With the release of two new gaming consoles in recent weeks, fans are being asked to decide which team they will support in the next generation of gaming technology – Microsoft or Sony.
These consoles come to market roughly eight years since the last eight-year technology cycle started – but with a rush of last-minute policy changes by both manufacturers and backtracking on the less popular features, it can be hard for the consumer to sort the hype from the facts.
When you're in the store trying to decide between Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's Playstation 4, think back to this report: I'm here to arm you with the right information.
Aesthetically speaking, the PS4 is winning by a nose. While the Xbox's slightly retro “VCR” look will appeal to some, it is a considerably bulkier machine. This design choice is predicated on the fact that Microsoft want the new Xbox to be your “one” entertainment device. The machine will dominate your lounge room set-up and can no longer be placed on its side, like the 360 could.
On the other hand, the PS4 has a sleek rhombus-based shape that is undeniably more modern and appealing. And the PS4 has the upper hand in another respect, because the purest form of connection between you and your device is the controller.
Unlike the two companies' earlier models, this time the PS4 now has the more comfortable and sensible controller. Microsoft's previous Xbox 360 hit the nail right on the head with the most efficient and simple form of controller.
The PS3's controller is undeniably a classic but often not a crowd pleaser for those with larger hands.
Now the Xbox One controller uses a redesign to make itself sturdier and bulkier, while the PS4's input emulates the 360 controller as a simple, beautiful and ergonomic design. There's a lot of personal preference when it comes to console controllers, but it's hard to deny the new slightly Dreamcast-esque Xbox One version doesn't have the same pleasing mix of efficiency and sleek design that the PS4 does.
When it comes down to it though, the true test of hardware is what's under the hood. With their central processing unit (CPU) being so similar as to be essentially the same the onus falls on the graphics processing unit (GPU). This puts the PS4 in front.
With an almost 50 per cent advantage in this department, this means that the PS4 is, in theory, graphically superior. But consider that due to the requirements of modern game development, many of the cross-platform game companies have neither the time nor the money to take full advantage of the added processing power. It's likely that the difference won't even rear its head until PS4 exclusive, tent-pole games like Infamous 3 or Uncharted 4 make their appearance. Yet even now, issues have arisen regarding the native frame-rate of the two consoles that put the PS4's resolution above the Xbox One. This difference won't bother anyone except the most avid graphics fans, but the distinction must be made.
In terms of software, the general menu system of the Xbox is sleeker, smoother and more ergonomic. Both have tried to streamline their “desktops” to look fancier but the winner in this respect is undeniably Microsoft.
As a side note, the Xbox One now comes bundled with a Kinect. Though this is not the same Kinect that users are used to. This one actually works. Theoretically, it will recognise your face and voice when you sit down and sign you in automatically. Though this comes with the added power drain from the CPU, which the PS4 is not restricted by. It's important to consider that the PS4 equivalent camera is an added peripheral and as such costs more than just the price of the console and requires CPU power usually dedicated to the running of games.
And Microsoft has indicated future Xbox models could support third party media, which means users can plug in a USB with their favourite shows on it.
Now we come to the bread and butter of why you should choose one console over the other: the games.
Many of the best next-gen games will be coming to both consoles (as well as PCs) but Microsoft and Sony ensure your allegiance by securing games through exclusivity agreements. As such, highly anticipated games like Titanfall, will only be coming to Xbox One, while the classic Sony series such as Infamous, Uncharted and God of War (nothing has been announced yet but you can bet it will be) will never grace an Xbox owner's screens. Personal preference is king here.
Ultimately it comes down to that preference regarding design and brand loyalty. Both consoles will feature stunning games in the years to come but, if you have your heart set on Uncharted 4 or Halo 5, you already have your answer.
Also the Xbox One's focus on media integration is a huge plus over the PS4 but many will ignore this for the sake of the potentially graphically superior games in the future.