We compare Sony's PS5 and Microsoft's Xbox Series X game consoles and try and resolve the thorny question - which one is best?
PlayStation 5 vs Xbox Series X: Which next-gen console suits you best?
This latest console war is shaping up like no other. Both the competitors for the next-gen crown are superpowered and capable of extraordinary gaming experiences. They also go head-to-head when it comes to high-end AV potential – adopting tech that could even be capable of outputting 8K video one day.
However, while their ambitions are similar, they are each quite different in approach and skill set. The Xbox Series X is a more all-round home entertainment machine, capable of playing games at their best, yet also feels like an iterative upgrade to the Xbox One. The PlayStation 5, on the other hand, is more unique and games focused. And, while it can play PS4 titles through backward compatibility, it is more a generational leap.
That makes it tricky to choose between them, which is where we step in. Having played on both extensively, we aim to help you decide on which one to part your hard earned cash – looking at their different talents and giving you an idea which might better suit your needs.
|PS5||Xbox Series X|
|CPU||Octa-core AMD Ryzen Zen 2 CPU||Octa-core custom Zen 2 CPU|
|GPU||10.3 TFLOPS, 36 CUs||12 TFLOPS, 52 CUs|
|Memory||16GB GDDR6 RAM||16GB GDDR6 RAM|
|Internal storage||825GB SSD (667GB available to user)||1TB SSD (+slot for expansion card)|
|Physical media drive||4K Ultra HD Blu-ray||4K Ultra HD Blu-ray|
|Video performance target||4K 60fps, capable of up to 120Hz, 8K possible in future||4K 60fps, capable of up to 120Hz, 8K possible in future|
|HDR video formats||HDR10||HDR10, Dolby Vision|
|Sound formats||Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS, “Tempest” 3D Audio Tech||Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, Dolby Atmos|
|Connections||HDMI 2.1, 3x USB 3.1, 1x USB-C, Ethernet, 802.11ac Wi-Fi||1x HDMI 2.1, 3x USB 3.1, Ethernet, 802.11ac Wi-Fi|
|Measurements (WxDxH)||260 x 104 x 390mm||151 x 151 x 301mm|
PS5 vs Xbox Series X: Design and build
As well as their slightly different outlooks, the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X look nothing alike.
Xbox has opted for a short, chunky device that looks somewhat like a mini PC tower. It has a heat grille at the top – when stood on end – but is otherwise reasonably nondescript. If you plan to lay it horizontally, it is slightly narrower than an Xbox One X, say, but almost twice as tall.
At present, you can only get the Xbox Series X in black.
In stark contrast, the PS5 is a tall, futuristic machine with smooth curves and two white faceplates that both protect the inner cooling fan and direct hot air through the many grooves that run down a central unit.
In truth, neither console has been designed to hide away
It isn’t as fat as its counterpart but it more than makes up for it in height. When stood vertically - its most natural position - the PS5 is by far and away the largest games console released to date. You get a stand to ensure it is safe from toppling over.
It too can be laid horizontally, with the stand able to click into a secondary position under the 4K Blu-ray drive. However, you might struggle to fit it into an AV cabinet.
In truth, neither console has been designed to hide away, although, being black, the Xbox is better at stealth – you just need quite a gap between shelves to fit it.
They are each very well built and, in our tests, seem to emit less heat than the Xbox One and PS4 respectively.
PS5 vs Xbox Series X: Connections and storage
Connectivity is much of a muchness, with the PlayStation shading it slightly with the inclusion of a USB-C port on the front and Bluetooth support. Other than that, they are very similar in their output options.
Each sports an HDMI 2.1 output capable of 4K 120Hz, with 8K a possibility somewhere down the line. We suspect this will be at much lower frame rates, however. They both have 1-gig Ethernet ports, three USB 3.0 ports, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi on board.
Both consoles support HDCP 2.3 for media playback.
It is strange that the Xbox Series X does not offer Bluetooth wireless connectivity – the PS5 does – but it does allow up to three external USB 3.0 (and above) hard drives to be connected through its ports. Like the PS4, the PlayStation 5 is seemingly limited to just the one. Maybe this will change in future, though.
It’s worth noting that neither the Xbox Series X nor PS5 will allow you to run native next-gen games from external storage plugged into the USB ports – even if you own a separate SSD. Instead, they offer alternatives that, currently, only Xbox has activated.
The Xbox Series X has an Expansion Card slot on the rear for a proprietary Seagate device that is presently only available with 1TB of additional storage. It’s a pricey solution, but effectively doubles the internal storage and works in exactly the same way. You get all of the benefits of next-gen tech, including faster load times, but it’ll set you back around £220.
... neither the Xbox Series X nor PS5 will allow you to run native next-gen games from external storage plugged into the USB ports
The PlayStation 5 currently does not accept storage expansion, although it does have a slot for it too. Sony’s approach is slightly different in that, once enabled, you will be able to use matching third-party NVMe SSD cards.
That could be important as the console currently only boasts 667GB of storage available to the user (out of an overall 825GB). The Xbox Series X has a 1TB drive, but only 802GB is available for games, etc. That’s still around two games more, however.
PS5 vs Xbox Series X: User experience and features
There is a stark difference between the two user experiences and one is perhaps less “wow” than the other – especially if you already own an Xbox One.
Xbox has cleverly opted to keep its new console in the same ecosystem as the last. This has many benefits, including almost complete compatibility with games and accessories, plus a phenomenally simple initial setup. However, it also means that, bar an animated backdrop and significant speed upgrade, you get the exact same homescreen, icons and general design as before.
It’s 1080p, even though many of your games will play in 4K, and we have to say that it’s more practical than pretty.
The PS5, however, has an all-new UX – one that is content rich and looks genuinely next-gen. It is presented in 4K for starters, and each game gets its own ultra-sexy backdrop as you scroll through them on the homepage. Some – mainly native PS5 titles – even get a theme tune if you loiter.
Additionally, the PS5 has a dedicated media section that is also rich in imagery and detail. Each of the main, partnering streaming apps offers content suggestions and there are clickable cards to take you straight to the show or film.
In terms of unique features, the Xbox Series X has a couple of decent ones: auto HDR and quick resume.
The latter allows for six or so games to be paused in the background at once, with the ability of instantly swapping between them. Thanks to the processing architecture and SSD combined, you can decide to quickly hop from a racing game, say, to the latest Assassin’s Creed in just seconds.
Auto HDR adds an HDR effect to older games that didn’t ship with high dynamic range. This is especially useful for making Xbox 360 games look better. And it actually works too.
The PS5 has Activity Cards instead, which not only give you information and easy access to assets, such as trailers and screenshots, but can present levels inside a game that you can jump straight to from the homescreen. For example, in a driving game you can jump straight to your favourite race track, rather than have to navigate through the game’s own menu system.
Activity Cards can also give you official hints and tips when accessed inside a game.
PS5 vs Xbox Series X: Controllers
It must be said that, when it comes to the controller, the PlayStation 5 wins hands-down.
That’s not to say that the new Xbox Wireless Controller isn’t superb in its own right – after all, it is a slight upgrade on the best, most comfortable gamepad from the last few years. But, the PS5 DualSense controller is on another planet entirely.
In all honesty, it’s not as comfortable to hold and the Xbox alternative has more grip, but it has a couple of features that just scream next-level.
Haptic feedback and adaptive triggers are so clever and intuitive, we’ll eat our Sonic the Hedgehog hats if they aren’t adopted in some way by Xbox down the line. As it stands though, they are exclusive to the DualSense.
Haptic feedback is basically a replacement for the rumble packs inside regular controllers. It is more precise and uses multiple actuators inside the pad to give different, more subtle vibrations depending on what is happening inside the game. For example, you get a different feeling when driving over gravel in a racing game to driving over ice. It’s not a deal breaker as such, but gives a different experience to what we’ve had from PlayStation and Xbox in the past – more like a Nintendo Switch Joy-Con, if you’ve ever used one of those.
... it has a couple of features that just scream next-level
Adaptive triggers are more pronounced, as they provide different levels of force feedback depending on how the developer implements them. In the next-gen version of FIFA 21, say, the run trigger becomes harder to press down the more a player tires and loses stamina. It takes a while to get used to, but as we’ve played some games across both PS5 and Xbox Series X, it’s quite jarring to go from a game that uses the unique adaptive triggers to the same without.
Also added to the DualSense is a microphone which, when combined with the returning mono speaker, can even be used to talk to others in multiplayer online games without a headset. This is something the Xbox controller just cannot do.
Now, some might think these are all gimmicks and comfort and build quality are more important, so the Xbox gamepad is number one in that sense. And time will tell whether the DualSense features will truly become useful, but for now they have the “wow factor” for sure.
PS5 vs Xbox Series X: Games
Game availability is perhaps the biggest battleground in the next-generation war – not surprising really, considering they are games consoles after all. It is also likely the area that will most determine which you opt for.
However, it is also the most difficult to judge. Both consoles have great merits when it comes to gaming, but in different ways.
The PS5 is the best when it comes to exclusive next-gen titles, both at launch and likely for the next few months. Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Sackboy and, not least, Demon’s Souls are superb games you can only play on a PlayStation (Miles Morales is also available on PS4). Prospects for further exclusive titles seem to be good too.
In comparison, the Xbox Series X has very few exclusive next-gen titles – Gears Tactics basically. It does have enhanced versions of some of the Xbox Studios library, such as Gears 5 and Forza Horizon 4, but these aren’t new games.
Where the Xbox Series X excels though is in offering hundreds of games on day one for a very low monthly fee. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is quite extraordinary for someone who hasn’t built his or her own collection of titles over the years. It offers more than 300 Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and original Xbox games, plus cloud gaming access, EA Play (a second library service featuring Electronic Arts’ enormous back catalogue), Xbox Live Gold for online play, and even Xbox Game Pass for PC with an additional 200 plus games for Windows. And all for little over a tenner a month.
PlayStation does offer PS Plus for around the same price, which includes online play, a couple of free games per month and a classics collection of 20 PS4 titles to play on PS5, but it’s not really in the same ballpark.
So the choice here is whether you want a vast number of games (both new and old) that might not be the most exciting next-gen wise, or a better range of exclusives available today and for the forthcoming future.
Hardcore gamers will likely opt for the latter, while families will very much favour Xbox’s everything-you-can-eat buffet style approach.
One thing’s for sure, no matter which games console you choose, they will both present games in similar fashion for now: 4K HDR at 60fps more often than not, with potential for 120fps (most likely dropping the resolution a tad though).
Game Pass Ultimate is quite extraordinary for someone who hasn’t built his or her own collection of titles over the years.
The Xbox Series X actually has the more powerful processing and graphics capabilities. It sports an 8-core Zen 2 CPU running at 3.8GHz per core through multi-threading, in favour of the PS5’s 3.5GHz equivalent. And its GPU has 12 TFLOPs of power (52 compute units), over the 10.3 TFLOPs (36 CUs) of the PS5. However, like-for-like tests so far show a much of a muchness in the output.
It must be pointed out though, that while the PS5 has smaller amount of useable capacity on its SSD, it runs more quickly – with transfer rates of 5.5GB/s in comparison to 2.4GB/s (4.8GB/s uncompressed).
PS5 vs Xbox Series X: Media
Sadly, neither machine is perfect when it comes to media streaming or 4K Blu-ray playback.
It’s great to see PlayStation adopt a 4K Blu-ray player for the first time, although it does come with some caveats. It’s noisy for starters, especially during menu screens where it is reading a disc sporadically.
The Xbox 4K Blu-ray deck is also quite noisy, but not so much in comparison. Considering though that both consoles have been designed to sit outside, rather than in an AV cabinet, we can’t help but feel that both make enough of a racket to affect movie viewing if that was the case.
The other issue with the PlayStation is it doesn’t support Dolby Vision. This isn’t much of a decider at this present time, as neither will the Xbox Series X’s player until sometime in 2021. However, the Xbox will have that added at some point, the PS5 will not.
In addition, the Xbox Series X supports Dolby Vision on streaming apps that carry it, such as Netflix and Disney+. The PS5 simply doesn’t – offering standard HDR instead.
When it comes to audio, only the Xbox officially supports Dolby Atmos, although the PS5 can carry bitstream audio from its Blu-ray playback software to a TV, soundbar or AV receiver that will then decode it. But, like with Dolby Vision, you won’t get Atmos any other way on the PlayStation console.
... we can’t help but feel that both make enough of a racket to affect movie viewing
It’s also worth noting that the Xbox Series X currently outweighs the PS5 in terms of the number of streaming apps that are available. Considering the X continues in the same ecosystem as the Xbox One, it benefits from the One’s years of app launches. The PS5 is not even as well-endowed as the PS4 in that respect.
At the time of writing, it has the obvious candidates – such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Apple TV and YouTube – but no terrestrial catch-up services. To be fair, the BBC iPlayer app doesn’t yet work on the Xbox neither.
PS5 vs Xbox Series X: Price
When it comes to pricing, it’s quite simple – both consoles have an identical price tag.
In the UK, the Xbox Series X and standard PlayStation 5 cost £450 apiece. If you are willing to dispense with the 4K Blu-ray deck, however, you can get a PS5 Digital Edition for £360.
There is also a digital-only Xbox available – the Xbox Series S – but that is greatly cut back in a number of areas, with lesser processing and graphics than the X.
In truth, both machines are pretty spectacular and futureproofed
PS5 vs Xbox Series X: Conclusion
When all is said and done, the choice between which console you’d rather have could come down to small factors. Or large ones, if trying to cram a PS5 into your AV cabinet doesn’t appeal.
As things stand, the PlayStation definitely feels more futuristic and different. Plus, it has the better launch games by far, thanks to a healthy collection of top-notch platform exclusives. However, it isn’t as capable with media playback as the Xbox Series X – especially if you’re thinking of using it as your family home entertainment hub.
Also, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate cannot be discarded. You might not be getting the best, most exciting games on day one but, for just a tenner, you get more than 300 to play from the get-go – just download them and away you go.
In truth, both machines are pretty spectacular and futureproofed, with an enormous amount of potential that’ll likely not be reached for years to come. You won’t regret either purchase, we have no doubt.