Microsoft Xbox ONE vs Sony PS4: Which console is right for you?

Estimates suggest that video gaming is a $70bn-a-year industry

It’s the battle royale of gaming consoles, and it is coming right into your living room – very, very soon.

Microsoft unveiled its new Xbox console, the Xbox ONE, simultaneously in Seattle and London, on May 21, 2013.

"We've spent the last four years working on the next generation Xbox," said Don Mattrick, President of the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft, as he took to the stage for the unveil of the company's highly-anticipated third-generation video game system.

The name of Microsoft's new console has been confirmed as Xbox ONE, and not the earlier-rumoured Xbox 720, and if Microsoft is to be believed, it is the only gadget that we will need in our living rooms from now on (of course we'll need the TV to play on, silly, but this one will control the TV). 

“Xbox One is designed to deliver a whole new generation of blockbuster games, television and entertainment in a powerful, all-in-one device. Our unique, modern architecture brings simplicity to the living room and, for the first time ever, the ability to instantly switch across your games and entertainment,” said Mattrick.

One of the cool features includes the availability of Skype (also owned by Microsoft) through Xbox, and the ability to hold group video calls through the gaming console. The Xbox ONE's 'Snap mode' will allow multi-tasking, like watching a film and making Skype calls simultaneously.

Another new feaure is that the console will recognise you through the Kinect camera, and once it recognises you, it logs you in. Live TV can be called up by saying "XBox, Live TV". The voice-activated software also allows a user to scroll across applications, including games, television and music. Switching from TV to gaming to music is just like changing a channel on your television. With Xbox One, you can quickly jump from TV to movies to music to a game. Just with the sound of your voice, boasts Microsoft. 

New Xbox Live details: "More powerful, more personal". Matchmaking will pair you up with people as you watch TV and as you play games.

The consoe will be equipped with 500GB HD out of the box and Blu-ray disc drive, output of video with up to 4K resolution (3840x2160) using HDMI 1.4 as well as 7.1-channel audio. 

There will be three operating systems in one that make up the Xbox ONE: Xbox OS, Kernal of Windows and a layering system that allows instant switching between the two.

As expected, Microsoft Xbox One is based on AMD Fusion custom-designed system-on-chip with eight x86 low-power/low-cost Jaguar cores, AMD Radeon HD graphics with GCN architecture as well as 8GB of DDR3 system memory.

Microsoft announced that the Xbox One will come with a completely redesigned Kinect sensor that will feature 1920x1080 RGB camera, improved infrared sensor and enhanced voice controls. The console will feature a number of functions, e.g. TV-cable pass-through that will seamlessly integrate it into the living room.

Blockbuster titles, Steven Spielberg-produced Halo TV series, and exclusive agreements with the NFL transform games, TV and entertainment for the 21st century living room. That's what Microsoft claims to have delivered with its latest gaming console. 

“Our unique, modern architecture brings simplicity to the living room and, for the first time ever, the ability to instantly switch across your games and entertainment,” said Mattrick.

Features

Introducing Xbox One

With Xbox One, games push the boundaries of realism, and TV obeys your commands. Say “Xbox On” to launch your personalised Xbox One Home screen, discover what is popular on TV or see friends’ latest gaming achievements all using the most natural interface — your voice. The more you interact with Xbox One, the more it gets to know you and learns what you like. Some of the breakthrough Xbox One features that put you at the center of your living room entertainment include the following:

TV on Xbox One. Navigate and watch live TV from your cable, telco or satellite set-top box through your Xbox One. Microsoft is committed to bringing live TV through various solutions to all the markets where Xbox One will be available.

Home. Turn on your entertainment system with two powerful words, “Xbox On,” and a custom-tailored Home dashboard welcomes you with your favorite games, TV and entertainment.

Snap. Do two things at once on the biggest screen in your home. Use Snap to jump into a multiplayer battle while watching your favorite movie, talk with friends on Skype while watching live TV, or track your fantasy team on TV as you watch the big game and more.

Skype for Xbox One. Specially designed for Xbox One, talk with friends on your TV in stunning HD, or for the first time ever, hold group Skype calls on your TV.

Trending. Stay on top of what is hot on TV by discovering the entertainment that is popular among your friends, and see what is trending within the Xbox community.

OneGuide. Find your favorite entertainment easily, searching by network or name, all with the sound of your voice and presented in a tailored program guide. 

Earlier story

Estimates suggest that video gaming is a $70 billion-a-year industry, and Microsoft and Sony are suitably fighting it out for supremacy in the consoles market – devices that allow or reject particular games to be played.

It’s just been a couple of months and but a few days in 2013, and console competition is already heating up. Rumours suggest that PlayStation 4, the latest Sony console unveiled on February 20, 2013, and Xbox 720, Microsoft’s upcoming console, will get to head-to-head within this quarter.

READ THIS FIRST: Microsoft Xbox 720 and Sony PlayStation 4: Pricing details emerge; get ready to spend more

Within a few days of the potential leak concerning the newest Xbox’s CPU, rumours suggest that Microsoft is gearing up to secretly showcase its Xbox 720 to a select group of gamers and geeks.

While Sony launched the first salvo in the battle to win the hearts and minds of gamers willing to ride the next-generation console, the specs of the soon-to-surface Xbox 720 will eventually decide which way the pendulum swings.
 

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If rumours are to be believed, Microsoft will be unleashing a power-packed tiger in the box that will be the Xbox 720. But those are rumours and should be treated as such.
 
On the other hand, the PS4 has some awesome specs – and they aren’t just rumours either.
 
Now we know we shouldn’t be comparing the real deal with rumours, but that’s just what we have right now. Sony’s announced specs for the PS4 vs. the rumoured specs for the Xbox 720. So why not?
 
Processor Power
 
Not much to choose between the two as far as the engines that powers the two consoles are concerned.
 
The Sony PS4 has an 8-core x86-64 AMD Jaguar processor and 8GB of GDDR5 RAM. Its GPU is of the Radeon family and contains a unified array of 18 compute units, collectively generating 1.84 teraflops of processing power. With an added feature that will allow developers be toggle power between processors as and when they see fit, the new console mimics more of a PC’s performance than any of its predecessors.
 
As far as rumours for the Microsoft Xbox 720 are concerned, it too will have an 8-core AMD processor and 8GB of RAM. Graphics will be run on an 800MHz D3D11.x GPU – more or less similar in power to the PS4.
 
Where Microsoft could – should – still surprise us is in the graphics department. Let’s wait for that, though.
 
Control Cruise
 
Sony has taken a leap of faith by literally reinventing its popular DualShock controllers, mixing and matching components with the PS Vita’s controls. We like it – yes we do. But let’s be honest –Microsoft is the big daddy in controls, and we believe it will stay that way with the upcoming Xbox 720. Sensor, player tracking, resolution… we have high hope of the Xbox 720 and believe Microsoft won’t disappoint us there. Will it?
 
Older-Model Compatibility
 
The all-new PS4 will sever any and all ties with older model games – so we’ll see a lot of PS3 games being put up on Dubizzle by Sony aficionados. It will, however, allow gamers to live stream older games to their machines. I.e., play remotely hosted older games on your new device – for a fees. Your older discs will remain as useful as a raincoat is in Dubai.
 
This is where Microsoft, if it has the…umm…courage, can really trump its arch-rival by offering what is known as backward compatibility with the Xbox 360 games. It didn’t exactly do that when it expected users to graduate from the Xbox to the Xbox 360, but it has a real chance to steal a march over
Sony with this trick.
 
 
Eventually, however, we suspect that monetary constraints will triumph. Consoles are a small – but vital – part of the industry, and firms tend to subsidise consoles as they know they will be making their cream from the game discs. It might be counter-intuitive to allow the new consoles to play old games, in effect choking your own profit-lines. Still, one doesn’t stop hoping.
 
Social Sharing 
 
This is where Sony has the best bragging rights. We believe shared gaming is the future, and Sony has snatched a bold advantage in this domain. The ‘share’ button on its revamped DualShock 4 controller offers a gamer the choice to share some of her recorded gameplay (it gets constantly recorded into a finite buffer) on social and video sites. Plus, one can invite an online friend to ‘watch’ or even ‘play’ your game in real time. Cool, eh?
Microsoft obviously knows that Sony has taken the lead here and the Xbox team must have spent a fair bit of time and though on countering Sony’s social sharing advantage. The big question is whether or not they have managed to find something that will get them at a par or even ahead of their rival in the social sharing domain.
 
Storage/Download
 
The Sony PlayStation 4, once again, has the edge over its rivals – it allows a gamer to get on with a game even before it has completely downloaded. In a nutshell, it downloads games in segments, and you can start playing the first segment soon after it downloads even as the rest of the segments continue to be downloaded in the background. Will the Xbox 720 ape this feature? It’ll be foolish to not do so. Additionally, the Sony PS4 offers a ‘built-in’ hard disc drive although Sony hasn’t specified its size yet. Microsoft could steal the march by offering a reasonably bigger built-in HDD with the Xbox 720.
 
Pricing and Availability
 
Don’t expect a massive difference here. The PS4 and Xbox 720 are both expected to be priced between Dh1,300 and Dh1,500 ($350 and $400). And while Sony has announced that the PS4 is “Coming Holiday 2013”season, i.e., in store for Christmas shopping, expect the Microsoft aisle to be stocked with the Xbox 720 simultaneously if not earlier.
 
So Which One?
 
That’s not easy to say right now, considering that neither Sony nor Microsoft has actually shown the real thing yet. Sony has at least announced the specs while Microsoft’s remain rumours. Let’s keep it open for now – at least until Microsoft comes out and tells us what the Xbox 720 will spot under the bonnet. And we might not have to wait too long for that – market insiders claim that Microsoft could reveal the Xbox 720 either at the Game Developers Conference later in this month, or at the annual games expo E3 in June. Watch this space.
 

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