Xbox One X vs PS4 Pro: which super console is best?
Microsoft’s version is the most powerful system ever made, but does that make it better than the PS4 Pro?
After its global launch on 7 November, the Xbox One X is now the most powerful games console on the market. It’s a direct competitor to Sony’s PlayStation 4 Pro and, just like its rival, it’s a supercharged gaming system designed to produce lavish visuals on 4K Ultra HD screens.
Both play the same games as their less-expensive siblings, the Xbox One S and PS4, but at 4K resolutions with smoother motion and/or significant visual enhancements.
But does more power make the One X the stronger proposition? We’ve been testing the two consoles side by side to find out.
The original Xbox One was surprisingly big and bulky, but Microsoft fixed that with last year’s slimline Xbox One S.
The Xbox One X is only marginally larger; just half a centimetre wider and 1cm deeper, with a slightly lower profile by 4mm. At 300 x 240 x 60mm, it’s a little wider than the 295 x 327 x 55mm PS4 Pro but not as deep. Microsoft’s slick design hides the extra 5mm of height.
It’s also quiet – even quieter than the PS4 Pro. The noise levels don’t pick up significantly when you run visually demanding games. Put a Blu-ray disc in the slot-loading player and the sound grows more obtrusive, but not to the extent you’ll notice when your TV is at a normal volume.
That slimline design and low noise are all the more impressive when you consider the amount of processing power Microsoft has packed inside.
The Xbox One S, One X, PS4 and PS4 Pro are all based on the same basic technology, but the One X’s eight-core processor runs faster – at 2.3Ghz to the PS4 Pro’s 2.1Ghz – and the One X has 3GB more RAM over the PS4’s 9GB.
Games can use more of that RAM and it runs at higher speeds, but the Xbox One X’s biggest advantage is a new more advanced graphics processor.
What this means is that where the PS4 Pro uses some clever visual trickery to render sumptuous 3D graphics for a 4K screen, the Xbox One X can render equally sumptuous graphics at true 4K. This, however, depends on how each game is optimised by its respective development team.
Plus, there’s enough headroom for a higher level of detail and even more lavish visual effects.
Both consoles support High Dynamic Range (HDR) for a wider range of colours with brighter whites, deeper blacks and more subtle shades in-between. They also give you smoother more detailed graphics even on a standard 1080p screen.
The Xbox One X is the more powerful of the two consoles, but in practice the comparison isn’t so simple.
Games enhanced for the Xbox One X-enhanced look incredible. Gritty action games like Gears of War 4 look sharper and more detailed, with dazzling lighting effects and near-flawless smooth motion.
More cartoon-like visuals have a wonderfully clear, vibrant style. Xbox One X games look noticeably more advanced than the straight Xbox One S versions, though the difference isn’t always night and day.
This also applies to Forza Motorsport 7, which was already an impressive-looking game on the standard Xbox One and One S. Rough edges and blurry textures vanish on the One X, but the differences aren’t nearly as noticeable as they are on Gears of War 4 and Rise of the Tomb Raider.
We’re slightly disappointed with Assassins Creed: Origins, as the exclusive One X enhancements do little to improve the game’s visuals. It’s certainly better than the standard game on the One S, but the difference isn’t significant.
What’s more, the PS4 Pro already has some stunning games. Microsoft might have the hardware advantage, but in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy and Horizon: Zero Dawn, the PS4 Pro still holds some of today’s best-looking games.
Software and features
Sony’s smart, streamlined interface was always a big advantage for the PS4, while Microsoft’s interface used to feel cluttered, incoherent and hard to navigate. It has improved massively and the Xbox One X puts all the most important stuff – your games, your Xbox Live friends and entertainment – right upfront.
It’s flexible, customisable and really easy to manage. Both systems have their foibles, but there’s little to dislike here.
If you want entertainment, you can watch Amazon Instant Video in 4K with HDR on the Xbox One X, but not on the PS4 Pro. Both support Netflix 4K streams.
But the Xbox One X has one more advantage when it comes to video. Its built-in Blu-ray player will play standard full HD Blu-ray discs and the newer 4K Blu-rays, making it the more tempting deal for movie buffs.
A key feature of the Xbox One X that’s almost non-existent on the PS4 Pro is backwards compatibility. This means older games designed for previous generations of the Xbox console can still be played.
Players on both the One S and X can make use of a growing list of Xbox 360 games, as well as titles from the original Xbox console from 2001, including the Mass Effect trilogy and Crimson Skies.
But a few games, such as Fallout 3 and Halo 3, have been improved in order to make use of the Xbox One X’s more powerful hardware. Upgraded titles have been bumped up to 4K resolution, while powerful anti-aliasing technology has been used to smooth out any jagged lines present on older systems.
The PS4 Pro doesn’t support backwards compatibility, but a selection of older PlayStation games can be downloaded from the PS Store.
These are not graphically enhanced like the older Xbox 360 titles on the One X, but PS2 games will naturally look significantly sharper as the PS4 Pro has a digital video output, rather than the old console’s analogue signal.
Here’s the crunch. While Amazon lists the PS4 Pro at the not so cheap price of £299, this figure covers a range of deals that includes free games and a choice of colours. Among the £299 deals is a white console with the newly-released Gran Turismo Sport game.
The website stocks the Xbox One X at a pricey £449. The difference between this console and the PlayStation is even greater following the Black Friday sales as Sony’s super-console originally retailed at £349 without a free game included.
The price of the Xbox One X did drop by £30 over the Black Friday sales weekend, so there’s a chance Microsoft’s system might be discounted in the January sales.
The limited-edition Xbox One X Scorpio Edition is also still available for £449 from Amazon. This version is named after the prototype system Microsoft debuted at last year’s E3 games show. It sports lime green branding on the front of the console.
Is the Xbox One X worth the extra money? In some ways, yes. Sleek, quiet and undeniably powerful, it’s close to being the ultimate dedicated games machine. The £450 price tag buys you the same kind of graphics processing power only previously found in an £800 gaming PC. That’s a real achievement.
That said, there are still two big questions left unanswered.
It’s not certain if players will be able to distinguish between the Xbox One X’s 4K graphics and the pseudo-4K graphics of the PS4 Pro. We’re still waiting for Microsoft and the other big-name publishers to update key Xbox One X-enhanced titles, so we’ll have to wait a little longer before we can draw a straight comparison between the two rivals.
We also wonder whether Microsoft will produce more exclusive games that make the most of its super-powered hardware. Desperate as we are to play Forza Motorsport 7 or Assassin’s Creed: Origins in stunning 4K, the Xbox One X could do with a showcase game that takes the experience to another level.
More evidence will come next week when more games are released and updated. Right now it’s a victory for Microsoft on paper, but we still need more convincing.