PlayStation 5 vs Xbox Series X shootout: which is better on paper?

This November, gaming’s heavyweights will duke it out for supremacy with two new flagship consoles – but which one is worth your hard-earned money?

The new generation of video game consoles is almost upon us, and the question for many isn’t if they’re getting one. It’s which they’ll be getting their hands on. With both Microsoft and Sony releasing new flagship consoles this November, it can be difficult to sift through all the noise to decide which deserves that coveted place in your living room.

We pit the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 against each other in terms of pricing, specs, exclusive games and even their looks to get to the bottom of things. Which console will emerge victorious?

Price

PlayStation
PlayStation 5 Accessories. Credit: Sony

When it comes to pricing, the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 are evenly matched – literally, they’re both the exact same price. Both consoles come with an optical disc drive version that will set you back US$499 apiece. This is one avenue where both systems are evenly matched, with no clear-cut inherent value in one over the other.

However, we can get much more granular here. The all-digital versions of the consoles are where the prices begin to break down. A PlayStation 5 without a disc drive will cost US$399, so you’re stripping US$100 off for the same internals and form factor.

Microsoft didn’t take the same route for its digital-only console, the Xbox Series S. It isn’t just a disc-less Xbox Series X – in fact, it’s not comparable to the Xbox Series X at all. The Series S offers a much lower price point at US$299 but with scaled-down specs, such as a slower GPU, less RAM and a smaller SSD. And while it’s much smaller than the Xbox Series X, the two versions aren’t entirely interchangeable.

Winner: Tie

Specs

Xbox
Xbox Series X. Credit: Microsoft

The PlayStation 5 will include a special custom version of the third-generation AMD Ryzen chipset, which includes eight cores and the newly released Zen 2 architecture. Its GPU will offer 36 compute units running at 2.23GHz, capable of an impressive 10.28 TFLOPs. Add to this 16GB of GDDR6 RAM and you’ll get a system that shouldn’t have any difficulty with ray-tracing for realistic lighting techniques.

The PS5 will run games up to 8K resolution, with 120Hz refresh rates in 4K. Sony has also indicated a heavy reliance on its custom-built and integrated SSD, which serves up to 825GB of storage, with 9GB/s of compressed data and 5.5GB/s throughput. It aims for latency-free and high-speed loading with near-instant startup times.

The Xbox Series X will feature many of the same internals, with the same Zen 2 and RDNA 2 architecture found in the PlayStation. It will run on a custom AMD Zen 2 CPU with eight cores and 16 threads. However, it will instead include 52 compute units locked at 1,825GHz, with no fluctuations in speeds in regard to the system’s temperature or demands of a particular game. In terms of TFLOPs, the Xbox Series X will offer 12.

As far as resolution goes, it will run games at 8K resolution with 120Hz refresh rates at 4K. This will amp up its ray-tracing capabilities for jaw-dropping lighting effects, and an internal NVMe SSD that’s rumoured to give load times a 40x boost. Beyond that, this beast of a system will offer 16GB of GDDR6 RAM in comparison to the Xbox One X, which ‘only’ had 12GB of GDDR5.

So it looks like the Xbox Series X has a slight edge over the PS5 – but specs aren’t the final word in a console-vs-console comparison. Although Microsoft has packed the Xbox Series X with some truly impressive power, we haven’t seen either console in action beyond trailers just yet. Based on numbers alone, the Xbox Series X wins in this category, though as we all know, it’s difficult to judge which console looks and feels the best when we haven’t had our hands on it just yet.

Winner: Xbox Series X

Exclusive Games

God of War: Ragnarok
God of War: Ragnarok. Credit: SIE Santa Monica Studio

Both consoles have wildly different exclusive games. Sony and Microsoft have seen fit to confirm several important titles both for launch – and immediately thereafter – for each system, though a complete launch lineup for both remains to be seen at this point.

On launch day, PlayStation 5 buyers can jump into exclusives such as Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Astro’s Playroom, Destruction AllStars and Sackboy: A Big Adventure. There may be additional launch titles in the pipeline, but this is a confident start for the system.

Looking ahead, PlayStation 5 owners also have Final Fantasy XVI, Horizon Forbidden West, God Of War: Ragnarok, Gran Turismo 7, Returnal, Ratchet And Clank: Rift Apart and other great exclusives to look forward to in the future as well. While these games don’t have concrete release dates just yet, they’re all likely arriving in 2021.

On the other hand, the launch of the Xbox Series X will mostly rely on third-party games that will be available on both consoles at the same time, with the majority of its exclusive games set to arrive after the release of the system. That said, it will still have a handful of exclusives at launch, such as Gears Tactics and Tetris Effect: Connected.

Halo Infinite
Halo Infinite. Credit: 343 Industries

Come 2021, however, the ball might be in Microsoft’s court. The company will trot out a slew of much-anticipated exclusives, including the delayed Halo Infinite, which will undoubtedly be a system-seller for many. There’s also a new Fable instalment, zombie shooter State Of Decay 3, a new mainline Forza Motorsport game, Rare’s upcoming Everwild, Avowed from Obsidian Entertainment and much more.

For overall game availability, it’s hard to argue with the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate service. It not only lets players use Microsoft’s xCloud streaming service on their preferred mobile device (Android only), but also grants day-one access to first-party Xbox titles. And that’s not even mentioning the large library of backwards-compatible Xbox One games to download and play at any moment for a nominal fee per month.

Sony’s answer, the newly announced PlayStation Plus Collection, is no slouch, either. It lets PlayStation Plus members download a swathe of excellent PS4 classics for the system immediately upon the PS5’s launch on November 12. These games include Final Fantasy XV, Fallout 4, The Last Of Us: Remastered, God Of War, Persona 5, Detroit: Become Human and other games that would indeed cost a pretty penny if purchased separately.

Immediate access to these games is a boon for anyone who wants to get rid of their PS4 while still playing through the classics. And while it isn’t on a monthly rotation that we know of, like Xbox’s Game Pass, it’s still a doozy of a deal.

Winner: PlayStation 5 (for now)

Controllers

PS5 DualSense Controller
The PS5’s new DualSense controller. Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Microsoft didn’t see end up tweaking the new Xbox Series X controller too much in terms of aesthetics or functionality, so it will look and feel much like the previous generation.

The new controller is notably smaller, though, with a more refined design than you may be used to. The body itself features a matte finish with tactile dots over the grips to help the controller stay in your hands. In addition to a deeper D-pad shape and USB charging option, there’s a new connectivity standard to ensure the controller will work with both iOS and Android.

Sony, meanwhile, has gone in a completely different direction with its new PS5 controller, also known as the DualSense (as opposed to the DualShocks of the past). It’s now a crisp white and black with many of the same functions of a PS4 controller, but refined in several ways.

At first glance it may look similar, but it’s different in a futuristic way. There’s a directional pad, two rubberised analogue sticks, a large central touchpad with lighting surrounding it that’s meant to change with the games that you play, and two buttons flanking it. Those are the “Create” and “Options” selections. The L1, L2, R1 and R2 triggers will remain at the top of the controller, with the familiar Triangle, Circle, Cross, and Square buttons as well as a speaker and microphone on the front.

But one of its most interesting additions is its new haptic feedback, which is said to completely change up how we interact with rumbling controllers. It’s a much different offering than what Microsoft has opted for, and makes for something interesting to look forward to.

Winner: PlayStation 5

Aesthetics

Xbox Series S & X

When you get right down to it, they are two very distinct-looking consoles – especially when compared to their predecessors. Neither one of them look anything like the systems we’ve seen in the past, which has made them the subject of a variety of memes ever since their form factors were revealed.

The Xbox Series X resembles a computer tower or a miniature black refrigerator, as the internet likes to remind us, and it can be placed on its side or vertically. Of all of the systems to have been released in recent years, it’s true that this is the one that looks most like a PC. But it’s a bit too tall and strange-looking to fit comfortably within any living room collection – especially if your entertainment system isn’t conducive to holding a vertical system.

The PlayStation 5 is nearly the complete opposite, featuring a wavy, clean monochromatic design with a slick white outside and black interior, complete with blue lighting that presumably glows when the system is switched on. Plenty of comparisons have been made to some sort of “space heater” – or a Dyson fan – thanks to its space-age aesthetic. But where the Xbox Series X seems chunky, the PS5 seems aerodynamic.

Still, neither of the consoles have been safe from relentless criticism online about their refusal to stick to the status quo. Objectively, this is a choice that buyers will have to make on their own in terms of what design speaks to them more, but the PlayStation 5 at least seems to resemble a console more than a refrigerator or miniature monolith.

Winner: PlayStation 5

Verdict

So which console takes the cake? From here, it’s clear that the PlayStation 5 is the winner in several departments. Of course, in the end, it’s down to what you’re looking for, your personal preferences and how bad you want to play certain games.

You’ve still got some time to think it over. The PlayStation 5 (both versions) are set to launch on November 12, while the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S will arrive on November 10. Good luck – or just buy both.

Overall Winner: PlayStation 5

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