Next Gen Consoles Revisted

Way back in May, I pondered the next generation of consoles and concluded the Playstation 4 would win out of the Xbox One. That was back in rumor land. We know that both Sony and Microsoft announced their consoles would not be backwards compatible. Microsoft said their console would have some TV stuff and a camera. Sony’s console, however, would be $100 less expensive than Microsoft’s console. This chart explains some of the differences based on actual reporting regarding the two consoles. 

As I explained in May, all of the interest stuff on the Xbox One will require a $60 per year fee. Want to watch Netflix or Youtube, browse the internet, or make a Skype call? You need to pay $60 per year. Sony charges a $50 yearly fee only for setting up on-line multi-player matches, and they feel so bad about this that they include a free games every month. For both people who play games on-line and people who don’t, Sony’s console is a much better deal. 

Reports have also come in regarding the performance of each console. Despite being half the size, Sony’s console is more powerful. The Xbox One cannot play all of its games in full 1080p HD. To put this in perspective, the 8 year old Xbox 360 also cannot play all of its games in full 1080p HD. Pundits say that regular gamers won’t notice, but if I’m spending $400 to $500 for a game console, I want the one with the most pixels. 

Microsoft is trying to steal the show with its Kinect camera and HDMI input. This will supposedly make the Xbox  One a future perfect all-in-one voice activated living room computer in the vein of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The HDMI input is only as good as its support for third party devices (and the adoption by third parties of software that will work with the Xbox One). For example, how will the Xbox One work with my over-the-air only DTV Pal DVR? The Kinect voice control is only as good as the users willingness to use it. I love using Siri on my iPhone sometimes, for some things, but not all the time for everything. Reports have come in regarding the use of voice control, and it seems more mandatory than supplementary. These features seem more like things Microsoft wanted to foist upon us to set its console apart from the competition and less like things we actually want to use.

Sony has quietly come in with useful features, principally the headphone jack in the game controller. Roku was the first company I know of to include a headphone jack into a remote. The idea is, why pay $100 for some IR blasting headphones when headphone support can be built. This would have been such a great thing back in the days I had roommates and then, later, babies. Anyone stung by the sticker shock on Microsoft’s proprietary add-ons will appreciate the Playstation 4’s inclusion of Bluetooth support. Sony also has a separate $70 camera and voice add-on, and I appreciate that it is separate.

Both consoles fail in the zone of backwards compatibility, and not just for games. Neither console will stream media from a local server. At lease you can “push” media to an Xbox One from a “play to” device. Sony says they will add DLNA support and CD music support to the Playstation 4, eventually. Honestly, I do not understand whey Microsoft and Sony are so boneheaded about excluding these features. The reason I never used my Xbox 360 as a media player is because Microsoft made it so darn difficult. (You had to load music one CD at a time and the DLNA support was poor at best). Because of the prior gen’s failings, I have an Xbox 360, a DLNA supported Blu-ray player, and an Apple TV. If I bought either the Xbox One or the Playstation 4, I would still need my DLNA support Blu-Ray player and an Apple TV. What have Microsoft and Sony been doing the last 8 years? 

One last note on the games: the majority of titles on both consoles are also available on the old consoles. Even next year’s most anticipated game, Destiny, will also be available for the old consoles. The new games, Destiny no doubt included, will all be limited in some degree by the capabilities of the old consoles. Considering the enormous game library on the old consoles, the minimal differences between games on old consoles and next gen consoles, and the superior media playback options on the old consoles, the new consoles are less desirable than they should be. 

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