PS4 Vs Xbox One: OS, UI & Functionality Review
It might not seem important, but how the operating system functions for the two next-gen consoles is probably the most vital thing for Sony and Microsoft to get right.
It’s where you’ll be spending the majority of your time with the PS4 and the Xbox One, at least outside of the games anyway, so it needs to work.
So as part of our PS4 and Xbox One hardware tests we pit the two consoles – and their operating systems – against one another.
PS4 Vs Xbox One – Design & Layout
Both systems aim to target a very similar approach – all your content dynamically brought to you.
Whether you prefer the large tile based design of Xbox One or the smoother, more simplified nature of the PS4 is entirely down to personal tastes.
Xbox One’s home screen tiles are surprisingly adapt at getting you to where you want to go, and can even be customised to the colour you prefer.
The bottom tiles are dynamic, however, linking to whichever content you last used. Meanwhile your purposefully chosen content or apps can be ‘pinned’ on the page to the left, while the various multimedia stores can be accessed on the right.
The PS4, however, offers a twist on the PS3’s XMB. Your content is displayed in a horizontal set of icons, while tapping up will take you to another horizontal menu of the usual categories: friends, PS Store, messages etc.
Both consoles are fairly limited in terms of options. These are new consoles and though we might have certain expectations carried over from the previous generation of consoles, some features are missing.
Though the Xbox One’s method seems initially quicker at getting you to where you want to be, the PS4 actually handles it much better.
With the Xbox One you’re stepping into one menu after another, and it can make for a confusing experience, especially when the dynamic menus are often switching things around. It’s not ideal.
The PS4 is surprisingly simple: if the content you need isn’t already there, simply push up on the stick to find exactly what you need all in one screen. The latest updates can be seen from each category – so latest messages, most recent Trophies unlock etc – with the option to explore further should you need it.
You’ll still need to go into the menu to find specific options you might want to access – your download and upload queues, for example – but there’s not nearly the same level of confusion.
PS4 Vs Xbox One – Speed Of Use
Microsoft has long pitched the Xbox One as a speedy, multimedia service – but the OS doesn’t really allow for such speed.
Almost everything on the Xbox One is its own app, and as a result needs to be loaded before it is used properly for the first time. Achievements, for example, need to be loaded.
Once an app has been used in a single session it can be accessed almost instantly, but the same will be true after shutting the console down.
In fact if you don’t activate the ability to quickly turn your Xbox One on – a feature that is currently still in feature – then you’re looking at a wait of 60 seconds or more for the console itself to even turn on. An unacceptable wait time.
And when navigating menus you’ll spend a large amount of time just looking for what it is, instead of getting that information quickly and easily.
Some of this time is reduced with Kinect – which lets you quickly choose an app with your voice – but that still relies on learning what it is you want.
By comparison Sony’s PS4 is a considerable improve, both on the Xbox One’s UI and on the PS3’s – which many will know to be far too slow.
Both consoles allow you to drop immediately to the main menu at any time and in this regard neither console is better than the other, but accessing further content is much quicker on PS4 than it is on Xbox One.
It takes much less time to load menus and options on the PS4, where a large portion of your time with the Xbox One will be spent looking at a twirling loading bar.
PS4 Vs Xbox One – User Friendliness
It’s the most important aspect of any operating system, and the PS4 and Xbox One are no different.
Where Xbox One has seemingly taken a step back, the PS4 has included numerous – if subtle – features that make experiencing the game a much more user-friendly experience.
Xbox One – for example – has removed the ability to view people you recently played with/against online. It’s a minor thing, but a necessary feature when encountering a player you had a game with.
Though Xbox One is very easy to use, it does take a little bit of learning to understand the intricacies of the system. Even accessing your downloaded or installed content isn’t simple due to the dynamic menu.
This is where pins comes in, enabling you to permanently store items you’d like to access quickly. But even this requires a manual learning of the tools before you can properly make use of it.
On the PS4, however, things work a little more intuitively. Most information is presented in Notifications – whether that’s downloaded content, friend activity or anything else – meaning you know exactly where to go to see new updates on your system.
Having content presented to you without having to search in menus is a huge improvement. Comparing the two together, it’s much easier to adjust to the PS4 than the Xbox One.
PS4 Vs Xbox One – OS, UI & Functionality Review
When all told it’s surprising that the Xbox One should have so many issues. Microsoft knows what it is doing with interaction and it seems it has muddled things a bit too much by including too many menus and using dynamic tiles to rearrange where you expect content to be.
Conversely Sony had a tough challenge ahead of it to impress after the PS3’s XMB was slow and clunky. With the PS4 all that has changed; it’s impressive how quick and easy to use the OS is.
Admittedly when looking for more minute details on the PS4 – such as file sizes – this is where the intuitiveness can fall apart, though the Options button is usually the solution to that.
But most impressive is its speed. The PS4 doesn’t wait around to access content in menus, and in most cases it is already there for you to see.
On the Xbox One even Achievement prompts are slow, often stuttering when they appear rather than the fluid animation we expect on the Xbox 360.
For a console that focuses on multimedia and quick-switching of apps and content, the Xbox One takes just a little bit too long to be acceptable.
All in all, the victor in this particular category would have to be the PS4, partly because of the vast improvement over the PS3’s XMB but also because of its smart approach to how it presents information and overall speed.