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PS4 vs. Xbox One: Which is the Better Home Entertainment System?

With the new Xbox One set to join the PlayStation 4 on the shelves of your local electronics retailer this Friday, a lot of people are asking themselves which is the better buy. For gamers, the choice comes down to two variables: budget and games. And while the $100 difference in price between the two consoles is significant enough to make a gamer stop and think, it’s really the existing and future video game titles that will probably be the deciding factor.

For non-gamers and families who are more interested in Game of Thrones than Grand Theft Auto, the issues are a little different. For them, it’s more about which console is going to provide the best entertainment choices, and which will do a better job of integrating with existing cable or satellite TV services.

Let’s start with hardware and functionality. Microsoft has eliminated the one glaring deficiency of the Xbox 360 by finally incorporating a Blu-ray player with the Xbox One. That means you will now be able to watch high-definition movies on both the new consoles. However, one advantage that Microsoft’s console will enjoy is the HDMI pass-through feature, which will allow you to connect the Xbox One to your cable or satellite box so you can watch TV programming right alongside all your other media choices.

Be prepared for the HDMI pass-through feature to dominate early advertising for the Xbox One. The idea that you can use the Kinect sensor to literally call-up your favorite TV shows has a certain irresistible appeal. And all this while your apps and other entertainment choices are available in the background on your Xbox One dashboard.

When it comes to online media choices, the two competing systems will have very similar services. Both will have access to Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant Video, and both will have access to their own substantial movie, TV and music libraries. (PS4 via the Sony Entertainment Network and Xbox One through Xbox Live.) However, the big difference is that the Xbox One will require a $60 a year subscription to access all the Xbox Live features, whereas access to the Sony Entertainment Network is free.

Which brings us back to cost. At $499 the Xbox One is already $100 more than the PS4 (although the Xbox One does come with the Kinect sensor included). However, that cost rises to $559 once you factor in the Xbox Live membership, with an additional $60 payable every year after that. And don’t be fooled into thinking that the Xbox Live membership is optional. You really can’t do anything on the Xbox One without Xbox Live, and that’s especially true if your goal is home entertainment.

So if you’re on a budget and you’re not too worried about missing out on the next version of Halo, then you might want to opt for the PS4. However, if you can afford the extra money and want a truly integrated home entertainment experience, then the Xbox One is the way to go.

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