Sony’s PlayStation 4 Pro is out now, and is currently the most powerful games console on the market by some way. It won’t hold that crown forever though, as Microsoft’s souped-up Xbox One X is set to arrive later in 2017.
Some gamers might already know they’re planning to own both consoles, but that’ll be too pricey for a lot us. So if you’re just looking for one, should you grab the PS4 Pro right now, or wait a few more months for the One X?
Pricing and availability
Sony’s console arrived in the UK on 10 November 2016, and the 1TB edition can be found for £349/$399. That’s only £100/$100 or so more than the default PS4 model (a.k.a. the PS4 Slim), making it a reasonably compelling value proposition.
The Xbox One X isn’t out just yet, but is due to release in both the US and UK on 7 November 2017. When it arrives, it will cost £449/$499 – pretty much exactly £100/$100 more than the PS4 Pro, and we’d be surprised if Sony didn’t announce a price cut before then to make the difference even more stark.
Microsoft is planning to announce the opening of pre-orders during its Gamescom live stream, which takes place on Sunday 20 August 2017 at 9pm BST, though we don’t know yet if that will be when pre-orders open, or just when Microsoft announces the first pre-order dates.
Specs and features
So the Xbox One X is going to cost a fair bit more than the PS4 Pro, but will you get more for your money? If the specs are anything to go by, then yes.
The One X boasts a custom-built eight-core CPU, with each core clocked at 2.3GHz. That’s similar to the octa-core setup in the PS4 Pro, but that only runs at 2.1GHz, giving the Xbox a slight edge.
That’s needed to drive the biggest hardware change here: the GPU. The entirely custom AMD chip boasts 40 compute units each running at 1172MHz – dramatically faster than the 911MHz the PS4 Pro’s 36 units run at. Microsoft has lived up to its promise to offer six teraflops of GPU power.
That’s all with the aim of running smooth, consistent 4K, which requires plenty of bandwidth elsewhere. To that end, the One X has 12GB of GDDR5 (versus 8GB in the PS4 Pro), with a total memory bandwidth of 326GB/s (218GB/s on the PS4 Pro).
In terms of how all those specs affect performance, the One X should be capable of running games at 60 frames-per-second in 4K resolutions, or at least that’s the aim. By contrast, the PS4 Pro offers upscaled 4K, and doesn’t typically offer a smooth 60fps. Until we get our hands on the One X to test it though, it’s hard to know exactly how the specs play out in real life.
Both consoles come with a 1TB hard drive by default. The PS4 Pro lets you upgrade this (e.g. to an SSD or a larger drive) or use an external drive to expand storage. While the One X will almost certainly let you use an external drive, we don’t yet know if you’ll be able to upgrade the internal drive.
The Xbox One X will also play 4K Blu-rays, though the PS4 Pro doesn’t. That’s probably not a big deal for most people, but if you know you’re going to want to watch films in the highest definition you can, you might want to wait for the One X.
Both consoles are also capable of improving performance for other games, not just those with specific Pro/One X support. Boost mode lets the PS4 Pro run at a higher GPU and CPU clock speed in order to improve gameplay on some PS4 games that were released before the Pro. It should provide higher frame rates for some games, and can reduce load times too.
However, One X has the slight edge here, because Boost Mode won’t work on every PS4 game, while Microsoft claims the One X will offer native performance boosts for every prior Xbox One title. The company has emphasised that different games will see different benefits based on their software architecture, but that all should see some improvement, whether in resolution, graphics quality, or frame-rate.
Virtual reality support
Much of the hype around both consoles has been about one thing: VR. With increased processing power, both consoles promise serious performance upgrades for anyone looking to pick up a virtual reality headset, which both Microsoft and Sony are betting will be a big draw.
Sony has launched its own PlayStation VR, which comes with a variety of exclusive titles and retails at £349.99/$399.99 — pretty affordable by current VR standards. You don’t need the Pro to use PS VR — a regular PS4 will work just fine — but it will help make sure that VR games and experiences run as smoothly as possible.
Microsoft isn’t making its own virtual reality headset, and is instead expected to partner with the Oculus Rift. That would make sense, because the company has already teamed up with Oculus to provide an Xbox One controller for every headset, and Windows 10 was designed with the Rift in mind – though Microsoft hasn’t announced anything official yet.
That should mean much more cross-compatibility with the PC when it comes to Xbox One VR. The big downside? Once again, price. The Rift is £499/$499, and once you add that to the One X’s expected £449/$499 price tag it begins to look like a very expensive choice.
Last but not least, what about their game libraries? This is less of an important factor if you already own either console (or even both), but if you’re new to this generation then it might matter a lot more.
Obviously, to some extent it’s a matter of personal taste, and the main thing to look at is each console’s lineup of exclusives. The PS4 boasts the likes of Uncharted 4 and Bloodborne, and has major titles like Detroit: Beyond Human and Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding on the way. Thanks to the PlayStation Now streaming service, you can also play a whole range of older Sony titles for a small fee.
For the Xbox One, it’s a similar story: Halo, Gears of War, Crackdown, ReCore and Forza are just a few of the exclusives that you can play on the platform. The more you care about those, the better the argument for sticking with Microsoft.
The Xbox One also offers backwards compatibility, offering the chance to play old Xbox and Xbox 360 games (though not all are supported). Microsoft is also launching the Xbox Game Pass, a subscription service that lets you download (not stream) a variety of Xbox One and 360 games for a set monthly fee – and it’s cheaper than PS Now.
Both consoles have a great selection of multi-platform titles to choose from as well, and the One X’s superior specs mean you’ll likely get the best version of these games on Microsoft’s platform. Though for our money the PS4 has a better library of exclusives, so if you don’t own a PS4 yet, we’d probably recommend the Sony platform on games alone.