The future is now! Last week, Sony released its next generation console, PlayStation 4. This weekend, Microsoft drops the much touted all-in-one media device, Xbox One. We've been geeking out over the two new systems, and compiling a report on the new gear.
Here are the highs and lows of these wallet-breaking units:
1. Xbox Is There to Listen: The Xbox One is priced $100 more than the $399 PS4. The reason for that is the newly designed Kinect is standard with every unit. This means much more than silly hand gestures—although that is still there if that was your thing. The Kinect's voice recognition is a huge improvement over similar tech. You can't propose to it and get a reply like Siri, but there's not much else it won't do. "Xbox: On" turns on the unit and your television after a relatively painless set up. On the downside, games with long titles need their full names announced like "Forza Motorsport 5" instead of saying just "Xbox: play Forza."
2. PS4 Is Insanely Fast. Xbox One Is Fast-ish: Both units boast a hefty 500 gig hard drive, 8 gigs of RAM, 8-core processor and a Blu-ray player. Upon initial testing though, the PS4 is noticeably faster. Start-up times, switching between apps, and so on is just more awesome on Sony's Console. The reason, we think, is tied to the next point…
3. Xbox's Killer App: The "One" in Xbox refers to Microsoft's hopes that its device will be the center of all your media from now on. With live TV incorporated, they might get their wish. Here's how it works: In the back of the bulky black console device is an HDMI In for your satellite or cable box. (Or, in our study, TiVo.) The home screen or dashboard of Xbox One has a app "Watch TV" that opens up anything connected through that HDMI port. Even better, Xbox One will ask about your device and television preferences. It then allows you to operate both your TV and TiVo via voice. It can't do everything: choosing a show to watch still needs your remote, but it does a lot. Turns on and off the TV, fast-forward/rewinds, plays, pause, your shows. This is a big deal. You can then "snap it" and use other apps like Netflix, Microsoft's music service (their version of Spotify) and even boot up and pause games on the fly. The closest to this experience were the apps one could launch with Apple TV or Roku. Except now, it's your shows. Will this lead to roommates or family members shouting various Xbox commands all at once? We sure hope so.
This is Xbox One's biggest advantage over the PS4, which has no such feature. This could also be why the One runs a tad slower than PS4 since in essence, it's always managing something.
4. The New Controllers Are Amazing: Last generation's Xbox 360 controller became pretty much the standard for gamers everywhere with PS3's DualShock 3 being criticized for a number of issues. Sony came to play this time: the new DualShock 4 is sturdier, more 360-like. Both can use their own cameras for motion controls. (The PlayStation Camera is sold separately for $59.) PS4's new controller has a gamepad for finger-swipes, which works great controlling your mini-drone in Killzone: Shadow Fall. One's new controller is very similar to the 360 which is, duh, since that one was pretty much perfect already. The triggers on both controllers have been fine-tuned, too.
5. New Games...Not So Much: The biggest fail, though? As most gamers know, gone are the days when consoles came with classics like Super Mario Bros. Nowadays it's an uprezzed version of current gen titles like Call of Duty: Ghosts. If you plan on getting a COD, get the new version as it looks much better than the murky ones on PS3/360. As for launch titles? Xbox One has a bunch: Ryse: Son of Rome, Forza 5 (um, we mean, ‘Forza Motorsport 5"), Dead Rising 3, Zoo Tycoon and more. Our pick would be DR3, which ain't pretty, but is the most fun. Killing like 30 thousand zombies in one playthrough somehow didn't get old. As for PS4? We'd pick two: Killzone is by far the best-looking on either platform running at a silky smooth 60fps. We also dug Contrast, which is free for PlayStation Plus users as a download. It's a quirky European set game that deals with shadowplays and vaudeville.
Still, none of these games are must-owns. Not like GTA V or The Last of Us, which don't work on the new systems. GTA V took five years to develop and is one of the last great games of this current generation. So it's frustrating to hook up your shiny now consoles, which can do seemingly everything, except play great games. For now.
To put this in perspective: the first official next gen console, Nintendo's Wii U launched last year, but is only now getting an amazing game like Super Mario 3D World. (Trust us, it's awesome. One of the best Mario game in ages.)
6. Game DVRs Have Potential to be Game Changers. Then again, once the next iteration of addictive games do arrive the Game DVR feature will be pretty cool. Both systems allow you to record anything from your gameplay. (Both are in a constant record mode with the One always having the last 30 seconds up to 5 minutes.) You can then edit and upload your clips. Both systems have ways to stream live play too which sounds like a great way to check out your friends' (or folks you follow) games. Yes, the new friends list includes the ability to follow. Does this mean Biebs could have a gamertag?
7. No Media Player at Launch? Not Cool: What about all your other media? Your mp3s for music? You mp4 for videos? Out of luck, at least at launch. This will be frustrating for PS3/360 users who were used to popping in a flash drive or external drive to play their media. A patch could fix this, although Microsoft has said that owners can use their SkyDrive to stream photos, videos, music. We tried it and the photos worked easily, but the mp4 we uploaded wouldn't come up at all.
8. One Looks Like Art, the Other an Old VHS Player. From a purely aesthetic plastic case point of view, Sony's angled monolith is pretty sweet to behold. The light that turns blue (and then white) when turning on is cool the nth degree. The Xbox One, well, it's big. Like old VCR or more recently, DVR big. They both weight about the same, around 6 pounds. As for spacing the PS4 can stand vertical while the Xbox One must lay horizontal, so make sure you have enough room in your entertainment center.
9. New Dashboards Boast Facial Recognition, Skyping and Other Futuriffic Stuff: As mentioned earlier, the Xbox One's dashboard looks a lot like the one you're seen in all those MS Surface commercials: colorful with tons of blocks. PS4 is the opposite a very clean (too simple?) look. One thing that interesting games like Ryse: Son of Rome seem to lack are traditional start screens, so as you switch from watching an episode of The Blacklist to playing Ryse the visual palette is somewhat tied together. It's an impressive feat.
This all feels like the future has arrived.
What say you gamers? Are you an early adopter? Gonna wait in line on Black Friday? Or will GTA V and COD: G be more than enough to play this holiday season? Sound off in the comments!