You've pre-ordered your new console (or, at the very least, optimistically put one on your Christmas list), and you've picked out the biggest and best launch games you want to play first. But are you ready for Xbox Series X and PS5? Like, actually ready ready. Oh don't be so naive.
With every new console generation comes a host of fresh technological standards and must-have accessories, and this one is no exception. Get ready to make your bank manager cry, as we're about to point you to the headsets, TVs, and broadband gadgets you may need to purchase to get the most out of your shiny new machine...
Audio: Get Tempest 3D and Dolby Atmos ready
When Mark Cerny delivered his Road to PS5 talk in March, he made it clear that 3D audio is going to be a big deal in the coming console generation. Sony's machine boasts the Tempest Engine, a dedicated sound processor which Cerny says will provide positional audio so accurate you'll hear individual raindrops splashing in the environment.
Tempest is an example of an object-based audio codec, a program that treats individual sounds like objects in 3D space, placing them accurately depending on where they're happening in the world, rather than directing the sounds to the channels in a 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound set-up, which only gives you a broad sense of location.
We already know how positional sound can help in games like Fortnite where it can tell you where an enemy is before you actually spot them, but with the more precise accuracy of object-based audio, future console titles could use sound to totally immerse you in an environment.
Sony has said that any decent headphones or home theatre set-up will be able to get subtle benefits from Tempest, but eventually dedicated surround sound speaker systems and sound bars, specifically designed to get the most out of Tempest, will be available. For now, if you want the full audio experience of titles with Tempest support – such as Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Gran Turismo 7 – you'll need to get in a Sony Pulse 3D headset pre-order.
I've not had a chance to try it yet, but Sony's existing PS4 Platinum headset and the Gold model too are comfortable, well-constructed, and offer impressive audio. Alternatively, a few third-party sets are already marketing themselves as PS5-ready, including the acclaimed SteelSeries Arctis 7P headset, which I've been trying and enjoying this week – it's wonderfully comfortable thanks to the fabric head strap, offers 24-hour wireless battery life and claims full compatibility with Tempest.
Or you could invest in one of the best PS5 headsets so far, those that already work on PS4 with strong surround sound support. I love the Razer Kraken and the Razer Nari Ultimate headsets, which are incredibly comfortable and immersive, and the Turtle Beach Stealth 700 Gen 2, which has really rich, lively audio.
As for the Xbox Series X, Microsoft has chosen to support two rival object-based 3D audio technologies, Dolby Atmos and DTS: X, and many games support one or both of them.
These codecs do a similar job to Tempest, sending specific sounds to very precise audio positions rather than to surround sound channels, and like Tempest, any decent headphones or home theatre system will get some benefit when used with supporting games. I recommend the Razer Nari Ultimate, SteelSeries Arctis 9X and Turtle Beach Stealth 700 Gen 2 sets, but we've reviewed a few more in our list of best Xbox Series X headsets here.
There are also gaming headsets offering enhanced support for Dolby Atmos or DTS: Headphones X, including the excellent Astro A40 and Astro A50 headsets. You can even download dedicated Atmos and DTS apps from the Xbox Series X store to further refine and expand the 3D audio experience.
Televisions: All eyes on 4K and HDMI 2.1
If you already own a 4K TV with support for the HDR10 standard, you don't have to upgrade for the next-gen consoles – you're fine. However, if you want to try one of the titles offering a 120hz mode, such as Dirt 5, Halo Infinite, or Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, you'll need to upgrade, as very few older displays will handle that.
Almost all technophiles agree that the best two 120hz TVs right now are the LG CX and Samsung Q80. The former boasts an OLED screen, which produces astonishingly rich and detailed colours at very low latency (13.3ms) and it copes extremely well with fast moving visuals. We tried Dirt 5 on the TV and, although the 120hz mode scales down visual detail, it's a genuine treat, and makes the game feel unbelievably responsive.
It's a little expensive though, so the Samsung Q80T is a great alternative. It employs Samsung's QLED technology which isn't quite as advanced as OLED, but still a major step up from standard LED sets and the display packs a real visual punch. We played a range of Xbox Series X-enhanced titles on the set, including Gears 5 and Yakuza: Like a Dragon and the colours, depth, and detail of the graphics were lovely. For the latest models, with the cheapest prices, head on over to our best TV for PS5 and Xbox Series X guide.
When you wander through Yakuza's depiction of downtown Yakahama, the glow of the neon signs is so vivid, you feel like you could walk into one of the sleazy nightclubs. The Samsung also coped brilliantly with both Gears 5 and Dirt 5's 120hz mode. Elsewhere, PS5 purchasers might want to consider the well-reviewed Sony XH90, which is marketed as "Ready for PlayStation 5".
Whichever TV you go for, just make sure it has support for 4K and HDR10 (Xbox Series X also supports Dolby Vision, an alternative HDR standard), a low latency rate (anything under 30ms) and at least four HDMI inputs so you can plug in all your consoles and set-top boxes, and at least one of these must be HDMI 2.1 if you want 120hz action. Most decent sets come with a dedicated Game mode which optimizes visual performance for gaming. for more, take a look at our best gaming TV guide.
Online connection: Improve Xbox Series X and PS5 download and upload speeds
If you've been using WiFi to connect your consoles to the internet, now might be the time to think about going wired. PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X games are likely to regularly hit 100GB, which is a *lot* to download; going with a wired connection via an ethernet cable plugged into your router will speed that process up, as well as providing a more stable connection which will reduce ping on online games. The ethernet cable you use should be at least Cat 6, which has a data rate of up to 10Gbps – that's likely to be the maximum your router can handle. You can go up to Cat6C or even Cat 7 and Cat 8, which multiply the data rate, but right now, they're really for corporate local area networks.
If you have a bunch of consoles, it might be worth getting an unmanaged ethernet switcher so you can plug them all in and share the connection. I use the Netgear GS108 and it's very reliable. If your consoles are too far from your router to plug in via cable, a powerline adaptor, which uses your home's electric wiring to create a connection is a good idea. You plug one in next to your router and one next to your consoles, then use ethernet cables to connect everything. I have a TP-Link powerline adapter which is easy to use and has a passthrough plug socket so you can plug in other things on top of it.
If you can't face having your new console surrounded by cables, the other option would be to invest in a good mu-mimo (multi-user, multiple input, multiple output) wifi router, which can communicate with multiple devices at once. Many of the best gaming routers are designed to prioritise, well, gaming, but you could also think about upgrading to a mesh wifi network which uses a series of nodes placed around your house to create a fast, seamless wireless connection, wherever your consoles are. And if you're planning on playing online, you will of course be wanting to check out the latest PlayStation Plus deals.
Storage: Hard drive expansion options
The next gen consoles come with decent-sized SSD drives – the Series X with 802GB of usable storage space, the PlayStation 5 with 667GB – but the larger game files will fill this pretty quickly, so it's worth thinking about investing in an external drive.
For the Xbox Series X, Microsoft is recommending the Seagate Storage Expansion Card, which is designed to work seamlessly with the SSD inside the console and offers 1TB of storage – but it's pricey. You could also opt for a cheaper USB SSD or HDD from manufacturers such as Samsung, Sandisk, or WD_Black, which all make reliable drives as shown on our best Xbox One external hard drives guide. That said, while you'll be able to play Xbox One and Xbox 360 titles directly from any of these, you'll only be able to store Xbox Series X titles on them – they'll need to be transferred to the internal SSD to run.
The PS5 situation is similar. The console has space for an extra internal NVMe SSD that would allow you to store and play PS5 titles. You'll also be able to plug in a USB SSD or HDD drive and play PS4 games on it, but you'll only be able to store PS5 games internally.
Streaming: Show off your PS5 and Xbox Series X gameplay to the world
Both consoles are likely to place even more emphasis on streaming and sharing your gaming footage than their predecessors. If this is something you're planning to get into, I'd recommend the Elgato HD60 pro capture card, a Razer Kiyo webcam, which comes with a built in ring light, and a Blue Yeti X microphone, which gives superb sound quality and will capture every curse you mutter as you're blown away by pre-teens in Apex Legends.
And... breathe. For now, this should cover every aspect of your new next-gen setup, though expect plenty more accessories and gadgets to arrive as we continue into this next era of interactive entertainment.
It's worth stressing that both the PS5 and Xbox Series X are both perfectly capable of impressing you without any of these technical accoutrements, but - should you ever find yourself in a windfall and want to beef up your gaming space - be sure to keep checking back in here for the right recommendations.
For more, check out the best Call of Duty games in the series' history, or check out our official PS5 unboxing in the video below.