While there are a lot of comparisons of different streaming solutions it is hard to find head to head comparison between current generation gaming consoles.
This article will look at it from the gamers perspective and as such there are three platforms that are dominating the market today Microsoft’s XBOX One, Sony’s Playstation 4 and Nintendo’s Switch. Since Nintendo Switch doesn’t have any of the streaming services available for it yet there isn’t much to talk about with that console. I hope that will change soon. I will also not differentiate between regular and more powerful versions of both XBOX One (XBOX One X) and PS4 (PS4 Pro). Functionality from the cord-cutting perspective is the same for those consoles and differences can only be seen when gaming.
I am not bringing Nvidia Shield into this write up as it cannot really be compared to the other dedicated gaming platforms. Yes, you can game on it and yes you can run thousands of emulators but games available are simple Android games and comparing them to AAA titles available on the other machines would be a laughable undertaking. Don’t get me wrong I love my Nvidia Shield but here my focus is on the consoles that can also stream and help with cord cutting not the other way around which I believe is Nvidia’s approach. If gaming is secondary or tertiary consideration then the Shield is the one to go with.
I will also not be talking about available games either. There are obviously exclusives and other considerations that elevate one console over the over depending on which genre you prefer. Since games are not the focus of this comparison I will not be comparing those two consoles based on those metrics. Huge majority of games are third party releases and can be enjoyed on both consoles.
OK, now that all those disclaimers are out of the way let’s get started…
Let’s start with VOD streaming services and applications. Table below goes over most popular applications.
As you can see VOD streaming differences are very minimal and either console will do just fine.
Probably the most important differentiator here is Kodi. Kodi v18 Alpha was finally released on XBOX One couple weeks ago. With this release Kodi (XBMC) came a full circle and is back on the system that started it all. I was there in the beginning with the XBMC on the original XBOX and it’s good to see it run on such powerful platform. Current release is still pretty unstable but things will hopefully get better soon. There’s also limited functionality compared to other platforms running Kodi most notable one is that SMB shares are not supported so you’ll have to run NFS shares if you want to play local media. I fully expect both stability and functionality limitations to be resolved quickly which will make the XBOX One on of the top platforms to run Kodi right next to Nvidia Shield.
Things change once Live TV services are taken into consideration. Table below shows most popular services currently available.
(*) USB Tuner has to be purchased to enjoy this option
Now here we see a drastic difference in what is available on each console. I can only think of one reason why PS4 hasn’t got the selection that XBOX One enjoys. They offer their own Playstation VUE Live TV service and don’t want to cannibalize those sales with offering competitors services. Microsoft on the other hand doesn’t have their own services so you can pick and choose from all the services as long as you don’t want to join Playstation VUE service.
Another important feature is XBOX’s ability to watch and time shift (up to 30 minutes) live OTA TV with the addition of the USB TV Tuner. When this feature was first released couple years back Microsoft also had plans to provide OTA DVR with free guide. DVR plans have been scrapped by Microsoft but OTA EPG and time shifting remains and is a great help when you need to pause live TV. I use it all the time when watching sporting events since it gives me an ability to fast forward through commercials once enough time is recorded. Now it is extremely disappointing that Microsoft no longer has plans to add the DVR but even free EPG and time shifting are very helpful. Watching live OTA TV will obviously not count against your monthly bandwidth allowance which is a nice perk.
Both platforms come with wireless listening with wired headphones and a controller – this is lag free and delivers perfect quality audio. Sony PS4 also adds the ability to add any Bluetooth headphones. They can be attached for wireless listening without the controller – this is a very nice feature which I hope Xbox would add. Granted controller provides better sound quality but having ability to add bluetooth headphones would be very nice.
Both systems enjoy arguably the best selection of the streaming apps out of all the streaming boxes out there. They can easily go head to head with practically any designated streaming device and will more than likely surpass their capabilities on streaming alone. When you account for the gaming functionality they are a great choice for any cord-cutter.
XBOX One emerges as the winner of this competition if you plan to use OTA antenna, want to have the ability to pick and choose from the Live TV Streaming services or if Kodi is something you are planning to use.
XBOX One is also a more affordable proposition and can frequently be had for under $200 during their sales. I’ve seen them as low as $170 shipped.
PS4 is a great machine but doesn’t really have much going for it compared to the XBOX One. Unless you are planning to use PS VUE or if wireless listening via any bluetooth headphones is important to you I would go with the XBOX One.
Let me know what your thoughts are.