Xbox Series X vs. PS5

The classic battle between Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation continues as both prepare to roll out a new gaming console for 2020. Microsoft’s Xbox Series X will debut around the same time as the PS5, creating a very difficult choice, especially since both are so similar in specs. 

There’s still much we don’t know about each system, like their release dates, price points, and which launch games will be available. But there is a lot we do know, so in this handy guide, we’ll go through what we know about each so far, so you can make an informed decision when it comes time to purchase later this year.

Further reading

Specs

Xbox Series X
PS5
Dimensions 15.1 x 15.1 x 30.1 cm
Weight 9.8 pounds
Color Black Black and White
CPU 3.8GHz Custom Zen 2 3.5GHz Custom Zen 2
GPU 12 TFLOPS 1.825GHz RDNA 2 10.28 TFLOPS 2.23GHz
Memory GDDR6, 16GB GDDR6, 16GB
Memory bandwidth 10GB at 560GBps, 6GB at 336GBps 448GBps
Storage 1TB custom NVME SSD 825GB SSD
Optical drive 4K Blu-ray Yes
4K Yes Yes
HDR Yes
Ports HDMI x 2, USB 3.2 x 2, Ethernet, storage, power Includes USB and NVME slot
Online subscription Xbox Live PS Plus
Connectivity
Price Likely $500 – $600
Availability Holiday 2020 Holiday 2020
Digital Trends review Coming soon Coming soon

Performance

We only have bits and pieces of information regarding the performance and internal specifications of the new consoles. Sony is, naturally, calling its console the PS5, while Microsoft’s console will be called Xbox Series X. There are rumors of a less expensive edition of Series X codenamed Lockheart, which is said to be a disc-less option. The PS5, as recently revealed, is confirmed to have a digital-only option as well.

On the PS5 side, we know the console will be using AMD chips across the board. This includes an eight-core CPU running on a modified version of the Ryzen line. This CPU will use 7nm Zen 2 microarchitecture. Its CPU is, on paper, slightly less powerful than the Xbox Series X CPU.

The PS5’s GPU will also be from AMD, based on the Radeon Navi line, and it will support the resource-intensive process known as ray tracing. This information comes from an interview that Lead System Architect Mark Cerny had with Wired, and we later learned the GPU would run at 10.28 TFLOPS with 2.23GHz, putting it in relative competitive with the Xbox Series X GPU.

The PS5 will also come with a 4K Blu-ray player, putting it in line with the Xbox One S and Xbox One X, and we know that discs will have a capacity of 100GB — double that of the current generation.

The Xbox Series X will feature 12 TFLOPS of power and up to eight times more graphical performance than Xbox One and twice as much as the Xbox One X.

Xbox Series X will have 16GB of GDDR6 RAM. The Xbox One X uses 12GB of GDDR5 RAM, and even a small boost to this would likely be sufficient for future games. We also know it will support features like a variable refresh rate, Variable Rate Shading technology, and a low-latency mode so you can get better responses out of your games.

This could be just one of two Xbox next-generation consoles, however, with Microsoft apparently also working on a console internally named Lockhart with around 4 TFLOPS of power. This system will reportedly not include a disc drive and is aimed at more casual players and those using Project xCloud for streaming.

Storage

At long last, Sony will be moving away from hard drives in favor of solid-state drives for the PS5, as revealed in Wired’s interview with Mark Cerny. It will be a custom super-fast 825GB SSD, with a slot for expanding storage via NVME.

The PS5’s SSD also allows it to segment how you install content. If you only want to install the campaign in the latest Call of Duty game, for instance, you will be able to do that and get to playing it much more quickly. You can also load directly into certain modes from the dashboard, allowing you to hypothetically jump right into a multiplayer match with a friend instead of having to navigate all of the menus first. You will even be able to see what rewards you can get for completing possible activities right from the dashboard, with game servers providing this information.

The Xbox Series X will also be making use of a solid-state drive. It is a custom 1TB SSD using NVME technology, and it will support proprietary expansion cards. Both consoles support external HDD as well, but they are not fast enough to run next-generation games.

Design

Now that both companies have shown their consoles off, we know how they stack up against one another, visually. The Xbox Series X will resemble a tall PC tower. It is substantially larger than the Xbox One X and Xbox One S systems, but still features a power button and disc drive on the front. The top of the system caves slightly inward and is made entirely of ventilation holes for better airflow. It can also be positioned horizontally to better fit entertainment centers.

As for the PS5, it looks quite unusual, with a combination of black and white colors and curves on each side of it. In much of the promotional material, the system is shown standing up vertically, but you are able to place it on its side. Though, with the curve on the bottom, it’s unclear if the system will come with some sort of stand to make it flush with the surface it’s on. The system doesn’t look a whole lot like the PS4, or any previous PlayStation system, for that matter. There will also be a disk-less version that is slightly smaller and less expensive. It’s unknown if other colors will be made available, but if it’s anything like the PS4, there will be numerous special editions throughout it’s life cycle.

Controller

The PS5‘s official controller is called the DualSense, dropping the DualShock moniker altogether. Sony has detailed what we can expect from the device. Speaking to Wired, Sony revealed that it would be ditching traditional rumble motors in favor of haptic feedback. This new technology will allow for more specific responses in games, such as resistance in the analog sticks when you are walking on a tough surface. There will also be variable resistance in the triggers, mimicking the action being performed, such as pulling back the string of a bow.

Additionally, the battery packed into the controller will sport a higher capacity than its predecessor. This was one of the biggest drawbacks with the DualShock 4 in the current generation. The controller itself resembles the console, with a combination of black and white colors. It seems to be a bit bulkier than the Dualshock 4. According to Sony, the DualSense will incorporate the same basic button layout as before, but with a few minor changes. Gone is the Share button. Instead, Sony opted to include a Create button to take its place, and it’ll presumably function the same, with added features. It will also include a built-in mic and headphone jack.

The PlayStation VR built for PS5 could also be getting a new controller, if a Sony patent filing is any indication. Published in February 2020, the filing includes information and drawings of a controller with individual finger tracking similar to the Valve Index.

Microsoft shared its design for the Xbox Series X controller during The Game Awards 2019, and it isn’t drastically different from the Xbox One controller. There is a new share button, which works much like the same button on the DualShock 4, as well as an updated directional pad based on the Xbox One Elite 2 controller’s pad. It also features a slightly different form factor.

The controller will be cross-generation compatible with Xbox One, as will the Xbox One’s accessories. This means any controllers players already own will work on the new system.

Game selection and backward compatibility

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Unlike the PS4, Sony’s next console is said to be backward-compatible. At this point, it’s supposed to play PS4 games in addition to its own library of titles, as well as PlayStation VR games. It will also be backward-compatible with the PlayStation VR headset supported by the PS4, but this doesn’t mean we won’t also get a new VR headset down the line. However, Sony has been quiet regarding the system’s backward compatibility leading up to launch. It’s still unknown how this will work.

It appears the PS5 will only play a selection of PS4 games out of the gate, however. Of the “top 100” games ranked by playtime on PS4, the majority will be backward compatible at launch.

Microsoft confirmed during E3 2019 that Xbox Series X will support every previous generation of Xbox games, similar to how Xbox One does so now. However, it isn’t clear if this means certain games will still be ineligible, as they are now on Xbox One and Xbox 360.

The company is said to be working on a project called GameCore that will help streamline the game development process for Microsoft’s gaming consoles and PC platform. It seems the goal here is to make it easier for developers to create games for Microsoft’s consoles that can be more easily brought to, or are even inherently compatible with, Windows PCs.

Sony has revealed many games coming to the PS5, while still focusing on releasing titles like The Last of Us: Part II, Ghost of Tsushima, and Iron Man VR for PS4. However, it’s possible that these games will be cross-generation releases or have ports for the PS5 at a later date. Following the recent PS5 showing, a huge mixture of first-, second-, and third-party games will be available for PS5, including Horizon Forbidden West, Gran Turismo 7, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, a remake of Demon’s Souls, and Resident Evil Village, among many others.

Microsoft has confirmed that Halo Infinite will be a launch title for Xbox Series X, which is the first time a Halo game has launched with an Xbox since the original system in 2001. This version is being released in addition to the previously announced Xbox One and PC versions, and the Xbox One version will also be playable on the Xbox Series X.

Microsoft’s system is also getting a feature called Smart Delivery. Because of its approach to no true exclusives for at least a year, all players who buy the Xbox One version or Xbox Series X version of a first-party Microsoft game will release the other version for free, without having to do anything to make sure you install the correct one. Xbox Game Pass will also continue on Xbox Series X, and previous Game Pass titles will still be free on the newer system. Gears 5 will make use of Smart Delivery at launch, with its newer version receiving resolution and frame rate upgrades, along with more detailed textures and lighting.

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II will be coming to the Xbox Series X as well. It was announced during The Game Awards 2019 with an in-engine trailer and will feature the same protagonist as the original game. It is once again developed by Ninja Theory, which is now a first-party Microsoft studio. Other games like Fortnite, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Destiny 2, Cyberpunk 2077, and Watch Dogs: Legion will also be available — plus, whatever Microsoft’s newly acquired first-party studios are working on at The Initiative, Obsidian Entertainment, and Double Fine.

The Xbox Series X will not be getting any true generational exclusives for at least its first year, and possible first two years. In an interview with MCV, Xbox Game Studios’ head Matt Booty said that all games would still be releasing on Xbox One and PC as well, to make them good purchasing decisions for new Xbox players.

Online services

Subscriptions to Xbox Live Gold and PlayStation Plus were both necessary for playing the majority of games online back when the Xbox One and PS4 launched in 2013, and we anticipate that this will remain the case with the next generation of systems. However, because of the increased focus on game streaming, these won’t be the only online services to expect.

On the PlayStation side, we anticipate Sony will further emphasize and flesh out its PlayStation Now service, which allows you to stream games you don’t own directly to your console. This could be the solution for backward compatibility with PS3 games, which is otherwise not possible on the PS4 due to the systems’ different architectures. This streaming will not replace traditional game ownership, as the PS5 still supports physical media.

Microsoft is going all-in on game streaming as well with its Project xCloud service. Though it doesn’t have an official name yet, the game-streaming service will allow you to play games on everything from your Xbox to a mobile phone. The success of Xbox Game Pass should supplement this, providing those who want to download games instead of streaming them with another option. You will also be able to stream games from your own console to a mobile device for free, and all of your purchased games on Xbox systems are eligible.

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