The holidays are, as everyone knows, the only time you’re allowed to buy video games. At least you’d think so, given the fervor with which they’re released, discounted, and bundled during the same two-month span every year. So odds are, you might be considering a video game console purchase this year. And if you are, then you have likely heard about the high-end versions of both the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One—dubbed the PS4 Proand the Xbox One X. But do you want them?
For both the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro, you need to stop and think about whether or not you really need the fancier versions of each of these, because you really don’t. I can’t stress this enough—only buy these if you own a 4K television. Just get the regular old Playstation 4 or Xbox One, you’ll save an easy $200-$300. But if you’ve invested in a nice TV and home theater setup and anticipate really getting into some games in the coming year, they’re pretty appealing. So let’s say you’ve made up your mind about this. Then comes the question: Which is better?
There are lots of small details to consider about performance and speed, but when it comes to video games, making specs your number one priority is almost never the move to make. I just lost a whole weekend to Super Mario Odyssey again and loved it, and the Nintendo Switch is pretty much just a large phone with handles. Besides, if you do care that much about having your games always look as good as possible, you probably should just skip out on consoles and get a gaming PC built. (Always remember that just because your machine is capable of doing something, it doesn’t mean every game will support that.) All that said, yes, the Xbox One X is objectively a more powerful machine that will play some games better than the PS4 Pro, so if that’s all that matters to you, go forth.
However, that’s not a great way to guarantee you’ll have fun, and that you should narrow your choice down with a simple question: Do you want a console for just games, or are you looking for a box that does everything?
If games are the priority, then the PS4 Pro is the best pick for you. While it’s not as powerful as the Xbox One X, it’s got a much better lineup of varied games that aren’t available on the Xbox, from Yakuza 0 (one of our favoritesthis year) to Horizon Zero Dawn, a game that is so pretty you’ll want to hug your fancy new TV. It also helps that Playstation 4 is easily the console of choice these days (outside of the Switch’s wild popularity), so if you want to hop in an X-Wing in Star Wars Battlefront II, odds are Playstation is where your friends are. (There’s also Playstation VR to consider, which isn’t improved much by the Pro or a fancy TV, it’s just, you know, an option Xbox doesn’t have.)
But if games are just part of what you want a console for, it might be worth considering the Xbox One X, for one huge reason: it supports 4K Ultra-HD Blu-rays. Maybe physical media isn’t your thing, but when it comes to Ultra-HD, you should consider making it your thing—4K video requires a lot of bandwidth to stream, and services like Netflix often charge you more to stream it. Besides, there’s no guarantee your connection will give you a consistent Ultra-HD image—it’ll dip and bounce back, just like it probably does now with regular old HD episodes of Peaky Blinders. If you’re investing in a good home theater setup, it makes sense for you to put only the best stuff on it.
You can also get a number of streaming apps on Xbox that aren’t available for its competitor, like Showtime Anytime or the CW app. This is a weird thing that I always expect to change, but several years into both of these consoles’ lifespans and Playstation still hasn’t gotten them. (Playstation has its own Sling TV-esque live TV service called Playstation Vue that I understand is quite good, but for the sake of keeping things simple, I’m gonna presume you have your TV situation sorted out. Just know that if you don’t have one, Vue is there, and might be a reason to consider getting a Playstation—if you don’t mind Vue’s monthly price.)
This is representative of what this whole decision essentially boils down to: a lot of splitting hairs. Don’t agonize too much about it, go with what you think is exciting (and what games you most want to play), and take the plunge. Neither machine is going to really disappoint you.