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PS5 vs Xbox Series X – how the next-gen consoles compare

Conversations around whether to buy a PS5 vs Xbox Series X are no doubt going to rage on for quite some time. That's extra true right now because it is still so hard to find any Xbox Series X stock or PS5 stock. But, don't fret, if you're still on the fence between the Xbox Series X and PS5 or you're wondering if you made the right choice or just want to know the main differences between the two machines, we're here to compare and analyze both so you can be as informed as possible about this brave new world.  

Both the Xbox Series X and PS5 are leaps and bounds ahead of their last-gen counterparts, placing them in leagues with some of the best gaming PCs on the market. Internally, Microsoft and Sony's next-gen consoles are highly comparable, but there are differences. We'll go over those as well as other key factors to consider, like exclusives, subscriptions, peripherals, and more. And of course, you also have the Xbox Series S to think about, which offers next-gen compatibility without the sticker shock.

Luckily, we're by your side, combing through all those tech specs and fine details to help you figure out which machine climbs ahead in the Xbox Series X vs PS5 face-off.

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. 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?

The introduction of new hardware gives developers an opportunity to adjust their ambitions and pursue new ideas that weren't possible on older hardware. Indeed, Sony and Microsoft have the chance to redefine what's possible in interactive entertainment with the PS5 and Xbox Series X. Make no mistake - fundamental changes to the way we play are coming, and it all starts with the tech packed into a sleek black or white box.

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. Unsurprisingly, 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. Say goodbye to loading screens as we know them.

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

The PS5's 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, with space for bonus NVMe SSDs or standard hard drives if you'd prefer. 

You can see the full spec lineup below, courtesy of Eurogamer/Digital Foundry.

PS5 vs Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Digital Foundry/Eurogamer)

Microsoft has been just as forthcoming with specifics on the Xbox Series X specs. Like Sony, it worked with AMD to co-engineer a custom system-on-chip platform (which effectively means the CPU and GPU are integrated). They've also got an eight-core Zen 2 system, but theirs 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.

Again, we've posted the full specs below.

PS5 vs Xbox Series X

(Image credit: 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), and they'll probably be near-identical in terms of performance as a result. 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. Games on both platforms will be 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. 

Speaking of which, things are complicated further by the difference in CU speed. Even though PS5 has fewer teraFLOPs, each of its 32 compute units is running at a higher 2.23GHz (at the other end of the scale, the Series X has 52 CUs running at 1.825GHz). It's hard to tell which approach will work out better - they're very different philosophies.

And that's PS5 vs Xbox Series X in a nutshell. Without seeing the two systems running side by side, all of this is little more than posturing. Both consoles natively support 4K resolutions at 60 frames-per-second with promises of 8K in the future, for example, not to mention frame rates up to 120Hz in certain cases.

The subject of SSDs is a different matter, however. 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 fast than Xbox Series X, though early testing shows roughly comparable load times. Yes, it's only 825GB in capacity, but this can always be added to via external HDDs or SSDs. In fact, 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 will 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.

Design and aesthetics

We've all had a good long time to gaze at both next-gen consoles online and in the flesh (if you were lucky enough to get your hands on one), and it's perhaps here that the difference between the two consoles is the starkest.

While a lot of it will come down to subjective personal taste, the respective design of the consoles matters a lot when you consider their size and the many years they'll be sat there on your shelf. The PS5 is an ostentatious beast, resembling some sort-of futuristic alien technology, while the Xbox Series X is quite literally, a box. It's just a big black box.

Naturally, this has split everyone down the middle. Some of the GamesRadar+ team value the more outlandish style of the PS5, for instance; it's next-gen! It's the future! We want our consoles to look next-gen, while plenty of other GR staffers find the Xbox Series X's stately design much more agreeable.

With that in mind, the one you favor will probably come down to whether you want a set-piece or something that disappears into the background. Each approach is totally valid.

And let's be frank - the console's appearance will make absolutely no difference in terms of their ability to play games. Both consoles are bigger than their predecessors to accommodate those specs, but each one has managed to play hardware Tetris in squeezing so much technological wizardry into such a narrow space. So far, both consoles seem to be handling games without noticeable fan noise.

Controllers

PS5 vs Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Sony PlayStation)

Like the consoles they support, the DualSense and Xbox Series X controller are quite easy to tell apart aesthetically. Though not quite as loud as the console itself, the DualSense is a huge departure from the traditional PlayStation controller that hardly changed from PS1 to PS4. In contrast, the Xbox Series X controller looks identical to the Xbox One controller, but does include some new features.

It's fair to say that Sony has put a greater emphasis on the PS5 controller than Microsoft has with the Xbox Series X controller. Heck, Sony developed an entire game - Astro's Playroom - and bundled it in with the PS5 just to demonstrate the DualSense's capabilities. 

To begin with, both make use of very different buzzwords. For Sony, it's 'new'. For Microsoft, it's 'accessibility'. These concepts impact almost every talking-point the companies have made thus far. As an example, we've been told time and again that the Series X handset is designed to be comfortable for as many people as possible. Per Xbox.com's deep-dive, that means "rounding the bumpers, slightly reducing and rounding parts around the triggers, and carefully sculpting the grips". 

Meanwhile, the PS5's DualSense goes all-in on fresh technology that could revolutionize the way we play down the line, provided developers actually make use of the tech. Although the features we know and love are still present, there's also the ability to chat with friends via the controller itself, adaptive triggers that replicate the feeling of drawing a bow or shooting different guns, haptic feedback, and a 'Create' button Sony promises will be as significant as the 'Share' function on the PS4's controllers. 

Both companies are polar opposites when it comes to the future, too. PlayStation is embracing the new and the different with the DualSense. It even emphasises touch control, a feature that didn't really go anywhere in the PS4 era. Meanwhile, Xbox is putting its focus on backwards compatibility to ensure that the controller is usable across console generations. It has the option of using AA batteries, for instance (conversely, the DualSense is rechargeable by USB-C cables out of the box). Neither is right or wrong, of course; it's just an intriguing contrast that's defined their approach to the controllers.

PS5 vs Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Xbox Wire)

So, does that mean the DualSense isn't accessible and the Series X controller doesn't anything new to offer? Far from it. Microsoft's forging ahead in its own way by including a 'share' function, not to mention features heavily inspired by the Xbox Elite controllers (more precisely, the triggers and handles have tactile bumps for superior grip, while the d-pad is an all-new hybrid that combines different styles of play). As for PlayStation, "the DualSense has been tested by a wide range of gamers with a variety of hand sizes, in order for us to achieve the comfort level we wanted, with great ergonomics". Several GamesRadar staffers have had a few weeks to play with the PS5 controller and have found it weighty, a touch bulky compared to the DualShock, but ultimately quite comfy.

In other words, they're both very solid contenders that are likely to serve you well. They also have their fair share of potential flaws. The DualSense is undeniably more ambitious, but it remains to be seen whether widespread support will come in the future. As for the Series X, it's great to see the return of a classic… but is it a little dull?

With all of that in mind, the 'winner' of this battle will depend on what you value. Are you more interested in backwards compatibility and a lean, focused controller without many bells or whistles? Or are you ready for a change?

Services

Game Pass Xbox Series X

Image Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft knows better than anybody that the future of games is in services. This is an area in which Xbox Series X will have a clear advantage over the PS5, thanks to Microsoft's huge investment in services such as Xbox Live, Play Anywhere, Games With Gold, and Xbox Game Pass. The company's also thrown its weight behind the support of cross-platform play, game streaming, and third-party subscription services such as EA Access.

Xbox Series X launched with an established, tested, and stable platform to draw from. Players will be able to immediately jump into hundreds of games on Xbox Series X thanks to the combination of backwards compatibility support and Game Pass, a subscription service that rotates hundreds of Xbox One, Xbox 360, and Xbox games every month – including all of the first-party Xbox Game Studio exclusives. Microsoft has created an extremely player-friendly, player-focused ecosystem through its services as a result.

Meanwhile, PlayStation announced additions to its PlayStation Plus service in the form of the PlayStation Plus Collection, a huge library of PS4 games to PS5 at launch. But it's easy to see how the Xbox Series X in particular benefits from a massive selection of on-demand games via Game Pass.

VR

PS5 vs Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Sony)

If you want to experience virtual reality on console, you'll want to invest in a PS5. It isn't even a competition when it comes to VR. Microsoft has restated its belief that VR belongs on PC time and time again, while Sony has recently gone on record by doubling down on its commitment to the emerging tech after shifting more than four million units since its launch in 2016.

The current PSVR headset is forward compatible with the PS5, but Sony has announced it's working on a specific PSVR PS5 headset. It's not due out in 2021, but it will offer enhanced graphics, field of view, tracking, input, and will connect to PS5 using a single cable. It will also launch with a new VR controller that will incorporate some of the key DualSense features. 

Backwards compatibility

PS5 vs Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Sony)

The PS5 and Xbox Series X both support backwards compatibility, albeit to varying degrees. PS5 backwards compatibility will indeed let you play most of your PS4 games on the new system, with Sony even going as far as to commit to what it is calling "cross-generation" support, designed to ensure that PS4 players are able to play multiplayer games with those that have already made the jump to PS5. This, Sony believes, will not only help foster healthy communities but help players migrate over to the new platform in good time too. To note, the PS5 isn't backwards compatible with games from generations before PS4.

Unfortunately, not every PS4 game is making the jump right away. As discussed by lead PS5 architect Mark Cerny during the reveal stream, "we recently took a look at the top 100 PlayStation 4 titles as ranked by playtime, and we're expecting almost all of them to be playable at launch on PlayStation 5". Here are a few PS4 games that aren't compatible with PS5, but there could be more that we learn about in the future.

Incredibly, the Xbox Series X backwards compatibility feature spans "four generations" worth of Xbox games, proving that Microsoft understands how important it is that the best (and select) games released on the Xbox platform since 2001 are playable on Xbox Series X. Better yet, the Xbox Series X can double framerates and increase resolution on select games.

If that weren't enough, all Xbox One accessories and peripherals will work on Xbox Series X, and your games, achievements, progression, and accessories move forward with you. A generation shift doesn't need to mean a change in the way you experience video games on your system of choice. 

In short? This is one area of the next-generation battle where Xbox has a clear advantage over Sony.

Which console plays games better?

PS5 vs Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Sony)

If there's going to be a true 'game changer' this new generation, it isn't going to be the dawn of ray tracing, real-time or otherwise. Nor will it be the arrival of 8K resolutions and support of 120fps gaming. No, the real key to the next generation – and by extension, the PS5 vs Xbox Series X battle – will be on broader quality of life improvements to core game experiences. Both companies took a hard look at the annoyances that have become entrenched in the last decade and aimed to eradicate them: long loading times, the constant patching, download times, and inconsistent performance on the biggest games... it could all be a thing of the past. In fact, PS5 load times were scrapped to "give the game designer freedom" to make whatever they want. In addition, PS5 updates will be much more streamlined.

To achieve these lofty ambitions, both the PS5 and Xbox Series X come equipped with solid-state drives – an SSD, as you may better recognize it. This may not sound like much, but a shift in philosophy from mechanical hard drives (which you'll find in current-gen systems) to solid-state drives could be the key that unlocks the next generation's true potential. For instance, Microsoft showed off incredibly fast Xbox Series X loading times recently, and the leaked PS5 gameplay reveal demonstrates Insomniac's Spider-Man having its loading time reduced from an average of 15 seconds on PS4 Pro to just 0.8 seconds on a PS5 dev kit. That's staggering.

Spider-Man PS5

Spider-Man, captured on a PS4 Pro

How do the consoles manage this? To explain, we've got to discuss how games work. When you do anything in a game, it is frantically scrambling behind the scenes to pull relevant information from the hard-drive in order to function. That's one of the reasons we have elaborate loadout menus while you're waiting for multiplayer games to kick into action; it's why fast-travel systems aren't all that fast anymore, and it's why you're only ever able to move through worlds at fairly consistent speeds – graphical effects and sleight of hand trickery used to simulate the illusion of momentum. The bigger games become, the better they begin to look, and the smoother they are expected to perform, the larger the strain on internal systems to sift through inordinate amounts of data and align them in place for you to play the game as intended. SSDs have the potential to fix this issue, because they can retrieve and sort that data so much faster. Current-gen consoles utilise 5400RPM mechanical hard drives with a read speed of 80MBps (more or less, anyway); meanwhile, SSDs for PCs that connect directly to your computer's mainboard rather than via cable can boost read speed up to 3200Mbps. It's a tremendous jump.

It's a leap we're starting to get details on. Microsoft says the Series X comes equipped with an SSD which offers up to 40x faster read speeds than that of the Xbox One family of systems. What's more, that storage drive can also be used as virtual RAM to further boost data access by supporting the already-impressive GDDR6 RAM memory. The PS5 SSD is even faster; its custom 825GB device will almost remove load times completely thanks to it running at a blistering 5.5GHz per second. 

With that in mind, the jump to console SSDs will fundamentally change our relationship with gaming.

Launch games and exclusives

PS5 vs Xbox Series X

For many, the PS5 vs Xbox Series X battle will ultimately be resolved by the games made available over the generation. But the launch line-up is important too, and it's one area that PS5 holds a clear advantage.

Here are the launch games available now on PS5, starting with the PlayStation exclusives:

  • Astro's Playroom
  • Bugsnax
  • Demon's Souls
  • Godfall
  • Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales
  • Marvel's Spider-Man: Remastered
  • Sackboy: A Big Adventure
  • Assassin's Creed Valhalla
  • Borderlands 3
  • Dead by Daylight
  • Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition
  • DIRT 5
  • Fortnite
  • Goonya Fighter
  • King Oddball
  • Maneater
  • Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate
  • NBA 2K21
  • No Man's Sky: The Next Generation
  • Observer: System Redux
  • Overcooked: All You Can Eat
  • The Pathless
  • Planet Coaster: Console Edition
  • Poker Club
  • Warhammer: Chaosbane Slayer Edition
  • Watch Dogs Legion
  • WRC 9
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War

In comparison, the Xbox Series X's selection of launch games looks a bit meager, especially when you look at how many are Xbox exclusives. With Halo Infinite slipping into 2021, Xbox Series X lost its biggest launch game, but there are still plenty of Xbox Series X launch games to keep you busy until more exclusives start pouring in.

As for exclusives, Sony has long celebrated its lengthy selection of high-quality PlayStation exclusives, like The Last of Us 1 and 2, the Uncharted series, Marvel's Spider-Man, and loads more. Xbox has, historically, faltered in this respect. But that's all set to change dramatically with Microsoft's acquisition of Bethesda, potentially paving the way for the Elder Scrolls, Fallout, and Doom series to become Xbox-exclusive. While we're waiting on Microsoft to play its hands with regards to Bethesda exclusivity, this could potentially be a game-changer for fans of the aforementioned series.

Cloud streaming

Image Credit: Microsoft

Image Credit: Microsoft

With Google Stadia teasing the introduction of a new way to play – taking the concept of game-streaming and cloud-processing mainstream – there's no way that the power of the cloud won't factor into the next-gen offerings from Sony and Microsoft in one way or another. It's likely that both companies will offer limited services in this respect at launch, building out their architecture, data centers, and core platforms in the intervening years as streaming becomes more accepted, supported, and streamlined. You can see signs of this now, in the way that Microsoft has spent a generation cycle touting the potential of its Azure platform and its gradual transition towards a digital-first ecosystem. 

For now, however, all eyes will be on PS5 streaming via PlayStation Now and Project xCloud. Sony's subscription service has been a quietly successful – and profitable – part of the PlayStation business for some time now, letting PS4 users download and stream select titles from an ever-growing library that already sits at a respectable 700+ games. You should expect to see this platform evolve, especially as it is currently Sony's answer to backwards compatibility, where select PS2 games can be downloaded and played via the service, while a library of PS3 games can be played via the cloud. 

As for Microsoft, it's investing in something far larger. Given its flirtation with cloud architecture with Azure this generation, its established digital platforms like Play Anywhere and Game Pass, and the introduction of Project xCloud, it would look as if Xbox is closer to making game-streaming a standard way to play than its competitor. xCloud is designed to complement the core-Xbox experience, letting you carry and seamlessly access your content and game saves immediately on just about any device that you have to hand. There's still a long way for this tech to go, but there is potential for it to unlock Stadia-like streaming services across the Xbox family. Of course, this might be only half the story, given that Sony and Microsoft entered into a cloud partnership to "explore joint development of future cloud solutions in Microsoft Azure to support their respective game content-streaming services". Either way, expect more importance to be placed on cloud streaming by both companies the further we move through this upcoming generation. 

Price

Casey Rodgers/Invision for Xbox/AP Images

Casey Rodgers/Invision for Xbox/AP Images (Image credit: Casey Rodgers/Invision for Xbox/AP Images)

Price. That's the question on everybody's mind, isn't it? The Xbox Series X is priced at $499 / £449, while the cheaper Xbox Series S is $299 / £249.

The PS5 is $499.99 / £449.99 for the version with a disc drive and $399.99 / £359.99 for the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition. 

Which should you buy?

Image Credit: Casey Rodgers/Invision for Xbox/AP Images

Image Credit: Casey Rodgers/Invision for Xbox/AP Images (Image credit: Casey Rodgers/Invision for Xbox/AP Images)

The PS5 vs Xbox Series X battle is close on price, with the full-featured machines both hitting the $500 price tag. It will all come down to exclusive games and services, and ultimately it comes down to which console has the games and features you want. 

Microsoft has spent years investing heavily in services and cloud technology, but PlayStation is fighting back with PlayStation Plus Collection, a library of classic PS4 games that will be available on PS5 at launch. 

Just how important will ray tracing be for Sony PS5 and Xbox Series X? We look at all of the information to work out whether it will be a true evolution for fidelity in the next-generation.