PS4 Pro vs Xbox One X: how are the mid-generation consoles shaping up?

PS4 Pro vs Xbox One X: how are the mid-generation consoles shaping up?

Update: The Xbox One X has arrived. Check out our full review of the console here and read our run down of important things you need to know about it. 

Original article continues below…

Sony’s PS4 Pro enjoyed one year as the most powerful games console on the market. However, now that the Xbox One X has been released that’s simply no longer the case.

However, though it now bears the title of ‘most powerful console in the world’, the Xbox One X isn’t necessarily the right console for you. Numbers alone do not a console make and for anyone wondering whether they should buy a PlayStation 4 Pro or an Xbox One X, it’s worth taking a look at the details we have below to help you make a decision between these 4K flagships. 

Xbox One X vs PS4 Pro: specs and graphics

  • Xbox One X has much more impressive specs
  • Whether or not the Xbox One X’s full potential is used is down to individual developers
  • Both consoles are capable of native 4K ouput
  • Both consoles will upscale 1080p games
  • Both consoles will supersample to benefit Full HD TV owners

4K capable 

The headline feature of both of these consoles is that they’ll both be capable of outputting 4K content either natively or through a process known as upscaling. 

Though the PS4 Pro is capable of playing games in native 4K, at the moment the library of games which do so is fairly small. While you’ll be able to enjoy games like Skyrim in native 4K, the majority of Pro supported titles achieve their 4K resolutions by upscaling.

While an excellent solution to improving 1080p outputs, upscaling is still inferior to native 4K content. That said, the PS4 Pro has a couple of tricks up its sleeve. 

Each game handles its upscaling slightly differently, but a general theme so far on the PS4 Pro has been that games will render at a resolution that’s between Full HD and 4K and then use a more advanced upscaling method called ‘checkerboard rendering’ to fill its 4K pixels. 

When talking about checkerboard rendering things can get complicated very quickly, but the important takeaway from this is that the images the PS4 Pro is capable of displaying look very close in quality to native 4K content by using this method.

For Microsoft’s part, the Xbox One X is also capable of outputting native 4K content at a solid 60 frames per second.

Not better across the board

However, that’s not to say all Xbox One X games will output native 4K at 60 fps. Like the PS4 Pro, developers have the option patching their games with enhancements for Xbox One X and it’s completely up to individual developers what enhancements they focus on, if any.

On launch, though, the Xbox One X boasts a satisfying list of games that feature native 4K at 60 frames per second such as Gears of War 4, Forza Motorsport 7 and FIFA 18. Xbox has also gone so far as to say that all of its first-party games will feature native 4K from here on out and a promising number of third-party developers have committed 4K support for the future. 

However, as a result of the freedom Microsoft has given third-party developers, you’ll also find that many games will ask you to choose between 4K at 30 fps or 1080p at 60 fps. It’s not guaranteed, therefore, that every game on the console will run at full 4K and 60 fps even though its power allows for that.

FreeSync

Something that stands in Xbox One X’s favor when it comes to running 4K games, though,  is that the console supports an adaptive screen-tearing technology known as FreeSync. This technology commonly used in PCs should see the console cope with instances of screen-tearing much more efficiently than the PS4 Pro, particularly in games which have demanding 4K visuals. 

It will, however, only make the console more effective in this department right away for those that have displays which also support the technology. According to Eurogamer, adaptive sync will only be available on TVs equipped with HDMI 2.1 (a display standard that hasn’t yet been ratified) or computer monitors that support FreeSync over HDMI. 

It’s unlikely that a majority of people will have access to these kinds of displays just yet. However, we can expect the majority of TVs in the future to adopt the HDMI 2.1 standard so sometime in the future you’re probably going to end up with a TV that will support FreeSync.  

Upscaling still required

Microsoft’s last console, the Xbox One S, relied entirely on a very basic form of upscaling that generated a 4K signal without doing much to clean up the image in the process.

Games that haven’t been patched by their developers for 4K output and continue to run at 1080p will still be upscaled by the Xbox One X, according to the Xbox support page. It confirms that “on Xbox One X, 4K content is displayed in its native 4K resolution, and other content (like games encoded for 1080p) is upscaled to 4K.”

However, given the Xbox One X’s greater power it’s able to improve a game’s performance as well as its visuals. In fact, in many instances you’ll find that if a game sticks to a 1080p output, it’ll make up for it with HDR support and a solid 60 frames per second as is the case with ARK: Survival Evolved and the improved frame rate mode offered by Rise of the Tomb Raider.

Benefits for Full HD

Both console are great for owners of the latest 4K TVs as a result of their native and upscaled output capabilities, but both offer benefits to those with less powerful Full HD screens too. 

With Xbox One X it’s been revealed that even with a standard Full HD TV you’re able to supersample the 4K image down to your display which guarantees excellent image quality no matter what kind of display you have.   

This is something that was made possible on PS4 Pro via the PlayStation 4.5 firmware update, which introduced a Boost Mode to PS4 Pro consoles. With this mode activated, even games that hadn’t been patched to upscale will benefit from the increased power of the console with more stable framerates. 

Power and performance

Despite the fact that both consoles are able to improve the performance of games even if they haven’t received a patch, the sheer higher levels of power that Xbox One X has makes it better at doing this. 

Xbox’s Phil Spencer said that Xbox One X would also improve game performance but to make the most of both consoles you’re most likely going to want a 4K display.

A numbers game

On a pure numbers game, the Xbox One X wins out with a massive 6 teraflops of graphics processing power and its 12GB of GDDR5 RAM.

This is significantly more than the PS4 Pro’s 4.12 teraflops and  8GB GDDR5 RAM. Essentially, the PS4 Pro just doesn’t have the same graphical processing power as Xbox One X and nor does it have the same RAM to set aside purely to run its games. 

So, while both consoles are able to output 4K and run games at 60 frames per second, the Xbox One X has some serious power advantages and greater overhead that should make it better at doing so. 

Do the numbers actually matter?

Is this the case? Well, real-life comparisons between the consoles are still quite thin on the ground at the moment but we’ve been taking a look at some of Digital Foundry’s comparisons for titles such as FIFA 18 and Middle-earth: Shadow of War. 

When it comes to FIFA 18, both consoles were outputting the game at native 4K. In terms of raw image quality there aren’t many big differences between the two. 

According to Digital Foundry, despite having much more bandwidth and memory to play around with, the Xbox One X doesn’t really use it for anything. The only element they spot that the Xbox One X doesn’t better is a slight improvement on the grass draw distance which means you can see details in the grass from greater distances. 

Despite being Xbox One X enhanced, then, FIFA 18 isn’t really pushing the console to the extent that it could in order to bring tweaks like better texture filtering and improved shadows. 

Historically, EA has achieved fairly good parity between the consoles, even on the standard versions where it was the PS4 that boasted more power. A lack of scalability is an issue that may crop up with developers working across several machines as there’s a base line experience that the development engines might not be capable of going beyond. 

However, a game where the Xbox One X certainly has used its extra power to beat out the PS4 Pro is the recent Middle-earth: Shadow of War. For one thing, Xbox One X offers 4K while the PS4 Pro patch is still limited to 1620p (though there are 4K cinematics that can be downloaded which is highly recommended). 

According to Digital Foundry, there are some seriously notable differences between the textures on the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro. The PS4 Pro just isn’t powerful enough to host the top-tier PC-quality texture packs that the Xbox One X can and still run smoothly. 

As a result, the visuals on the Xbox One X are much sharper and clearer than what’s presented on the PS4 Pro. The Xbox One X is able to offer the option to turn Dynamic Resolution on and off, a mode which is hard-set on the PS4 Pro. When turning this off, the game prioritises the resolution, though there’s the risk that sometimes the game’s performance will dip. 

Digital Foundry recommends playing with this mode turned on in quality mode. That way, you get incredible details and draw distances alongside consistent performance despite dropping from 4K. It’s worth noting that even with this combination, the Xbox One X still puts out a higher pixel count than the PS4 Pro.

Overall, the Xbox One X is certainly capable of much better graphics and much greater visual customization than the PS4 Pro thanks to its greater power. Looking at FIFA 18 and Shadow of War together, however, shows that better graphics won’t necessarily be the case across every single game – it’s really down to the developer. That said, the Xbox One X is certainly the more future-proofed option for those interested in getting the best 4K assets. 

Xbox One X vs PS4 Pro: appearance

  • Neither console breaks any new ground with their appearance
  • This is the smallest Xbox ever but only by a very small amount
  • PS4 Pro has more special edition and color options

Now that we’ve seen the Xbox One X in person, we can safely say that it stands up to the PS4 Pro in terms of appearance.

Despite being the most powerful Xbox ever, this is also the smallest Xbox console ever which slightly goes in the face of PlayStation’s decision to make its PS4 Pro look like a larger PS4 Slim. 

However, like Sony, Microsoft hasn’t decided to do anything overly different from what it’s done before in terms of the overall physical design of the console. Though small, it’s similar in overall look to the Xbox One S so neither PS4 Pro nor Xbox One X are going to do anything too different from what you already have in terms of changing up your living space. 

Having been out for longer, though, the PS4 Pro does have some nice special editions available such as the glacier white Destiny 2 console. 

Xbox One X vs PS4 Pro: games 

  • Xbox has much better backwards compatibility across all of its devices
  • Xbox Play Anywhere unites the Windows 10 platform
  • PS4 has more exciting first-party exclusives in the works
  • Both consoles receive the biggest third-party games

4K graphics and impressive hardware are only going to be useful if you want to play the console’s games in the first place. Fortunately, both PlayStation and Xbox have a number of excellent exclusives and there’s a good deal of overlap too. 

Both Sony and Microsoft have promised that though Xbox One X and the Pro will be more powerful than the Xbox One S and standard PS4, they won’t have exclusive titles so you don’t have to worry about being left behind by this new half-generation. Instead, they’ll share all release titles with some being capable of taking advantage of the greater power of the new consoles. 

A point in Xbox’s favor is that its backwards compatibility is currently in a far better state than the PS4’s. Although you can’t play every Xbox 360 game that was ever released during the console’s 10-year lifespan, there’s an ever-increasing list of 360 games that will work on the newer consoles and Xbox’s engineering lead Mike Ybarra confirmed that Xbox 360 and Xbox One titles will work on Xbox One X. 

Some of them will even receive Xbox One X enhanced patches which will improve color-depth and in some cases introduce HDR support. 

Xbox has also said that with the Xbox One X it also wants to “wipe out” the console upgrade cycle and allow games to work seamlessly across Xbox One, Windows 10 and the new Xbox One X. 

This process has already started with the Xbox Play Anywhere scheme making it possible for gamers to buy select games across the Xbox One and PC when they’re purchased digitally through the Microsoft store.

As its part of the same platform, this scheme is also open to Xbox One X.

Where the Xbox falls down is in its brand new first-party exclusives and Microsoft has been continually criticized for this. It’s important that the company invests in this as it’s the first-party exclusives that will be the most capable of showing just how powerful the Xbox One X is and give it the content advantage it sorely needs over the PS4 Pro. 

The PS4 has a number of excellent exclusives, though nowhere near the same backwards compatibility or cross platform capabilities. Its exclusives range from Uncharted 4, to Horizon: Zero Dawn, to excellent remakes of The Last of Us and the original Ratchet and Clank. There are many more in the works, too, such as God of War, Spider-Man, and The Last of Us Part 2.

However, debating over specific releases aside, the vast majority of this generation’s biggest games have come to both Xbox and PlayStation. 

Assassin’s Creed Origins, Battlefield 1, Overwatch and Wolfenstein 2 have all appeared on both the PS4 and Xbox One this year, and going forward most third-party publishers are expected to support each of the more powerful console iterations. 

Given the continued existence of timed-exclusives, exclusive DLCs and the PS4 Pro’s lower specs, though, this may not always be exactly equal (take Middle-earth: Shadow of War as an example of this).  

At this year’s E3, Microsoft announced the Xbox One X would have 22 exclusive titles for the console this year, which is a considerable number. Only time will tell whether this is more or less exclusivity than Sony will offer. Some of the titles such as Sea of Thieves and Ori and the Will of the Wisps could be genuinely hardware sellers. 

Virtual Reality 

  • Both consoles will eventually support virtual reality
  • PS4 Pro currently has PSVR
  • Xbox One X does not have an exclusive headset yet but will eventually make use of the Windows 10 Mixed Reality platform

Both systems will eventually support virtual reality experiences. While the PS4 Pro has the dedicated PlayStation VR headset, Microsoft doesn’t have any exclusive hardware. Instead, Microsoft will use an existing VR headset like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, though no specific headsets have been named as partners.

Microsoft has also said that Xbox One X and Xbox One will support all Windows Mixed Reality headsets, which include models from Lenovo, Dell, Acer and HP in 2018.

This means that Xbox One X will end up supporting mixed and virtual reality experiences. If this is done right, it could give Microsoft the edge in terms of breadth and perhaps depth particularly as it’s much more impressive processing power should make it much better at running virtual reality experiences.

Xbox One X vs PS4 Pro films and media 

  • Xbox One X has a built-in Ultra HD Blu-ray player
  • Both consoles stream 4K content from services like Netflix and Amazon

Films and media is another area where the two consoles are similar in some respects, but very different in others. 

The biggest difference is that Xbox One X has an Ultra HD Blu-ray player which allows it to play Ultra HD Blu-rays in all their uncompressed 4K HDR glory. 

The discs aren’t all that common at the moment, however when a movie or TV show is available in the format, it’s well worth opting for the 4K version. As time goes on it’s likely that the format is slowly going to overtake Blu-ray in the way that format overtook DVD. The Xbox One X’s Ultra HD Blu-ray player is a good way of future proofing yourself in this instance. 

When it comes to streaming, both consoles are on much more even footing; both are equipped to handle Netflix, Amazon Prime and YouTube in all of their 4K/HDR glory. 

Both video streaming and Ultra HD Blu-rays have their drawbacks. You’ll need to have a pretty meaty internet connection to get a good quality 4K stream (Netflix, for example, recommends a connection speed of 25mbits or above), and 4K discs are expensive and not available for the vast majority of movies and TV shows. 

However, while they both have their drawbacks, the Xbox One X gives you the choice between them, whereas with the PS4 Pro your choice has been made for you by the lack of an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc drive. 

Xbox One X vs PS4 Pro price 

  • Xbox One X is $499/£449/AU$649
  • PS4 Pro is $399/£349/AU$559.95 and there are better bundles going around

Although we’d love for money to be no object when it comes to gaming, the reality is that for most people price is a significant factor in determining what to buy, and that’s especially true around the holiday season when Xbox One X will be released. 

At the moment you can pick up a PS4 Pro for around $399/£349/AU$559.95 and it’s likely that having a strong foothold in the market will allow Sony to offer good discounts when the holiday season rolls around. 

The Xbox One X, however, is a recent launch and is priced at $499/£449/AU$649. This is significantly more than the price for the PS4 Pro and despite having many excellent features as well as exclusives, Microsoft may find it challenging to convince players to part with the extra $100/£100 which could essentially buy them two more games to still enjoy in 4K on the PS4 Pro.

When it comes to price the PS4 Pro wins out on value for money for anyone going through the costly process of upgrading to 4K.

So which is better? 

In terms of pure on-paper power, Xbox One X absolutely wins out over PS4 Pro.

Xbox One X’s memory bandwith, RAM, CPU and GPU all outperform PS4 Pro and with Middle-earth: Shadow of War we’ve already seen evidence that this can have a graphical impact.

However, it’s not every developer that will use the Xbox One X’s power to its full potential and at the moment it seems likely that for a while there will be a lot of parity across the consoles. 

In terms of third-party future-proofing, the Xbox One X’s power makes it your best bet. 

There is, however, still the problem that the PS4 Pro has a much more exciting existing and upcoming library of exclusive first-party games than the Xbox One X. So while the draw distance in terms of steady performance is better for the Xbox One X, the content future is slightly better for the PS4 Pro. 

That said, outside of gaming content, the Xbox One X boasts an Ultra HD Blu-ray player and fantastic backwards compatibility that will reduce the disruption you’d usually expect from mid-generational upgrades. 

The Xbox One X also has the benefit of being Microsoft’s smallest console ever, despite being its most powerful. 

However, there is the matter of price to consider. At $499, the Xbox One X is $100 more expensive than the PS4 Pro which may give some players pause. 

Overall, it really depends what you’re looking for. If money is of little object and you want the most powerful console ever, a full entertainment system, a good degree of future proofing and you’re a fan of the Xbox back catalog the Xbox One X just makes sense.

If, however, you’re looking to enter the era of 4K gaming more cost-effectively and you can’t stand the idea of missing out on PlayStation’s engaging exclusives then the PS4 Pro is the console for you. 

Source: http://www.techradar.com/news/ps4-pro-vs-xbox-one-x-how-are-the-mid-generation-consoles-shaping-up

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