The battle between Sony's PlayStation 4 and Microsoft's Xbox One has begun.
Both of these new gaming consoles are vying for a spot in living rooms everywhere. But which one is superior and which offers the best value?
The answers come down to personal preference.
The most obvious difference between the two is price. The PS4 is $100 cheaper than the $399 X1. The PS4 matches the graphical power of the X1 and even surpasses it in certain areas. That extra $100 goes toward the X1's new Kinect camera.
The camera can be the best addition to the X1 or the worst, depending on the user. The new one is an improved version of the original Kinect, the companion device for the Xbox 360. Its primary function for the X1 is to process voice commands, which are designed to separate navigation from the traditional remote control. But the Kinect has the same problem handling voice commands as any other device that has tried to accomplish this. It doesn't work consistently.
The X1 has a heavy focus on cable television. A cable box can be plugged into the Xbox via its HDMI port.
After a quick initial setup, cable watching is then handled by the X1. It will display a cable feed when the user simply says, "Xbox, watch TV."
This bond between game console and cable box is great but only for users who have cable and, just as important, plan to keep it. With many consumers looking for ways to drop cable, the X1's cable partnership appears to be influenced by the past rather than looking toward the future.
The PS4 feels like a more finished product. The user interface is clean and responsive. The system itself added features to its predecessor such as allowing multiple simultaneous downloads. Its ability to broadcast live gameplay is the PS4's killer app.
The hobby of livestreaming video games via sites such as Twitch.tv and UStream.com is exploding, thanks to the PS4's ability to broadcast right out of the box. Microsoft has promised this feature for the X1, but it won't be ready until next year.
Because these new consoles are more like entertainment hubs than simple game consoles, game selection can be overlooked. Neither the PS4 nor X1 has a clear edge in this department.
The X1 wins when it comes to the quantity of games, however, but both are awaiting quality exclusive titles.
The X1 has the highly anticipated "Titanfall," which is expected early next year.
Beyond these features, the two systems are quite similar. Both can play Netflix, Hulu Plus and other video streaming services. Both have their proprietary music streaming services. Both can play the latest "Call of Duty," "Need for Speed" and "Assassin's Creed" games.
Bottom line: The X1 is an ambitious system. While its reliance on voice commands can be mesmerizing when it works, it can be frustrating when it doesn't. The PS4 is an advanced version of the consoles that have been available for nearly the past decade, with some added features.
The X1 with the new Kinect is a good fit for anyone who wants to see new ideas brought to the gaming world, but a lot of these ideas feel like a work in progress.
The PS4 is the best choice as a top-of-the-line home gaming console, and being $100 cheaper makes it even more attractive.
Max Parker covers video games as The Game Guy at communityvoices.sites.post-gazette.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GameGuyPGH.
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