The classic battle between Microsoft and Sony continues, now that both companies have introduced their next-generation consoles to the world. And while we don’t advocate for console wars, it is important to know which system will suit your needs. Both the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5 are now available — if you can find them — putting gamers in a tough spot when picking a next-gen console (especially since both are so similar in specs).
In this guide, we’ll compare specs, design, game lineups, and a host of other important factors so you can make an informed decision when it comes time to purchase.
|Xbox Series X
|Dimensions||15.1 x 15.1 x 30.1 cm||39cm x 26 x 10.4 cm|
|Weight||9.8 pounds||10.54 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|
|Ports||HDMI x 2, USB 3.2 x 2, Ethernet, storage, power||Includes USB and NVME slot|
|Online subscription||Xbox Live||PS Plus|
|Availability||November 10, 2020||November 12, 2020|
|Digital Trends review||3.5/5||4.5/5|
On the PS5 side, the console uses AMD chips across the board. This includes an eight-core CPU running on a modified version of the Ryzen line. This CPU uses 7nm Zen 2 microarchitecture. Its CPU is, on paper, slightly less powerful than the Xbox Series X CPU.
The PS5’s GPU is also from AMD, based on the Radeon Navi line, and it supports 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 runs at 10.28 TFLOPS with 2.23GHz, putting it in relative competition with the Xbox Series X GPU. The PS5 also comes with a 4K Blu-ray player, placing it in line with the Xbox One S and Xbox One X, and the discs have a capacity of 100GB — double that of the previous generation.
The Xbox Series X features 12 TFLOPS of power and up to eight times more graphical performance than the Xbox One and twice as much as the Xbox One X. Xbox Series X has 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 supports 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.
There’s a less expensive console in Microsoft’s lineup, though: Xbox Series S. At $299, the console isn’t nearly as powerful as its more expensive sibling, targeting 1440p gaming rather than 4K. Still, it offers the same functionality as the Series X minus a disc drive and some horsepower. The PS5 has a digital-only option as well.
At long last, Sony has moved away from hard drives in favor of solid-state drives for the PS5. It is a custom superfast 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 can do that and get to playing it much more quickly. You can also load directly into certain modes from the dashboard, hypothetically allowing you to jump right into a multiplayer match with a friend instead of having to navigate all the menus first. This is implemented on a game-by-game basis, of course, but it’s still neat that it’s available at all.
You are even able to see what rewards you can get for completing possible activities right from the dashboard, with game servers providing this information. After a recent update, Sony has allowed for PS5 games to be stored on an external drive, giving players a convenient way to make the most out of their storage. As it stands, the stock 825GB of onboard memory simply isn’t enough, especially for those massive install sizes. You can also store PS4 games on an external drive, meaning you won’t run out of memory as quickly.
The Xbox Series X also makes use of a solid-state drive. It is a custom 1TB SSD using NVME technology, and it supports proprietary expansion cards. Both consoles support external HDDs as well, but they are not fast enough to run next-generation games. It’s recommended to wait to purchase external hard drives in the next couple of years so they’re up to par with the requirements of current games. You are able to store Xbox Series X games on a specific external device, giving you a wider array of games to choose from, though be prepared to spend a pretty penny since they cost $219.99. Currently, you can only store Xbox Series X games on the internal drive or the proprietary memory card. You can use an external drive on the Xbox Series X, but it will only store Xbox One and Xbox 360 games, which is an important detail to keep in mind.
Xbox Series X
Now that both consoles are in our hands, we know how they stack up against each another, visually speaking. The Xbox Series X resembles 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.
PS5 (standard and digital editions)
As for the PS5, it looks quite unusual, with a combination of black and white colors and curves on each side. In much of the promotional material, the system is shown standing up vertically, but you are able to place it on its side. The system doesn’t look a whole lot like the PS4 — or any previous PlayStation system, for that matter. There is also be a discless version that is slightly smaller and less expensive — but is mostly identical to the disc-based version.
You are able to swap out the white panels on the side, though Sony hasn’t made any first-party replacements quite yet. That isn’t stopping third-party sellers, though!
The PS5‘s official controller is called the DualSense, dropping the DualShock moniker altogether. Prior to its release, Sony 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 allows for more specific responses in games, such as resistance in the analog sticks when you are walking on a tough surface. The triggers also offer variable resistance, mimicking the action being performed, such as pulling back the string of a bow.
Additionally, the battery packed into the controller sports 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. The DualSense incorporates the same basic button layout as previous controllers, 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 functions the same, with added features. It also includes 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. However, no new PSVR headset has been officially confirmed.
Xbox Series X controller
The Xbox Series X controller 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 design. Its most noticeable change is the new Share button in the center, serving as a way to upload and manage screenshots and videos.
The controller is cross-generation compatible with Xbox One, as are the Xbox One’s accessories. This means any controllers that players already own for Xbox One will work on the new system. It seems Microsoft is going in a totally different direction from Sony when it comes to next-generation controllers. Microsoft is showing that, once again, consumer-friendly decisions like these are at the forefront. The new Xbox Series X controller also features a USB-C charge port instead of the Micro USB found on previous versions.
Unlike the PS4, Sony’s newest console is backward-compatible — at least in some capacity. The PS5 is able to play PS4 games in addition to its own library of titles as well as PlayStation VR games. It is also 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. After what seemed like an eternity, Sony finally gave us the details on how backward compatibility works.
As confirmed in a PlayStation Blog post, indeed most of your PS4 games do work on PS5. In fact, only a small handful of games are incompatible. The list 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
It’s unclear why these games in particular aren’t backward compatible with the PS5, but you can rest easy knowing the overwhelming majority of your PS4 games work on the new machine. Unfortunately, backward compatibility stops at PS4 games. Sony might continue to release PS2 ports as it has with PS4, but in terms of “true” backward compatibility beyond that, it seems unlikely.
As for Xbox, Microsoft confirmed during E3 2019 that Xbox Series X supports most previous-generation Xbox games, similar to how Xbox One does so now. This means you’ll be able to play eligible original Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S games all on the new machine — a huge win for game preservation. While the Xbox Series X might not have the exclusive launch lineup the PS5 has, Microsoft should be praised for its consumer-friendly approach to backward compatibility.
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 released its last few exclusives for the PS4 in 2020, like The Last of Us: Part II, Ghost of Tsushima, and Iron Man VR. However, it’s possible these games will be cross-generation releases or have ports for the PS5 at a later date. Following September 2020’s PS5 showing, a huge mixture of first-, second-, and third-party games are (or 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.
The launch lineup of the PS5 was strong, but what’s even more exciting are the games coming in the future. These are titles like God of War: Ragnarok, Deathloop, and whatever else Sony’s first-party studios are working on.
Here is a list of every major PS5 game (launch games are in bold):
|Alba: A Wildlife Adventure||Destruction: All-Stars||Greedfall||Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales||Returnal|
|Aliens: Fireteam||Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition||Guilty Gear Strive||MicroMan||Riders Republic|
|All Elite Wrestling: The Game||Diablo II: Resurrected||Haven||Metal: Hellsinger||Sackboy: A Big Adventure|
|Anno: Mutationem||Dirt 5||Heavenly Bodies||Metro Exodus||Scarlet Nexus|
|Aragami 2||DOOM Eternal||Hellpoint||MLB: The Show 21||Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One|
|Atelier Ryza 2||Dragon Age 4||Hitman 3||Moonray||Solar Ash|
|Assassin’s Creed Valhalla||Dustborn||Hogwarts Legacy||Mortal Kombat 11||Soulborn|
|Astro’s Playroom||Dying Light 2||Hood: Outlaws and Legends||Mortal Shell: Enhanced Edition||Stray|
|Atomic Heart||Dynasty Warriors 9||Horizon: Forbidden West||NBA 2K21||Subnautica: Below Zero|
|Back 4 Blood||Earthlock 2||Hyper Scape||No Man’s Sky||Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League|
|Balan Wonderworld||The Elder Scrolls Online||Immortals: Fenyx Rising||Nth^0 Infinity Reborn||TemTem|
|Battlefield 6||Evil Dead: The Game||The Invincible||Observer: System Redux||Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2|
|Bloodbowl 3||Far Cry 6||In Sound Mind||Oddworld: Soulstorm||Tribes of Midgard|
|Borderlands 3||FIFA 21||It Takes Two||Outriders||Ultimate Fishing Simulator 2|
|Bugsnax||Final Fantasy XVI||JETT: The Far Shore||Overcooked: All You Can Eat||Unknown 9: Awakening|
|Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War||Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade||Judgment||Paradise Lost||Vampire: The Masquerade — Bloodlines 2|
|The Callisto Protocol||Five Nights at Freddy’s: Security Breach||Just Dance 2021||Party Crash Simulator||Vampire: The Masquerade — Swansong|
|Chivalry 2||Fortnite||Kena: Bridge of Spirits||The Pathless||Vigor|
|Chorus||For Honor||King Arthur: Knight’s Tale||Planet Coaster: Console Edition||Warframe|
|Control Ultimate Edition||Genshin Impact||Knockout City||Pragmata||Warhammer: Chaosbane — Slayer Edition|
|Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time||Ghostrunner||LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga||Project Athia||War Mongrels|
|Cris Tales||Ghostwire: Tokyo||Little Devil Inside||Psyhotel||War Thunder|
|Cygni: All Guns Blazing||God of War: Ragnarok||Little Nightmares 2||Quantum Error||Watch Dogs: Legion|
|Cyber Shadow||Godfall||The Lord of the Rings: Gollum||Rainbow Six: Quarantine||The Witcher III: Wild Hunt|
|Cyberpunk 2077||Goodbye Volcano High||Madden 21||Rainbow Six Siege||Worms Rumble|
|Dead by Daylight||Gotham Knights||Maneater||Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart||WRC 9|
|Death Loop||Gothic Remake||Maquette||Recompile||Yakuza: Like a Dragon|
|Demon’s Souls Remake||Gran Turismo 7||Marvel’s Avengers||Redo! Enhanced Edition||Yuoni|
|Destiny 2||Grand Theft Auto V||Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered||Resident Evil: Village||Yurukill: The Calumniation Game|
Microsoft originally announced Halo Infinite as a launch title for Xbox Series X, but it has since been delayed. After a disappointing gameplay showcase, 343i went back to the drawing board with a Bungie veteran to bring a fresh coat of paint to the game. It is slotted for a fall 2021 release now, launching simultaneously across PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.
Microsoft’s system is also getting a feature called Smart Delivery. Because of Microsoft’s approach of offering 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 get the other version for free, without having to do anything to make sure they install the correct one. Xbox Game Pass also continues on Xbox Series X, and previous Game Pass titles are still free on the newer system. Gears 5 made 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, are also available — plus whatever Microsoft’s newly acquired first-party studios are working on at Double Fine. During The Game Awards 2020, we got a look at The Initiative’s new game, which will be a reboot of Perfect Dark. This still has a lot of development time left, but it seems like it will be one of Microsoft’s flagship games — whenever it comes out.
The Xbox Series X will not be getting any true generational exclusives for at least its first year, possibly two. In an interview with MCV, Xbox Game Studios’ head Matt Booty said that all games would still be released on both Xbox One and PC to make them good purchasing decisions for new Xbox players.
As part of Microsoft’s recent Xbox Games Showcase, we got to see many of the new games we’ll get to play on the Series X, including a deeper look at Halo Infinite, Forza Motorsport — which appears to be a reboot of the series, though it’s unconfirmed — State of Decay 3, and a new Fable.
Below are the major games available on (or coming to) Xbox Series X (launch games in bold):
|12 Minutes||Chorus||Everwild||Hitman 3||Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom||Rec Room||The Gunk|
|Aliens: Fireteam||Control: Ultimate Edition||Exomecha||Hogwarts Legacy||Monster Energy Supercross: The Official Videogame 4||Recompile||The Outer Worlds|
|All Elite Wrestling: The Game||Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time||Fable||Hood: Outlaws & Legends||Morkredd||Resident Evil Village||The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt|
|Among Us||CrossfireX||The Falconeer||Hot Wheels Unleashed||Mortal Kombat 11||Ride 4||Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Quarantine|
|Anodyne 2: Return to Dust||CRSED: F.O.A.D.||Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout||Immortals Fenyx Rising||Mortal Shell: Enhanced Edition||Riders Republic||Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege|
|Ark II||Curse of the Sea Rats||Far Cry 6||In Sound Mind||MotoGP 21||Rogue Company||Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2|
|Ark: Survival Evolved||Cyberpunk 2077||FIFA 21||Insurgency: Sandstorm||Mundaun||Ruined King: A League of Legends Story||Tormented Souls|
|The Artful Escape||The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes||Flea Madness||It Takes Two||My Time at Sandrock||S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2||Ultimate Fishing Simulator 2|
|As Dusk Falls||DARQ: Complete Edition||Football Manager 2021||Judgment||NBA 2K21||Sable||Undertale|
|The Ascent||Dawn of the Monsters||Foreclosed||Just Dance 2021||No Man’s Sky||Samurai Shodown||Unknown 9: Awakening|
|Assassin’s Creed Valhalla||Dead by Daylight||Fortnite||King Arthur: Knight’s Tale||Observer: System Redux||Scarlet Nexus||Vampire: The Masquerade — Bloodlines 2|
|Atomic Heart||Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba — Hinokami Keppuutan||Forza Horizon 4||Knockout City||Ori and the Will of the Wisps||Scorn||Vampire: The Masquerade — Swansong|
|Avowed||Destiny 2||Forza Motorsport||Last Oasis||Orphan of the Machine||Sea of Thieves||War Mongrels|
|Back 4 Blood||Devil May Cry 5 Special Edition||Gears 5||Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga||Outriders||Second Extinction||War Thunder|
|Balan Wonderworld||Diablo II: Resurrected||Gears Tactics||Little Nightmares 2||Overcooked! All You Can Eat||Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II||Warframe|
|Black Legend||Dinos Reborn||Ghostrunner||The Lord of the Rings: Gollum||Override 2: Super Mech League||Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One||Warhammer 40,000: Darktide|
|Black Myth: Wukong||Dirt 5||Gotham Knights||Madden NFL 21||Party Crasher Simulator||Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2||Warhammer: Chaosbane|
|Blood Bowl 3||Disco Elysium: The Final Cut||Grand Theft Auto V||Maneater||The Pedestrian||Spacelords||Watch Dogs: Legion|
|Borderlands 3||Doom Eternal||Graven||Manifold Garden||Perfect Dark||Spirit of the North: Enhanced Edition||Werewolf: The Apocalypse — Earthblood|
|Braid Anniversary Edition||Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance||GreedFall||Martha is Dead||The Persistence Enhanced||State of Decay 3||Worms Rumble|
|Bridge Constructor: The Walking Dead||Dying Light 2||Grounded||Marvel’s Avengers||Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis||Steelrising||WRC 9|
|Bright Memory||Dynasty Warriors 9: Empires||Halo Infinite||MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries||Planet Coaster: Console Edition||Stonefly||Yakuza: Like a Dragon|
|Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War||Echo Generation||Halo: The Master Chief Collection||The Medium||Pragmata||Subnautica: Below Zero||Yes, Your Grace|
|Call of the Sea||Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes||Haven||Metal: Hellsinger||Psychonauts 2||Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League||Yuoni|
|The Callisto Protocol||The Elder Scrolls Online||Hell Let Loose||Metro Exodus||Puyo Puyo Tetris 2||Sword of the Necromancer|
|Can’t Drive This||Enlisted||Hello Neighbor 2||Microsoft Flight Simulator||Quantum Error||Temtem|
|Chernobylite||Evergate||Hellpoint||MLB The Show 21||R-Type Final 2||Tetris Effect: Connected|
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 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, Sony announced PlayStation Plus Collection. The service allows PS5 owners subscribed to PlayStation Plus to download and play a small library of games. The service should grow over time, but as of now, the roster includes 2018’s God of War, Persona 5, Uncharted 4, Bloodborne, and Fallout 4, among other heavy hitters. The PlayStation Plus Collection is available to those who are PS Plus members at no additional cost. Remember, a PS Plus Subscription costs $60 for the year and gives you access to online play and a batch of games each month, including PS5 titles like Bugsnax and Destruction All-Stars!
In addition, Sony is still supporting PlayStation Now, a streaming service similar to Xbox Game Pass, wherein you can play a massive library of games for a monthly (or yearly) fee. Sony has continued to build upon this library, adding fantastic games that are sure to resonate with you. However, the community has been vocal about its criticisms of the service, particularly in that you cannot download the available PS3 games — instead, you must stream them, and depending on your internet connection, this could make them unplayable. PS Now costs $60 for the year.
Microsoft is going all in on game streaming as well with its xCloud service. This game-streaming service allows 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 your purchased games on Xbox systems are eligible.
And of course, one of the main reasons to be an Xbox player is to enjoy Xbox Game Pass, a service that offers a hefty library of games, including first-party Microsoft titles. This means you’ll have access to all of Microsoft’s excellent exclusives like Halo, Forza, Sea of Thieves, and whatever else the company has in the works — all at no additional cost. It’s a truly revolutionary way to go about getting games in the hands of its community. You can purchase Xbox Game Pass for $9.99 per month on consoles.
The service offers other perks, like bundling in Xbox Live Gold with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, and also includes EA Play, Electronic Arts’ new game subscription service. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is $14.99 per month and features a ton of extra perks. In short, you can get an Xbox Series X with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate and have access to hundreds of games without having to actually buy them. Plus, Game Pass works on PC and other devices, meaning you can play these games nearly anywhere. What Microsoft lacks in exclusive launch games, it makes up for with consumer-friendly services like Game Pass.
Both the PS5 and Xbox Series X have enough features to justify a purchase, but they also have downsides that you should be aware of. In terms of price, the least expensive way to get the best-looking games is by purchasing the Digital Edition PS5 for $399, though these are difficult to find. If you’re someone who has loved Sony’s excellent output of first-party exclusives, the PS5 should be your go-to. The company will continue releasing top-tier exclusives, like Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Demon’s Souls, God of War: Ragnarok, Gran Turismo 7, and Sackboy: A Big Adventure, to name a few.
If those games don’t appeal to you, and if you’re more of a fan of ubiquity and easy-to-use services, then the Xbox Series X might be the choice for you. Sure, the system doesn’t have a worthwhile first-party lineup just yet, but it does offer an easy way to play nearly every one of your Xbox games, from the original to the Xbox One — all in one place. Game Pass is a revolutionary way to get your hands on an ever-growing library of games, and eventually, Microsoft’s first-party studios will deliver highly anticipated titles like Halo Infinite, Fable, the next Forza, and a new Perfect Dark reboot via The Initiative.
Ultimately, right now is a great time to love video games — whichever system you choose.
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