Unlike a lot of outlets, I didn't want to rush to conclusions, but instead actually use the two consoles regularly and without agenda. Granted there are a lot of comparative articles out there, though most date back to launch month. I'd like to provide a completely honest and seasoned opinion based on a hefty amount of hands on time. With that said, let's begin.
The PlayStation 4 has a sleek and edgy design. Upon unboxing the machine, it surprised me just how small it was considering the power it was packing, especially without the need for an external power brick. My only concern is the console does heat up quickly, so long sessions could potentially become hazardous. I haven't experienced this yet, though I don't like the operating temperature thus far. The system is fairly quiet, with the only true noise coming from the Blu-ray drive when accessed. Though it doesn't wobble, it doesn't sit entirely stable if any pressure is applied. Newer models should definitely have revised leg stands.
The Xbox One is huge, plain and simple. With that said, it is well built and should draw comparisons to the original X-Box more so than the 360. With the forced inclusion of a Kinect and an external power brick, it takes up quite a bit of space. With that said, my console runs cool and has yet to show any signs of overheating. Considering it's used as a cable box (there is no HDMI pass through, so it must be on), it simply has to. I'm impressed by the cooling system thus far. Like the PS4, system noise is quiet with the only true noise coming from the Blu-ray drive when accessed.
Though both are obviously well constructed, I'll have to pick the PS4. It's edgy yet simple design is surprisingly compact considering the horsepower within.
The Dual Shock 4 is a huge step up from the Dual Shock 3. From a usability point, I enjoy it's grippy rear while the face retains a smooth look. The buttons are flat and easy to the press and the d-pad is what you'd expect, solid. The stick placement is widened which is perhaps the biggest improvement, for me at least. This takes away from that congested feeling during FPS movement. The sticks themselves feel a bit mushy which gives me the idea they'll wear somewhat quickly, though they are sticky enough that your thumb won't slide. The handle shape is also much more comfortable to the grip. It's a huge improvement under every necessary category and that's without even giving the nod to the newly introduced speaker and touch screen. These two features speak for themselves and work well for what they are. I also appreciate the ability to set my controllers auto turn off function to a set time, or none. Likewise, the share button is convenient. My only gripe is battery life, which seems like a third of the Dual Shock 3's.
The Xbox One controller is a basic evolution of the 360 controller. My first impression is it fit into my hands like a glove. I also like the fact that the triggers have padded resistance inside, so it's not plastic smacking against plastic. It's a premium sort of feel. The rumble functions have been greatly improved and specific buttons can rumble to indicate different things. It's a difference maker in games like Forza where rumble helps to feel situational resistance and other elements. The buttons are convex, so it's a matter of preference. The sticks themselves feel great, with a nice grip around the edge to reduce sliding. They feel of a better build than the PS4's. With that said, there is an element that's a step back from the 360 and that's the sticks actual resistance. Hopefully this won't reflect poorly in gameplay, though only an accuracy based shooter will tell. The d-pad is an improvement over the 360/360S, though is still not great. The bumpers are also awkwardly placed, to the point I can't believe it got past Q&A. Granted you're supposed to use them in a different manner, using the middle of your finger instead of the top, though it doesn't feel natural. On the positive side, it's great not to have a huge battery bulk protruding from the bottom of the controller. Compared to the PS4 I prefer the stick layout as it's better for FPS, yet not detrimental to any other type of genre.
The PS4's controller definitely improved upon it's predecessor more, though that's partly due to having more to improve upon. Both controllers feel great and are some of the best we've been offered in gaming. I'm going to vote neutral here because I honestly feel it comes down to preference.
The UI is silky smooth, well designed, organized and most of all fast. With many divisions of Sony cooperation merging, it's becoming apparent. The PlayStation division is taking on a more SonyStyle approach, something that has been long overdue. Finally introduced is the party system, which allows players to easily cross invite, cross chat and even cross platform using the PlayStation Vita. The actual chat quality is good (as long as you're using any microphone except the one packaged in the box) and the rooms also allow for text chat, room titles and other such options. The UI has the network built into it, thus users no longer seem like a "floaty" afterthought. Capturing in-game footage is incredibly easy, as is streaming to your favorite client. The entire feature is built into the network and UI, so it's fun and easy to both host and view content. The store is a bit sluggish and needs an update, though it's properly organized. The Blu-ray player is what you'd expect, though without the support of a Blu-ray remote seems a bit convoluted. Overall, the apps load quickly and are easy to navigate. The only "issue" I have with the UI is it seems a bit barren, though this is due to a lack of content. Something as such will obviously change through out the year and has nothing to do with the excellent UI itself.
The One's OS is built in the same vein as Windows 8 and Windows smartphones therefore it's a jack of all trades and is very app centric. The One's name sounded funny at first, though started to make sense with some genuine play time. As a user you are able to define your own experience. If you'd like it to be experience centered around gaming, you have the option to pin the necessary content to your Home and disregard the rest (barely anything is pre-installed). If you'd like for it to be an all in one device, it's more than capable. The problem as of right now is many of the gaming options found on the 360 are missing and hinder the social gaming experience. While the party chat is crystal clear, it's interface is clunky at best. Integrating Smart Match has left me with nothing but a headache. If you're attempting to invite one of a few party members to a game, the system automatically chooses the person. The problem is it's not always the right person. The result is crashing the party, inviting the said individual first and then reforming once in game. With that said, to access your friends list also takes a decent amount of time because it's an app. Luckily this is the worst of it. The TV function is handy, though HDMI pass through would be ideal. Voice commands are surprisingly well done and are a nice bonus. You can easily control your volume, channel and other such aspects on the fly. In regards to apps, the ability to control my experience is appreciated, though I don't feel I should have to download every necessary utility including the Blu-ray player. That aside, the player is basic yet functional and the ability to control it via the handy Smartglass is appreciated. Perhaps the best feature of the OS however is the snap function which allows users to push apps into windows. It's a nice bonus to be able to watch Netflix, TV or a Twitch stream while leveling in a game or something else that requires a low attention span. A more usable example would be watching TV and wanting to quickly search the web for something, it's very easy to do and quite intuitive. The console also handles streaming from the PC with a single click, it's handy. The achievement system received an overhaul and is presented through sleek 1080p imagery. It now keeps track of individual achievements through percentages where applicable. Overall the OS is extremely flexible and is a multitasking monster, though it's plagued by slow navigation and a convoluted design in regards to basic necessities. Such elements would be better if integrated into the OS and not inside slow loading apps.
It's quite obvious updates are coming, though I'm going by what I've used for months. As it stands, the PS4 ironically feels like a streamlined evolution to the 360, while the One takes off in an entirely different direction. This direction is commendable and even desirable, though the gaming features need much work. I'll have to go with the PS4's UI as it's the type of ease and performance I expect from a next-gen console, despite it's lack of content.
Over time, consoles have evolved as have the peripherals that connect to them. Compared to listening through a stereo television and chatting via a wired mono headset, playing via 7.1 headphones with built in chat dramatically changes the experience. From ease of use to sound quality, it's important. The same can be said about connecting to a home theater system. I was happy to use the PS4's optical out to pick up a 5.1 signal without any hitches and was equally as pleased to see they used a 3.5mm headset jack. With a $4 cable adapter, I was up and running without any hitches using my Turtle Beach XP500's. I was however disappointed to see that the Bluetooth option, while available, is unable to be used with any third party peripherals (and even first party of old). This is blasphemous. Though an update is apparently in the works, it remains to be seen just what will be able to connect. On the current side of peripherals, the PlayStation Camera is a great tool for broadcasting yourself during streams. Connecting the camera also adds the ability to use voice commands. While admittedly not as robust as the One's, it's a nice optional feature and I'm thankful it wasn't forced. The pack in mono microphone however is perhaps the worst microphone I've ever used. Throw it away, now. In regards to storage, you can remove and replace the PS4's HDD. I appreciate having control over this aspect, especially considering it helps future proof the console.
Similar to the PS4, I started by connecting a 5.1 device via optical out. It only transmitted stereo. I took to the forums to find out it's something they are looking to add in early 2014, because apparently something that has been a standard since PS2 isn't available on an "all in one" media device. Unacceptable. There is no Bluetooth, so I'll excuse the lack of features thereof. It'd have been nice to use such devices out of the box, though Wi-fi Direct's 250mb/s compared to Bluetooth 2.1 EDR's 3mb/s is a step in the right direction and an understated feature of the console. With that said, there isn't a 3.5mm headphone jack either. To use traditional headsets we'll need an adapter, the same one that is not available until March 2014 despite the console releasing November of 2013. Poor planning would be an understatement. Both an update and adapter are necessary to make the console viable in the sound department, something that should have been sorted for launch day. As far as the pack in headset, it's crystal clear, though yet another wired mono headset. The Kinect itself is a great piece of technology. Despite this, I fail to see it's forced nature having used the console for months now. In no way is it a necessity, nor does it fully change the experience, it marginally helps streamline it. I do like it's features to read codes automatically, log me in based on facial structure and other express options. With that said, I can't claim it's worth the extra $100-$150 despite it's solid nature. Speaking of forced, the One's hard drive is not upgradable, so you're stuck with the performance and space limitations forever.
The inability to use key media features on an all in one media device is simply unacceptable, thus I have to go with the less proprietary pushing PS4. I'm confident updates will fix said issues, though for the price and era we're in, we shouldn't have to play the waiting game for mainstream necessities.
Games have always been and always will be a preference, though the lack thereof is undebatable. PS4's launch was plagued by delays and a lack of exclusives. With that said, 2014 is looking much brighter. A big strength the PS4 has right now is superiority in regards to multiplatform titles. The extra horsepower under the hood is already starting to show and it'll only define itself more over time. The understated indie developed titles of the PS4 are also a great strength. Sony's incredible first party studios are guaranteed to push satisfying content in the not so far off future, though we'll definitely have to wait another year until we see anything from Naughty Dog and company.
The Xbox One launch was actually one of the better launch line ups I've seen, it covered just about every genre with something satisfying. 2014 looks to have some heavy hitting exclusives both early and late into the year, including but not limited to Titanfall, Halo and Quantum Break. It's ability to secure unique endeavors like D4 also excites me. I'm not sure what's beyond that, though I'm going to have to live in the now and enjoy the undoubtedly great year of gaming the One has to offer. If it's a sign of more things to come, I'll be satisfied.
Launch line up versus launch line up, the One supplied me with months of solid gaming where as the PS4 did not. Looking into 2014, the One is also bringing more heavy hitters along with new and unique IP's. I'm paying heed to the power differences of both consoles, thus securing my decision to get games like The Evil Within and Destiny on the PS4. I'm also well aware that the PS4 will positively have incredible exclusives by some of the most unique developers in the business by 2015 and that excites me more than anything. However, comparing what is available now and what will be available this year, I'm giving the nod to the Xbox One. The future however is looking blue.
PlayStation Network has dramatically improved since the launch of the PS4. The entire experience is streamlined and provides a social gaming atmosphere that is fun to partake in. I'm also impressed that it extends onto the PS Vita, with many options available between PS4 and Vita users. PSN finally feels whole and is the forefront of the PS4, not an after thought as it was on the PS3. I have experienced some terrible online matches however as well as the entire network going down on more than one occasion. It's still got a ways to go, though is finally taking large strides forward. PlayStation Plus however is king. The amount of savings and deals given to players is commendable.
Xbox LIVE has been and remains one of the most consistent networks available for gaming. The newly introduced dedicated servers have allowed for some of the most smooth gameplay I've felt online. Despite having a top tier connection, many of my friends do not. The same people that would create a literal slide show in various fighting games suddenly feel like we're playing offline together, it's actually quite amazing. Granted, this is what eleven years of paid service culminates, funds for better servers. Even under the heaviest of loads on launch night or Christmas day, there wasn't a single hitch. Games for Gold however is a sorry PlayStation Plus rip off and I don't use that term lightly. The service literally throws bargain bin 360 titles at the user as if anyone actually wants them.
Excellent dedicated servers and stability are key, I'd want nothing more from online gaming. Xbox LIVE is still king, though it'll have to keep up the pace because the competition is finally starting to make moves.
For once I can say I own two consoles at launch and the experience is different enough that I can warrant owning both. Both consoles are solid and quite impressive in their own right. The Xbox One needs some urgent updates, with those it'll become a dream machine of sorts. The PlayStation 4 did it right out of the box, all it needs is time to allow for all of the great software to release. I especially appreciate the speedy UI, it makes me want to turn on the console even just to browse. Either of these consoles are an investment, so you're looking for future proof hardware and studios that will continue to amaze down the line. The PlayStation 4 fits this bill at a cheaper price, thus it's my choice out of the two.