive is capable of storing up to 50GB of data. For the Xbox One, it’s a step up from its predecessor, the Xbox 360, which made use of an HD/DVD drive. DVD is fine, but with the increasing sophistication of next-generation console games, Blu-ray is the way to go. A smart move from Microsoft. Meanwhile, the PS4 upgrades the existing Blu-ray drive on the PS3, enabling it to perform three times faster.

ROUND 4: CONTROLLER

Sony’s Dual Shock controller underwent more drastic changes than Microsoft’s, but does it necessarily make it the better option? The Dual Shock 4 controller is slightly bigger than its predecessor, and it now features a touch pad on its face, as well as a light bar on top that changes colors based on your conditions in the game. For instance, if your health stats in a game are low, the light glows red. The DualS hock 4 also features a headphone jack, built-in speakers, thumbsticks with more grip, and improved rumble technology. What’s interesting is that the Start and Select buttons that we’ve associated with the PlayStation controllers over the years have been re-branded into Share and Options buttons. On the other hand, Microsoft applied subtle changes to the Xbox 360 controller in making one for the Xbox One. The difference is more on the inside technology than the design. The Xbox One controller is equipped with a more sensitive D-pad, smaller joysticks, and vibration feedback through each of the triggers, among others. Doesn’t sound like much of an improvement, but you know what they say about things that ain’t broke.

ROUND 5: MOTION CONTROL

In a sense, both consoles are shipped with motion control systems. Each package of the Xbox One comes with Kinect 2.0, while the PS4’s motion control system, PlayStation Move, is now integrated in the DuaiShock 4, although Sony claims that old PlayStation Move controllers will still work with the PS4. Kinect 2.0, a.k.a. the Xbox One Kinect, features higher fidelity than its previous iteration to enable more powerful discernment of joint movements, as well as a higher-resolution camera. The camera on Kinect 2.0 has a Full HD resolution, which is a huge upgrade from the VGA camera of the first Kinect. It is also equipped with an IR sensor for more reliable depth and distance judgment. The DuaiShock 4 works together with the two 1280 x 800-pixel cameras of the PS4 Eye (sold separately) for motion and position sensing. The light bar on the DuaiShock 4 enables the console to tell who’s using what controller. This means that when you and your buds are playing on a split-screen and you swap seats on the couch, the PS4 will helpfully reorganize the split-screen layout for you. Sounds cooler and less complicated than Kinect? Not really. Kinect 2.0 can do the same thing, and it might be even better at it seeing as it’s a more mature and sophisticated system.

ROUND 6: MULTIMEDIA FUNCTIONALITY

The Xbox clearly has a bigger emphasis on multimedia functionality than the PS4. It’s not entirely because of its features, though. If you check the promo site for the Xbox One, you’ll see that Microsoft has really packaged the system not as a gaming console, but more as an all-in-one home entertainment system. While both machines allow you to stream content online and watch Blu-ray and DVD movie discs, only the Xbox One has managed to offer direct TV operation. By providing an HDMI pass-thru, the Xbox One allows you to connect it to your cable or satellite box and watch TV through it. Having an HDMI pass-thru makes it much easier for users to switch from watching TV, to watching a movie, to playing a game, and then back to watching TV without having to switch inputs. It’s a convenient and seamless transition. The Xbox One even lets you engage in a video call with a friend while watching TV or a movie, thanks to its Snap feature that splits the screen into two to allow the user to multitask.

ROUND 7: LAUNCH GAMES

On the first day of its availability, the Xbox One will have the following titles: Killer Instinct, Forza Motorsports 5, Ryse: Son of Rome, Dead Rising 3, and Kinect Sports Rivals. The PS4’s day-one releases include exclusive titles DriveCiub, Knack and Killzone: Shadow Fall. Assassin’s Creed I~ Black Flag and Watch Dogs are both launch titles for both the Xbox One and the PS4. Call of Duty. Ghosts will be available on both systems shortly after their launch dates. To be honest, we don’t think we will be buying either console for the release titles. These are all pretty cool and all, but a console is a rather large investment, even with the lowered prices we are looking at. On top of this, we have the developer concerns and maximizing the new hardware available to them. There is no doubt in our mind that release titles will blow anything else we have seen lear out of the water, they just aren’t compelling reasons for us to get a system. Case in point: Metal Gear Solid 5, the gameplay preview of which is available online, is absolutely amazing, but it won’t be out until perhaps May 2014.

ROUND 8: USED GAMES POLICY

Sony takes the side of the garners in employing no new restrictions on used games on the PS4. This means that PS4 titles can be traded in, lent to and borrowed from friends, and bought and sold from other garners. At E3, Microsoft announced that on the Xbox One, you can lend a game to a friend only once and only if he or she has been on your Xbox Live friends list for over 30 days, and that the box would need an internet connection once every 24 hours to keep the thing ticking. There was massive opposition to this, and shortly after, Microsoft was forced to reconsider. They backtracked and removed the DRM restrictions, making them more like those found on the Xbox 360. The PS4’s lack of policies against used games makes the console look like a gift from the gods to garners everywhere, and forced the Xbox to change accordingly, making it a tie at launch, as long as Microsoft sees this change through.

ROUND 9: BACKWARD COMPATIBILITY

Neither console supports backward compatibility at launch, but Sony, using its recent acquisition of Gaikai’s streaming technology, announced that in 2014, it will allow both PS4 and PS3 owners to have access to a limited selection of PS3 titles. However, the service will roll out in the US first, so it’ll take a while before PS4 owners in the country get their fix of PS3 games, but it’s still a pretty neat hook.

ROUND 10: INTERNET CONNECTION REQUIREMENT

If you’ve been disconnected from the Internet for more than 24 hours, you can still use the Xbox One for watching TV and surfing the web, but you wouldn’t be able to play your games. They would stop functioning, which is why maintaining a constant connection to the Internet is a necessity for the Xbox One. The PS4 delivers a powerful jab in this round, as it has no such limitation. You don’t need to be connected to the Internet to play your games on the PS4, and you don’t need to check-in online for any kind of authentication, either. Connected or not, PS4 games will remain completely functional, unless of course you’re playing online or streaming titles. But if that’s not the case, your games will workjustfine.

ROUND 11: PRICE

Sony had all the advantage. The price of the Xbox One was already announced two months before the unveiling of the PS4 at E3 last month. This gave the company enough time to negotiate and sort out compromises to make their offering significantly more affordable-a hundred bucks more affordable, in fact. Retailing at USD 499 in the US, GBP 429 in the UK, and AUD 599 in Australia is the Xbox One, which will hit the market in November, according to Microsoft. The PS4 sucker-punches the Xbox One, retailing at USD 399 in the US, GBP 349 in the UK, EUR 399 in Europe, and AUD 549 in Australia. At E3, the company announced that the PS4 will start shipping “this holiday season:’ which means that it’ll be around just in time for Christmas. Possibly what makes the PS4 retail package less expensive is the fact that the PS4 Eye is sold separately, whereas the Xbox One already ships with Kinect. If you’re keen on motion control, then the Xbox One is clearly the better bargain, but ifthe games you play don’t require motion or position sensing, then the PS4 is the way to go, and you can count that our bank accounts totally agree.

Both systems have yet to hit the market, so we all have to wait a while to compare real-world results, but based on these rounds, we bet you’ve already taken your spot in the corner of one of these champs.

First published in Gadgets Magazine, July 2013

Words by Ren Alcantara and Racine Anne Castro