PS5 vs. Nintendo Switch

Will the PS5 steal Nintendo Switch's thunder? Let's find out

When the Nintendo Switch launched, it represented a sort of “half generation” for gaming consoles, acting as a successor to the Wii U and as a more formidable competitor to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. However, Sony is now preparing its own next-generation PlayStation, which will offer a substantial increase in power alongside faster loading times and even support for 8K resolution. For anyone in the market for a new console, this could make the choice between the two of them a little bit more difficult. With the PS5 vs. Nintendo Switch, which console should you pick? We’ve outlined the key factors below to help you make a decision.

Of course, one very important factor to consider is that the PS5 isn’t out yet – in fact, we don’t even know that’s what it will be called. If you need your system now, get a Nintendo Switch, but otherwise, read on to learn more!

Further reading

Specs

PlayStation 5

Nintendo Switch

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Dimensions 10 x 4.2 x 0.5 inches
Weight 0.65 pounds
Color Dark gray
CPU Eight-core AMD Ryzen Nvidia customized Tegra, shared with GPU
GPU Radeon Navi with  ray tracing support Nvidia customized Tegra, shared with CPU
Memory 4GB
Memory bandwidth 25.6GB/s
Storage SSD, size unclear 32GB, support for external cards.
Optical drive Yes No
Max resolution 8K 720p handheld, 1080p docked
HDR Yes No
Ports HDMI out, One USB-C, One USB 3.0, Two USB 2.0
Online subscription Yes, $20 per year
Price Likely $500 $300
Availability Likely 2020
Digital Trends review Coming soon 4 out of 5 stars

Performance

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The Nintendo Switch is not a powerhouse by any stretch of the imagination. It can run games originally meant for systems like the Xbox 360 or Wii U without any issue, and can even offer smoother performance over the original versions. However, the system is not capable of offering performance anywhere close to that of the Xbox One or PlayStation 4 – let alone the consoles that will soon follow.

This is especially true when playing third-party games on Nintendo Switch. Doom is perfectly playable on the system, but compared to the other consoles, its framerate is reduced and its textures are quite muddy.

The Nintendo Switch can display games in two different resolutions, depending on whether or not it is docked. If docked and displaying games to a television screen, the Switch can play games at 1080p resolution. This is the maximum resolution it is capable of producing, and certain games will not be able to reach this number. The new Nintendo Switch Lite system cannot be docked, and can only play games at the standard 720p handheld resolution.

When played with the Switch’s own screen, the resolution is capped at 720p. Given the size of the screen, it is virtually impossible to tell it has been lowered, but the numbers are what they are. The system can also hit 60 frames per second in certain games.

If Sony’s claims regarding the PS5’s potential are accurate, the console will be able to achieve performance the Nintendo Switch could only dream of. In an interview with Wired, lead system architect Mark Cerny shared that the system would be capable of 8K resolution, despite the PlayStation 4 Pro only being able to achieve true 4K resolution in a handful of games. The system will also apparently drastically reduce loading times compared to the PS4, thanks to a solid state drive instead of a hard drive.

The PlayStation 5 will also have support for ray tracing, which is a graphical feature typically only found in high-end PC systems. This suggests that it will be a larger leap over the PS4 than the PS4 was over the PS3, but we’ll likely learn more concrete information at a later date.

An upgraded Switch

The standard Nintendo Switch found in stores is no longer identical to the one available at launch in 2017. It underwent an internal refreshment without becoming an official second model, with the battery life getting a major boost. This was not a result of a different battery for the system, but rather a more efficient Tegra X1 chip. Slight performance improvements have been reported in certain games, as well as a slightly different tint to the display, but the increased three or so hours of battery life is the real selling point here.

Storage

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The Nintendo Switch comes with just 32GB of flash storage on the console itself, which is not even enough to completely install digital versions of certain games. If you purchase physical cartridges for the system, only a small portion of the game must be installed on your system, while the rest will run directly from the card itself. The Switch is the only modern game system that doesn’t make use of discs, and is the only system that does not force you to install games before playing them.

If you need more storage space, the Nintendo Switch also supports microSDXC cards, which can potentially raise its capacity to 512GB or more. These aren’t cheap, however, and have to be factored into the cost of the system when purchasing.

Sony has not shared the storage capacity for the PlayStation 5 yet, but as stated above, it will make use of a solid state drive for quicker loading. If in line with the PS4 Pro, the capacity will be 1TB, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see 2TB, instead.

If you’re concerned about losing access to your precious game save data, a Nintendo Switch Online memberships gives players access to cloud saves and game data backups, which are done automatically when the system is asleep. It should be mentioned, however, that if you decide to cancel your Nintendo Switch Online membership, you will lose access to your cloud save data until you start your membership again, and if that doesn’t happen within six months, your data will be deleted permanently. You can instead manually maintain your own backups of game save data by transferring updated copies of it to a PC but for some people, that can be tedious.

If PlayStation 5 game save data works similar to the PlayStation 4’s, PS Plus subscribers will likely have access to cloud game saves, as well as game data backups that are performed when the system is asleep. Similar to the Nintendo Switch, if you decide to cancel your PS Plus subscription, you will lose access to your cloud saves and data until you resubscribe, and if six months lapse before that time, the data will be deleted forever. The alternative option to this is keeping all of your save data on a USB storage device, but that also has its risks.

Game selection and backward compatibility

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The Nintendo Switch has amassed an impressive game library over the more than two years it has been available, with first-party exclusives as well as third-party games that released alongside other consoles or PC. Among the best first-party and second-party games available on the system are:

  • Super Mario Odyssey
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
  • Splatoon 2
  • Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
  • Yoshi’s Crafted World
  • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
  • Pokémon: Let’s Go
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Great third-party games ported from other systems or released simultaneously include:

  • Doom
  • Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
  • Katana Zero
  • Mortal Kombat 11
  • Dark Souls Remastered
  • Fortnite
  • Cuphead

The PS5 doesn’t have any games outright confirmed for it yet, but the language used by Bethesda during E3 2018 suggests Starfield and The Elder Scrolls VI will both be released for the console. We are also curious if Cyberpunk 2077 will release for the PlayStation 5, given the visual quality of the demonstrations we’ve seen thus far. This game has also been confirmed for an early 2020 release on current-generation systems, however.

When it comes to backward compatibility, the PS5 looks to be the early winner. Sony said it will support backward compatibility with PS4 games, as well as PlayStation VR titles. The system will also be compatible with the current PlayStation VR headset to play these games.

The Nintendo Switch doesn’t support backward compatibility with any games you purchased for other Nintendo systems. As it doesn’t have the “Virtual Console” store like the Wii U, 3DS, and Wii, you cannot play those games on the Switch. As mentioned previously, you can find ports of certain older Nintendo games on the Switch, but they are typically priced quite highly.

Online services

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If there is one category we can essentially give to the PS5 before we know a thing about it, it’s online services – Nintendo’s online program for the Switch is that terrible.

With Nintendo Switch Online, which can be purchased annually for $20, you are given access to online multiplayer in games. The feature was previously free with the console. You are also given access to cloud game save backup, as mentioned above, and you can play games in the Nintendo Switch Online game vault. Thus far, all games included in the vault are NES titles, and it’s the only way to play many of them on the system. They have added online functionality to some of those titles, but remain largely the same games you remember.

Nintendo’s big mistake with its online services, however, is forcing players to use a separate phone app in order to use voice chat while online. Because of the hassle in doing so, hardly anyone actually talks while playing their games, and those that do have little reason to use something other than Skype, instead.

Assuming PlayStation Plus on PS5 is similar to how it works on PS4, it will be a significantly better program. Alongside access to online multiplayer, the $60 yearly fee includes access to free games each month. On PS4, two are available each month, and they are free to keep for as long as you have the service. You can also get special discounts for other digital games, and occasionally additional discounts – we were able to get two free tickets to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse ahead of release, for example.

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