It's no secret that Sony has been hugely successful during the 8th generation of home consoles. Microsoft's early stumbles with the Xbox One allowed the PlayStation 4 to gather a massive sales lead. That advantage will almost certainly hold as the PS4 continues to outsell Xbox. However, while Sony is winning in terms of sales, Microsoft has hit back in hardware with its new Xbox One X.
The company introduced the new console at its pre-E3 2017 event last night. The biggest take away from the unveiling is that Microsoft now has the most powerful console. For the first time this generation, Sony is not getting things all its own way.
There are many who will argue Microsoft gave Sony a comfortable ride so far. The PS4 was upgraded to the 4K capable PS4 Pro last year. Microsoft responded with the Xbox One S, a fine device, but a mere incremental stop gap.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-gp-Voq6MQ
Since the launch of the PS4 Pro, Sony has had a year of enjoying being the company with the most powerful hardware. That reign will come to an end on November 7, when the Xbox One X is launched worldwide.
The product is Microsoft reclaiming the technological initiative from Sony. Whether that will transfer to sales is unknown. The real question is how does the Xbox One X compare to the PS4 Pro, and are Microsoft's claims of a game-changing device valid?
Specs at a Glance
|Xbox One X
|Xbox One S
|November 7, 2017
|Eight custom x86 cores clocked at 2.3GHz
|Custom 1.75 GHz AMD 8-core APU
|2.1GHz 8-core AMD custom “Jaguar” CPU
|Integrated AMD graphics with 6 teraflops of performance
|914 MHz (Xbox One S) AMD Radeon GCN architecture
|Integrated AMD Polaris graphics with 4.2 teraflops of performance
|500 GB –
|11.8 x 9.4 x 2.4 inches, the “smallest Xbox ever”
|11.6 x 8.9 x 2.5 inches
|12.8 x 11.6 x 2.1 inches
|4K/HDR Blu-ray drive
Xbox One X vs. PlayStation 4 Pro Graphics
Of course, when we talk about graphics, we really mean 4K capabilities. These are the first two consoles to promise 4K gaming at a native level. Also, the word upscaling plays an important part in this debate, but considering specs, the Xbox One X can output graphics at a level the PS4 Pro cannot.
These are the first two consoles to promise 4K gaming at a native level. Also, the word upscaling plays an important part in this debate, but considering specs, the Xbox One X can output graphics at a level the PS4 Pro cannot.
Before getting to the details, the PS4 Pro and current Xbox One S use upscaling (albeit differently), while it is unclear how the Xbox One X achieves its UHD capabilities.
In terms of upscaling, Microsoft's current Xbox One S uses this for “4K gaming”. However, this is a basic method that generates 4K signals, but does not clean up the image. The PS4 Pro on the other hand uses a method called checkboard rendering to fill 4K pixels.
The PS4 Pro on the other hand uses a method called checkboard rendering to fill 4K pixels.
It is worth noting that this is not native 4K in the purest sense.
Instead the PS4 Pro uses a resolution between 1080p and 4K, then fills in the remaining pixels with checkboard rendering. Without getting into jargon filled detail, the result is as close to 4K as the real deal.
Microsoft has still not said how it will achieve UHD gaming. The company says 4K content will be native and outputted at 60 frames per second. The 6 teraflops of graphics processing and 12GB of GDDR5 RAM will help achieve that.
However, recently leaked documents also show that the Xbox One X will use upscaling methods like Sony's. Either way, considering the horsepower in the new console, it will be the superior machine for graphics capabilities.
We cannot ignore the fact that the Xbox One X plays original Xbox One titles. Not only that, it employs its upscaling techniques to make these games look significantly better. This is something the PS4 Pro cannot offer for OG PS4 titles.
Without the software, the hardware is pointless. To this end, making sure there are plenty of games available for the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro is important. Luckily for gamers, both Sony and Microsoft have them covered.
Microsoft made a big statement at its event yesterday. The company debuted an unprecedented 43 games during the show. Indeed, games were really the focus of the event considering we already knew so much about the One X (Project Scorpio).
This was Microsoft sending a message. The company was showing that developers had embraced the idea of 4K gaming and were getting behind the Xbox platform. Over half the titles were Microsoft's own, but still it was a statement of intent. The company says all its first-party titles will be available in native 4K from now on.
That does not mean developers are turning their backs on Sony. The Japanese company has the best-selling console on the market, so dev's will continue to support the platform. Admittedly, the uptake to 4K since the launch of the PS4 Pro has been slow, but we guess it will pick up now there is a genuine market opening.
At this point, I would guess the games market will continue as normal. Gamers on PS4 and Xbox will continue to receive titles on both platforms, and occasionally be frustrated by an exclusive title that they wish was cross-platform.
Possibly the aspect that matters least considering both PS4 Pro and Xbox One X are essentially non-descript rectangle boxes. However, Microsoft was quick to point out that the new console is the smallest Xbox ever. This is an achievement considering its ups the performance ante considerably.
Both devices look fine, is the truth.
Virtual reality is going to be a big part of gaming, but Microsoft thinks not just yet. Both the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro support VR gaming, but Sony is making a bigger play in this market at the moment.
Of course, Microsoft is going all out on mixed reality for Windows 10, but the company has confirmed that its focus is on PC and not gaming. Xbox will support VR, but Windows 10 is where Microsoft wants to push this technology.
This could change in time, especially when the market for VR gaming picks up. It seems Microsoft believes that might be the next generation. One crucial point is that Microsoft says the Xbox One X does support its Windows mixed reality headsets. These have been created by OEMs like Acer, Lenovo, and Dell.
Microsoft could eventually gain big within this cross-platform support. Though now it is hard to say that Sony does not currently have the lead. Not least because the company has a VR headset on the market, and has for some time.
Indeed, Sony recently confirmed that the PlayStation VR has surpassed one million global unit sales. Make no mistake, for a new product in nascent market, that's a sizeable number. Of course, the hardware figures do not say to which level gamers have embraced the content.
Xbox One X vs. PS4 PRO Media
With the launch of the Xbox One, Microsoft made a big play for the living room. The company wanted the console to become your do-it-all device. Unfortunately, this eagerness pushed gaming to the back seat and customers reacted by making the gaming-focused PS4 to the top of the market.
Microsoft learned the lesson, but has not abandoned its plans to make Xbox a media hub. With that in mind, the Xbox One X does everything the PS4 Pro can do, and more. Indeed, it is a console that is future proof, whereas Sony's feels like a here and now device.
For example, the PlayStation 4 Pro allows Blu-ray playback. This is the current de fact format for movies and TV on disc, but it may not be that way in the coming years. Microsoft allows normal Blu-ray playback, but has also included an Ultra HD Blu-ray drive in the One X.
This means compatible discs can be run in uncompressed full 4K HDR. At the moment, this format is not widely used and the truth is many movies and shows are not available as 4K Ultra HD. That will likely change in the coming years, so it is obviously better that Microsoft has given us the choice.
Sony may argue that discs in general are becoming obsolete, but again, it is good to have the option to upgrade to the next generation of resolution.
Both consoles handled streaming media in full 4K, although you will need an excellent wireless connection to get it.
It was hugely important that Microsoft did not price itself out of the market when introducing the world's most powerful console ever. As was widely predicted, Xbox One X will cost $499 when it launches in November.
Now, it would be disconnected to suggest that is affordable, but it is par for the course for a new console. I should clarify that, I mean a new console falling under a new generation. The Xbox One X is not a new-gen device, so there is a debate whether Microsoft should have priced it as one.
However, the company is really selling this as the elite machine on the market. Sony, on the other hand, decided to price its PS4 Pro as a mid-generation entry. It is currently on the market for $399 and I would not be surprised if it gets a price cut before the Xbox One X launches.
If Sony even sheds $50 off the price, it would create a problem for Microsoft. Already $100 more affordable, the PS4 Pro offers many of the same abilities as the Xbox One X, but with some significant savings.
Microsoft will have to go on a marketing blitz and really sell the fact that its new console is graphically superior to the PS4 Pro.
On paper, there is no disputing that the Xbox One X bests the PS4 Pro in terms of performance. The console has better RAM, CPU, GPU, bandwidth, and horsepower. There is no doubt that 4K games will look better on the One X, and really that may matter most to customers.
While it is also good to have the futureproofing of the Ultra HD Blu-ray player, I am not sure it is a massive selling point either way. Both consoles also have a solid spread of games, so customers will be swayed in the same way they are in the current market.
Microsoft's ability to upscale Xbox One games on the Xbox One X and indeed offer backward compatibility for Xbox 360 and the OG Xbox is a hugely impressive. For me, that is a massive winning feature, but a recent survey found it may not be that important to general customers.
Lastly, the price could be a very important factor. Microsoft has priced the Xbox One X competitively, but Sony could present a compelling alternative just by reducing the price of the Pro.
Worth mentioning is that Sony has it E3 2017 conference to come. It should make for interesting viewing in the wake of Microsoft show stopping event.