A lot of people play video games, but they’re dwarfed by the number of people who buy gaming consoles not for the gaming, but for the video functions. If that’s you, and you’re thinking about upgrading to an Xbox One or a PS4, here’s what you need to know.
So why would I buy one of these things instead of, say, a Roku?
The short answer is computing power. Both Sony and Microsoft have designed their modern consoles to essentially be the brain of your home entertainment center, although Microsoft is making it more of a focus this generation.
The Xbox One has a huge pile of TV-centric features, ranging from a fairly deep sports app to making it so you can yell at your TV to change the channel. It’s even got an HDMI-in port to be hooked up to your cable box… or a PS4, for that matter.
Wow, that’s a lot of oomph for watching TV.
Microsoft is essentially making a bid to turn the Xbox One into a cable box that plays video games. They already have a strong relationship with Comcast, and it seems likely they’ll try to build that out; they’ve got streaming deals in place with Verizon FiOS as well.
Wait… doesn’t the Xbox One always have to be on the Internet?
No, they’ve reversed that policy. Not that it’ll be a problem if you’re using it as a streaming box, though.
So, how do they stack up on streaming video apps?
Both will have Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and Hulu Plus. Beyond that things get weird and annoying.
Basically, the “exclusive” deals each company has cut will make life hell if, for example, you’re a sports fan. The NFL’s content is going exclusively to the Xbox One, while the NHL and NBA are PS4-only right now. If you’re a fan of all three and want their “all you can eat” options, be prepared to shell out for both.
Beyond that, the general trend is that the weird, obscure stuff is going to the PS4, while mainstream network channels are generally breaking for the Xbox One, including HBO GO annoyingly enough. Oh, and neither of them will have YouTube at launch.
Are these “exclusives” or are they actually exclusive?
Some of them, like the NFL or Xfinity Streaming, are not going anywhere. Microsoft’s got a contract. Others, like the network streaming apps, will probably be on both at some point, although Sony has made it abundantly clear gaming is their top priority on the PS4.
I live in a market with Aereo, can I get that on either one of these?
Not very soon, unfortunately. Sony has various technical challenges that make bringing Aereo to their consoles a pain, and broadcast networks hate Aereo, so Microsoft will be buttering them up instead.
If Aereo comes to either console, though, the PS4 is more likely, but it won’t be for a while. Of course, there’s also an annoying, expensive and complex technical workaround you could use.
So, should I upgrade?
If you’re using a game console for streaming, and are happy with what you have now, upgrading now is a terrible idea. Both the Xbox One and PS4 will be in short supply until early next year.
The best thing to do is wait and see what happens. There’s some question about how the Xbox One will do out of the gate, as Microsoft has had some PR problems.
That said, if you’re using it for video streaming, Microsoft still has a policy in place that forces you to pay them five dollars to use your Internet connection to stream video you paid for. So remember that, before buying.