The next generation of consoles is here, bringing us a total of four new systems from Sony and Microsoft. Each company released a standard new machine with all the bells and whistles you could hope for in the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X while simultaneously launching less expensive consoles in the PS5 Digital Edition and the Xbox Series S. Many consumers are likely on the fence about which one to buy, and in this guide, we’ll be taking a deep dive into the differences between the PS5 Digital Edition and the Xbox Series S.
While there’s a noticeable difference between each console in terms of specs and performance, each are the least expensive options from Sony and Microsoft — meaning potential buyers will likely want to grab them first, assuming they can find them across retailers. When spending lots of money on a new device — whether it’s a console or other piece of technology — it’s important to know which one suits your needs the best.
Here’s our breakdown of the PS5 Digital Edition vs. the Xbox Series S.
|PS5 Digital Edition||Xbox Series S|
|Dimensions||39cm x 9.2cm x 26cm||27.5cm x 6.5cm x 15.1cm|
|Weight||10.54 pounds||4.25 pounds|
|Color||Black and white||White|
|CPU||8-core, 3.5GHz Custom Zen 2||8-core, 3.6GHz, AMD Zen 2|
|GPU||36 CUs, 10.3 TFLOPS, 2.23GHz||20 CUs, 4 TFLOPS, 1.565GHz|
|Memory||16GB GDDR6||10GB GDDR6|
|Storage||825GB Custom SSD||512GB NVME SSD|
|Optical drive||4K UHD Blu-ray drive||No, digital only|
|4K||Yes||1440p, scalable 4K|
|Ports||Includes USB and NVME slot||USB|
|Online subscription||PS Plus||Xbox Live Gold|
|Availability||November 12, 2020, in the U.S. (November 19 in other territories)||November 10, 2020|
|Digital Trends review||4.5/5||3/5|
It’s worth comparing the two machines, as both are digital only and offer an affordable way to jump into the next generation of gaming. We’ll get into a price comparison later on, but each of these systems serve as the lower-end model and don’t include all the features of the more expensive editions.
Spec-wise, it’s quite clear the PS5 is a much more powerful machine, though that doesn’t necessarily mean the Xbox Series S should be ignored. The PS5 Digital Edition shares the same specs as the Standard PS5, except for the disc drive, of course. It comes with AMD chips and an 8-core CPU as part of the Ryzen line and includes 7nm Zen 2 microarchitecture. To allow for ray tracing (which we’ll go over below), the PS5’s GPU is also from AMD and comes from the the Radeon Navi line. This GPU has 36 CUs and runs at 10.28 TFLOPS with 2.23GHz, indicating a tremendously powerful system that rivals modern gaming PCs.
On the other hand, the Xbox Series S is a weaker machine, though it does also feature an eight-core CPU as part of the AMD line. As for its GPU, here’s where you’ll notice a major difference. It features 20 CUs running at 4 TFLOPS at 1.565GHz. Despite the lower specs, the Xbox Series S still supports ray tracing, which is a technique used to enhance realism and is particularly noticeable in reflections and improves depth perception. Ray tracing takes a tremendous amount of computational power — hence why you’ve likely heard the term thrown around so much this generation, as companies love to boast about the power of their machines.
Aside from internal specs, it’s worth mentioning the major size difference between the two consoles. The Xbox Series S is one of the smallest, most lightweight systems we’ve seen in a while, coming in at 4.25 pounds — over half the size of the PS5 Digital Edition, which is 10.54 pounds. You’ll have a much easier time getting the Series S into your entertainment system, for sure.
Above, we threw out a lot of numbers that might not make sense to everyone. Here, we’ll go into what the numbers specifically mean and why they’re important. Ultimately, the PS5 is able to output at a higher resolution thanks to its teraflops (TFLOPS). Without getting too far into the nitty gritty, a TFLOP is the ability of a computer (or in this case, a console) to calculate one trillion floating-point operations per second. High TFLOPS doesn’t always mean a better machine, but it’s a good indication of power.
As shown in the chart above, the PS5 Digital Edition boasts 10.3 TFLOPS, meaning it can calculate 10.3 trillion floating-point operations per second. This is over double that of the Series S, which calculates 4 trillion floating-point operations per second. Despite the large difference, it’s worth mentioning that 4 TFLOPS is still an indication of a powerful machine. Though, just to put it into perspective, the Series S has slightly fewer than that of the PS4 Pro, which features 4.2 TFLOPS.
What all of this amounts to is that the Xbox Series S is intended to output at 1440p at up to 120 frames per second (fps). On the flip side, PS5 Digital Edition supports 4K at 120Hz and is even future-proofed to support 8K displays, though you won’t see this in action for some time. What’s interesting is that — even though the PS5’s resolution is so much higher than that of the Series S — 4K displays aren’t ubiquitous, meaning a lot of consumers won’t be as concerned about the absolute best resolution just yet. If high resolution and visual fidelity is important to you and you have a display that supports 4K, then go with the PS5. Otherwise, this won’t be a factor when deciding between the two.
One thing that is a major factor when deciding between the two is memory — and sadly, neither system excels in this regard. Both feature a solid state drive (SSD), which is a major step toward faster load times and read speeds, but the sizes of the hard drives have already become a problem. The PS5 Digital Edition comes with a custom 825GB SSD, while the Xbox Series S features a 512GB NVME SSD.
SSDs are more efficient and allow for decompression of file sizes, though we haven’t noticed smaller installation sizes across games thus far. We expected to see file sizes go down with the launch of the new systems, but they still seem to mirror what we became used to with the previous generation — where some games were nearly 200GB in size. So, ultimately, these two hard drives won’t get you far, as you’ll need to delete and manage your games to make sure you’ve got room. Thankfully, games install onto each machine faster than ever, thanks to the power of the SSD, but it’s still an annoyance that needs a solution going forward.
And speaking of the power of the SSD, we should mention just how fast this hard drive performs. In 2019, a clip was shown of Marvel’s Spider-Man loading on a PS4 Pro versus the PS5, and the results were staggering. On PS4 Pro, it took eight seconds to load, while on the PS5, it loaded in less than one second. This eight-to-one ratio isn’t the same across all games, but it’s a solid indication of speed and power.
Sony's official video comparing performance of PS4 Pro vs next-gen PlayStation pic.twitter.com/2eUROxKFLq
— Takashi Mochizuki (@6d6f636869) May 21, 2019
Even though the Xbox Series S has a lower read speed of 2.4GB per second when compared to the PS5’s 5.5GB per second, it’s still lightning-fast — especially when compared to the Xbox One X, which only reads at 120MB per second. Whichever system you go with, you’ll notice tremendously faster load times than the previous generation.
Finally, we should mention expandable storage because that will likely play a part as time goes on. The Xbox Series S offers a much more elegant solution, allowing users to purchase 1TB storage cards to install games onto — running at the same speed as the system’s internal SSD. The problem is that these storage cards are almost as expensive as the system itself and will set you back $219.99.
As for the PS5, you’ll have even more issues in this regard, as there’s no current solution for expandable memory, though it is coming in a future update. The SSD required for the PS5 isn’t even widely obtainable to consumers, so it’ll likely be a while before you’ll be able to properly utilize expandable storage. There is no way to use external memory to play PS5 games, though — an external drive can be used to play PS4 games on the PS5 (which is recommended).
Price will ultimately be one of the major deciding factors when choosing between the two devices. Thus far, we’ve made mention that the PS5 Digital Edition is a more powerful machine than the Xbox Series S, but you’ll pay $100 more for better specs. Many consumers aren’t aware of what makes a system or or less powerful and will likely be swayed by the price. The Xbox Series S has a fantastic price of $299.99 and is certainly the least expensive way to jump into the next generation, but remember, you do get what you pay for. Even though the PS5 Digital Edition is $100 more at $399.99, some might opt to bite the bullet and go with the more powerful system. Others might not consider this at all.
To make it even more enticing, Microsoft has implemented the All Access program, which allows consumers to immediately grab a new Xbox system at launch while paying a monthly fee, just like you would with a new smartphone. For $24.99 per month (until the system is paid off), customers gain access to the Xbox Series S and two years of Game Pass Ultimate. This is huge and proves that Microsoft is absolutely committed to working with its audience to ensure everyone has a way to play. When it comes to price, the Xbox Series S is hard to pass up, even if it is inferior to the PS5 Digital Edition in terms of specs.
The other factor when deciding which system to buy will come down to the games available across each console. Even though both offer mostly the same lineup of third-party releases like Cyberpunk 2077, Resident Evil Village, Fortnite, and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, exclusive games often sway the opinions of potential buyers.
Continuing the momentum of the previous generation, the PS5 is ripe with exclusive games. These are titles like Demon’s Souls, Godfall, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Bugsnax, and more. Plus, we have a ton of exclusives to look forward to, such as a follow-up to 2018’s God of War, Ratchet & Clank: A Rift Apart, Gran Turismo 7, and Horizon 2: Forbidden West, among others. Though, this doesn’t mean Microsoft is completely lacking in the exclusive department — we just won’t see the same quality of heavy hitters for some time.
Sadly, Microsoft’s marquee Halo Infinite was delayed past its initial date, which was supposed to come out alongside the Xbox Series X|S. We still have a new Forza Motorsport to look forward to, along with a new Fable, Avowed, and Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II. It takes time to acquire studios and develop games, something Microsoft has doubled down on in recent years.
When it comes to exclusives across each platform, PlayStation games tend to lean toward single-player, narrative focused adventures, while Xbox games have been known more for their online functionality. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule, and who knows what Microsoft has up its sleeve in the coming years. It is certainly looking to pivot this idea with titles like Fable and Avowed.
Below are all the games confirmed to launch for the PS5 and the PS5 Digital Edition (bolded games available at launch):
|Assassin’s Creed Valhalla||Dragon Age 4||Hogwarts Legacy||NBA 2K21||Returnal|
|Astro’s Playroom||Dustborn||Hood: Outlaws and Legends||NBA Live 21||Riders Republic|
|Atomic Heart||Dying Light 2||Horizon: Forbidden West||No Man’s Sky||Sackboy: A Big Adventure|
|Battlefield 6||The Elder Scrolls Online||Hyper Scape||Observer: System Redux||Scarlet Nexus|
|Borderlands 3||Far Cry 6||Immortals: Fenyx Rising||Oddworld: Soulstorm||Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One|
|Bugsnax||FIFA 21||JETT: The Far Shore||Outriders||Solar Ash|
|Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War||Final Fantasy VII Remake||Just Dance 2021||Overcooked: All You Can Eat||Stray|
|Chivalry 2||Final Fantasy XVI||Kena: Bridge of Spirits||Outriders||Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League|
|Chorus||Fortnite||Little Devil Inside||Paradise Lost||TemTem|
|Control||Ghostwire: Tokyo||Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga||The Pathless||Tribes of Midgard|
|Cris Tales||Godfall||The Lord of the Rings: Gollum||Planet Coaster: Console Edition||Unknown 9: Awakening|
|Cyberpunk 2077||Goodbye Volcano High||Madden 21||Pragmata||Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2|
|Death Loop||Gotham Knights||Maneater||Project Athia||Vampire the Masquerade – Swansong|
|Demon’s Souls Remake||Gothic||Maquette||Quantum Error||Warframe|
|Destiny 2||Gran Turismo 7||Marvel’s Avengers||Rainbow Six: Quarantine||Watch Dogs: Legion|
|Destruction: All-Stars||Grand Theft Auto V||Marvel’s Spider-Man||Rainbow Six Siege||The Witcher III: Wild Hunt|
|Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition||Haven||Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales||Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart||Worms Rumble|
|Dirt 5||Heavenly Bodies||Metal: Hellsinger||Recompile||WRC 9|
|DOOM Eternal||Hitman III||Mortal Kombat 11||Resident Evil: Village||Yakuza: Like a Dragon|
And here are the games confirmed for Xbox Series X|S (bolded games are launch titles):
|12 Minutes||Dirt 5||The Gunk||Metal: Hellsinger||Shredders|
|Aragami 2||Doom Eternal||Halo Infinite||MicroMan||The Sims 5|
|ARK: Survival Evolved||Dragon Age 4||Hogwarts Legacy||Moonray||Song of Iron|
|As Dusk Falls||Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age||Gothic Remake||NBA 2K21||Soulborn|
|The Artful Escape||Dying Light 2||Grand Theft Auto 5||No Man’s Sky||S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2|
|The Ascent||Earthlock 2||Graven||Nth^0 Infinity Reborn||State of Decay 3|
|Assassin’s Creed Valhalla||Echo Generation||Grounded||Observer (System Redux)||Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League|
|Avowed||Enlisted||The Gunk||Ori and the Will of the Wisps||Tetris Effect: Connected|
|Balan Wonderworld||The Elder Scrolls Online||Halo Infinite||The Outer Worlds||Tell Me Why|
|Battlefield 6||Evergate||Haven||Outriders||The Touryst|
|The Big Con||Everwild||Hitman 3||Overcooked: All You Can Eat||Tunic|
|Blood Bowl 3||Exo One||Hello Neighbor 2||Paradise Lost||Ultimate Fishing Simulator 2|
|Borderlands 3||Exomecha||Hood: Outlaws and Legends||Party Crasher Simulator||Unexplored 2 – The Wayfarer’s Legacy|
|Bright Memory 1.0||Fable||Hyper Scape||Phantasy Star Online 2||Unknown 9: Awakening|
|Bright Memory: Infinite||The Falconeer||Immortals: Fenyx Rising||Planet Coaster||Vampire the Masquerade – Bloodlines 2|
|Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War||Far Cry 6||In Sound Mind||Pragmata||Vampire the Masquerade – Swansong|
|Call of the Sea||FIFA 21||In Sound Mind||Psychonauts 2||Warframe|
|Chivalry 2||Fortnite||Lake||Psyhotel||Warhammer 40,000: Darktide|
|Chorus||Forza Horizon 4||Last Stop||Rainbow Six Quarantine||Watch Dogs Legion|
|Control||Forza Motorsport||Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga||Rainbow Six: Siege||Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood|
|Cris Tales||Gears 5||Little Nightmares 2||Resident Evil: Village||White Shadows|
|Crossfire X||Gears Tactics||The Lord of the Rings: Gollum||Sable||The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt|
|Cyberpunk 2077||Gotham Knights||Mad Streets||Scarlet Nexus||WRC 9|
|Cygni: All Guns Blazing||Gothic Remake||Madden NFL 21||Scorn||Yakuza: Like A Dragon|
|Demon Turf||Grand Theft Auto 5||Maneater||Sea of Thieves||Yes, Your Grace|
|Destiny 2||Graven||Marvel’s Avengers||The Second Extinction|
|Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition||Grounded||The Medium||Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2|
Thankfully, whether you go with the PS5 Digital Edition or the Xbox Series S, you’ll be able to play a lot of your older games from the previous generation. With the PS5, specifically, it’s more limited, but you’re still able to play nearly every PS4 game on Sony’s new machine. The PS5 even plays PSVR games and supports all of the PSVR headsets (so long as you have the adapter). Oddly enough, there are only a handful of PS4 games that won’t work on PS5.
The list of non-backward compatible PS4 games on PS5 (according to the PlayStation Blog) is as follows:
- Afro Samurai 2 Revenge of Kuma Volume One
- TT Isle of Man — Ride on the Edge 2
- Just Deal with It!
- Shadow Complex Remastered
- Robinson: The Journey
- We Sing
- Hitman Go: Definitive Edition
- Joe’s Diner
Despite being able to play most of the PS4 games in your library, backward compatibility with the PS5 stops there. That means you’ll need to hold onto your older systems if you want to play anything from before the PS4. There are digital ports of some PS2 games you can buy on PS5, but this isn’t necessarily backward compatibility.
For Xbox, backward compatibility works much better and covers many original Xbox games, Xbox 360, and Xbox One titles — spanning four generations of games total. Despite not having a robust lineup of exclusives just yet, you’ll have thousands upon thousands of possible games to play on your new system, whether you get an Xbox Series S or X. What’s interesting is that backward compatibility wasn’t always at the forefront for Microsoft.
As the company evolved last generation, it became more consumer-friendly and came up with clever solutions to backwards compatibility. Now, your new Xbox system is an all-encompassing machine that has the capability of playing a ton of games. Simply put in the disc and the system will either give you the digital edition of that game for free (so long as the disc remains in the system) or will allow you to play the game from the disc itself. It’s a simple, elegant solution that deserves praise.
One of the highlights of the PS5 is the new DualSense controller. Sony took a bit of a risk by dropping the DualShock naming convention, but from what we’ve experienced, the new controller is a game-changer, for sure. Among its main draws are its adaptive triggers, which feature varying degrees of resistance depending on the in-game object you’re interacting with. For instance, a bow will offer a different amount of resistance when compared to the trigger of a gun.
Also new is haptic feedback, which integrates an enhanced, more immersive form of vibrations. Much like the adaptive triggers, the degree of haptic feedback will change based on what you interact with. Walking on sand in-game will feel differently than walking on grass — and this is all thanks to the varying degree of vibrations within the controller.
The DualSense also features a longer battery life when compared to the PS4’s DualShock 4 and includes a Create button instead of the Share button. They function similarly, but the DualSense’s version has more bells and whistles, as you’d expect. It’s an overall improvement on its predecessor. You can purchase one for $69.99.
Xbox Series S controller
The Xbox Series X|S controller has fewer changes, but that can be chalked up to, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” In fact, it’s almost indistinguishable from the Xbox One gamepad, though it does come with a new Share button. It also features an improved D-pad and an ever-so slightly altered form factor. Interestingly, you can actually use a regular Xbox One controller on your Xbox Series X|S console, along with most of your accessories from the previous generation.
This means you’ll already be stocked up when you get your new system if you owned the previous iteration. Yet again, Microsoft is showing its consumer-friendly focus with this system, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed. We do wish the controllers would outright ditch having to use AA batteries, but this can be mitigated by getting a charging cable and battery pack. The new Xbox controllers can be purchased for $59.99.
PlayStation Now and PS Plus
Here’s where things get even more interesting. With each system, you’ll have access to a couple of services that are intended to enhance the gaming experience. Continuing the trend of having to pay to play online, the PS5 uses PlayStation Plus, giving you discounts on games, “free” games every month, access to the PlayStation Plus Collection, and other perks. Of course, the main draw of PS Plus is that it allows you to play online, and considering the robust offering of multiplayer games, you’ll definitely want to become a member. Your existing subscription from PS4 will carry over to PS5, so there’s no need to purchase a new membership if yours is still valid.
The PS Plus Collection is a new feature that launched with the PS5, giving PS Plus members access to around 20 of the PS4’s best games, including God of War, Persona 5, Uncharted 4, Bloodborne, Fallout 4, Resident Evil 7, and more. And each month, Sony gives players multiple games that are yours to keep so long as you’re a member. So far, we’ve been getting two PS4 games and one PS5 title, which has quickly paid for itself. A PS Plus membership is $59.99 for the year and also comes in smaller, less expensive increments.
Aside from PS Plus, Sony also offers PlayStation Now, its subscription service that gives players access to hundreds of PlayStation games spanning from the PS2 and onward. Though, when compared to Xbox Game Pass (which we’ll get into below), the service seems to be lacking, particularly in that you cannot download PS3 games. Instead, you have to stream them, and, depending on your internet speeds, the game you want may be unplayable due to latency. Still, it’s a good service that is will likely continue to evolve with the PS5. You can grab a yearly membership for $59.99. Keep in mind, PS Now and PS Plus are two totally separate services.
Xbox Game Pass and Games with Gold
One of (if not the) biggest strength of the Xbox Series X|S consoles is Xbox Game Pass. Not only does it feature a wide variety of first- and third-party games for you to choose from at a low monthly cost, but every Microsoft first-party game launches the day and date with the service. This means you can say goodbye to having to buy many of the system’s exclusive games — saving you tons of money. In fact, you can get away with not buying games at all. So long as you have an Xbox Game Pass subscription, you’ll be stocked up on games for the lifetime of the system for $10 a month.
Microsoft still offers Xbox Live Gold, which works the same way as PS Plus. It, too, allows for online play and integrates Games with Gold, giving you “free” Xbox games each month at no additional cost. A yearly Gold subscription costs $59.99.
The icing on the cake is Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. This bundles Xbox Game Pass with Xbox Live Gold and gives you additional features like EA Play (Electronic Arts’ subscription service, featuring a robust lineup of games), Cloud Gaming, and other unique perks. The simplicity of bundling everything together is yet again a consumer-friendly, forward-thinking move on Microsoft’s part, making it easy for members to jump onboard the Xbox train. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate costs $14.99 per month and is absolutely worth it, considering all the games you gain access to. You’ll very rarely need to buy another game again.
While the Xbox Series S and PS5 Digital Edition are similar machines, they’re not exactly for the same audiences. Sure, there might be some overlap here and there, but each system boasts many different features that may or may not be suitable for you depending on personal preference. For those who only buy a few games a year and are focused on saving money, the Xbox Series S is a solid choice. It’s only $299.99, and though it has a small hard drive of 512GB, you won’t be needing much extra space if you don’t buy games often.
Couple that with Xbox’s smart services like Xbox Game Pass (and even Xbox All Access), and you can get away with jumping into the next generation of gaming without spending a ton of money. This is especially true if you owned an Xbox One because most of your accessories are compatible with the Series X|S — again, saving you cash. And on top of that, you’ll have games like Halo Infinite, the new Forza, Fable, Avowed, and others to look forward to later on.
Those who want a more premium experience with better visuals, a truly next-gen-feeling controller, and access to a slew of games PlayStation is famous for, should go with the PS5 Digital Edition. You’ll have to shell out more money to get the most of this console since it’s a more expensive machine, and you’ll want to get a 4K TV for the best visual experience. But if that’s what you’re looking for, this is the option to go with.
Plus, if you’re a PlayStation fan, you likely love the company’s output of exclusive games like Marvel’s Spider-Man, God of War, Horizon Zero Dawn, and Gran Turismo, all of which have or will have sequels on PS5. At the end of the day, it comes down to price and games, both of which are a major factor when deciding between two consoles. Not everyone needs a 4K 120 fps gaming experience, and that’s okay.
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