Xbox One S vs. PlayStation 4 Pro: Which Is the Better Upgrade?

In an attempt to stop their hardware from turning into yesterday’s underpowered garbage, both Microsoft and Sony have introduced new versions of their gaming consoles that they’re selling (for a premium) alongside the standard versions. For Microsoft’s part, you can already buy an Xbox One S, a smaller white version of the hardware. On November 10, Sony released the PlayStation 4 Pro, a slightly larger version of its flagship console.

Both console revisions offer new features you won’t find on their predecessors. The question is, which one represents a better upgrade? To break it down, let’s look at both new consoles from a number of viewpoints.

Power

Kratos and his son confront a giant in God of War for PS4.

God of War | Sony

There’s no skirting around this one. The Xbox One S may have a little bit more power under its hood than the original Xbox One, but not enough for Microsoft even to tout it as a feature. The PlayStation 4 Pro, on the other hand, comes with a heap of extra power. Specifically, its graphics card is roughly twice as powerful as the original PS4’s.

How developers will use that extra power is up to them. They can make their games display at 4K resolution for people with fancy new TVs. Or they can use it to increase the frame rate instead of the graphics. The only drawback is that all current games will need patches to make use of the new power, something not all developers will bother doing. All games that come out in the future will be required to harness the power of the PlayStation 4 Pro.

Winner: PlayStation 4 Pro

Design

Xbox One S and controller.

Xbox One S | Microsoft

A console’s looks don’t matter as much as what’s inside, but since these boxes are usually visible in your entertainment stand, their aesthetics are worth considering. The PlayStation 4 Pro looks more or less like a standard PS4, but with an additional “layer,” giving it a kind of Big Mac look when viewed from the side. That’s fine as far as these things go, but since it hews so close to the original PS4’s three-year-old design, it’s not all that remarkable or interesting.

Meanwhile, the Xbox One S sports a whole new look — and a great one at that. Your mileage may vary depending on taste, but for my money, this slick white box is by far the better looking piece of hardware.

Winner: Xbox One S

Graphics

An Xbox One S, with Xbox One exclusive game Gears of War 4.

Gears of War 4 on Xbox One S | Microsoft

Here’s the big difference between the PlayStation 4 Pro and the Xbox One S: graphical capability. The whole reason for the PS4 Pro’s existence is to make games look great on 4K televisions. To that end, it comes equipped with roughly twice the GPU power as its predecessor. It still can’t power major games running at full, actual (“native”) 4K, but it gets it close enough that the PS4 Pro can upscale the results to make them look better on 4K TVs.

In terms of graphics, the Xbox One S is pretty much the same as the original Xbox One, with the addition of “high dynamic range,” or HDR compatibility. That basically means colors will look better on newer televisions that are compatible with HDR standards. The PS4 Pro supports HDR, too, taking away any advantage the Xbox One S might have had there.

Essentially, the Xbox One S can power some fine-looking games on TVs with 1080 resolution. But on 4K televisions, they won’t look as good as PS4 Pro games.

Winner: PlayStation 4 Pro

Controller

Colorful design-your-own Xbox One controllers.

Custom Xbox One controllers | Microsoft

Both systems come with a slightly revamped controller from their predecessors. The Xbox One’s controller feels slightly better in your hands and — unlike its predecessor — has a headphone jack built into it.

The new PS4 Pro controller is basically the same as the original, but it has a small window on its touchpad to let light through from the Light Bar. Since a band of colorful light could actually be annoying to have in your peripheral vision as you play games, I’m giving this one to the Xbox One S.

Winner: Xbox One S

4K Video

Daredevil UHD

Daredevil in UHD | Netflix

Both consoles are fully capable of displaying 4K video. But while the PlayStation 4 Pro can merely stream it through apps like Netflix and YouTube, the Xbox One S can stream it and play Ultra HD Blu-ray discs. That’s a major advantage, seeing as there’s not a whole lot of 4K content available to stream at the moment. That will change as time marches on, but for now the UHD Blu-ray compatibility gives the Xbox One S the advantage.

Winner: Xbox One S

Price

Dollar bills burning in fire

Burning money | iStock

As the old saying goes: With less power comes a lower price tag. (Or something like that.) Since the Xbox One S lags behind the PlayStation 4 Pro in terms of power, it’s not surprising that it comes in at a lower price. The Xbox One S starts at $300 for the 500GB model. The PS4 Pro costs $400, but you get 1TB of hard drive space. Is that extra power worth an extra $100? That’s up to you.

Winner: Xbox One S

Curveball: Xbox One Scorpio

A chip that's powerful enough to be included in the Xbox One Scorpio.

Xbox One Scorpio chip | Microsoft

The truth of the matter is that the Xbox One S wasn’t made to compete head-to-head with the PlayStation 4 Pro. Unlike the PS4 Pro, the Xbox One S doesn’t have a significant power boost over its predecessor. For Xbox gamers to get more power — significantly more power than the PS4 Pro, as it happens — they’ll have to wait until the Xbox One Scorpio launches toward the end of 2017.

Verdict: PlayStation 4 Pro

PlayStation 4 Pro and controller

PlayStation 4 Pro | Sony

The Xbox One S might have come out with more wins on this particular list of features, but there’s no getting around it: Until the Xbox One Scorpio comes out, the PlayStation 4 Pro is the console to beat. It might lack the UHD Blu-ray playback, but when it comes to games, they’re going to look better on 4K TVs. If you don’t have a 4K television, you might not need its superior power. But if you do, the PS4 Pro is probably the console to buy.

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