Power, Internal Storage, And Game Installations
The Xbox One's power supply is external, separate from the console. Of course, that adds one more bulky piece of hardware on the floor, which is going to affect some people more than others. In comparison, Sony's smaller PS4 employs an integrated PSU.
It sounds like a one-sided debate, but there are positive and negative reasons you'd want one configuration or the other. Should the power supply go out, replacing Microsoft's unit is going to be much easier than Sony's. Also, getting the PSU's waste heat out of the chassis helps simplify thermals. But then there's the elegance of a built-in power source that doesn't need to be factored into where the console sits or how its wiring is routed. From a user-facing perspective, and when everything is working properly, the integrated PSU is almost always preferable.
The Xbox One comes with a 500 GB hard drive. Compared to the highest-end Xbox 360's 20 GB drive when that console first shipped, we're looking at a very significant step up in capacity. Of course, that's also commensurate with the storage demands of today's titles, which ship on Blu-ray discs instead of DVDs now. It's not enough to run games from optical media, either. Games have to be installed on faster storage, just like in the world of PCs. Suddenly, the step up from 20 to 500 GB is a simple matter of keeping up with the times. And, again, compared to PCs sporting up to 4 TB on a 3.5" repository, 500 GB isn't a ton of space.
And unlike the Xbox 360 and PS4, there is no replaceable drive option. That might end up being a blessing in disguise though, as anyone who bought a bigger drive for the 360 knows that markup on it was borderline criminal. More likely is that Microsoft will add an external storage upgrade option via USB 3.0. Once that happens, we'll update with storage benchmarks to compare install and load times between the internal and add-on disks.
Again, the typical enthusiast will probably favor Sony's solution (and as someone who just dropped a new 320 GB disk into a PS3 last weekend, I can attest to the simplicity of it all). Adding storage to the PS4 requires swapping out the internal SATA-based drive. This gives Sony the ammunition to say no to external hard drive support.
You will find three USB 3.0 ports on the Xbox one though, along with the aforementioned slot-loading Blu-ray disc player.
The Xbox One offers two different "power off" states when not in use. The first is a truly "off" mode. The second is more of a standby mode that opens the door to features such as being able to wake hardware through a voice command, automatic downloading of updates, and last but not least, faster boot time.
We timed several runs of cold starts and arrived at an average of 57 seconds from the press of the power button to a fully usable dashboard. In standby mode, that boot time was a much faster average of 12 seconds.
Clearly, the standby mode keeps the system loaded in memory, while the cold boot requires a full startup sequence. Had the Xbox One use a solid state drive, the difference between the two numbers would be much smaller.
Now that the Xbox One requires every game to be installed locally, rather than run from disc, optical media is nothing more than a bulk data delivery mechanism and DRM check. Unlike the previous generation of consoles gamers don't need to wait for the install process to finish before they jump in, either. This is similar to the way Blizzard approaches World of Warcraft on the PC, though most titles need to be installed completely first.
As we tested pre-release titles, we found that downloaded games and those coming from Blu-ray media were ready to play well before the installation finished. For example, we timed a 34.94 GB install and found that it was available 2:38 after hitting the go-button. It took 34:22 to get everything onto the hard drive. This is actually pretty cool. Although games are much larger now than the generation prior, you're going to be playing much sooner, even if there's some variance from one title to the next depending on how developers optimize. We plan to revisit the topic with benchmark data using retail games in the days to come.