Xbox One X v PS4 Pro

Xbox One X v PS4 Pro: Clash of the 4K consoles

The Xbox One X (left) packs plenty of horsepower in a compact package that is smaller and runs quieter than its rival, PlayStation 4 Pro, and has an Ultra HD Blu-ray drive. But ultimately, the Xbox One X is measured by its merits as a game console an
The Xbox One X (left) packs plenty of horsepower in a compact package that is smaller and runs quieter than its rival, PlayStation 4 Pro, and has an Ultra HD Blu-ray drive. ST PHOTO: TREVOR TAN

Xbox fans, rejoice! The game console formerly known as Project Scorpio, the Microsoft Xbox One X, went on sale here yesterday. It arrives just over a year after its rival, the Sony PlayStation 4 Pro, landed on our shores. Both consoles are enhanced versions of their predecessors that promise to render games and videos in Ultra HD 4K resolution. But Microsoft says that its more expensive Xbox One X - $699 versus the $599 PS4 Pro - is the most powerful game console. So how does the Xbox One X stack up against the PS4 Pro? Vincent Chang finds out.

Design

Xbox One X: Microsoft has done a remarkable job in making the new console significantly smaller than the original Xbox One. And it has a built-in power supply, unlike the Xbox One, which comes with a huge external power brick. The rectangular Xbox One X looks bland, but it fits neatly in TV cabinets. It is practical too, with physical buttons and easily accessible ports.

PS4 Pro: It has a similar design as the original PS4, but is taller. Sony has switched from capacitive to physical buttons with the PS4 Pro, which is good. But the rear overhang of its rhombus-shaped body means that the rear ports are slightly recessed and difficult to see and reach.

Our pick: Xbox One X. How the tables have turned. The Xbox One X has a smaller footprint than the PS4 Pro. And it runs quieter and feels cooler too. Unlike the PS4 Pro, the Xbox One X also has an HDMI-out port, which lets you use a single HDMI input cable (to the TV) for the Xbox One X and an additional source, like a cable set-top box.

Features

Xbox One X: Its Ultra HD Blu-ray drive supports Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, which are in 4K resolution, up from the 1080p resolution in standard Blu-ray discs. These videos also look more natural because they support high dynamic range (HDR) with wider colour gamut.

It is also said to support AMD's FreeSync 2 standard to eliminate screen tearing and reduce stuttering with compatible monitors.

PS4 Pro: If you want to experience virtual reality on a console, the PS4 Pro is your only choice with its VR accessory bundle priced at $579. Sony says there are currently over 140 games and VR experiences available. On the other hand, Microsoft has not said if the Xbox One X will support its Mixed Reality platform for augmented and virtual reality apps in the future.

Our pick: Xbox One X. It all boils down to whether you prefer VR or Ultra HD Blu-ray support. But we prefer the Xbox One X because of the extra cost (and clutter) of the PS4 Pro's VR headset.

Performance and graphics

Both consoles support HDR (HDR10 format, not Dolby Vision, for compatible videos and games) for better-looking games and videos.

Xbox One X: With up to 6 teraflops (a measure of processing power) of performance and 12GB of RAM, the Xbox One X is, on paper, the more powerful of the two consoles.

PS4 Pro: Sony rates the PS4 Pro at 4.2 teraflops. It also has 8GB of RAM.

Our pick: Xbox One X. Because rendering a game in 4K resolution requires a lot of graphical horsepower, both consoles "cheat" by using techniques like checkerboard rendering and dynamic resolution scaling to approximate 4K images. But the greater power of the Xbox One X means that when it comes to dynamic resolution scaling, it is more likely to maintain, on average, a resolution closer to 4K than the PS4 Pro.

The extra processing power also lets the Xbox One X run games at a smooth 60 frames per second (fps) whenever possible. In my testing, it seems to achieve this most of the time, or at least more often than the PS4 Pro. Other differences in graphics quality between the two consoles include sharper shadows and increased draw distances (the distance at which the game renders faraway objects) for the Xbox One X.

In the end, game developers have the final say on how they optimise their games for these consoles.

Games library

Xbox One X: Its biggest weakness is the lack of exclusive games. Forza Motorsport 7, the upcoming Crackdown 3 and Sea Of Thieves are the few exclusives on this platform. However, long-time Xbox users can run older, previous-generation games, thanks to the Xbox One X's backward compatibility. In fact, a handful of these titles (for example, Halo 3 and Fallout 3) have been enhanced with higher-resolution textures to take advantage of the new console's power.

PS4 Pro: Its list of upcoming exclusives is lengthy, from remakes like Shadow Of The Colossus and Final Fantasy VII to big-name franchise instalments (The Last Of Us Part II and God Of War) and new games from auteurs (Hideo Kojima's Death Stranding and David Cage's Detroit: Become Human). Then there are this year's exclusives, like Horizon Zero Dawn and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy.

Our pick: PS4 Pro. Sony has cultivated developers to build an impressive lineup of exclusives for the PS4 platform that looks unrivalled for the foreseeable future.

Final verdict

The Xbox One X is an excellent game console with plenty of horsepower. All that in a compact package that is smaller and runs quieter than its rival.

Both consoles support 4K video streaming services from Amazon and Netflix. Other popular apps like YouTube and Spotify are also available. For film buffs, the Xbox One X's Ultra HD Blu-ray drive is handy, as it saves them the cost and cabinet space for a standalone player.

But ultimately, the Xbox One X is measured by its merits as a game console, and unfortunately its library is seriously inferior to the PS4 Pro's. Avid gamers should pick Sony's console, especially if they are also considering VR games.

Gamers who mostly play major multi-platform franchises like Call Of Duty, Assassin's Creed and Fifa, should be fine with either console. The Xbox One X generally offers better performance, albeit with a $100 premium.


Things to know before you buy

Do I need a 4K television set?

Ideally, a 4K TV that supports high dynamic range (HDR) works best.

But 1080p TVs will also do as the Xbox One X uses its extra horsepower for supersampling, a technique that downsamples a higher-resolution image to a lower resolution, removing jagged edges to produce a smoother image in the process.

Games that have been updated with higher-resolution textures will look better on 4K TV. And depending on how the game was built, gamers will enjoy higher and more consistent frame rates (up to 60fps).

Microsoft says that load times for games have been halved, thanks to the Xbox One X's new hard drive.

What are Xbox One X Enhanced games?

All Xbox One games will run on the new console.

But games with the Xbox One X Enhanced logo take advantage of the Xbox One X's processing power. These enhancements range from higher resolution to higher frame rates. Support for 4K or HDR are labelled separately from the Xbox One X Enhanced logo - some titles will have three icons as a result.

There are currently over 100 Xbox One X Enhanced titles (and counting). Do note that some of these enhanced games have much larger file sizes because of their high-resolution graphical assets. Expect these games to require around 90 to 100GB of disk space each, which quickly fills up even the 1TB hard drive (same capacity as the PS4 Pro) on the Xbox One X.

What are the must-have games?

Top of my list of games to showcase the Xbox One X is Forza Motorsport 7. This Xbox-exclusive maintains a smooth 60fps at 4K resolution, as well as support for HDR.

The new Assassin's Creed: Origins is a close second with both 4K and HDR support on the new console.

Another game to try is Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. This first-person shooter may not support HDR, but plays smoothly at 60fps and at 4K resolution.

The Insects interactive demo is an excellent showcase of the Xbox One X's features. You can toggle 4K, HDR and spatial audio in this app in real-time to see how these features appear on your TV. A split-screen mode makes it easy to compare the differences with and without these features.

Download it for free on the Microsoft Store.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 22, 2017, with the headline 'Clash of the 4K consoles'. Print Edition | Subscribe