It's been a long time since I've cared about console gaming. Aside from a few stand out exceptions the last generation of consoles has been disappointing enough that I never actually bought any of the consoles; I was given my Wii for my birthday and my Xbox 360 was a red ringed hunk of plastic when I got it, albeit a red ringed hunk that was still under warranty. Suffice to say I wasn't impressed, and everything I've heard thus far about the "Next Generation" has me convinced that my decision to join the PC Gaming Master Race was the smartest thing I've done since deciding to forgive Blizzard for World of Warcraft's Cataclysm expansion. All the same though it's impossible to deny the console share of the video game market, and with Nintendo's Wii U having been released late last year the generation of the Console War has begun. Sony and Microsoft have both announced their next generation console, and with Nintendo marching to the beat of it's own drum as always Microsoft and Sony only really have each other to contend with. From initial reports though it's already shaping up to be so one-sided a fight in Sony's favor it's almost embarrassing to write this as if there will be an even fight. Still, here's the blow-by-blow based one what we know so far.
The biggest difference between the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One thus far is the power each system boasts. The Xbox One boasts 8GB of DDR3 RAM powered by a custom 8-core AMD CPU (Microsoft is being vague on the processor details) backed up with a 500GB hard drive. On Sony's side the Playstation 4 offers up an 8-core x86-64 AMD "Jaguar" CPU and 8GB of GDDR5 RAM and an unknown amount of hard drive space. Both pack a modest amount of RAM compared to a decent gaming PC, but it's 16 times the amount of RAM the previous generation of consoles offered. Both will also feature Blu-Ray support as well as online services and 4k support. The Playstation 4 also has Bluetooth compatibility while the Xbox One doesn't.
Overall the graphical fight between the Playstation 4 and Xbox One will remain neck and neck as it always has, though Sony's decision to use GDDR5 as opposed to the slower and more common DDR3 could prove decisive in the long run, as well as the Xbox One using 3GBs of that RAM on it's Operating System and Apps whereas the Playstation 4 will only use 1GB. Also the 500GB hard drive on the Xbox One can't be replaced and won't be user serviceable (though both consoles will feature external storage support).
This is an especially difficult paragraph to write given how even before the Xbox One was announced the rumors about the One's always online requirement and prejudice towards used games have made for some very potent gamer rage. I even wrote an article about it. All Sony has had to do is sit back and let Microsoft do all the talking and then say the exact opposite to win this category. While the Xbox One won't need to be online all the time, it will have to connect to the internet at least once in a 24-hour period (Or so conflicting Microsoft reports have said).
To throw in another dish of bad decisions, Microsoft has said that all games will be hard installed to the Xbox One's hard drive and linked to a unique Xbox Live account. This would function similar to the Steam gaming client, except that logging into your Xbox Live account on a console aside from your own won't give you access to the games linked to that account. And should you buy a pre-owned game better get your wallet ready to pay double: Microsoft plans to charge a fee equal to the game's original price for adding a used game to your account.
This is the category where the differences between the consoles really stand out. For months since the announcement of the Playstation 4 Sony has played itself up as the Anti-Microsoft and let it be known that while it will have other features, the Playstation 4 will be mostly about gaming. This contrasts Microsoft's goals for the Xbox One, which as the name implies they want to act as an all-in-one media box. In essence, it comes off that Microsoft's goal with the Xbox One is to compete with Smart TVs and computers hooked up to TVs rather than the Playstation 4 or even the Wii U. In addition to this, Microsoft has stated that they intend to continue making games for the Xbox 360 even after the One's release, which isn't a very powerful statement of confidence in the new console.
Ever since the One's announcement Microsoft has done nothing but backpedaling and running damage control. If all else fails, the Xbox One will serve as a terrible warning to future consoles.