PS5 vs. Xbox Series X: Here’s how the two consoles stack up

We finally have hard details about the PS5 and the 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?

Truthfully, we can’t answer those questions just yet. Without full game lineups, pricing details and hands-on experience, any judgment on the “better” system would just be speculation. But after a detailed blog post from Microsoft and a comprehensive live stream from Sony, we can at least compare the systems’ specs and see how they measure up to each other.

PS5 vs. Xbox Series X price and release dates

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first: Neither the PS5 nor the Xbox Series X has a confirmed price yet. The PS4 launched at $400, while the Xbox One launched at $500, but remember that those consoles launched seven years ago in a very different market. Sony had to recover lost ground from the PS3, while Microsoft believed it had a machine that would fundamentally change the media landscape on its hands.

Most rumors and expert analyses put both the PS5 and the Xbox Series X around $500, but the truth is that there’s no way to know for sure until the companies make official announcements. If you’re starting to save up now, aim to have $500 put aside, and you’ll probably be within a $100 margin of error.

We have a more solid handle on release dates, however. Microsoft and Sony both intend to launch their consoles during the 2020 holiday season.

PS5 vs. Xbox Series X specs

PlayStation 5 Xbox Series X
Release Date Holiday 2020 Holiday 2020
Exclusive Games Godfall Halo Infinite, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2
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
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 graphics and performance

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 1012 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 huge advantage when it comes to physical design — namely, we actually know what it’s going to look like. 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, at present, still a complete mystery. Online rumors have suggested all sorts of outlandish possibilities, from an odd-looking Sony patent, to fanciful “PS4, but sleeker” renderings. (One memorable prank even slapped the PS5 logo on a refrigerator.) For what it’s worth, PS5 dev kits seem to resemble the Sony patent, but dev kits often look very different from final products. Without concrete information, speculation about the PS5’s final appearance is fun, but ultimately not very useful. We’ll have to wait and see.

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.

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.

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 exclusives

At the moment, there’s not much to compare between the two systems when it comes to exclusive games. The Xbox One X will get Halo Infinite and Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2, and the PS5 will get Godfall. All three games will also be available on PC, however, so none of them is a true exclusive.

In fact, it seems likely that every Xbox Series X exclusive game will also be available on PC, as has been Microsoft’s habit for the last few years with Xbox One titles. Over time, however, we’ll probably get some true PS5 exclusives. We theorize that franchises like God of War, Spider-Man and Gran Turismo will get new installments, but Sony has been pretty quiet about when they might come out.

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’s Project xCloud is arguably a more ambitious technology, although it’s still in beta, so we’ll have to wait and see whether it lives up to its promise. This cloud gaming platform lets users stream a variety of Xbox games to their Android or iOS devices. There’s also the Xbox Game Pass ($10 per month) program, which lets users download more than 200 games to their Xbox One consoles. I have to assume that this program will continue to exist on the Xbox Series X, perhaps even with Xbox Series X titles in its library. If this technology works together with Project xCloud, it could give Microsoft a huge edge in the subscription marketplace.

Hopefully we’ll learn more concrete details about subscriptions later. For now, the infrastructure is present for both Microsoft and Sony; the implementation is a mystery.

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 neither the PS5 nor the Xbox Series X has shown us much about their games. We have very little idea what games will be on each system at launch, much less how each game will perform. At the risk of invoking a cliché, it really is all about the games — particularly system exclusives. It will be easier to start differentiating between the two consoles once we have a better idea of their libraries.

On the other hand, 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.

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