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PS5 vs Xbox Series X: Which should you buy?

PS5 vs Xbox Series X
(Image credit: Future)

The conversation around whether to buy a PS5 vs Xbox Series X is always going to be a big one. After all, these are premium purchases, and you're not just investing in a machine, but the gaming ecosystems surrounding them too. Both the PS5 and Xbox Series X have been available for over a year now, and there are definitely pros and cons to owning both consoles. 

It's worth noting that PS5 restock updates are still few and far between,  and Xbox Series X stock is sadly no better. So a big part of your next console decision may well come down to which one you can actually get hold of, so bear that in mind as part of your thought process. 

Interestingly, specs-wise, both consoles are pretty similar on paper, with subtle differences that only the most hardcore of users will appreciate. The bigger differences are in the available storage built into each machine, and the options for upgrading that storage. Of course, they're also very different when it comes to the design, and there are some major comparisons to be made when it comes to the controllers too. 

And both Microsoft and Sony have come out swinging. Where the new DualSense PS5 controller is all about feeling like the future, Xbox Game Pass has suddenly become one of the more impressive subscription offerings around. And while mega exclusives loom for Sony in 2021 with Horizon Forbidden West and a new God of War, Microsoft’s purchase of Zenimax and its associated Bethesda properties means Elder Scrolls fans have a lot of thinking to do. Let’s break down the specs, performance, and services available on both consoles. PS5 vs Xbox Series X. Fight! 

Where to buy

Where to buy PS5 and Xbox Series X consoles

While we at GamesRadar+ bring you the latest on PS5 restock updates and Xbox Series X restock updates in real-time, but if you're in the market for either of these new-gen consoles then here are the best places to attempt to them. 

PS5 vs Xbox Series X - specs

PS5 vs Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Microsoft)

One of the key components of any generational shift is the pursuit of power, which is why the question around PS5 vs Xbox Series X specs is key. You know the drill: bigger, badder, and more powerful. Both consoles are demonstrably bigger, badder, and more powerful than their predecessors, but to what degree exactly?

At the heart of this next-generation initiative is the CPU ('central processing unit') and GPU ('graphics processing unit'). If the CPU is a brain handling internal calculations, then the GPU is the heart; it's used to render graphics and enhance the processor's functionality by accelerating and redistributing data flow. Wondering what that means? 

Basically, the CPU and GPU need to work in harmony for the next-gen consoles to achieve more realistic visuals and the likes of ray-tracing. Both Sony and Microsoft have opted to pair once again with tech-company AMD on this front.

The consoles' SSD ('solid state drive') is equally important. This allows for much quicker loading, and it's a real game-changer. This also means that the Xbox Series X has what’s called Quick Resume, a feature that means not only is the console instant on but you can choose your game and be immediately where you left off, even if you have played another game in the interim. 

The Xbox can store up to three save slots like this so you will be right back into the game without a reboot, even if you have changed games. The PS5 on the other hand will let you straight back into the game you were playing but if you try another one, you’ll have a full restart of the original, even if you use the Switcher in the Home menu. Improved loading times mean you won’t be waiting that long anyway though but it’s a nice touch from Microsoft.

Is PS5 more powerful than Xbox Series X, or vice-versa?

PS5 Digital Edition

(Image credit: Sony)

The PS5 CPU is a custom third-generation Ryzen chip (an eight-core Zen 2 behemoth packed with AMD's proprietary 7nm Zen Microarchitecture). As for the PS5 GPU, it's a heavily customized variant of AMD's Radeon Navi, which can simulate 3D audio and support ray-tracing. More specifically, it offers 10.28 teraFLOPs and 36 CUs ('compute units') at 2.23GHz. That's paired with 16GB GDDR6 RAM. In terms of storage, the PS5 packs a custom 825GB SSD running at 5.5GB per second. 

In terms of extra storage, while Sony revealed that we would be able to plug in additional SSD support via PCIe 4.0 to expand space for games, it hasn’t activated that feature just yet. Given the price of this speed of SSD, it’s not going to be a cheap endeavor when it is actively turned on but if you’re running low on space, you can use regular USB drives to store your games. As announced in a Sony blog post, you just won’t be able to run them from the drive and have to transfer to the PS5 before playing.  

Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Future)

Now onto the Xbox Series X specs. Like Sony, Microsoft worked with AMD to co-engineer a custom system-on-chip platform (which effectively means the CPU and GPU are integrated). It also has an eight-core Zen 2 system, but the Xbox Series X version clocks in at 3.8GHz. Meanwhile, the GPU can handle 12 teraFLOPs with 52 CUs at 1.825GHz. This allows Xbox Series X to support hardware-accelerated real-time ray-tracing, leading to gorgeous visuals. Finally, the console has 16GB GDDR6 RAM with a hefty 1TB SSD running at 2.4GB per second. If you want more, it can be supported with the official Xbox Series X Storage Expansion Card that offers an extra 1TB of space.

controller

(Image credit: Sony, Microsoft)

So, let's address the elephant in the room: on paper, there's a big difference between the two consoles regarding CPU, GPU, and SSD storage. Specifically, the Xbox Series X seems to edge into the lead with each. Case closed? Not quite. Things are much more complicated when you dig a little deeper. To begin with, there's only a tiny gap between the two CPUs in power (particularly because the Series X only manages 3.6GHz with simultaneous multithreading to improve efficiency). As for graphics, the Series X has the lion's share of power thanks to those two extra teraFLOPs... but isn't likely to trot it out much beyond exclusives. Watch this Halo Infinite-shaped space. 

Games on both platforms are limited by the lowest common denominator, after all, so even if they're slightly prettier on Xbox, there won't be a tremendous gap. And frankly, it's not how many teraFLOPs you have that matter - it's how you use them. 

Both consoles natively support 4K resolutions at 60 frames-per-second,  but don’t listen to those cries of 8K resolutions just yet. Both Sony and Microsoft have thrown around 8K gaming as a concept but currently, the only thing that can handle these resolutions is their HDMI 2.1 port. Cheeky, eh? Instead, both consoles are concentrating on 4K at 60fps and even 120fps in certain games, so there’s no need to worry about getting yourself an 8K TV just yet. 

HDMI

(Image credit: Zeskit)

What HDMI 2.1 capabilities on both consoles also mean though is that with a compatible TV, you will be able to make the most of 120fps gaming at 4K, VRR (variable refresh rate to improve smoothness), and ALLM (auto low latency mode). Currently the Xbox Series X has both VRR and ALLM turned on, while the PS5 is waiting on a VRR update. There’s also no mention of when ALLM will arrive on the console. If you aren’t sure whether your TV has HDMI 2.1, you can head into the display settings of both the PS5 and Xbox Series X and they will helpfully let you know what your TV can handle.    

Let’s compare those SSDs then. Even though the PS5's storage looks inferior at first glance (825GB compared to 1TB for Series X), it's actually got the advantage. That's because of its speed. The PS5 SSD can manage 5.5GB per second, and this is double the Series X's 2.4GB per second. What does that mean in layman's terms? The PS5 could potentially load games considerably faster than Xbox Series X but as yet, comparisons are strikingly similar. 

Both consoles' SSDs are advanced enough that they can be used as virtual memory, hence the boost in loading times, open-world smoothness, and quick seamless changes between game screens or types. It's also worth noting that both systems still accept physical media for the most part, with Sony and Microsoft committing to Blu-Ray support for the foreseeable future despite the digital-only PS5 Digital Edition and Xbox Series S ditching the drives altogether. 

PS5 vs Xbox Series X: Performance

PS5/Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Microsoft, Sony)

When it comes to performance, for the full lowdown you can read both our PS5 review and Xbox Series X review for full breakdowns but there are a few key takeaways where each console shines. 

First off, the PS5 relishes being a new generation console with the fully redesigned DualSense controller. With built in haptics and adaptive triggers, it really pushes away from the previous generation, making you feel like a part of the game. Whether you’re feeling every spring in Astro’s Playroom or terrified by the steady thrum of Returnal through your hands, there’s a true sense of immersion here. Add in the impressive Sony first-party titles, each making the most of this shiny new tech and it feels like only a tease of what to come. And if that feels like a gimmick to some, the PS5’s visuals certainly aren’t. Shining especially in first-party games but beautiful across the board, the impressive graphics are also clearly only just the beginning but a very noticeable upgrade from the previous generation. Oh, and if you’ve always had to wear headphones because of the noise of your PS4, you’ll be very pleased to know that the PS5 is near silent. 

When it comes to the Xbox Series X, the lack of exclusive games on launch might sting a little but nothing else does. Rather than concentrating on new tech, Microsoft has focussed on honing and improving its current offering, an evolution rather than a revolution if you will. What this means is that while there’s no new controller to crow about, the Xbox Series X quietly devastates performance-wise. The focus on 120fps for games like Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Forza Horizon 4, and Sea of Thieves means the Xbox Series X offers up consistently beautiful visuals and eye-melting speeds. The addition of FPS Boost - which we’ll talk about later - is a killer tool that means even older games come with a renewed sharpness that makes your backlog even more playable. And, while its tile-based UI doesn’t have the pizzaz of the PS5, the Series X remains intuitive and makes sharing screenshots and video significantly easier than prior generations. 

PS5 vs Xbox Series X: Size

PS5 vs Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Future)

We know life’s not all about size but when it comes to PS5 vs Xbox Series X, it totally is, and while neither console is particularly diminutive, the PS5 is an absolute monster. Sony’s new-gen behemoth sits at a TV stand-busting 39cm in height, 26cm deep, and 10.4cm wide. The saving grace here is that the PS5 is as happy lying down as it is looking like part of a modern skyline on its stand so you shouldn’t need to buy new furniture. 

And don’t think that buying the PS5 Digital Edition will help much. The only difference is a cm in the width of the console. There is a bit of a weight difference between the two flavors. The regular PS5 weighs in at 4.5kg, while the disc drive-free version is a significantly lighter 3.9kg. 

In comparison, the Xbox Series X is positively Lilliputian. Microsoft’s console measures in at 30.1cm in height and is a pleasing 15.1cm depth and width. This makes it a satisfying little monolith to have towering next to your television and, like the PS5, it can be used in both a vertical and horizontal position so you can hide it away in your stand. Weight-wise, the Xbox Series X comes in slightly under the competition at 4.4kg but we’re not advising you do squats with either.  

PS5 vs Xbox Series X: Price

Ah yes, the outlay. Price-wise, the PS5 is sitting at $499.99/£449.99 for the full fat version and the Digital Edition will set you back $399.99/£359.99.

The Xbox Series X is priced at $499/£449 and the less powerful and digital-only Xbox Series S costs $299.99/£249. 

It’s also worth noting that for the first time for a new generation console, Microsoft has introduced a subscription-based model for both boxes. Called the Xbox All Access program, this is a monthly contract service over two years that includes the console and 24 months of Xbox Game Pass. 

For the Xbox Series X this is a monthly charge of $34.99/£28.99 and for the Series S it’s $24.99/£20.99. There are no hidden charges either so the bundle is an interest-free investment if you don’t have the funds to shell out for the full console.        

PS5 vs Xbox Series X: Games

Spider-Man: Miles Morales

(Image credit: Insomniac Games)

Of course, you can compare specs and hard drive size all you want but it’s the games that matter, otherwise, you’ve just got a well-designed airflow box under the TV. When it comes to current console exclusives, PS5 has a small handful of excellent PS5 exclusives. The haptic joy of Astro’s Playroom that’s included with every PS5 is a genuine treat, but if you want something that’s going to challenge every molecule of your existence and look beautiful to boot, you’ll want to pick up the Demon’s Souls remake. 

Unlike a number of brilliant new Sony releases like Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Sackboy’s Big Adventure which are also playable on PS4, the new Returnal is also a PS5 exclusive. This sci-fi roguelike shooter perfectly shows off PS5’s power, letting you feel rain through the haptics of the DualSense controller and with visuals you’ll spend a lot of time just ogling.   

Is this Rosie? Or Rosy? Or maybe Rivet?

(Image credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment)

But it’s the future exclusives where things get really exciting for PS5. For one, the eye-wateringly colourful and beautiful Ratchet & Clank: A Rift in Time is out in June, a Horizon Zero Dawn sequel, Horizon Forbidden West, is on the way from Guerrilla Games and God of War: Ragnarok is coming too. Going by just how good Returnal looks and feels, it’s going to be incredible to see how Sony’s other first-party devs make the most of the DualSense alone. As always, Sony’s first-party slate is impressive.  

Don't forget, the PlayStation 5 also offers up some of the best PS4 games for free if you're a PlayStation Plus subscriber. It's called the PlayStation Plus Collection, and it gives you 20 top PS4 titles 

Halo Infinite

(Image credit: 343 Industries)

In comparison, Microsoft’s Xbox exclusives feel a little muted. Halo Infinite was originally cited as a launch title before being moved to this year so we’re waiting on a release date for apparently the most ambitious Halo title to date. But that’s not it for Xbox Series X exclusives. In a blog post Microsoft has announced a slew of fresh new indies for 2021 including the surreal and beautiful The Artful Escape, and also a release of the world and weather recreating Microsoft Flight Simulator in summer 2021. And while that doesn’t sound like terribly much, it’s absolutely time to talk about Xbox Game Pass. 

PS5 vs Xbox Series X: Xbox Game Pass vs PlayStation Now

Xbox Game Pass

(Image credit: Microsoft Xbox)

At $14.99/£10.99 a month, Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is, for many, an automatic reason to choose an Xbox Series X over the PS5. And it’s easy to see why. Xbox Game Pass now includes over 100 games available to download as and when you please. Some of which even arrive on the service on the same day as the main release on other platforms. 

Most recently, Outriders arrived on launch day completely free for Xbox Game Pass owners. Game Pass also now includes EA Play, which is an additional 81 games, including titles like Star Wars Squadrons and some of EA’s biggest sports offerings And, given Microsoft’s purchase of Zenimax Media, this also where you can find 20 Bethesda Games and where we’re expecting future games from the publisher to arrive first. 

While it hasn’t been confirmed officially that Bethesda games will be Xbox exclusive, Xbox’s Phil Spencer recently said; "If you're an Xbox customer, the thing I want you to know is this is about delivering great exclusive games for you that ship on platforms where Game Pass exists.” Given that there’s no Xbox Game Pass on PS5, we’re erring on the exclusive side of the deal… 

playstation plus collection ps plus deals

To counter Microsoft’s frankly aggressive and impressive tactics here, Sony has what’s called the PS Plus Collection for PS5 owners. Sign in with your PS Plus account on your new console and you’ll get access to 20 PS4 heavy hitters. These include a stack of Sony first-party games including Bloodborne, God of War, and the Last of Us: Remastered as well as Fallout 4, Resident Evil 7, and Battlefield 1.

Sony’s PlayStation Now cloud streaming service has been much maligned for price and content but has really pulled its pixelated socks up, now offering more than 700 PS4, PS3, and PS2 games for a monthly fee of $9.99/£8.99. More than 300 of these can be downloaded onto the console just like Xbox Game Pass and Sony’s roster now includes Marvel’s Avengers, Borderlands 3, and the Long Dark. The PS3 games included are an impressive selection too. If you want to walk down memory lane and replay every God of War, Killzone, Dead Space, or a bricky handful of LEGO games, they’re all here and a lot more to boot. 

PS5 vs Xbox Series X: Backwards compatibility

With only a small number of exclusive launch titles available last year - in fact, none in the case of Xbox - PS5 and Xbox Series X backwards compatibility is a seriously hot topic. PS5 backwards compatibility means nearly all PS4 games are playable on the new console, bar a handful you probably won’t notice. You can also play PS4 games online alongside those on the previous generation so there’s no need for all your friends to update consoles to continue to play together. This is a welcome approach and especially essential as stock shortages continue. If you’re on the hunt, we constantly update our guide on where to find PS5 stock

When it comes to Xbox Series X backwards compatibility Microsoft has taken things a step further than the previous generation. Not only do all Xbox One games work but you’ll also find hundreds of Xbox 360 games, and even a stack of original Xbox games are playable. You can check the full collection still available to buy here. Plus, if you’ve spent any time in Xbox Game Pass you might have discovered a stack of Xbox 360 EA titles included in your subscription. Anyone for a round of Zuma’s Revenge? 

But Microsoft hasn’t just stopped at making previous generation console games playable. There is a backward compatibility team within the company specifically to make titles look even better and run at higher frame rates than those available at release. This is what Microsoft calls FPS Boost and the team added FPS Boost to a stack of EA and Bethesda games early in 2021, some of which now run at up to 120fps. As if that wasn’t enough, in early May, the team dropped another 74 games with FPS Boost including the Assassin’s Creed Ezio Collection and Deus Ex Mankind Divided which now run at 60fps. You can see the full (currently 97 strong) list and the associated frame rates on the constantly updated blog here

In some cases, the resolution of the games takes a hit when the frame rate is increased so there is an option to turn FPS boost on and off if you would rather keep the visuals as they were on release. You can toggle this in the game's settings. Just go to:

[Game} > Options > Manage game and add ons > Compatibility options > FPS boost 

PS5 vs Xbox Series X: VR

PSVR

(Image credit: PlayStation)

If your new-gen gaming dreams involve wearing a headset to truly immerse yourself in your chosen digital worlds, then you’re going to want to choose a PS5. Microsoft has repeatedly written off any specific virtual reality peripherals for console but Sony has happily announced a follow up to the original PSVR headset. The PSVR does still work with the PS5 but the future of PSVR sounds very interesting and it’s great to see Sony moving forward with the medium with confidence. 

A Sony blog post revealed that while the next PSVR won’t be out in 2021 - boo, hiss etc. - it will have significantly improved resolution, field of view, and tracking. It will be wired with a single cord and Sony is teasing a new VR controller which will “incorporate some of the key features found in the DualSense wireless controller.”. Given that the PSVR is still reliant on Move Wands it’s exciting to know that a more haptic experience is coming and Sony’s talk of “great ergonomics” hopefully means controllers akin to the intuitive Oculus Quest controllers.   

PS5 vs Xbox Series X: Which should you buy?

While the Xbox Series X and PS5 are close on price and performance, the big question is what kind of games you want to play and, importantly, how much you want to pay for them. If you can sacrifice the Sony exclusives, then Xbox Game Pass is a dream if you don’t want to spend the earth on games and especially if you’re a Bethesda fan. In turn though, with its bold choices around the DualSense controller, the PS5 feels like more of a new gen experience and has a VR option on the way. Truthfully you aren’t going to lose with either and it might just be a case of choosing which console to buy first.  

Sam Loveridge
Sam Loveridge

Sam Loveridge is the Global Editor-in-Chief of GamesRadar, and joined the team in August 2017. Sam came to GamesRadar after working at TrustedReviews, Digital Spy, and Fandom, following the completion of an MA in Journalism. In her time, she's also had appearances on The Guardian, BBC, and more. Her experience has seen her cover console and PC games, along with gaming hardware, for over seven years, and for GamesRadar, she is in charge of reviews, best lists, and the overall running of the site and its staff. Her gaming passions lie with weird simulation games, big open-world RPGs, and beautifully crafted indies. Basically, she loves all games that aren't sports or fighting titles!