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Head2Head: Microsoft Xbox One X vs Sony PlayStation 4 Pro
by Andrew Hayward | Jun 15, 2017 | Comment Now
Will the powerful new Xbox really unseat Sony's souped-up PS4?
Head2Head: Microsoft Xbox One X vs Sony PlayStation 4 Pro

No, it's not yet time for the PlayStation 5 or the Xbox… Two? However, Sony and Microsoft aren't content to let their four-year-old consoles linger as gaming PCs get cheaper and more powerful.

Last year's Xbox One S added 4K media support and upscaling for games, but it's this autumn's Xbox One X that'll truly elevate the gaming experience. With a huge processing boost within, the new console will deliver native 4K gaming and a level of detail and performance previously unseen on home consoles.

Of course, Sony's own PlayStation 4 Pro is already out, and it offers a nice step up from the standard PS4 with a mix of native and upscaled 4K gaming. Microsoft's console seems to offer more power, but which will be the better overall console to stick under your 4K TV? Let's have a look at how the specs and details shake out ahead of the Xbox One X's release.

POWER: THE ONE X GOES BIGGER

The PlayStation 4 Pro uses an upgraded AMD Jaguar/Radeon chip that provides 4.2 teraflops of graphics processing capabilities – a massive leap up from the 1.84 teraflop GPU in the original PS4 (both have 8GB RAM).

What does that mean? Well, both PS4 consoles play the exact same games, but on the PS4 Pro, you have the benefit of running at higher resolutions. Some games can output natively at 4K resolution, which packs in four times the pixels of 1080p Full HD, while others run somewhere in between those benchmarks and then are upscaled to 4K.

In either case, you get a crisper-looking result that cuts out jaggies and really lets the game assets shine. And the PS4 Pro's power also allows for steadier frame rates and smoother performance, not to mention additional details and effects. It all depends on how the developers use the extra muscle, of course, but the differences can be impressive.

What about the Xbox One X? Well, much like the PS4 Pro, it's still built on the same platform as the older hardware, so it'll run all the same Xbox One games – both old games and new ones. But with a new GPU that allows for 6 teraflops of graphics output (along with 12GB RAM), it's a dramatic improvement over the 1.3 teraflops from the original Xbox One. It also has 40 compute units to play with, over the 12 from the original Xbox One.

And it's certainly an improvement over the 4.2 teraflops on the PlayStation 4 Pro. Microsoft says that all the extra muscle will allow for mostly native 4K games, and many able to run at 60 frames per second, as well – like Forza Motorsport 7. We played it at E3 2017 and it blew our minds; it's easily the most impressive console game we've ever seen in person.

Look, the numbers are just a handy way of putting a very complex comparison into simplistic terms, but ultimately, the proof is in the pudding. We haven't seen enough multiplatform games to be able to directly compare them on both devices, but Forza 7 looks incredible, and the stats suggest that Microsoft has a higher ceiling to hit with its box. In terms of raw power, we have to give this one to the Xbox One X.

Likely Winner: Microsoft Xbox One X

GAMES: PICK YOUR PLEASURE

You'll find a lot of the same games on both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One thanks to third-party developers, and if the E3 2017 announcements are any indication, that will definitely continue ahead into the future with the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro, as well.

But when it comes to exclusives, Microsoft just hasn't had the same kind of winning streak as Sony this generation. Exclusive games are what define a console most of all, and games like Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Bloodborne, The Last of Us Remastered, Ratchet & Clank, and Persona 5 are incredible reasons to pick a PlayStation 4.

And there's still much more ahead, with games like God of War, Detroit: Become Human, Days Gone, Uncharted: Lost Legacy, Spider-Man, and Shadow of the Colossus on the horizon.

Look, the Xbox One has had some great exclusives, including Forza Horizon 3, Ori and the Blind Forest, Gears of War 4, and Killer Instinct, but Microsoft hasn't had the same kind of consistent flow of greatness that Sony has rounded up. And Microsoft's E3 2017 showing didn't really change our minds, either. Forza Motorsport 7 looks stunning on Xbox One X and we'll certainly play Crackdown 3, Sea of Thieves, and the Ori sequel, but it's a fairly thin slate of exciting exclusives.

Personal preference will drive this category, of course, and some of you might love Microsoft's franchises enough to call this one in their favour. But to us, the PS4 has clearly, without a doubt, had the better generation when it comes to one-of-a-kind experiences. Some games might look a hair nicer on the Xbox One X, but we think the PS4 Pro still has the better selection ahead.

Likely Winner: Sony PlayStation 4 Pro

MEDIA: XBOX BRINGS OPTIONS

Both the PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X are 4K streaming champs, capable of outputting supported content from Netflix, YouTube, and other services at 3840x2160 pixels. It's stunning stuff, especially when you're watching Breaking Bad, Stranger Things, or one of the other shows or movies in the ever-increasing 4K pile.

But when it comes to physical 4K media, which can look even better without the little imperfections of internet-delivered video, the PlayStation 4 Pro just can't hang. Sony opted not to put an Ultra HD Blu-ray player in the console, which means it can't run the 4K-capable discs. You're stuck with the standard 1080p Blu-ray discs.

Microsoft did put a 4K Blu-ray player in, however: it's in last year's Xbox One S, and it's in the Xbox One X, as well. For the hardcore sort that still buy movies on discs and want the ultimate in picture and audio quality, the Xbox One X will be able to provide that. Streaming will satisfy the majority of users, we imagine, but the die-hards will have more options with an Xbox One X.

Likely Winner: Microsoft Xbox One X

COMPATIBILITY: ALL EVEN

Both the PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X are enhanced versions of the existing devices, which means they both play all previous and upcoming games from each respective platform, and they both work with all of the controllers and other peripherals released for those devices.

And both devices also provide some level of enhancement to existing games. The PS4 Pro has its Boost mode, which provides more power to PS4 games that haven't been specifically augmented to support the Pro's extra power, and Microsoft has promised much the same for games running on the Xbox One X.

Will the Xbox One X's grander processing capabilities make more of a difference when the same older game is shown running on both it and the PS4 Pro? We honestly don't know yet – but we doubt it will be a dramatic difference for games not designed specifically for each device's full capabilities. We're calling this one even for now.

Likely Winner: Draw

VR: ONE-SIDED BATTLE

We assumed that E3 2017 would be the place where Microsoft finally outlined its virtual reality console plans, whether that meant showcasing its own headset or perhaps announcing compatibility with the Oculus Rift. After all, if the PS4 Pro can handle VR, then surely the more powerful Xbox One X can do the same.

But that didn't happen: Microsoft didn't even mention VR during its press conference, which means the only console VR experience available right now comes from the PlayStation 4.

We ran into some technical hitches with the PlayStation VR headset during our review testing, but by and large, we've otherwise had a solid experience with it – and the list of worthwhile games keeps growing over time. It works well with the PS4 and slightly better on a PS4 Pro, and in any case, it's not like you'll be experiencing VR on an Xbox One X anytime soon.

Winner: Sony PlayStation 4 Pro

INITIAL VERDICT

If we're talking about processing power alone, then it seems like Microsoft's Xbox One X has the clear advantage here. Between its more capable CPU and GPU, along with more RAM for developers to play with, the Xbox One X can potentially hit higher native resolutions than the PS4 Pro, not to mention deliver better effects and steadier frame rates for comparable games.

And when it comes to 4K media options, the Xbox One X prevails as well, thanks to its Ultra HD Blu-ray player. The PlayStation 4 Pro only does streaming 4K media, while Microsoft has both.

But when it comes to the larger experience of owning and playing a game console, we still think Sony has the edge here. Sony has the broader and more exciting slate of exclusive games, plus it has the only console VR solution out there, since Microsoft opted to stay out of that fight. Better yet, it's cheaper than the Xbox One X.

Forza Motorsport 7 does look fabulous, and we imagine that Xbox One X will win head-to-head visual comparisons on third-party games, as well. And that's great! We go gaga for tech showcases too, and want to have the best experience possible when playing.

But based on the current and upcoming game lineups, we still think the PlayStation 4 Pro is where we're likely to log more of our time, even if the graphical showdown falls in favour of the Xbox One X here and there. You'll have to decide based on which games you like, of course, but if we had to pick one console of the bunch right now, we'd still stick with the PS4 Pro.

Initial Winner: Sony PlayStation 4 Pro



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