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.

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.

Game Library: Sony Loosening Grip on Exclusives

  • Exclusives like Spider-Man: Miles Morales.

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

  • Likely to offer a PSNow-like subscription.

  • 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, but 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.

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.

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 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.

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.)

We won't know how design plays into things like durability until these consoles are out and put to the test, but they 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 expected to be evenly matched. Early predictions pegged both consoles at $499, and an early leak forced Microsoft to confirm that pricing. Sony could always respond with a lower price, but it's likely that they also hit the $499 price point and leave the funny business to their unconventional case design.

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.

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

Microsoft ate Sony's lunch when they 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. PC gamers will get more value out of the PS5 due to Xbox Series X exclusives being available for Windows 10, while console-exclusive gamers are advised to make a decision based on Sony and Microsoft's respective stables of exclusive franchises.