Is Xbox One Closing the Power Gap With PlayStation 4?


The PlayStation 4's graphical advantage over the Xbox One has frequently been cited among the reasons that Sony's (NYSE: SNE  ) console has built an early sales lead. The fact that Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) latest console carries a higher MSRP is likely a bigger factor, but stories of multi-platform games offering superior performance on Sony's console have entered the collective consumer conscience of early hardware adopters.

Every time that an Xbox One software release offers a lower resolution or frame rate than its PS4 counterpart, bad press for Microsoft's console is generated. The company has already released updates for the system designed to rebalance and improve performance, but the PS4's graphical performance advantage has remained largely unchanged. Now, recent developer comments and the announcement of Microsoft's DirectX 12 programming interface suggest that the Xbox One may get a significant power upgrade. Is Microsoft's console really getting stronger and closing the power gap with PS4?

Xbox One to become twice as powerful?
At last month's Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Microsoft announced the DirectX 12 application programming interface for use across its hardware platforms. The new API has been built to allow for greater control of hardware resources and could allow for significantly improved CPU and GPU efficiency. After the announcement of DX12, multiple sources claimed that the new interface would double the Xbox One's performance. Brad Wardell, CEO of software developer Stardock, was quoted as saying the release would effectively double the capabilities of the One's GPU. This would allow Microsoft's console to more easily run games at a resolution of 1080p, a clear advantage currently enjoyed by Sony's PS4.

News of a possible performance boost, courtesy of DX12, was followed by claims from Oddworld series creator Lorne Lanning that the Xbox One had become a substantially more capable system over the months since its launch. Lanning stated that the performance gap between the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One was shrinking, citing improved toolsets that Microsoft released to developers. While developers will undoubtedly get more comfortable with the Xbox One and achieve better performance with ongoing updates, it remains unlikely that the console will ever be able to match the PS4 in terms of raw performance.

PS4's hardware advantage is too big to overcome
Compared to the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 has a greater supply of superior RAM, a greater number of compute units, and a substantially more powerful GPU. Put simply, the hardware in Sony's console essentially guarantees that the device will be more graphically capable than the Xbox One throughout the systems' respective lifecycles. The benefits that DX12 will bring to the Xbox One will likely be situational, and developers will also continue to improve on the PlayStation 4 as they become more familiar with it and better tool sets are released.


Even if DirectX 12 was to provide a significant across-the-board performance boost to the Xbox One, the interface won't be available until 2015. This means software that takes full advantage of the suite's new tools and resource management customization is still far off in the distance. Microsoft's console will have to endure press about its comparatively weaker hardware every time a multi-platform release runs better on PlayStation 4 -- a common occurrence in this hardware generation. With that in mind, Microsoft must concentrate on improving other elements of the user experience to improve the appeal of the Xbox One.

Raw power isn't everything
Previous hardware cycles have made it clear that offering the most powerful tech is not a surefire ticket to market leadership; the most successful console tends to be the one that offers the best overall package and value. Microsoft dominated the online landscape with its Xbox Live service early in the last generation, but Sony's PlayStation Plus platform currently offers users a greater amount of content for their subscription dollars. Xbox Live is central to Microsoft's gaming strategy, and the service will need to offer greater value to stop users from migrating to Sony's online network.


Microsoft must win on software and user experience
The Xbox One's future does not hinge on being the most powerful console on the market or receiving performance boosts. But, it has a slim chance of achieving market leadership if Sony is offering a more robust experience at a lower price. With the One's much-touted interactive TV and original programming features being slow to materialize, software and online ecosystem offerings become the console's primary means of meaningful differentiation. Xbox One will never match PlayStation 4 in terms of raw graphical power, so Microsoft's task is to convince consumers that its box is capable and that it offers experiences not provided by the competition.

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Read/Post Comments (16) | Recommend This Article (3)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On April 15, 2014, at 12:43 PM, kaelif wrote:

    In the history of gaming, I don't ever recall this much hoopla being made over a console receiving an efficiency (i.e. NOT power) boost. It's so common that it never merits news yet here we are, looking for more ways for the XBox One to regain ground the XBox platform never had in the first place. The PS2 showed that being the most powerful isn't necessary for success, and the PS3 showed that selling the most consoles isn't a necessity to delivering quality games. The XBox One is good as is, and it will get better, the same as the PS4. Just leave it at that.

  • Report this Comment On April 15, 2014, at 2:07 PM, MeAliasX wrote:

    What sold me? Not having to pay the XBox Live Subscription just to watch my shows on Amazon and Netflix (which I already pay for, thank you very much).

  • Report this Comment On April 15, 2014, at 3:58 PM, sniperboy wrote:

    Wasn't the PS3 more powerful that Xbox 360? How did that work out?

  • Report this Comment On April 15, 2014, at 7:25 PM, BeauxKneaux wrote:

    @sniperboy How did that work out? One year advantage for 360 and still ended up losing to PS3 in overall sales. That's how that worked out.

  • Report this Comment On April 16, 2014, at 1:46 PM, BIGMOE31 wrote:

    I hate when in every article they keep saying that the only reason Sony has a lead is because of pricing and that is B.S.The Ps3 was better than the 360 and was pricier and I bought what I thought at the time was the better system.. Even if the xbone and ps4 were the same price I still would have bought a Ps4 hands down.. It was the shader cores that sold me anyway and having a better graphics card than that of the xbone..The Tflops as well.. I mean damn why not go with the better system at a cheaper price...I bought the ps4 strictly on specs and never once thought about the pricing.. I mean its just like a 40 buck difference if you were to include the camera with a ps4... So why is there this big argument over 40 freaking bucks...

  • Report this Comment On April 16, 2014, at 1:50 PM, BIGMOE31 wrote:

    I just recently purchased a 360 for my son too.. I hate the fact that every accessory you purchase for it damn near needs an adaptor of some sort...The original xbox was the only system that Microsoft ever made that was better than psone at that particular point and time other than that they suck hands down to me!!!

  • Report this Comment On April 16, 2014, at 4:04 PM, greaseman85 wrote:

    Its funny how all of a sudden this "graphical power" is dominating the arguments. Its like the console gamers have all of a sudden turned into PC gamers. I could care less which of the PS4 or XB1 is more powerful, if I cared about graphics only I would stick to playing PC games, as my PC blows both of them out of the water. However, I prefer the overall experience of console gaming. People seem to forget that for example the PS1 was much less powerful than N64, yet it convincingly won that round. PS2 was less powerful than Xbox yet it won that round but Microsoft closed the gap through their superior online service which translated to their Xbox 360 going neck and neck with the PS3, but both still lost to the vastly inferior Wii. So as history has shown, console gaming isn't about power, its about the experience. This generation is young, lets give it a couple years and see who offers the better overall experience. As for me, I'll eventually own both consoles, just as I did with the 360 and PS3. I understand why Sony fanboys are so vocal though, last round Sony suffered quite a few embarrassments (pricing fiasco, horrible online service compared to Xbox Live, getting hacked multiple times, etc.) and nearly lost to Microsoft, with PS3 having to make up sales for the initial lead 360 had and only catching up and barely surpassing it last year. What concerns me about PS4 right now though is the fact it feels like Sony has given us a PC and that's it. I'm interested in what their other plans are for the future (I don't give two craps about VR).

  • Report this Comment On April 16, 2014, at 4:04 PM, rrjim1 wrote:

    I can see purchasing a PC because it has a slightly more powerful graphic card, but a console? I purchase a console for the games you can play on it, so far the xbox, 360, and X1 have been and still are far superior to the playstation.

  • Report this Comment On April 16, 2014, at 4:37 PM, Pacersat14 wrote:

    I have read several of these articles and have begun if any of you understand the Hardware capabilities and vision of Microsofts system. I have yet to hear anyone mention Virtualization in any single article. If you don't know what Virtualization is and how it works then you may not be familiar with what I believe is Microsofts Strategy. Microsoft invested heavily into Server Cluster across the country for the Xbox One which can substantially blow away the PS4s capabilities. I believe the Xbox One is actually a Thin Client, which means the Hardware inside the box only needs to be minimal because all the major processing and graphics capabilities will be handled by Server cluster that can continuously be upgraded.

    Microsoft originally planned an always online system because of this awesome architecture. The system was built with this idea in mind. So when we asked MS to retract this feature it was already too late to change the internal components. Like I said before, the Servers can continuously be upgraded with more ram and faster ram as technology changes. You cannot do that with the PS4, it is stuck with what they put into it. So if in 2 years time the servers are loaded with ram twice as fast as the PS4 and Software like DX 12 utilizes this new hardware then the XBOX One has the possibility of significantly outperforming the PS4 in the long run. Based on what I have read and my own IT background as well as discussing this option with IT professionals, I am pretty sure this was what MS had in mind and predict you will start to hear developers singing a much different tune in the near future.

  • Report this Comment On April 16, 2014, at 4:59 PM, CharlesThe3rd wrote:

    Oh man. The writer of this article is a complete MORON. How dumb can you be. DirectX 12 brings support for 4K gaming. Currently, the XBox One is just as powerful as the PS4 despite the reserved resources for Kinect and what not. Microsoft did it right and PS4 did it wrong. The throughput is almost identical for XBox One and PS4 as far as Graphics Processing this has been proven. STOP BEING IDIOTS.

  • Report this Comment On April 16, 2014, at 5:02 PM, speculawyer wrote:

    Hardware does not change. Seriously . . . people write the dumbest stuff.

  • Report this Comment On April 16, 2014, at 6:41 PM, mobrocket wrote:

    What i find sad is XB1 is less powerful but cost more. MSFT fan boys can talk about cloud gaming and everything else.

    But when u compare 3rd party titles across the board PS4 is equal or superior in quality to the XB1... explain that

    And seeing that the bulk of the best games are 3rd party.. why would i get an xbox 1?

    everyone i know got an XB1 for one reason, cus PS4 was sold out for xmas...

  • Report this Comment On April 16, 2014, at 9:34 PM, tygrrr99 wrote:

    Hey how do you guys like playing Titanfall on PS4.....oh wait thats right you cant. Hmm cant play the best Next Gen game that has come out so far but hey at least your system has the potential to run the best games at a higher rate....if and when you ever get them on PS4.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2014, at 7:13 AM, papamac67 wrote:

    Yeah tygrrr good argument...not!. Titanfall is just COD with thank you. How will you like playing The Last of Us (on PS4 this summer) or Uncharted 4 (near future) or Infamous: Second Son or the PS3 back library on PSNow (soon) on your XBONE All in One Media Device? Oh? that's right you can't/won't.....waaghh waaghh.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2014, at 9:30 AM, JJ82 wrote:

    This article is a crock.

    Every system in history has had its games become more "efficient", that doesn't equal a POWER increase.

    The entire idea that DX12 is going to double the Ones power is a total lie with NO historical support at all. No new DX has ever increased the power of existing GPUs by more than 10%. GPUs created AFTER a new DX, one designed around the new programming has seen increases of 25-35% power.

    Also, this article completely leaves out how PS4 games are ALSO seeing "efficiency" increases, just like every other system before.

    There is nothing anyone is going to be able to do to close the gap between the power of the DDR5 memory in the PS4 because its BANDWIDTH, and you cant program more bandwidth.

    The best the One can hope for is to be able to actually produce a full 1080p game, but they will still be games with less memory being pushed and thus the PS4 will always have the edge because memory is EVERYTHING when it comes to intense gaming.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2014, at 11:25 AM, Desktopguy wrote:

    As far as I am concerned I am still happy with PS2.I love the PS2.Oh I am sure that PS3&4 are great consoles.But the PS2 still has great games and are at a great price.

    And as far as the X-Junks they are highly overrated and are no more than a novelty for the casual gamer.But real gamer's play with Sony Console's and Gaming Computers.And that is a Fact stats don't lie)))))

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