It seems like it was only yesterday that the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One launched, and already it’s that time of the decade again – new consoles are rolling out, and in their wake, the question inevitably follows: which of the two should you get?
In this article, we’ll be going over all the pros and cons of the two upcoming consoles – those we are aware of right now, at least. So, if you’re on the fence and aren’t sure which of the two you should go with come the holidays, read on!
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Both of the consoles have finally been unveiled, and Sony and Microsoft are coming forward with very different design philosophies this time around.
The Xbox Series X was the first to be revealed, featuring a simple black exterior with an imposing rectangular frame that makes it seem much more reminiscent of a PC tower than of what most people would expect a console to look like. It’s simple but effective and it makes the console stand out, and chances are that’s precisely what Microsoft was going for.
Meanwhile, the design of the PlayStation 5 is a bit more “out there”, and needless to say, it’s been a bit divisive. Sony took a more futuristic approach when designing their new console and, in contrast to the Xbox Series X’s sharp edges, it boasts a curved body and a two-tone black-and-white exterior. This was only to be expected considering the two-tone design of the new DualSense controller that was revealed about two months before the console itself.
Both consoles have been featured in a vertical position in most of the promotional material, but both can be positioned horizontally, so it’s entirely up to the user to decide how they want to set them up.
It’s worth noting that both consoles are quite large relative to their predecessors and that the PlayStation 5 will be noticeably larger than the Xbox Series X, despite Sony’s and Microsoft’s respective design philosophies making the PlayStation 5 appear sleeker and more elegant while the new Xbox can come across as fairly bulky.
While the exact dimensions of the PlayStation 5 haven’t been specified yet, an approximation based on the sizes of the USB ports and the disk drives suggests that it’s easily one of the largest consoles to date, particularly in terms of length.
And speaking of disk drives, it’s also worth noting that Sony announced a digital-only version of the PlayStation 5 that will be shipping without a Blu-Ray drive, though that’s perhaps more relevant when it comes to the pricing rather than the design of the console, but more on that below.
Moreover, there’s also the question of whether we’ll see an Xbox Series S and a PlayStation 5 Slim further down the line, and the answer is probably yes, though there’s no concrete info regarding either just yet. If the two giants continue on the same path, the Xbox Series S will likely be a less powerful but more affordable variant of the Xbox Series X while the PlayStation 5 Slim will simply pack the same hardware into a smaller, slimmer frame. But of course, we’ll just have to wait and see.
Ultimately, it’s up to the user to decide which of the two consoles looks better. Maybe you find the PlayStation 5 to be a bit “too much” and you prefer the clean exterior of the Xbox Series X, or perhaps you actually like the futuristic two-tone flair and instead find the Xbox too bland and (ironically) too boxy. Alternatively, maybe you like both or hate both – it’s entirely subjective.
Specifications and Performance
Next, we should take a look at the key hardware specs and see which of the two consoles has the upper hand when raw hardware power is concerned.
Xbox Series X
Custom Zen 2 CPU
Custom Zen 2 CPU
CPU Clock Speed
Custom RDNA 2 GPU (12 TFLOPS, 52 CUs, 1.825 GHz)
Custom RDNA 2 GPU (10.28 TFLOPS, 36 CUs, 2.23 GHz)
16 GB GDDR6
16 GB GDDR6
10 [email protected] GB/s
6 [email protected] GB/s
1 TB Custom NVMe SSD
825 GB Custom SSD
So, as you can see from the table above, the two systems are fairly evenly matched in the hardware department, though the Xbox pulls ahead, as was the case with the Xbox One X and the PlayStation 4 Pro. The CPU runs at a slightly higher clock speed and the GPU has a noticeably higher CU count, netting the Xbox Series X almost two additional teraflops over the PlayStation 5.
However, as we know, teraflops and on-paper specs are hardly a good way to estimate actual performance, so it remains to be seen whether the Series X’s slightly faster CPU and beefier GPU will offer any real benefits when it comes to in-game performance.
AMD is finally adding real-time ray tracing support to their arsenal with the upcoming RDNA 2 GPUs, and this will bring extremely realistic reflections to the new consoles. However, ray tracing is quite demanding on the hardware, so we’ll have to wait and see how well RDNA 2 GPUs will perform in that department and whether the user will be able to disable ray tracing if it proves to be delivering too big of a performance hit for their liking.
Moreover, with solid-state drives growing more and more affordable over the last few years, it was only expected that both Sony and Microsoft would implement them in their new consoles. On PC, SSDs are capable of delivering much faster boot and load times than traditional HDDs, but the advantages of SSDs will become even more apparent now that developers can focus on taking full advantage of their capabilities.
Of course, there’s still the question of performance, and while both consoles have fairly impressive specs and will be able to support 4K at refresh rates as high as 120 Hz, it’s highly unlikely that either console will be able to manage to run the upcoming AAA games in native 4K at a stable 60 FPS, let alone 120, especially with ray tracing thrown into the mix.
As such, we should probably expect the more visually impressive titles to target 4K at 30 FPS instead, but it’s likely that the player will also be able to customize the graphics settings to a certain degree i.e. that they will be able to turn off ray tracing or lower the resolution if it means that they’d be able to enjoy the game at a higher framerate.
Moreover, as mentioned above, the Xbox Series X has a more powerful GPU, but we’ll have to wait and see whether this makes big enough of a difference to be considered a major advantage compared to the PlayStation 5.
Now, we tend to fixate mainly on the visuals these days, thus often forgetting another vital component that can be just as important (if not more important) when it comes to enhancing video game immersion – the audio.
Sony seems to be putting a lot of stock in their 3D Audio technology, and this just might give the PlayStation 5 a crucial edge over the competition. Namely, by using a proprietary audio engine dubbed “Tempest”, the PlayStation 5 will be able to deliver an extremely immersive object-based audio experience, simulating hundreds of sound sources in a 3D environment.
That said, if you like gaming with headphones, then 3D Audio is definitely something to look forward to. However, even if you don’t have a high-quality headset or a pricey surround sound setup, you’ll still be able to reap the benefits of 3D Audio with nothing but your TV’s integrated speakers.
Granted, the quality won’t exactly be comparable to what the more advanced audio equipment would be able to do, but Sony is confident that 3D Audio will greatly enhance audio immersion even when it comes to TV speakers, so we’re very eager to see how it will perform when given only the bare basics to work with.
At the end of the day, the Xbox Series X does have a more impressive GPU, but it remains to be seen whether it will ultimately mean anything when it comes to real-life performance. And even if the Xbox Series X does end up performing noticeably better than the PlayStation 5, Sony still has 3D Audio up their sleeve, something that might just even the playing field in that scenario.
In any case, we’ll just have to wait and see how the two consoles fare once they are actually out.
Speaking of hardware, we should also mention the controllers. We’ve already compared the upcoming new Xbox Series X and DualSense controllers in a separate article, but we’ll summarize the key points here.
First of all, both controllers have a fairly similar overall shape, as the DualSense moves towards the more ergonomic design of Xbox controllers and away from the traditional aesthetic of the DualShock.
Design-wise, the Xbox Series X controller is nigh-indistinguishable from its predecessor at first glance and Microsoft obviously isn’t trying to fix something that isn’t broken, but it does introduce some improvements. Most notably, the D-pad has been redesigned and now features a concave dish similar to what we’ve seen in the Xbox One Elite controller, thus hopefully fixing one of the main issues we’ve had with the standard Xbox One controller.
Meanwhile, in Sony’s corner, the most striking thing about the new DualSense controller is precisely its design. As we have mentioned previously, the two-tone black-and-white exterior suggested that the console itself would follow a similar design philosophy, and not everyone (ourselves included) was too receptive to the change.
As for the feature set, both controllers will have highly ergonomic adaptive triggers with haptic feedback, but speaking of which, it goes without saying that haptics will be the DualSense’s specialty. After all, the controller’s advanced haptic feedback is what’s behind the rebranding, and it stands to deliver a much more immersive experience than the traditional rumble.
Moreover, the DualSense will have a few more features that are missing from the new Xbox controller, including a gyroscope and a built-in microphone to go along with the built-in speaker, thus giving Sony’s controller an edge as far as the overall feature set is concerned.
However, an area where the Xbox controller will likely fare better is the battery life. Much like their respective predecessors, the DualSense will have a built-in rechargeable battery while the Xbox Series X controller’s batteries will be user-replaceable.
Moreover, it’s worth noting that the Xbox Series X controller will, like its predecessor, be natively supported by Windows, ensuring hassle-free plug-and-play compatibility with your PC. It remains to be seen as to whether the DualSense will also be supported by Windows or if we’ll have to rely on Steam or other third-party software in order to use Sony’s upcoming controller on PC.
All in all, we’d have to wait for the new controllers to come out and test them hands-on before reaching the final verdict, but for now, the bottom line is that the DualSense will have an edge in regards to the overall feature set while the Xbox Series X controller will likely fare better when it comes to the battery life and will have slightly better ergonomics.
One of the main reasons why the PlayStation 4 ended up being way more popular than the Xbox One, among other things, was its excellent library of first-party exclusive games, including titles like Bloodborne, Horizon Zero Dawn, God of War (2018), Marvel’s Spider-Man, and more.
Naturally, Microsoft took some notes, and this time around, they are making sure that the Xbox Series X has a selection of exclusive games that will not be available on the PlayStation. So far, we’ve seen:
- Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2, a continuation of the excellent, narrative-focused action-adventure game that was Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice.
- Scorn, an FPS horror game with an art style heavily inspired by the works of H.R. Giger.
- Halo Infinite, yet another entry in one of Microsoft’s oldest and most popular IPs.
Now, it’s worth noting that some Xbox Series X titles will also be playable on the Xbox One while pretty much all of them will also be released for Windows. That said, what makes Xbox exclusives “exclusive” isn’t the fact that they’re only playable on the console itself but rather the fact that they won’t be playable on other consoles i.e. the PlayStation 5.
Meanwhile, some of the notable PlayStation 5 exclusives that have been announced so far are:
- Horizon Forbidden West, a sequel to the amazing Horizon Zero Dawn.
- Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales – A sequel to the 2018 Spider-Man game featuring Miles Morales as the protagonist.
- Gran Turismo 7 – The latest numbered entry in Sony’s long-running racing series.
- Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart – A beautiful action platformer that will make good use of PlayStation 5’s lightning-fast load times.
- Demon’s Souls – A remake/remaster of FromSoftware’s PlayStation 3 exclusive from 2009 that kicked off the “Souls” series and the “Souls-like” genre as a whole.
One of the often-discussed questions when it comes to consoles is that of backwards compatibility i.e. whether older games designed for earlier consoles will be playable on the new hardware.
In this department, Microsoft has had the undisputable lead for years now.
The Xbox 360 was compatible with games released for the original Xbox while Sony only offered limited backwards compatibility in the original PlayStation 3 before removing the feature in the later versions of the console relatively quickly.
Fast-forward to 2013, the Xbox One was compatible with most Xbox 360 titles and a good number of games released for the original Xbox, all the while the PlayStation 4 could run none of the games released for the PlayStation 3, thanks in no small part to its predecessor’s (in)famous Cell processor.
And now, for the upcoming console generation, it seems that things won’t be changing much. Namely, the Xbox Series X will be “the most compatible console in history”, supporting thousands of games from across three console generations that preceded it.
Meanwhile, Sony has confirmed that the PlayStation 5 will be compatible with the vast majority of PlayStation 4 games. However, it remains to be seen if will also be backward-compatible with the earlier consoles. Considering how powerful the PlayStation 5 is, it could no doubt emulate the PlayStation 3, let alone the PlayStation 2 and the original PlayStation.
However, seeing as Sony has officially confirmed only that the new console will be compatible with the PlayStation 4, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll be able to play older games on the PlayStation 5 without a PlayStation Now subscription (more on that below).
Next, there’s one of the areas where Microsoft has failed to challenge Sony so far, and it is virtual reality.
With the launch of PlayStation VR in 2016, the PlayStation 4 became the first console to feature VR support. Sony has confirmed that the original PS VR headset will be compatible with the PlayStation 5, which means that they obviously have no intention of abandoning VR any time soon, though the new VR headset is yet to be formally announced.
As for the Xbox Series X, despite it being the more powerful console from a hardware standpoint, Phil Spencer stated that has no intention of bringing VR to the console. Of course, things could change further down the line, but it’s obvious that VR support simply isn’t a priority for the Xbox team at the moment, which is odd considering that Microsoft has already invested heavily in the Windows Mixed Reality platform.
But at the end of the day, a VR headset is a fairly pricey investment, even though they are far more wallet-friendly now than they have been only a few years ago, much like SSDs. Even so, not everyone is into VR and many see it as little more than an overly expensive gimmick, but considering the fact that the sales of VR headsets and VR games are on the rise, VR support is definitely a plus for the PlayStation 5.
Subscription services have also been gaining popularity recently, and both Sony and Microsoft are now offering their own subscription services. These are PlayStation Now and Xbox Game Pass. So, how do these two gaming services work, and which is better?
Both services allow their users access to expansive game libraries, though PS Now has the lead in that department, with an impressive selection of over 800 games, featuring not only PlayStation 4 games that can be streamed or played locally on the console but also a number of PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 2 titles that can be played exclusively via streaming.
Meanwhile, the Xbox Game Pass is not a streaming service, so the roughly 400 games that you get with it are only playable locally on the console itself and/or on a PC, depending on which plan you choose.
However, those interested in streaming games instead of playing them locally will be able to do so when Project xCloud rolls out in September. Microsoft’s ambitious streaming service will be bundled with the Game Pass Ultimate plan (see below) and it will allow users to access Xbox games virtually anywhere thanks to smartphone and tablet support.
As far as the pricing is concerned, the Xbox Game Pass is the more expensive service of the two. Those interested in using it can opt for one of three monthly plans:
- Game Pass Console – $9.99
- Game Pass PC – $4.99
- Game Pass Ultimate – $14.99
The first two plans allow the user to access the Game Pass library on the Xbox and on PC respectively, though the Ultimate plan throws in a little something extra to justify the price premium.
Namely, not only does it let users access both the Xbox and the PC game libraries, it also includes an Xbox Live Gold subscription and all the perks that come with it: access to multiplayer features, exclusive discounts, and several extra games each month that are then permanently bound to the user’s account and can be played for as long as the Xbox Live Gold subscription is active.
On top of that, as mentioned above, the Ultimate plan will also include access to Project xCloud come September, which is another plus for Game Pass.
As for PlayStation Now, Sony also offers three different plans. And while they all give the user access to the entire PS Now library, some of them offer better value:
- 1 Month – $9.99
- 3 Months – $24.99
- 12 Months – $59.99
So, while the month-to-month subscription matches the Game Pass Console plan, the 3-month plan offers slightly better value at about $8 per month, all the while the yearly subscription brings the monthly price all the way down to a mere $5 per month.
So, if you were to go with PlayStation 5, PlayStation Now would let you play hundreds of games, new and old alike, and it would be well worth the money if you’re willing to commit to a yearly subscription. However, you’d still have to pay for PlayStation Plus separately if you want it, as Sony currently doesn’t offer any bundled plans as Microsoft does with the aforementioned Game Pass Ultimate plan.
That said, while Game Pass does end up being more expensive, you also get more for what you pay, at least if we’re talking about the Ultimate plan. As for the regular Console plan, the value it offers is somewhat dubious compared to PS Now, as the library is much smaller and you can’t get any form of discount by going with a long-term subscription.
In any case, things may change by the time the new consoles launch further down the line, so it’s best to wait and see how Sony and Microsoft might make these services more appealing for the new generation. Obviously, both PlayStation Now and the Xbox Game Pass have their merits, and you can read our more thorough comparison of the two here.
And finally, we get to what might ultimately end up being the deciding factor for many when it comes to picking between the two upcoming consoles, and that’s the price.
Considering the kind of hardware that’s going to go into both the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X, it’s pretty much guaranteed that they will be more expensive than their predecessors.
So far, neither Sony nor Microsoft have suggested what the exact retail prices will be, but the most popular estimates put the two consoles around the $500 mark.
Seeing as the Xbox Series X has more powerful hardware, it might end up being more expensive than the PlayStation 5, but since both companies will ultimately be selling the hardware at a loss, Microsoft will likely lower the price in order to match the competition and make their product more appealing.
This will be especially important considering that Sony will also be offering a digital-only version of the PlayStation 5 that will come without a Blu-Ray drive, something that is bound to bring the price of the console down. This would be all the more reason for Microsoft to hurry it up with the rumored Xbox Series S if they want to appeal to the more budget-conscious part of the audience.
But at the end of the day, this is all speculation and, as with a number of other things, we can’t know anything for certain until the two companies officially announce the pricing, which should happen in the near future as pre-orders start going live, so stay tuned!
And that would be our preliminary comparison of the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X. As mentioned before, a lot of it is based on rumors and speculation and we simply can’t know some things for certain until they are officially confirmed and/or until the consoles are released and we get to try them out hands-on.
But in any case, since the new consoles will be launching in less than half a year now, we won’t have to wait long. We’ll also be updating this article as new info comes out, so be sure to check back often!
Tell us which console you intend on getting (if any) and why, and as usual, also feel free to let us know if you think that we’ve failed to mention anything important and we’ll try and update the article as soon as possible.