So which new-generation console is the better media streaming option, PS4 or XBOX ONE?
When the Playstation 4 and XBOX One first launched in Australia, they came with a depressingly small number of media streaming apps and services especially when compared to other regions.
What a difference 18 months can make.
Both the Playstation and XBOX stores are now chock full of entertainment goodness that rival dedicated media boxes such as the Apple TV while also replacing your aging Blu-ray/DVD player in the process. However, due to various deals with content providers, the selection of streaming video on-demand (SVOD) services differ with each respective console.
Best Hardware Deals for Streaming TV
Both consoles have the requisite Netflix, YouTube, Quickflix, Foxtel Play, SBS on demand, Twitch and Plus7. Ezyflix, Stan and Presto are all notably absent at the time of writing.
Sony’s PS4 has a slight edge when it comes to SVOD services for TV shows, movies and music with apps like ABC’s iView, classic cinema powerhouse MUBI, video-sharing service Dailymotion, Qello for HD music concerts in addition to free music video streaming service VidZone all of which are missing on XBOX One.
Another PS4 exclusive, Spotify, is integrated natively to the OS, which means you can stream your favourite music in the background while lining up a headshot in Call of Duty.
Curiously absent from the Aussie Playstation store is the Sony owned Crackle and the home of Japanese anime, Crunchyroll, but it’s easy enough to sneak into the US Playstation store to download and install those apps.
And if you prefer to rent or buy the latest Hollywood blockbuster and hit TV episodes then there’s Sony’s own Video Unlimited service which has over 6000 movies and over 550 TV shows on offer for viewing on the Playstation ecosystem (including PS4/PS3/PS Vita), Sony Xperia branded mobile devices and Sony televisions. There is also a web based video player for viewing on Windows PC or Mac.
Microsoft has a comparable video store of their own in XBOX Video and music subscription service (XBOX Music) in addition to Pandora. XBOX One owners have also been getting their Masterchef fix since the launch of the console with TENplay.
What’s more, there’s a growing library of education centric apps like Khan Academy, language learning service Rosetta Stone and TED for those looking to get inspired and motivated.
But where Microsoft clearly has a significant advantage over Sony’s console is in sports streaming, local media playback and live TV.
With XBOX One you have access to NBA Game Time, MLB.TV, UFC and even e-sports with MLG compared to Sony’s single sport offering in WWE Network. It’s worth noting that you can get access to some of those sports streaming apps from the US Playstation store.
You can also stream your ripped collection of TV shows and movies to both consoles using PLEX, however, the XBOX One takes it a step further with support for DLNA and MKV though it is a tad finicky in the types of MKV files that will play properly.
The XBOX One is capable of turning into a set top box for viewing, pausing, rewinding and fast-forwarding live TV by allowing you to plug in your existing tuner-enabled box into the spare HDMI-in port of the console. Alternatively, you can purchase a digital TV tuner accessory that plugs in via USB for $39.95. Unfortunately, the XBOX One currently does not support DVR recording functionality, but it does offer other useful features such as the ability to snap live TV off to the side of the screen and leave the main screen for games, Skype or watching a movie in Netflix. You can also stream TV shows across your home network to a smartphone or tablet using the XBOX One SmartGlass app while continuing to game on the television.
Note that while both consoles have web browsers built-in, they don’t support Flash video or Silverlight and, as such, are not suitable for media streaming.
Comparing the app performance of the PS4 and XBOX One with its predecessors (PS3 and XBOX 360) is like night and day. The beefier processors mean that apps load much quicker and navigating through the content libraries of your favourite apps like Netflix is virtually stutter free.
If you often get frustrated at the lag-filled experience of the streaming apps built into your television or the performance hiccups of even dedicated media streaming devices like the Apple TV, then the new-gen consoles are definitely worth some serious consideration.
It’s clear from the outset that the PS4 and XBOX One are both striving to be the centrepiece of your living room entertainment with an abundance of movie and music streaming content that will also give your Blu-ray/DVD collection some much needed love.
However it’s the XBOX One that edges ahead in the media streaming department with a larger overall app count than the PS4. It’s possible to close the app gap by sneaking into the US Playstation Store but that’s not something that most people would feel comfortable in doing.
The XBOX One extends its media capabilities to live TV and DLNA capabilities that includes support for MKV video while also offering snap-based picture-in-picture.
One thing to keep in mind is that the PS4 has been outselling the XBOX One since launch which may sway future content deals in Sony’s direction but, for now, Microsoft’s big black box holds the crown for the best media streaming experience.