If you’re on the fence about which console to pick up as we head into a new generation of video games, let me help you make that choice a little more clear. I’ve had a couple of weeks with both PS5 and Xbox Series X – the two most powerful machines you can buy – and I’m now going to make them battle to the death.
PS5 looks like a robot Oreo from the mirror universe where the cream goes on the outside and Oreos aren’t edible*. It’s bulky and strange. I wouldn’t call it ugly, but it’s not particularly nice either, and it refuses to sit inside most entertainment centers. Because the controller needs to be charged via the USB at the front, you can’t even place it behind your TV either – you need the port positioned so that the charging cable can reach you at the other side of the room. I had to move my TV off-center to accommodate it and now my wife has filed for a divorce.
Xbox Series X is more compact than PS5. It’s more subtle. It’s easier to hide behind your TV and forget it even exists. Because the controllers take batteries, the charging of said batteries happens away from the console itself so you can put it at any angle and it won’t matter. Its matte black surface picks up fingerprints when you touch it, but you never have to touch it. Not even with your tongue.
*Disclaimer: I have not tasted the consoles.
Winner: Xbox Series X
As a library of games, Xbox Series X is phenomenal. Pretty much every Xbox game released across different generations is playable, and most of them benefit from the extra power of Series X. Old games that didn’t have HDR support suddenly do. You can play stuff like GTA 4 at 60fps. It’s astounding. It reminds me of the first time I got a gaming PC and I spent ages playing old games at max settings, just to see what I’d been missing. Unfortunately, it’s launched without any exclusives. With Halo Infinite being pushed back, the only thing it has that’s even nearly exclusive is Yakuza: Like a Dragon, an amazing game that looks like a last-gen game and is also available on PC (it’s coming to PS5 next year as well). Everything else, like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, is available on other platforms.
Meanwhile, PS5 has a console exclusive like Yakuza in Bugsnax, which launches on PS5 and PC. Then there’s Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, which also releases on PS4, but the PS5 version shows off new graphical features like ray tracing, as well as fluid loading transitions between interiors and the open-world map. There’s also Astro’s Playroom, which is a five-hour tech demo for the PS5 controller. Sackboy: A Big Adventure and the Demon’s Souls remake are also launching with the console. I haven’t played these two, but it’s clearly a better offering than what’s on Xbox Series X at launch. And I haven’t even touched on the fact that every PS4 game is backwards compatible, which gives you access to a whole generation of incredible exclusives.
PS5 launches with the PS Plus Collection, which grants you ten of the best PS4 exclusives ever made, as well as ten more brilliant third-party games. These are included as a part of your PS Plus subscription, which allows you to play games online and also gives you a “free” game each month for PS5, and two for PS4. But this is nothing compared to Game Pass.
Xbox Game Pass now comes as part of your Xbox Live Ultimate subscription. Game Pass allows you to download and play over 100 games from Xbox and its partners. There are third-party games, Xbox exclusives, and incredible indies included. You get access to every single new Xbox exclusive that comes to the platform, which means you will get stuff like Halo Infinite the day it launches without paying £60 for it from a store.
Microsoft also recently bought Bethesda, so games like Fallout, The Elder Scrolls, Doom, and Dishonored are also included on the service, as well as any future games from Bethesda’s studios – Starfield, anyone? The Elder Scrolls 6? All of the EA Play library is also playable. It’s ridiculous. Add xCloud into that – a streaming service that lets you use any device as a screen for your games library – and there’s a clear winner when it comes to services.
Winner: Xbox Series X
The Xbox Series X controller is a marked improvement over the Xbox One pad. Its textured grips make it more comfortable to hold, its triggers and bumpers feel more durable, and the analogue sticks have slightly more tension. It just feels more expensive overall. Then there’s the addition of the share button, which makes grabbing screenshots and videos a doddle compared to the faff involved on Xbox One.
PS5 is miles ahead here, however. The DualSense controller feels like nothing you’ve ever used before, thanks to haptic feedback and adaptive triggers. The former works in tandem with the controller’s speaker to simulate sensations, with tiny, localised vibrations mimicking what your character is experiencing. Skating across ice or standing under a train bridge feels like you’re doing both of those things, somehow. The adaptive triggers allow developers to tweak the tension as you pull them back to simulate things like pulling the string on a bow, or crushing a tin can with your hand. The pad also comes with a built-in, high-quality mic for online gaming, and you can mute it at the touch of a button. The controller is perhaps the most impressive thing about PS5 so far.
Let’s talk specs. Rather than speaking anecdotally for this one, here are the facts:
Xbox Series X specs:
- CPU: 8x Cores @ 3.8 GHz (3.6 GHz w/ SMT) Custom Zen 2 CPU
- GPU: 12 TFLOPS, 52 CUs @ 1.825 GHz Custom RDNA 2 GPU
- Memory: 16 GB GDDR6 w/ 320b bus
- Memory Bandwidth: 10GB @ 560 GB/s, 6GB @ 336 GB/s
- Internal Storage: 1TB Custom NVME SSD
- CPU: AMD Zen 2-based CPU with 8 cores at 3.5GHz (variable frequency)
- GPU: 10.28 TFLOPs, 36 CUs at 2.23GHz (variable frequency)
- Memory: 16GB GDDR6 / 256-bit
- Memory bandwidth: 448GB/s
- Internal storage: Custom 825GB SSD
As you can see, the Xbox Series X has a slightly more powerful CPU and graphics card, which should mean, in theory, that cross-platform games run slightly better on Xbox Series X.
Winner: Xbox Series X
Despite that extra power, the PS5 somehow feels more like a next-gen machine currently. It’s a mixture of the launch titles, the new controller, and the fact Sony is treating the console as its own thing. Xbox Series X feels more like a continuation of the existing line of Xbox consoles. Saying that, there’s no denying how impressive Quick Resume – a new feature that allows you to switch between games in a matter of seconds and pick up exactly where you left off – is. That’s a certified next-gen feature on Xbox Series X. Both consoles also sport lightning-quick load times so you spend more time playing games and less time reading tooltips.
Winner: PS5 (only just)
Both consoles are amazing, but we won’t have a clear winner until we see what’s coming from both parties on the game front. Launch titles usually aren’t the best showcase of a console, and we’ll see more impressive games in the coming years. For now, there can only be one clear winner.
Next: PS5 Console Review: Next-Gen Look, Next-Gen Feel
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Kirk is the Editor-in-Chief at The Gamer. He likes Arkane games a little too much.
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