We have plenty of hard details about the PS5 vs Xbox Series X. Both new consoles will deliver up to 8K resolutions, high frame rates, powerful processors and speedy SSDs. But if the PS4 and Xbox One are anything to go by, the two consoles may not be all that similar beyond that. Which of the two systems will be a superior gaming machine — and which of them will offer the better library?
With each new bit of information we learn about the consoles, we’re getting closer to answering those questions. Thanks to a detailed blog post from Microsoft and a comprehensive live stream from Sony, we can compare the systems’ specs and see how they measure up to each other. The PS5 games showcase in June as well as the Xbox Series X games showcase in July give us a good idea of what to expect from first-party studios, and a growing list of third-party titles will be available on both platforms.
We also know prices and release dates for both systems. The Xbox Series X will debut on November 10 for $500, while the PS5 will debut on November 12, also for $500. Both consoles will also have cheaper versions available: the $400 PS5 Digital Edition, and the $300 Xbox Series S, respectively.
While we can’t say anything definitively until the consoles come out, there’s a lot that we can learn from the information we have so far. Here’s how the PS5 and the Xbox Series X stack up, at least on paper.
PS5 vs. Xbox Series X specs
|PlayStation 5||Xbox Series X|
|Release Date||November 12, 2020||November 10, 2020|
|Key Exclusives||Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Horizon II: Forbidden West, Gran Turismo 7||Halo Infinite, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2, Forza Motorsport 8, State of Decay 3|
|Backwards Compatibility||Almost all PS4 games, including optimized PS4 Pro titles||All Xbox One games / Select Xbox 360 and original Xbox games|
|CPU||8-core 3.5 GHz AMD Zen 2||8-core, 3.8 GHz AMD Zen 2|
|GPU||10.3 teraflop AMD RDNA 2||12.0 teraflop AMD RDNA 2|
|RAM||16 GB GDDR6||16 GB GDDR6|
|Storage||825 GB custom SSD||1 TB custom NVMe SSD|
|Resolution||Up to 8K||Up to 8K|
|Frame Rate||Up to 120 fps||Up to 120 fps|
|Optical Disc Drive||4K UHD Blu-ray||4K UHD Blu-ray|
PS5 vs. Xbox Series X price
Microsoft was the first to reveal its console’s price: $500 for the Xbox Series X. That’s the same as what the Xbox One launched at, back in 2013. If that’s too much money, there’s also the Xbox Series S for $300, or the Xbox All Access program, which will let you finance an Xbox Series X for $35 per month.
The Xbox Series X will launch on November 10, and pre-orders will begin on September 22.
Sony announced the price and release date for the PS5 during its livestream on September 16. The system will come out in November 12 in select territories (including the U.S., Canada, New Zealand and Australia), and November 19 globally. The full-fledged PS5 with a disc drive will cost $500, whereas the PS5 Digital Edition will cost $400. Prices also vary slightly by region.
The bottom line, though, is that the full-featured PS5 and Xbox Series X will cost the same; Xbox Series S is the cheapest among the new consoles, and PS5 Digital Edition is somewhere in the middle.
PS5 vs Xbox Series X exclusives
After the Xbox games showcase on July 23, we have a much better idea of what to expect from Xbox Series X in terms of exclusive games. Halo Infinite is still the platform’s biggest title (although it won’t be available at launch), but we’ll also have Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II. A surprise reveal of Fable 4 means that Xbox fans will eventually have a new entry in the popular fantasy franchise, but it probably won’t be a launch title. Forza Motorsport 8 and State of Decay 3 will also make their way to the Xbox Series X. The former is the latest in a long line of high-fidelity racing sims; the latter is a survival game set in an open-world beset by zombies.
One interesting thing about Xbox Series X exclusives is that, strictly speaking, they’re not exclusive to the console at all. Every Xbox Series X game from a first-party studio will also be available for the PC. Additionally, they’ll all be available for the Xbox One, at least for the foreseeable future. Microsoft seems to be prioritizing an ecosystem over an individual console.
We also know about quite a few PS5 exclusives, including Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and Horizon: Forbidden West. At present, these titles appear to be true PS5 exclusives, so you won’t be able to play them on PC. There’s also Final Fantasy XVI, which will release exclusively on PS5, at least as far as consoles are concerned. There may also be a PC version.
On the one hand, the Xbox Series X has an edge on exclusive titles, since you don’t necessarily need to own an Xbox console to play them. On the other hand, the PS5 may have an edge for the exact opposite reason. It depends on whether you think console exclusives are good or bad — and whether you own a gaming PC.
If you’re curious about how each system stacks up to a gaming PC in terms of exclusive titles, we’ve written two articles on the subject. The first explains why a gaming PC is still a better investment than a PS5; the second explains why there’s almost no reason to buy an Xbox Series X if you already own a good gaming PC. Of course, the calculus will vary, depending on your own situation.
PS5 vs. Xbox Series X graphics
If you examine the chart above, you can see that the Xbox Series X has slightly more powerful specs. Whether the Xbox Series X will necessarily deliver slightly better performance and graphics than the PS5, though, is hard to say.
First, let’s take a look at the hardware involved. There doesn’t seem to be a tremendous difference between the CPUs, although the Xbox Series X’s is slightly faster. The GPU processing power — 10.3 teraflops for the PS5 and 12 teraflops for the Xbox Series X — seems a little starker. A teraflop refers to how many operations per second a piece of hardware can handle. Since a single teraflop can account for 10^12 operations per second, a difference of 1.7 could represent a significant difference in graphics.
But remember, too: Just because a GPU offers 12 teraflops of computing power, that doesn’t necessarily mean that every single game will take full advantage of them. It also depends how well a game is optimized, particularly third-party games that will have to offer relative parity between their PS5 and Xbox Series X versions.
The SSDs may also have a big effect on game performance. Since both consoles will come with built-in SSDs, games should load much faster than before. But so far, only Sony has provided concrete details about how quickly its SSD could load games, and how the PS5 compares to SSDs currently on the market. This is another metric that will likely vary from game to game.
For the moment, we’ll say that both systems seem quite powerful, and that the Xbox Series X has a potential edge, especially when it comes to rendering graphics.
PS5 vs. Xbox Series X design
The Xbox Series X has a fairly conservative design. Microsoft’s next console will resemble a vertical PC tower, with a sleek black chassis and a small, tasteful Xbox logo in the upper-left corner. There’s a disc drive on the front of the console as well. The whole thing looks pleasantly geometrical, and you’ll also be able to position it horizontally, in case your entertainment center doesn’t have enough vertical space.
The PS5’s design is quite different. Sony’s next-gen console looks like a rounded black rectangle, surrounded by two white fins that almost converge in a downward triangular pattern.
Notably, the PS5 will also be available in two different configurations: a standard version with a disc drive, and a Digital Edition without one. Naturally, you’ll be able to play physical titles on the former, but not on the latter. The price between the two models will probably vary as a result, but so far, we haven’t had any confirmation of the PS5’s price.
It will be difficult to say which console looks “better” until we can see them side by side in a physical space. For the moment, the Xbox Series X looks more traditional, while the PS5 looks more experimental. Which one you prefer will depend almost entirely on your own aesthetic preferences.
PS5 vs. Xbox Series X backwards compatibility
Both Sony and Microsoft have been very open about how backwards compatibility will work on their systems. At present, the Xbox Series X appears to have more robust options, but the PS5 should have plenty of older games to play as well.
Microsoft has promised that every Xbox One game will be compatible with the Xbox Series X. Furthermore, Microsoft’s Smart Delivery system ensures that if you buy an Xbox One game that’s also available on the Xbox Series X, you’ll automatically get the Xbox Series X version once you upgrade your console. Additionally, a handful of select Xbox 360 and original Xbox games will also work with the system. (If an Xbox 360 or original Xbox game currently works on the Xbox One, it will also work on the Xbox Series X.) That’s pretty straightforward.
Another potential benefit of the Xbox Series X is that it will run many backwards compatible games better than their original systems could. Microsoft has committed to upscaling some favorite old titles, making them run at 4K resolutions or up to 120 fps frame rates. While it’s not clear yet which games will get this treatment, it’s safe to say that at least a handful of old games will look and play better than ever before on the Xbox Series X.
Sony’s approach is a little less concrete. The PS5 will use a sort of universalized software to run PS4 games on the PS5. Games that were optimized for the PS4 Pro will still have their enhancements in place. But because the software is sort of a catch-all application, not every title is guaranteed to work equally well.
While Sony never promised backwards compatibility beyond the PS4, it now seems clear that PS1, PS2 and PS3 games will not function on the PS5. A post on Ubisoft’s support page makes it clear that while PS5 owners will have the ability to upgrade some of their PS4 titles, there’s no such possibility for PS1, PS2 or PS3 titles. Again, “complete backwards compatibility” is not a functionality that Sony ever advertised, but it’s good to have confirmation.
Sony has stated that most of the top 100 PS4 games (by playtime) run very well on the PS5 so far, and should be available for launch. But we’re not yet sure whether Sony will release backwards compatible games piecemeal, or let users try anything and see what works. In any case, it’s not quite as inclusive as what Microsoft has promised.
PS5 vs. Xbox Series X subscriptions
This section will be a little speculative, as neither Microsoft nor Sony has outlined exact plans for their game-streaming services on next-gen consoles. But both companies have cloud gaming infrastructure in place, and it’s silly to think that they would toss all of those resources out the window by the end of the year.
PlayStation Now is Sony’s game-streaming service. For a flat subscription fee ($6 – 10 per month), players can stream (and occasionally download) a variety of PS2, PS3 and PS4 hits, up to and including beloved exclusives like God of War (2018). I imagine that the PS5 will also offer PS Now options, although whether it will ever stream PS5 games is harder to say. You can stream PS Now games to a PC as well, although it doesn’t work with smartphones, streaming players or smart TVs.
Microsoft, on the other hand, has Project xCloud. This game-streaming service has been in beta for a long time, but will finally make its way to everyday consumers on September 15. If players subscribe to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate ($15 per month), they’ll be able to stream Xbox games directly to their Android phones or tablets, without having to use an Xbox console as an intermediary. Save data carries over, whether you play on a console, PC or mobile device. Xbox Series X will almost certainly employ the same architecture.
Hopefully we’ll learn more concrete details about subscriptions later. For now, the infrastructure is present for both Microsoft and Sony.
PS5 vs. Xbox Series X virtual reality
One area where the PS5 has a clear advantage over the Xbox Series X is in virtual reality. The PS5 will be fully compatible with the PlayStation VR headset (and, presumably, the PSVR library of games). At the same time, there may also be a new PSVR headset in the works for the PS5, at least eventually.
Microsoft, on the other hand, has no plans for an Xbox Series X VR headset. We never got one for the Xbox One either, suggesting that Microsoft may not be terribly interested in this kind of technology. Whether this elicits frustration or indifference will largely depend on how invested you are in VR tech.
PS5 vs. Xbox Series X outlook
It’s important to remember that while we now have a respectable amount of information on both consoles, we’ve yet to get any hands-on time with either one. We don’t have solid launch libraries, and we don’t really know how games will play once they’re in our hands. Without those, we can’t determine which system will “win” the console war — if either. Remember that if a console is profitable and well-received, it hasn’t really “lost” anything.
However, the Xbox Series X does look a little bit better, at least on paper. It has more powerful hardware, better backwards compatibility and an attractive design. Project xCloud has the potential to be more comprehensive than PS Now.
For the moment, I wouldn’t personally rush out to pre-order either machine. There’s still lots to play on the PS4 and Xbox One, and we still want to learn a little more about each system’s library and capabilities at launch.