PS5 vs. Xbox Series X: Which Console Is Right for You?

A new front opens up in the console wars

Sony and Microsoft are ready to bring the console wars into the next generation with the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. It's far too early to declare a victor, but we'll take a look at specifications, games, controllers, pricing, and more to see how things really stack up in the battle of PS5 vs. Xbox Series X.

While your decision is largely going to be based on which consoles you've adopted in the past, it's important to weigh your options. Beyond the obvious aesthetic differences between these consoles, there are some considerable differences in terms of not just the hardware being used, but their capabilities and features as well. We've broken both consoles down into a handful of categories, with a clear winner for each category as well as on overall. 

Overall Findings

PS5 and the Xbox Series X in a custom illustration
  • Powerful hardware.

  • Supports PS4 peripherals like PSVR.

  • Exclusives aren't available anywhere else.

  • DualSense controller uses haptic feedback.

  • Full backwards compatibility with PS4.

Xbox Series X
  • Slightly more powerful hardware.

  • Affordable payment plan tied to Game Pass.

  • Exclusives will also be available on Windows 10.

  • New controller and Xbox One controller are interchangeable.

  • Backwards compatible with every generation of Xbox.

The PS5 and Xbox Series X look radically different, but they conceal a lot of very similar hardware. Both CPU and GPU are similar, with Microsoft grabbing a very slight edge in the overall numbers game. Sony, as always, has the edge in terms of exclusive games, which is arguably the most important factor. Both Sony and Microsoft are offering extensive backwards compatibility to pad out libraries in the early days.

Specifications: Slight Edge to Microsoft

  • CPU: 8x Zen 2 Cores at 3.5GHz.

  • GPU: 10.28 TFLOPs, 36 CUs at 2.23GHz.

  • Memory: 16GB GDDR6/256-bit.

  • Storage: Custom 825GB SSD + NVMe SSD slot.

Xbox Series X
  • CPU: 8x Zen 2 Cores at 3.8GHz.

  • GPU: 12 TFLOPs, 52 CUs at 1.825GHz

  • Memory: 16GB GDDR6/256-bit.

  • Storage: 1TB Custom NVMe SSD + 1TB expansion card.

The raw specifications of the PS5 and the Xbox Series X are extremely close all the way down the line, with both consoles featuring similar CPUs, GPUs, memory, storage, and more. Microsoft gets the slight edge in terms of raw numbers, but both consoles are likely to provide similar performance in the real world.

The Xbox Series X has a slightly faster CPU, and its GPU is capable of more teraflops than the PS5. However, the clock speed of the Xbox Series X is slower than the PS5, which is backstopped by just 36 compute units (CU) versus the 52 CU found in the Series X GPU.

In plain terms, the PS5 has a faster, more efficient GPU, but the Xbox Series X is more powerful. This is most likely to make a difference in GPU-intensive tasks like ray tracing, although we won't know how much of a difference until we can make side by side comparisons.

The most notable difference between these consoles is their size and form factor, with the footprint for the PS5 being markedly larger than either version of the Xbox, and the asymmetrical, two-tone aesthetic that may be a turn-off for some.

Hardware and Graphics

Both next-gen consoles are capable of pushing resolutions up to 8K at up to 120 frames-per-second, but these won't necessarily be available for every title. While these specs are impressive, it's difficult to say how these consoles will compare on a case by case basis. Both consoles are using 16GB GDDR6 graphics processors.

The only real difference right now between these next-gen consoles currently is the number of teraflops, which is a rough way of determining the power of a GPU, the PS5 features a 10.28 teraflop GPU whereas the Xbox Series X/S will feature 12. While it might be tempting to see the Xbox as the superior console in this sense, teraflops don't always translate directly to superior graphics or performance. 

An interesting difference is how each console is handling storage expansion. The PS5 features a single NVMe SSD storage slot, allowing you to give the console up to an additional 2TB of high-speed storage. The Xbox Series X/S features an external storage slot for proprietary hard drives that can provide an additional 1TB of space. The key difference here is that the PS5 is compatible with a broader range of SSDs, whereas the proprietary drives available for the Xbox are far more limited.

Game Library: Sony Loosening Grip on Exclusives

  • Exclusives like Spider-Man: Miles Morales.

  • Some or all exclusives likely to remain exclusive to PS5.

  • Offers downloading and streaming catalogs through PlayStation Plus.

  • Full backwards compatibility with PS4.

Xbox Series X
  • Exclusives like Halo: Infinite.

  • Most or all exclusives expected to release on Windows 10.

  • Game Pass allows you to play and stream 100s of games.

  • Backwards compatible with every previous Xbox generation.

Sony has traditionally held the edge in terms of games due to the number and quality of PlayStation-exclusive titles. Microsoft also has a number of exclusive franchises and most, if not all, Xbox Series X games are expected to release on Windows 10 as well.

As long as Sony remains the only place to play franchises like Uncharted, God of War, and Demon's Souls, Sony will maintain an edge here. That may change with Sony expressing the desire to release more of their console exclusives on PC.

Many of the games available on launch day are just better versions of the same titles that will also be made available on last-gen consoles. Thankfully many of these games, like Assassin's Creed Valhalla and Watch Dogs: Legion are offering free next-gen upgrades, meaning if you invest in the PS4 or Xbox One version of one of these games, your respective account will also have access to the PS5 or Xbox Series X version when you're able to upgrade your hardware. 

While the launch day exclusives may be a bit paltry, there are a number of announced exclusives for each console that we'll see in the months to follow. The PS5 has already announced a new Spider-Man title as well as a sequel to the excellent Horizon: Zero Dawn. Whereas the Xbox is touting the open-world Halo: Infinite and a new entry in the State of Decay series.

A screen capture of Miles Morales in the Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales game

When these consoles launch, the majority of both libraries will consist of games from previous generations, and they're both in pretty good shape in that department. The PS5 will feature full backwards compatibility with the entire PS4 library, while the Xbox Series X will play Xbox One games and the same list of Xbox and Xbox 360 games currently supported by the Xbox One.

Both consoles have online access to games: Sony offers the Playstation Plus Collection while Microsoft provides its digital games through Gamepass Ultimate. Sony has stated that an "overwhelming majority" of its older catalog will be playable on PS5 hardware, meaning that most major titles from your existing library will indeed be playable on next-gen hardware. Microsoft has also confirmed that all previous-gen titles that are currently playable on the Xbox One, will be compatible with next-gen hardware, with the exception of any titles that were reliant on the now-discontinued Kinect

If you're not quite ready to make the leap to next-gen or are just having trouble finding a console, we've provided a detailed list of all the games you can buy now and upgrade later, so you'll already have a solid library of games ready when you finally commit. 

Controllers and Peripherals: New Feedback vs. Backwards Compatibility

  • DualSense controller uses advanced haptics, new look and feel, and new button.

  • You can't use the DualShock 4 with the PS4.

  • Other PS4 peripherals, like racing wheels, will be compatible.

  • PSVR is compatible with PS5.

Xbox Series X
  • Xbox Series X controller is a slight update of the Xbox One controller.

  • You can use Xbox One controllers with the Xbox Series X.

  • The Xbox Series X controller will be compatible with Xbox One and PC right out of the box.

  • Still no plans from Microsoft to support VR on their consoles.

Sony and Microsoft will both debut new controllers to go along with their new consoles, but Sony is definitely going harder in this department. The controller for the PS5 is noticeably different from it's predecessor with a curvy, almost boomerang-like design that looks slightly reminiscent of the PS3 prototype controller. The DualSense controller includes the same touchpad and share buttons that were present on the DualShock 3 controller but brings a handful of refinements, including a built-in mic with a dedicated mute button, as well as adaptive trigger tension that is intended to work with the haptic feedback in the DualSense controller for a more immersive experience.      

Sony PlayStation DualSense 5 wireless controller
Sony PlayStation DualSense 5 wireless controller.  Sony

The new DualSense controller is said to replace basic rumble functionality with advanced haptics designed to simulate the feel of touching and interacting with things in the game world. The differences are so great, in fact, that you won't be able to play games on your PS5 with PS4 controllers.

In terms of their controllers, Microsoft has adopted something of an "If it ain't broke" mentality, keeping things very similar to the controller they premiered with the Xbox One. One noticeable difference is the addition of a share button, allowing you to quickly take screenshots and videos with the push of a button much like the Nintendo Switch and PS4. Under the hood, the new controller also includes built-in Bluetooth, allowing you to pair the controller to PCs without the need for a dongle.

Close up of the Xbox Series X controller.

The differences between the Xbox Series X controller and the Xbox One controller are minimal, with slight changes to the look and feel, a new D-pad, and the addition of a button for sharing screenshots and video recordings. This controller will be backwards compatible with the Xbox One, and you'll also be able to use Xbox One controllers with your Xbox Series X.

In terms of other peripherals, Sony is expected to offer fairly comprehensive support. Early reports suggest that you'll be able to use PS4 peripherals like racing wheels with your PS5, and you'll also be able to hook up your PSVR. Microsoft, on the other hand, appears to have no VR-related plans for the Xbox Series X.

Design and Pricing: Different Designs, Similar Price Tags

  • Appears to be quite large.

  • Unconventional design doesn't look like any past console.

  • Designed to dissipate a lot of heat.

  • Priced at $499 (expected MSRP.)

Xbox Series X
  • Confirmed to be very large.

  • Basic rectangular design doesn't push any limits.

  • Designed to dissipate heat with minimal noise.

  • Priced at $499 (MSRP) with option to pay $34.99/mo. for 24 months (Xbox All Access included.)

The consoles are quite different in terms of aesthetic design. Microsoft barely strayed from the path, while Sony struck off for parts unknown.

Sony went for an avant-garde look that we haven't seen in console design, ditching the angled box design of the PS4 in favor of swept white wings surrounding a central black core. It's the sort of design you probably either love or hate, with the only real question being how are you going to make it fit in with the rest of your consoles and home theater gear.

The Xbox Series X, on the other hand, is a rectangle with a massive grille on the top. That's about it. You might have trouble fitting it into your entertainment console due to its prodigious size, but it fits in visually with previous generations.

In terms of price, the PS5 and Xbox Series X are evenly matched although Microsoft does offer the Xbox Series S (its digital version) for just $299. Early predictions pegged both consoles at $499 and they were right: the disc-drive consoles are both being offered that that price.

Budget Version: PS5 Digital Edition vs. Xbox Series S

PS5 Digital
  • Likely to have the same specs as the PS5.

  • No disc drive.

  • Expected to play PS5 games at full quality.

  • Priced at $399 (expected MSRP).

Xbox Series S
  • Pared down version of the Series X with less power.

  • No disc drive.

  • Plays all Xbox Series X games (reduced frame rate or lower quality)

  • Priced at $299 (MSRP).

Sony and Microsoft will both offer pared-down versions of their consoles as budget-friendly options. The PS5 Digital Edition is expected to have the same basic hardware as the PS5, with the exclusion of a disc drive. This all-digital console is rumored to play PS5 games with the same visual quality as the regular PS5.

Microsoft went a different way with their Xbox Series S, which packs in weaker hardware than the Xbox Series X. It will still play Xbox Series X games, but at lower settings and resolutions. It will also forgo a disc drive to cut costs, making it a download-only console.

While both of these options are decent alternatives if you're working on a budget, the lower price of the Xbox Series S, along with the option to pay for the console monthly along with a Game Pass Ultimate subscription, makes it the better option for budget-conscious gamers.

Price Point and Availability

While both consoles are competitively priced at $500 for their standard model, the PS5 and Xbox are also offering $400 digital-only versions of their consoles. These versions retain many of the same capabilities of their larger, more expensive counterparts, but will preclude you from playing any physical games you may have accumulated over the past 8 years. 

The real trick is currently finding any of these consoles for sale, most major retailers sold out within minutes of making them available. While we're likely going to see more before the shopping holiday, you'll want to keep a sharp eye out, if you want to snag one online as they're likely going to fly off the shelves.

Features and Services

Microsoft and Sony both feature their own game streaming and subscription services that can add to the overall experience of their consoles. Both Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation Plus' Extra and Deluxe plans provide access to a library of games on demand. Both consoles also have premium services, with Xbox Live Gold and PlayStation Plus subscriptions available for $60 a year (Extra and Deluxe cost more) that provide you with access to online multiplayer as well as free games each month and exclusive sales.

Xbox Series X backwards compatibility header image

Both consoles also feature services that allow you to play your games on either a laptop or mobile device. These services have been improving since their launch, but still largely depend on the network environment to provide an optimal experience, so while these streaming features are pretty cool, don't necessarily expect much in the way of consistency. 

Final Verdict: The Console War Wages on With No Clear Winner

Microsoft ate Sony's lunch when it released the Xbox 360 significantly before, and at a lower price point than the PS3, but Sony managed to turn that around in a big way with the PS4 dominating the Xbox One. With both the PS5 and Xbox Series X launching at about the same time, with similar price points, and similar hardware, this one is a coin toss.

The PS5 is likely to succeed on the back of its strong library of exclusive titles, while the Xbox Series X may have an edge due to slightly higher specifications and a unique rent-to-own pricing option that includes Game Pass Ultimate.

Our advice: PC gamers will get more value out of the Xbox due to Xbox Series X game exclusives being available for Windows 10, while console-exclusive gamers should make a decision based on Sony and Microsoft's respective stables of exclusive game franchises. If you don't care about the games available to play or all the technical spec, then focus solely on price: Your wallet will be happy and you'll have great games to play with either console.

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