The Best Game Consoles: Reviews by Wirecutter
The PlayStation 4 has a large library of games you can’t play anywhere else, and it’s the only game console that supports a virtual reality headset. It also comes with our favorite gaming controller, an easy-to-use interface, and support for both internal and external hard-drive upgrades. The PlayStation Plus subscription service provides online multiplayer and two free games a month, equivalent to what you get from the Xbox Live Gold service. Most people should get the standard PS4 model, not the PS4 Pro, unless you have a 4K TV or plan to buy one very soon.
The PS4 and Xbox One are similar enough that they get most of the same games, including titles in popular franchises like Call of Duty, Destiny, and Madden. However, each system has its own set of exclusive titles that aren’t available on any other console.
The PS4 has more top-rated exclusive titles than the Xbox One, including God of War, Uncharted 4, Bloodborne, Horizon Zero Dawn, Shadow of the Colossus, Hellblade, and NieR: Automata. Most of them are available only on the PS4, unlike the Xbox One’s exclusives, which are often available on the PC too. That makes the PS4 a better option than the Xbox One even if you already have a gaming PC. You can find Sony’s exclusive game library here.
If you plan on playing online games, get the console your friends have, because there’s no way to play multiplayer games across platforms. Both Xbox and PlayStation require a $60-per-year subscription to access even basic online functions. On the PS4, this subscription is called PlayStation Plus; on the Xbox, it’s Xbox Live Gold.
Like Xbox Live Gold, PS Plus gives you two free games a month (of varying quality) and special discounts on some titles during sales. You keep the free games as long as you have a PS Plus subscription, but you lose access to them if you cancel your subscription, even if you already downloaded them. With PS Plus, you also get automatic game and operating system updates, and cloud storage for saves. You do not have to pay for PS Plus to use streaming video services like Netflix or Amazon Prime. Unlike with Xbox Live Gold, you don’t need PS Plus to use the PS4’s Party Chat system to voice-chat with friends. However, the PlayStation Network service has struggled with reliability, suffering from slow downloads and downtime issues. Xbox Live is usually more stable than PSN, which is important if you play a lot of games online.
Unlike the Xbox One, the PS4 lets you experiment with virtual reality. PlayStation VR is one of our favorite VR systems, and it plays VR versions of games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Resident Evil 7, and Doom (you can find a full list of compatible VR games here). If VR is the feature you’re most interested in, you may want to consider the PS4 Pro, because the Pro console can improve VR game performance, which we detail in a section below.
The PS4 doesn’t have backward compatibility with older generations of games, in contrast to the Xbox One, which can play most Xbox 360 discs. You can stream select PS3 and PS4 games with the PlayStation Now service, but that requires a $100-per-year subscription. It’s packed with PS3 classics like Uncharted 2 and Fallout: New Vegas, but the PS4 game selection is weak, so it’s worthwhile only if you want to play older games.
Unlike the Xbox One S, the PS4 doesn’t support 4K video (the PS4 Pro does; more on that later) but does have a respectable number of media streaming apps, including Sony’s own cable alternative, PlayStation Vue. However, we don’t recommend buying a game console for its streaming capabilities; you can find cheaper, less power-hungry media streaming devices, like the Roku Streaming Stick+, that do the job better. If you have a 4K TV and want to make the most of it, the Xbox One S or PS4 Pro is a better option. Both the PS4 and the Xbox One S can output HDR if you have a TV that supports it, but not all games support it.
On the PS4 you can stream any game to a Windows or Mac computer with your PS4 controller attached to it using Remote Play. This feature works best on your home network, but you can access it remotely as well, though we’d recommend that only for slow-paced games because remote streaming can be laggy. The Xbox One S has a similar feature, but it works only with Windows 10 and only on the same network as your Xbox One.