PS4 Pro vs. Xbox One S: What’s the Best Console This Holiday Season?

The PS4 Pro and Xbox One S are both fairly powerful consoles, acting as refreshes to their predecessors in the middle of the traditional seven-year console cycle. For common consumers and console gamers looking for the latest and greatest, the choice falls down to one of these two powerhouses.

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The PS4 Pro claims to play games at 4K resolution, and both consoles claim to output visuals with High Dynamic Range, or HDR for short. Let’s dive into these claims and what they mean.

4K refers to the next big step in pixel resolution. Its proper resolution ranges from 3840 x 2160 at a 16:9 aspect ratio (called Quad HD) to 4096 x 2160, the DCI (Digital Cinema Initiatives) 4K standard used in movie theaters. People are usually referring to Quad HD when talking about 4K, since it maintains the widescreen aspect ratio of the vast majority of consumer televisions. These are the TVs that the two new consoles are designed to support.

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HDR is a feature being pushed by both consoles. HDR has to do with the vibrancy of colors on a display. Both consoles offer legitimate HDR support. With HDR, games and movies can look significantly better with a wider range of colors on the display. Unfortunately, HDR, like 4K, is only supported by costly displays that not many consumers have, which means that most people won’t enjoy the benefits of the feature.

PS4 Pro is the latest gaming console from Sony Entertainment. Boasting exponentially more power than its predecessor, the Playstation 4 Pro boasts games with better graphics and at higher resolutions, with HDR support to boot. It’s also capable of streaming media at 4K resolution on supported displays.

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Xbox One S is the latest gaming console from Microsoft. It has no power boost from the original Xbox One to speak of, but it comes in a much smaller form factor, boasts higher storage than the original model and supports HDR in both games and media. The Xbox One S is capable of both streaming media at 4K and playing 4K Blu-Rays, unlike the PS4 Pro.

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The main feature of the two consoles is displaying games/media with HDR at 4K resolution. On paper, both succeed, but neither are equal.

High Dynamic Range

Both consoles support HDR output. In media, both are equal, but in games, the PS4 Pro has a much larger pool of titles with HDR support than the Xbox One S. (At the time of writing – November 2016. Take a look here for an up-to-date list on PS4 Pro HDR and here for Xbox One S HDR.)

Winner: PS4 Pro

4K Gaming

While both PS4 Pro and Xbox One S are capable of 4K gaming, both systems are using severe upscaling to play games on a 4K display. Consider this: a game made for the Xbox One made to play at 1080p will be upscaled, or stretched, to play at 4K, a resolution four times the size of 1080p. While upscaling techniques typically look a little better than simply blowing a picture up, the fact remains that upscaled 4K has no comparison to real, native 4K.

For comparison, PS4 Pro has much higher performance than Xbox One S. While it isn’t capable of pushing true, native 4K resolution, it performs much better than the Xbox One S at 4K, making it far better for large, 4K displays.

Winner: PS4 Pro

4K Media

Both consoles support 4K media playback, but only the Xbox One S supports playing 4K Blu-Rays. This is a baffling omission from the PS4 Pro, one that devastates its utility as a high-quality media player. Most consumer Internet connections deal with bandwidth caps, and many may not even have the speed necessary to play back 4K media: the Xbox One S keeps those of us with bandwidth caps and without sky-high bandwidth in mind.

Winner: Xbox One S

Pricing

The PS4 Pro drops at the US$400 price range its predecessor launched at three years ago, while the Xbox One S retails for US$300. Prices will vary between territories, but across the board, the PS4 Pro is significantly more expensive than the Xbox One S.

This is because the PS4 Pro uses graphical architecture with nearly twice the horsepower of the original PS4, while the Xbox One S focuses only on moderate upgrades and a slimmer form factor. The Xbox One S sacrifices a lot in terms of performance but is definitely the more affordable of the pair across the board.

Winner: Xbox One S

For those who already have an existing console, the question that comes to mind is “Should I upgrade?

As the PS4 Pro and Xbox One S share the same game libraries, unless you have a 4K TV and money to boot, there’s no real reason to upgrade from a One to a One S or a PS4 to a Pro if you can already enjoy all of the same games.

For those who are bent on upgrading, I would recommend an Xbox One owner get a PS4 Pro and a PS4 owner get the Xbox One S. If you’re going to have two consoles, you might as well have access to all of the exclusives, instead of just half.

If you’re insistent on following your console manufacturer’s upgrade path, do trade in your existing console while buying your new one so you don’t need to drop down the full price for the new hardware.

Across the board, the PS4 Pro wins most categories. However, the Xbox One S is cheaper, and for those looking to play 4K media, may even be the better choice overall.

In short, pick the PS4 Pro for the greatest possible console gaming experience, and the Xbox One S for the most versatile 4K media consumption experience. Both are great pieces of hardware, and you really can’t go wrong with either if you’re in the market for a console.

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