Deciding between a PS4 and a standard Xbox One wasn’t easy. They both had a library of awesome exclusives, both played Blu-rays, both had access to Twitch, Netflix, Amazon Instant and HBO and both had equally great online services – I hate to say it, but they were nearly identical systems.
Sure, you could argue that services like PlayStation Now and PlayStation Vue on PS4 and Windows 10 game streaming, DVR and EA Access on Xbox One set them apart some but, by and large, Microsoft and Sony’s systems were tit-for-tat.
We’ve finally had the chance to test the systems in our own homes, and can now lay down the decisive verdict which of the two systems are worth your money.
PS4 Slim vs Xbox One S: Design
OK, here’s a spot of common ground on an otherwise brutal battlefield – both the Xbox One S and PS4 Slim are much, much smaller than their predecessors.
If you’re looking for specifics, the Xbox One S is about 40% smaller than the original Xbox One at 17 x 11.4 x 4.4 inches or 43.2 x 28.9 x 11.2 cm (L x W x D).
Likewise, the PS4 Slim is about 33% smaller than the original PS4, and measures in at 10.4 x 10.4 x 1.5 inches or 26.5 x 26.5 x 3.8 cm (L x W x D).
Advanced electrical engineering. Moore’s Law. A miracle. Call it whatever you want, but both the PS4 Slim and Xbox One S blew us away in terms of how much power they squeeze into such tiny form factors.
That said, both systems did have to make a few trade-offs in order to fit everything in there. For the Xbox One S, this meant giving up a dedicated Kinect port while for the PS4 Slim, you can kiss your optical audio port goodbye.
Both are big losses in their own way, so trying to figure out who lost more is moot.
But while the PS4 trimmed down without adding anything new hardware-wise, the Xbox One S swapped out its old standard Blu-ray drive for a 4K Ultra-HD model, making it one of the cheapest tickets in town to movies and TV shows in a 3840×2160 resolution.
Winner: Xbox One S
PS4 Slim vs Xbox One S: Performance
Comparing the PS4 Slim, a resolutely 1080p system, to the Xbox One S, is a bit like comparing apples produced in the 1800s to apples today. Sure, you can do it, but you should know it’s going to be a pretty lopsided competition.
What that means for the PS4 Slim is that performance increases lay primarily with power draw and energy efficiency, which Sony claims reduces power consumption by 28% compared to earlier models.
According to our reviewer, Gerald Lynch, there’s no perceptible difference in loading times or frame rates for games, which have so far ran all-but identically across all tests. There may be a slight improvement in UI responsiveness, but that could equally be down to our reviewer’s older console having been jammed full of games and years of use whereas the newer machine was relatively box fresh.
On the Xbox One S, however, it’s a completely different story.
Not only are games on the Xbox One S upscaled from 1080p to 4K, but they actually load faster and have higher framerates. Hardware breakdown website Digitalfoundry found that Xbox One S performed 7-11% better than the original Xbox One S, with differentials as high as 5 frames-per-second.
If gaming is all you care about and you’re not tied to playing games like Bloodborne, Uncharted 4: Among Thieves or any number of the console exclusive games that come to the PS4, the Xbox One S is a better bet.
Winner: Xbox One S
PS4 Slim vs Xbox One S: Media and 4K
We’ve already covered the point that the Xbox One S has a built-in Ultra-HD Blu-ray player, so we won’t beat a dead horse here.
Taking physical UHD media out of the picture for a minute, only the Xbox One S can stream 4K video through streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Instant Video, and both are relatively comparable on the apps available on their storefronts. Both systems can play HDR content, however.
Where the PlayStation 4 platform ekes ahead of the Xbox One, though, is the myriad “bonus” services available, like PlayStation Now and PlayStation Vue.
We’ve covered both services in better detail elsewhere on the site, but the long story, short, is that Sony’s system offers both live TV and game streaming from Sony owned and operated servers. If you have somewhat decent download speeds (and live in the US), both of the aforementioned services are definitely worth checking out.
PS4 Slim vs Xbox One S: Price
So how much can you expect to pay for these new systems? Surprisingly? Not as much as you’d think.
The PS4 Slim goes on sale on September 16, priced at £259 / $299 / AU$599.99 for the 500GB model, while the Xbox One S will retail for $299 / £249 / AU$399 for its 500GB model.
If you need something a bit larger, Microsoft is also offering 1TB and 2TB versions of the One S that are available for $349 (£299 / AU$499) and $399 (£349 / AU$549), respectively.
Considering that you’re paying no more than $299 / £259 for two of the best consoles in the world, we’re going to have to say everyone’s a winner here.
PS4 Slim vs Xbox One S: Verdict
There you have it. The winner is clear … sort of.
While the decision looks simple on paper, there’s an imperceptible thorn in the Xbox One’s paw: PlayStation VR. Sony’s PS4 systems will be the only place to play virtual reality games on consoles in 2016, that means no matter how much better-performing the Xbox One S is, it will never hit the level of immersiveness the PS4 can offer.
There’s also exclusive games, additional services and the simple fact of which system more of your friends own to take into consideration as well.
If none of that helps you narrow down your choice, ask yourself this: do I own a 4K TV or do I plan on buying one soon? If so, you probably want an Xbox One S or – at the very least – wait to see what the PlayStation 4 Pro is like when that comes out later this year.
If you don’t plan on buying a 4K TV or would rather have access to live TV and game streaming services, maybe you’re better suited buying a PS4 Slim.
Whichever system you decide to go with, you can count on us for tips and tricks for using your new system, and lists of the best games on both consoles:
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