We’re a few years into the life of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4; the PS4 surged ahead on sales to begin with, but the Xbox One has seen a turnaround more recently.
No other console generation has seen two rivals so similar in terms of hardware, specifications, software and services, making it surprisingly hard to choose between them. We're going to try to explain everything you need to know in order to make the right choice.
If you're toying with a console beyond the big two, you might be better off checking out our guide to the best games console, which includes the Nintendo Switch, 3DS, and Nvidia Shield too.
The PS4 is generally seen as the hardcore gamer’s choice. Its hardware is slightly more powerful than the Xbox One, and Sony was smarter in focussing the PS4’s software and interface on games rather than some vision of the console as an entertainment hub.
That was Microsoft’s mistake at launch, where the Xbox One seemed too focused on TV, movies and voice-controlled entertainment, and not enough on playing games. Where Sony pushed to make its console more affordable, Microsoft saddled it with a pricey motion control peripheral that nobody really wanted – the second-generation Kinect.
Right now, the situation’s different. Kinect is now an option rather than the default, and the Xbox One has dropped in price accordingly. More importantly, Microsoft seems to have got the message that people primarily buy consoles to play games.
While the Xbox One was a pricier proposition at launch, both consoles are now available at roughly similar prices.
The re-designed PS4 (a.k.a. the PS4 Slim) is available from Amazon for £224.99/$255 with a 500GB hard drive, and £256.49 with a larger 1TB drive. Both versions are also available in bundles with games, which often represent better value for money.
The Xbox One S (also a re-design from the original Xbox One) is slightly cheaper, available for £209.95 with a 500GB drive. Again, bundles are available, and generally better value - often a game is thrown in for the same price as buying the console on its own.
The comparison is made slightly more complicated by the addition of the more powerful versions of each console. Sony's PS4 Pro costs £349.99/$399.99 with a 1TB hard drive, and offers beefed up performance and quasi-4K video output - widening the existing specs gap between the consoles even further.
Microsoft's Xbox One Scorpio isn't out yet, but the officials specs reveal a console that's even more powerful than the PS4 Pro - and when it goes on sale later in 2017, we expect it to cost even more too.
With both consoles there’s a hidden cost: the annual fee for the subscription service required for online play. An Xbox Live Gold membership costs £40 per year, as does the equivalent PS Plus membership. Both services throw in exclusive trial games, discounts and free games to sweeten the deal.
Connections and ports
To keep things simple, from here on we're going to focus on comparing the main Xbox One and PS4 consoles, including the updated Xbox One S and PS4 Slim. We'll leave the Pro and Scorpio out of it, because they're covered in more detail in our separate PS4 Pro vs Xbox One Scorpio comparison.
The PS4 is the smaller and sleeker of the two consoles, with an angular design in part-gloss, part-matt black plastic. It’s reasonably quiet in operation, though noise levels pick up when you’re playing games, and so far it’s proved as reliable as previous PlayStation consoles.
There are two USB ports at the front, along with well-concealed power and disc eject buttons. At the back you’ll find the power socket, HDMI and Ethernet ports, an optical digital audio output plus an additional USB port for the PlayStation Camera accessory.
The PS4 Slim is very similar, but (unsurprisingly) runs a little smaller. It also loses the gloss finish and rounds off the corners, though there is one small sacrifice for the size: there's no optical audio output.
The Xbox One is larger and chunkier than the PS4, but it still fits in well into the average home entertainment setup. If anything it’s a little quieter than the PS4, and Microsoft seems to have fixed the reliability issues that plagued the early Xbox 360 consoles.
Around the back you’ll find a bewildering array of ports, with two USB ports, Ethernet, an optical output and a specific port for Kinect, plus two HDMI sockets. One of these is an output for your TV, but the other is designed to take a signal from your Freeview/Freesat PVR or Virgin/Sky set-top-box.
The Xbox One S is broadly the same, but drops the dedicated Kinect port - if you want to connect Kinect, you just use one of the standard USB ports.
Hardware and specs
It’s internally that the key differences emerge. Both consoles are based on the same AMD Jaguar processor technology found in its Temash and Kabini APUs. Both have eight CPU cores, with the Xbox One running at 1.75Ghz to the PS4’s 1.6GHz.
Both also have AMD GPUs, but here things differ. Where the Xbox One’s GPU, derived from the Bonaire architecture found in the Radeon HD 7790, has 12 GCN compute units to play with, the PS4’s GPU, based on Pitcairn, has 18. Even given that the Xbox One’s GPU runs at 853MHz (or 914MHz in the Xbox One S) to the PS4's 800MHz, that still gives the PS4 a tangible advantage on the graphics front.
To make things harder for Microsoft, the PS4 can call on 8GB of 5500Mhz GDDR5 RAM, giving it a lot more memory bandwidth than the 2133MHz DDR3 the Xbox One relies on. Microsoft compensates by using a 32MB ESRAM cache to keep data flowing smoothly, but the PS4 hardware is – when all is said and done – that bit more powerful.
How much does this matter? Well, on the one hand we’re seeing key cross-platform games that either run at a full HD resolution on PS4 but at a slightly lower resolution on Xbox One, or simply run more smoothly with more visual effects on PS4.
On the other hand, the differences aren’t always that noticeable when you’re actually playing the games rather than analysing them frame-by-frame, and the best Xbox One games are still pretty astonishing. The extra power is a key point in the PS4’s favour, but it’s not a deciding blow against Xbox One.
We should also note that neither console is significantly more powerful than a fairly basic, mid-range gaming PC. Generally speaking, the manufacturers and third party developers will do more to optimise their graphics engines and build in advanced features for the console platforms, keeping them delivering amazing-looking games in the long-term, but a games PC remains a powerful alternative, and a more flexible one in many respects.
Interface and features
Both consoles have slick user interfaces. The PS4’s is simpler and better at getting you straight to the functions you use most when playing games.
The Xbox One’s software uses Windows 10 as a base, and features an uncomplicated design and integrates search, friends, messages and notifications for much quicker access. Plus if you have the Kinect sensor, you're now able to use Cortana to record game clips and invite friends to chat or play games by simply using your voice. There's also a universal store, which means you'll see some apps and games available on Windows 10 on the Xbox.
Both consoles have their party pieces though. The PS4 has a brilliant Remote Play feature, where you can stream games from your PS4 to a PS Vita handheld, Sony Xperia smartphone or tablet, or PC or Mac and keep playing while someone else hogs the TV - this can be done locally or over the internet. It also has some great game sharing features, where you can virtually hand over your controller to another PS4 owner, and let them stream a game from your console over the web.
More recently, Sony introduced (or should we say re-introduced?) the ability to stream music via a USB drive while you're playing the PS4, along with the ability to appear offline on your friends list for those times where you're feeling a little... unsociable.
The Xbox One, however, can give you a split-screen view to run two apps or one game and one app at once. Both the PS4 and Xbox One feature an 'instant resume' which allows you to put your console in standby, turn it on again, and carry on playing exactly where you left off.
The Xbox One’s second-generation Kinect camera is a big improvement on the first, with more accurate motion tracking that works better across a range of lighting conditions, and can also track your body in more detail, even down to the individual finger joints. Sadly, it’s been grossly under-used so far, with just a handful of games that use it, and precious little sign of more to follow.
The PS4’s PlayStation Camera is a cheaper and less high-tech affair, and works with the same PS Move wand controllers that Sony first launched for the PS3. Again, it’s barely been used so far, and shouldn’t be considered a must-have purchase - unless you want to try out VR.
This is a major difference: if you want to try out virtual reality gaming on a console, you need to get the PlayStation 4. It supports Sony's exclusive PlayStation VR platform, which lets you play a variety of different VR experiences and games.
It's a little expensive at £340/$400 for the headset (and bear in mind you'll probably also want the compatible Move controllers and Camera), but it's still pretty affordable compared to the likes of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, and delivers great VR performance for the price.
By comparison, Microsoft hasn't announced any firm VR plans for the Xbox One. We're expecting some sort of VR support to be confirmed later in 2017 - likely with the Oculus Rift - but for now, PS4 is the go-to platform for console VR gaming.
At first, neither console was backwards compatible, so there wasn't much to compare between them. However, they now each offer some form of backwards compatibility, in very different ways.
The Xbox One is the only console that offers true backwards compatibility, and there are currently more than 300 Xbox 360 games you can play on the new machine - out of a total library of over 1,000.
Sony has handled old games very differently. It launched an on-demand service, PlayStation Now, which lets you stream a range of PS3 games. However, you still have to pay for a subscription to stream games, whether you own them or not, so there’s not a massive advantage if you have a huge PS3 games collection.
The best reason to buy a specific console is to play its exclusive games, and this is an area where the PS4 has arguably built up a slight edge.
The Xbox One has some fantastic racing games in the Forza series, Halo 5, Halo Wars 2, Gears of War 4, and time-stopping shooter Quantum Break. For more, check out our round-up of the Xbox One's best games.
The PS4 has a remastered version of the PS3’s brilliant post-apocalyptic epic The Last of Us, The Order: 1886, the gloomy RPG Bloodborne, space exploration game No Man’s Sky,Uncharted 4, the long-delayed The Last Guardian, and action-RPG NieR: Automata. For more, check out our round-up of the PS4's best games.
Those aside, some of the best games on either console have come from third parties, with Far Cry 4, Batman: Arkham Knight, Destiny, Dragon Age: Inquisition,The Witcher III: Wild Hunt, and an enhanced Grand Theft Auto V. Most of these games look or run slightly better on the PS4, but there’s not much in it.
Microsoft originally sold the Xbox One as the ultimate all-in-one entertainment system, pushing how voice controls and integrated TV would put it right at the heart of the living room. It still has arguably the best set of entertainment features, with apps for all the major catch-up TV services bar ITV Player, plus all the major video streaming services, including Amazon Instant Video, YouTube Netflix, Blinkbox and Now TV.
The Xbox One also has a Blu-ray drive and playback app, and DLNA media streaming both through the console’s own Media Player and an app for Plex. Throw in Microsoft’s own music and video services and its TV features, and it’s the best console for those who want to do more with their console than play games.
The PS4 has been playing catch-up here, not even having YouTube to start with, but it now has apps for Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and Now TV, plus iPlayer and Demand 5. There’s currently no DLNA client for the console, so it’s the less capable media player of the two. On the plus side, you can use Sony’s own Video Unlimited and Music Unlimited services, which are stronger than their Microsoft equivalents.
SHOULD I BUY SONY PS4 SLIM?
There's not much between the two, but if we had to pick a winner, we'd give it to the PS4. Not only does it edge the Xbox One on sheer graphical horsepower, it also has virtual reality support, and a better library of current and upcoming exclusive titles. The Xbox One is a little cheaper, and boasts better entertainment features, but unless you're a serious Halo or Gears of War fan, right now the PS4 is a better bet.Tags: Share this article
Now, in a bout eight years in the making, two titans will fight for the heavyweight game console championship of the world!
In this corner, in the green and white shorts, weighing in at a massive 15.2 pounds and hailing from Redmond, Wash., in the USA, the Microsoft Xbox One!
In this corner, in the blue, black, and white shorts, weighing in at a svelte 9 pounds and hailing from Minato City, Tokyo, in Japan, the Sony PlayStation 4!
Ladies and gentlemen: Let's get ready to rumblllle!!!
Update November 21, 2013: CNET has now reviewed both the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One. We're in the process of updating this story to reflect what we've learned about both consoles; in the meantime, read PS4 vs. Xbox One: Round 1 to Sony.
Price: Advantage Sony
The PlayStation 4 costs $399. It launched on November 15 in the US, followed by November 29 in Europe and Australia, December for much of Asia, and February 22 for Japan.
The Xbox One is priced at $499. It will launch on November 22 in most countries worldwide.
The Xbox will run you $100 more up front, and likely even more over time. You'll need an Xbox Live Gold subscription, listed at $60/year, to use most online extras, from Netflix to gameplay video sharing. Sony's equivalent subscription service, PlayStation Plus, is required only for multiplayer gaming and online saves. It's also cheaper at $50/year.
The boxes: Aside from Kinect, more similar than different
The most obvious reason for the price difference is that every Xbox One includes a dedicated Kinect sensor for motion control and other functions. The PS4's somewhat similar is optional ($59).
Beyond the Xbox's larger size and weight, their design is actually pretty similar to each other. The black, glossy-and-matte PS4 is a raked-back rectangle that you can opt to stand on its side. The black, glossy-and-matte Xbox looks more, well, boxy, like a futuristic piece of AV equipment, and it needs to stay horizontal.
Internal hardware: PS4 more powerful (on paper, at least)
The actual consoles house very similar silicon, both with power akin to a current mid- to high-end gaming PC, but do show a few key differences.
According to an exhaustive analysis by Digital Foundry, the biggest difference between the two systems' hardware is the type of RAM each uses. The PlayStation 4 uses 8GB GDDR5 RAM, while all signs point to the Xbox One using 8GB of DDR3 RAM. The GDDR5 RAM used in the PlayStation 4 is the same type of RAM used by most PC video cards and is optimized for graphical throughput. Digital Foundry speculates that the PS4's GPU could have as much as 50 percent more raw graphical computational power than the one in the Xbox One.
That difference, coupled with the fact that the PS4 runs some early games at higher native resolutions than the Xbox One, might seem to make the PS4 a better gaming machine. But not necessarily. As we wrote in our PS4 review:
You might read about the PS4's specs trumping that of the Xbox One's, but it's important to keep in mind how that translates into actual results. Remember that the PS3 was originally poised to be a massive powerhouse over the Xbox 360, but in reality didn't perform much better. You could even make the argument that most multiplatform games played smoother and looked better on the Xbox 360.
So while the PS4 may have quicker RAM, a faster GPU, and higher native resolution (1080p), we just don't know how those numbers will pan out when it comes to raw results and performance.
Check out the chart below for more basic details on how the consoles compare.
|US availability||November 22, 2013||November 15, 2013|
|Dimensions (WDH inches)||13.5 x 10.4 x 3.2||10.8 x 12 x 2|
|Weight||15.2 pounds||9.2 pounds|
|Hard drive||Built-in, nonremoveable (500GB)||Built-in, removeable (500GB)|
|Motion control||New Kinect (bundled)||PlayStation Camera ($60)|
|CPU||8-core x86 AMD||8-core x86 AMD|
|RAM||8GB DDR3||8GB GDDR5|
|Wireless||Yes (802.11n w/Wi-Fi Direct)||Yes (802.11n)|
|HDMI||Yes (in and out)||Yes|
|Analog video outputs||No||No|
|External storage support||Yes, USB||No|
|Power supply||External brick||Internal|
|Can also stand vertically||No||Yes|
|IR remote support||Yes||No|
|Suspend/resume game support||Yes||Yes|
|Gameplay sharing/DVR (video)||Yes||Yes|
|Real-time gameplay streaming||Yes||Yes|
Games: Exclusives, launch titles, and (lack of) backward compatability
As usual, each company's lineup of first-party (self-published) games will be exclusive to its own console. So any new Halo, Gears of War, or Fable titles will remain Xbox only, while future Uncharted, Killzone, or Ratchet and Clank games will only appear on PlayStation.
Quite a few Xbox One exclusive titles will be available at launch, including Crimson Dragon, Dead Rising 3, Ryse: Son of Rome, and Forza 5. The company also pledged that all DLC (add-on downloadable content) for Activision's Call of Duty: Ghosts would debut first on the Xbox One. Xbox One exclusives announced so far, but not available at launch, include Killer Instinct, Quantum Break, Project Spark, and Titanfall.
Key PlayStation 4 exclusives available at launch include Killzone: Shadow Fall, Knack, and a few indie titles. PS4 exclusives announced so far, but not available at launch, include Infamous: Second Son, The Order, and The Dark Sorcerer.
Neither lineup of exclusives boasts immediate, must-have titles, which is one reason why it might make sense to wait on buying a new console.
Most of the games that will be available when the consoles first launch are not exclusives. They include heavy hitters Call of Duty: Ghosts, Battlefield 4, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, Madden NFL 25, and NBA 2K14 -- all of which are available for both next-generation consoles, as well as for the older Xbox 360 and PS3 consoles.
Neither new console is backward compatible, so the PS4 won't play PS3 games, and the Xbox One won't play Xbox 360 games. On the other hand, many games include the ability to "upgrade" to the next-generation version for a small fee, typically $10. Here's how it works for PlayStation games.
Controllers: Evolutionary upgrades
The handheld controllers of the PS4 and the Xbox One are evolutionary descendants of the versions found on each respective platform.
The Sony DualShock 4 differentiates itself with a clickable touch pad on the front -- giving developers an additional option when designing games. The body includes a "light bar" in the front that enables motion control functionality with the PS4's camera to track the position and identify where the controller is and, if need be, actually adjust the split-screen orientation during multiplayer couch gaming. It also includes the social-focused Share button, a built-in speaker, and a headphone jack.
Our PS4 review lauded the DualShock 4 controller as "near-perfect," adding:
It felt absolutely wonderful and addresses nearly all of the shortcomings of the DualShock3 (the predecessor controller that shipped with the PlayStation 3). Unlike the slippery dome coverings of the DualShock3's sticks, the two analog sticks on the new controller have smaller embossed faces that make for much easier control.
The L1, L2, R1, and R2 buttons have all received redesigns as well, but no button on the pad seems to have benefited more than the L2 and R2 triggers. These now extend out and feel much more comfortable to pull
The Xbox One's controller received a less-extensive redesign and more of an overall refinement; Microsoft claims more than 40 "technical and design innovations." They include textured thumbsticks, a more cross-shaped, pleasingly clicky D-pad, and new labels and functions for the longtime start and back buttons. Here's an early-hands-on enumerating a bunch of the changes, and below you'll find a more recent, feel-based evaluation. Summary? "A little smoother."
The Xbox One uses Wi-Fi Direct to connect its controller, whereas the PlayStation 4 relies on Bluetooth 2.1+EDR. On paper, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR's theoretical 3Mbps maximum speed is clearly outclassed by Wi-Fi Direct's 250Mbps theoretical throughput. However, whether this will result in any tangible difference, particularly for battery life, remains to be seen.
Each system includes one controller; additional controllers for both systems cost $59 each.
Motion and voice control: Bundled vs. optional
In an audacious move for something still primarily sold as a game console, the Xbox One and its bundled put alternate control schemes and interactions front and center. The PS4 keeps voice and gesture control optional.
The new version of Kinect will offer a wider field of view than its predecessor, better tracking of individuals (limited finger tracking is now included), and the ability to track more overall bodies. And (frighteningly!) also determine your current heart rate. Yes tinfoil hat people, Kinect can be deactivated, but on the other hand it promises to be integral to the Xbox experience.
The first Kinect never really made a strong impression with hard-core gamers. It's too early to tell just how developers will make use of the second generation's upgraded features, but since every Xbox One owner will have one, it's safe to say there will be more games that take advantage of voice and gestures.
For nongaming uses, the new Kinect offers more obvious potential benefits. The device is designed to always be on (though you can deactivate it), and simply stating "Xbox on" will power up your entire system and sign you in to your account based on facial recognition. Voice commands to the integrated One Guide, designed to replace your cable box's program guide, enable fast searches -- which already work well on the original Kinect. The Skype (owned by Microsoft) experience is also far upgraded; the camera can digitally zoom in on and follow a speaker around the room, for example.
Not to be outdone, Sony says its separate, optional ($59) will also have facial recognition functionality, allow voice commands, and sense the controllers of multiple players around the room -- in addition to standard motion control for gaming.
Right now it's too early to tell which motion/camera solution will be best, but Kinect will at least be the most ubiquitous, and likely more sophisticated. That may inspire more developers to utilize more of its enticing offerings in games and beyond.
Nongaming entertainment: Advantage Xbox
Ever since the first Xbox One event in May, Microsoft has clearly focused on communicating that the Xbox One would be much more than simply a box with which to play video games. In contrast, most of Sony's demos have focused on gaming and little else.
The Xbox One will allow you to switch from game to TV show, to the Web, to a movie, to Skype, easily and smoothly (without switching inputs), with just a voice command. You'll also have the ability to multitask, running games and other apps simultaneously, with one of them in a picture-in-picture window. Microsoft calls this feature Snap, and in our hands-on demo it worked beautifully. One snag, however, is that audio from both windows was mixed together.
The Xbox One can't quite replace your cable box, but it tries. It gets rid of your cable company's program grid interface for Microsoft's slick, quick OneGuide, giving you control of live TV channel selection. You'll even be able to create your own personalized "channel" with the shows and services you choose, and an "App channel" feature integrates content from streaming services like Hulu Plus and Xbox Videos right into OneGuide.
On the hardware side, this integration is accomplished via the Xbox's One's HDMI input, allowing the console to overlay graphics atop and otherwise manipulate TV programming. Cable box control happens through relatively kludgy IR commands, however, and DVR control is spotty. The One doesn't "know" what shows are stored on your DVR, for example, and it can't schedule recordings from the OneGuide.
The PS4, meanwhile, has no "one box to rule them all" aspirations. Its nongaming chops are little better than those of the PS3, at least at launch, and in some ways they're worse. Sony did announce that it's currently working on "cutting-edge," exclusive PS4 programming "developed with gamers in mind." But the company didn't provide much more detail than that.
Of course each console will support numerous entertainment apps, including heavy hitters Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu Plus, at launch. Notably YouTube isn't yet announced for either console, and while HBO Go is "coming soon" for the Xbox One, it's not announced for the PS4. According to our in-depth comparison, the Xbox One has a slight advantage in the sheer number of apps supported, at least in the early days.
On the other hand you'll need an Xbox Live Gold subscription ($60/year) to use third-party apps like Netflix on the Xbox One. Using those apps on the PS4 doesn't require PlayStation Plus membership (though that's required for online multiplayer gaming).
Both consoles will play DVDs and Blu-ray discs, but neither will play 3D Blu-rays at launch. Only the Xbox One can play back audio CDs -- for some bizarre reason the PS4 can't, even though the PS3 can. (Sony has recently indicated that CD playback may be added in a future firmware update.)
The PS3 was also an excellent media server client, playing MP3s and allowing you to stream video, photo, and music files from connected servers or PCs in the home, typically via DLNA. The PS4, according to Sony, does none of these things. Meanwhile, the Xbox One is compatible for streaming video, music, and photo playback -- as long as the server is Play To compatible.
For now, at least, neither next-gen console is as versatile a media streamer as its predecessor, but the Xbox One has the advantage. More than many other differences, these are subject to change. Even Sony's own FAQ says, after informing us that MP3s aren't supported: "We appreciate your feedback and are exploring possibilities."
Community and social: Sony pushes an extra button
One of the major differences between the Xbox One/PS4 and previous consoles is the embrace of new social aspects, including gameplay recording and sharing.
For the PS4, things like live video chat and Facebook will be natively integrated. When your friends purchase a new game, you'll know, and you'll be able to play new games before they've even finished downloading.
Once again, here's our PS4 review:
Live items are built in everywhere you look, and social features are present at every corner, especially when it comes to your friends list. Your account can be tied to your Facebook and Twitter profiles and have the option of posting on your behalf depending on your settings. Your friends list will actually be made up of your friends' real names if they approve your friend request.
However, the biggest change is the addition of the Share button on the PS4's controller.
Through this button, gamers can broadcast live gameplay, take screenshots, or share videos of their latest gaming triumphs. Your friends will post comments to your screen while they watch you play. If a player is stuck in a particularly difficult section of a game, he can call in an online friend to literally take over his controls. Frustration successfully circumvented, despite a possible bruised ego on the sharer's part.
The PS4 constantly, automatically records the last 15 minutes of gameplay, and live streams can be of unlimited length. At launch, players can share game video on Facebook, game screenshots via Facebook and Twitter, and gameplay live streams via Ustream and Twitch (YouTube isn't supported at launch). With Remote Play you can also stream your PS4 game onto a .
Although its controller doesn't have the dedicated Share button, the Xbox One also offers a Game DVR that automatically records the last few seconds of your gameplay. Using Upload Studio, gamers can "curate, edit, share, and publish" videos of gameplay directly from the machine. The Xbox One fully integrates Twitch's live-streaming capabilities. Xbox Live Gold subscribers will be able to not only live stream their own gameplay -- with the option to add voice or video to the stream with Kinect -- but also watch streams of others as well.
Microsoft has increased its Xbox Live friends list limit from 100 to "all" of them, and achievements are getting a big overhaul. The new achievement system will have "richer detail and span across your games and experiences."
Other Xbox One social features include built-in Skype, the ability to track Xbox Live trends, and see what your friends are playing or watching most. With Smart Match you can look for multiplayer games while spending your time in other apps.
SmartGlass will also be more tightly integrated into the Xbox One.
Used games and 'always on': No real differences anymore
Thanks to a 180 reversal by Microsoft back in June, the Xbox One will no longer require periodic online check-ins in order to play games. Microsoft says that a one-time connection will be all but required during the Xbox One's initial setup, however.
Sony has always said the PS4 would also not require an Internet connection to play games. An Internet connection won't be required for its initial setup, but you will need to connect if you want the major feature additions available in system update 1.50, available on launch day.
So yes, users of both systems will be able to play games for as long as the user likes without connecting to the Internet; however, with plenty of games like The Division, Titanfall, and Destiny including deeply-rooted Internet features or being multiplayer-only, many of the most sought-after experiences on these consoles will at the very least be suitably enhanced with an Internet connection.
Neither Sony nor Microsoft will restrict game lending, trade-ins, renting, selling, or any action that mirrors what you can currently do with your PS3 and Xbox 360 games. However, third-party publishers can still choose to restrict these actions as they choose.
Which one is better?
There's no way to really tell until we can review both systems, and even then both will evolve and change significantly. In the meantime, however, our overall impression is that the more expensive Xbox One offers more-compelling nongaming features and generally feels more futuristic, whereas the cheaper PS4 seems like a more straightforward gaming device.
As usual, we expect most owners of current-generation consoles to stay within the family: PS3 owners are more likely to get a PS4, and Xbox 360 owners will typically opt for an Xbox One. Over the years each company has developed a stable of exclusive franchises like Halo and Uncharted that keep fans coming back for more.
Whether either console offers enough to get people to switch sides is up to the judges. We don't think this bout will be won by a knockout.
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