This Christmas is going to see the biggest clash in the home console market for many years. In fact you could argue that there has never been a battle between two devices that matches that of the PlayStation 4 vs Xbox One.
The Xbox 360 has been on the market for almost eight years, so the arrival of these new next-gen consoles will finally bring closure to the last generation. And because the Xbox One and PS4 will be hitting shop just one week apart, consumers will have to choose sides before they have even really worked out which represents the best long term investment.
Since you can get a free games console with mobile phone contract packages, some of the sting of adopting a PS4 or Xbox One will be eliminated. Still, it’s essential to pick a console that has games you like, features you’ll use and used by your friends.
We have broken down the cat fight of the PS4 vs Xbox One into key categories so that you can hopefully make an informed decision. Although this argument will obviously evolve over time.
The technical underpinnings of games consoles have always been fascinating and tedious, often in equal measure. Back in the early 1990s the marketing companies at Sega and Nintendo had a field day arguing over whether the Mega Drive’s ‘Blast Processing’ was superior to the SNES’ ability to display Mode 7 graphics.
While console fan boys buy into the hype and still argue about these issues, the reality is that the Xbox One and PS4 are more closely matched in the hardware department than any previous paid of duelling consoles.
Sure there are some variances in the way that RAM is being used and the PS4 may have a few more clock cycles at its disposal, but the eight core CPUs and AMD graphics chips are virtually identical. And in the hands of the game development studios, every effort will be made to make sure that games perform just as well on Sony’s machine as they do on Microsoft’s.
So put down your pitchforks and stop worrying about whether the frame rate in Assassin’s Creed IV will be better on the PS4, because it is likely that there will be no difference.
View our Best PlayStation 4 Offers for Christmas.
The Best Gift for Christmas 2013?
So other than the console itself, what do you actually get in the box when you buy a PS4 or an Xbox One? Both consoles will come with a single physical controller, which for the PS4 is the DualShock 4, while the Xbox One features its own redesigned take on the Xbox 360 game pad.
You will also get the usual array of cables, including an HDMI lead to let you hook up your console of choice to your HD-ready TV.
Microsoft announced this month that it will be including a copy of FIFA 14 with every Xbox One, but only if you pre-order the console. This might encourage footie fans to book their launch day device in ahead of time, rather than deciding to buy it post-release.
Every single Xbox One retail package will also include the Kinect sensor, which in its latest guise has a camera that can capture Full HD 1080p clips and detect movement of multiple players with impressive accuracy.
If you buy a PS4, you won’t get Sony’s equivalent camera peripheral, which might be a bit of an annoyance. However, this does make a difference to the asking price, as we’ll discuss a little later.
Launch games are obviously important for new consoles, because without something interesting to actually play on the Xbox One or PS4, there is little reason to go out and buy one.
The two consoles share a number of multi-platform releases in their launch line-up, including Battlefield 4, Assassin’s Creed 4 and Call of Duty: Ghosts.
Exclusives for the Xbox One are Dead Rising 3, Forza Motorsport 5 and Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, to name but a few of the more than 50 games that have been announced so far. Read more about the best Xbox One features.
The PS4 gets exclusives like Knack, Killzone: Shadow Fall and Driveclub. In total it has over 30 launch games announced, many of which will be available as digital downloads rather than physically on discs, which shows a shift towards a broadband-based distribution system.
This is bad news for those who live in areas with less than excellent internet connection speeds, but with 500GB of hard drive space available on board each console, those with a decent service should be able to make the most of downloadable games.
Microsoft has been the whipping boy of the console market ever since it announced the Xbox One’s price and restrictions on used games earlier in the year.
It may have made a U-turn on the used games front, meaning you can now lend and sell your physical discs without any restrictions, but you will still need to fork over £429 for the Xbox One when it comes out.
That is quite a bit more than the £349 price point of the PS4, although the difference is all down to the fact that the Xbox One has Kinect bundled in every box and Sony’s machine does not.
PS4 vs Xbox One verdict
This price difference might be enough to win Sony some of its fans back and the PS4 might dominate to the same degree as the all-conquering PS2. But a simple price adjustment from Microsoft might redress the balance and if these consoles are available free with mobile phone deals, then upfront cost will be less of an issue.