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 (or rather, which of the four) should you get?
In this guide, we’ll be going over all the pros and cons of the upcoming consoles. So, if you’re on the fence and aren’t sure which of the two you should buy, read on!
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Sony and Microsoft have both unveiled their upcoming consoles, and the design philosophies are a bit different than before.
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.
Microsoft also unveiled the Xbox Series S, a more affordable variant of the new console that aims to bring the next-gen experience to those who are on a tighter budget. In contrast to the Series X, it is much slimmer and looks more like one of the Xbox One consoles, albeit with a two-tone design.
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.
In addition to the standard PlayStation 5 console, Sony is also offering a more budget-friendly option – the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition. This version of the console will be identical to the standard one, barring the 4K UHD Blu-ray drive.
All four 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 the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X are quite large relative to their predecessors and that the PlayStation 5 will actually 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 at first glance.
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 how the consoles fare when raw hardware power is concerned.
|PlayStation 5||PlayStation 5 Digital Edition||Xbox Series X||Xbox Series S|
|CPU||Custom Zen 2 CPU|
8-core, 3.5 GHz
|Custom Zen 2 CPU 8-core, 3.5 GHz||Custom Zen 2 CPU 8-core, 3.8 GHz||Custom Zen 2 CPU 8-core, 3.6 GHz|
|GPU||Custom RDNA 2 GPU|
(10.28 TFLOPS, 36 CUs, 2.23 GHz)
|Custom RDNA 2 GPU|
(10.28 TFLOPS, 36 CUs, 2.23 GHz)
|Custom RDNA 2 GPU (12 TFLOPS, 52 CUs, 1.825 GHz)||Custom RDNA 2 GPU (4 TFLOPS, 20 CUs, 1.565 GHz)|
|RAM||16 GB GDDR6||16 GB GDDR6||16 GB GDDR6||10 GB GDDR6|
|Storage||825 GB Custom NVMe SSD||825 GB Custom NVMe SSD||1 TB NVMe SSD||512 GB NVMe SSD|
|Optical Drive||4K UHD Blu-ray||N/A||4K UHD Blu-ray||N/A|
So, as you can see from the table above, the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X are fairly evenly matched. All four consoles will be utilizing the same custom Zen 2 CPU with some minor variations in clock speed.
On the GPU front, all four consoles will be using a GPU based on the same RDNA2 AMD architecture. However, going by the specs, the Xbox Series X is the most powerful console of the bunch.
But, as we know, on-paper specifications are hardly a good way to estimate actual performance. In practice, there is little to no difference when it comes to performance or graphics fidelity.
Optimization, of course, varies from game to game, so the performance inevitably varies, too. While both consoles do run games in native 4K, some games run at a stable 60 FPS, but some are capped at 30 FPS.
As for the Xbox Series S, its hardware isn’t quite as impressive as the Series X, and it renders games in 1440p rather than 4K. When hooked up to a 4K display, the output is then upscaled to 4K, which doesn’t look quite as good as native 4K, especially when you take a closer look at the textures or the finer details of the image.
As for the performance, it also varies from game to game. Some games that run in 60 FPS on the Series X are capped to 30 FPS on the Series S, but some others are not. As mentioned above, optimization and hardware requirements vary from game to game, so we can’t generalize on this subject.
AMD is finally adding real-time ray tracing support to their arsenal with the RDNA 2 GPUs, and this will bring extremely realistic reflections and lighting to the new consoles. Hopefully, developers will try and take full advantage of this feature now that it is going mainstream.
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.
Speaking of hardware, we should also mention the controllers. We’ve already compared the 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 almost 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 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 have highly ergonomic adaptive triggers with haptic feedback, but speaking of which, it goes without saying that the haptics are the DualSense’s specialty. After all, the controller’s advanced haptic feedback is what’s behind the controller’s rebranding, and it stands to deliver a much more immersive experience than the traditional rumble.
Moreover, the DualSense has 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 potentially fares 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 is, like its predecessor, natively supported by Windows, ensuring hassle-free plug-and-play compatibility with your PC. On the other hand, much like the DualShock 4, the DualSense isn’t natively supported on Windows and needs either Steam or third-party software in order to function.
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, some of the notable titles we’ve seen are:
- 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 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, the PlayStation 5 is compatible with the vast majority of PlayStation 4 games. However, it is not compatible with the games released for the earlier consoles, which is a shame, considering that it has more than enough hardware power to emulate the PlayStation 3, let alone the consoles that came before it.
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, it’s potential future VR compatibility is a dubious matter. Phil Spencer stated that has no intention of bringing VR to the console, but that could very well change in the future.
Needless to say, many are disappointed to see VR support missing from the Xbox Series X, what with it being the most powerful console currently on the market, not to mention 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 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, the Xbox Game Pass does include a cloud gaming service which is not in beta and currently supports almost 200 games from the Game Pass catalog.
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 – $9.99
- 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, all the while the Ultimate plan not only allows access to both libraries but also adds a little something extra that makes the extra $5 more than worth it.
Namely, the Ultimate plan 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, the Ultimate plan also gets users access to Microsoft’s cloud gaming service, which is currently in beta, as well as EA Play. Needless to say, at $15 a month, this is a very good deal.
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 individual Game Pass Console and PC plans, 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 and PC plans, the value they offer 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 further down the line, so there’s a chance Sony and Microsoft might try and make these services even more appealing for the new console 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.
The PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X will come with a $500 price tag attached, which was a popular guess in the months leading up to their release. Meanwhile, the more budget-friendly PlayStation 5 Digital Edition and the Xbox Series else will cost $400 and $300 respectively.
So, which of these consoles offers the best value for your money?
When comparing the standard and the Digital Edition PlayStation 5, the only difference lies in the fact that the latter lacks the 4K UHD Blu-ray drive. Naturally, if you prefer buying physical copies of games or other media, the standard PlayStation 5 is a good deal. After all, a 4K UHD Blu-ray player costs way more than the $100 price gap between these two consoles.
But, on the other hand, if you have no interest in physical media and prefer keeping your purchases digital, the Digital Edition obviously offers better value for your money.
As for the Xbox Series X and the Series S, the situation is a bit more complicated. In addition to lacking a 4K UHD Blu-ray drive, the Series S also comes with a much weaker GPU, less RAM, and a smaller SSD.
As mentioned before, while the Series X aims to deliver 60 FPS in 4K, the Series S aims to deliver 60 FPS in 1440p, upscaled to 4K if necessary. For those who have no intention of upgrading to 4K any time soon, the Series S would be quite a good fit. On top of that, the Series S will also be appealing for those who would be willing to settle for upscaled 4K and/or 30 FPS in some games if it meant saving $200.
As for the memory, the SSD is only slightly slower than the one found in the Series X and the PS5, though a 512 GB SSD is a bit small by 2021 standards, especially if you’re the kind of person who likes having a ton of games downloaded and ready to go.
Finally, there’s also the lack of the 4K UHD Blu-ray drive, and what we’ve said above still stands. Even with a $200 price gap, the Xbox Series X would offer better value if you also want to have a 4K UHD Blu-ray player, especially since it’s simply a more powerful console overall.
At the end of the day, it’s ultimately a subjective choice as to which of the new consoles you’d prefer. After all, you’re not just choosing between hardware configurations but between two different platforms, and all of the factors listed in the article should influence your final decision.
And that would be our comparison of the new PlayStation and Xbox consoles.
We’re very excited to see what else the future holds in store for this console generation, so we’ll be updating this guide as the situation changes!