The PS5’s DualSense controller vs. the new Xbox Series X controller

The PS5’s DualSense controller vs. the new Xbox Series X controller

A new generation means a new wave of controllers, and this time, the differences between the PS5 and Xbox Series X’s controllers are quite dramatic. Picking the controller that’s right for you may be the decision that tilts you towards one console over the other. To help you decide, we’re breaking down the DualSense and the new Xbox controller to see which has the edge.

PS5 or Xbox: Which controller is cheaper?

We’ll start with an easy one. While both the PS5 and Xbox Series X consoles come with a controller, buying additional controllers will cost you. A new PS5 Dualsense controller will run you $69.99, whereas the new Xbox controller costs $59.99. This price difference will become clear as we dive into the features of the new controllers.

Photo: Henry Hargreaves for Polygon

PS5 or Xbox: Which controller is more comfortable?

This will really come down to personal preference. At present, the only person at Polygon who has used both of the new controllers is, uh, me. Personally, I find the PS5’s DualSense more comfortable to hold for long periods of time, thanks to its longer handles and triggers that fit more naturally into my resting index fingers. The new Xbox controller’s smaller handles are an improvement on the old design, but I’m not sure about the new, stiffer triggers, which seem to require much more force than the old Xbox One triggers did.

That said, other members of the Polygon team have reported some hand cramping with the PS5 DualSense, so it’s heavily dependent on hand size and comfort preferences. Hard to say, but if you forced me to pick, I’d go with the PS5 DualSense.

PS5 or Xbox: Which controller looks better?

Another subjective one, but hey, you’ve come to me. I’ve openly said I despise the PS5’s giant white and black tower of a console. And yet, the design of the DualSense controller works for me. The white and black, mixed with the subtle glow from the touchpad, looks slightly furitistic without being overwhelmingly so. It’s also got some nifty details, like a teeny tiny pattern of the familiar “shape” buttons acting as the grip on the handles.

Photo: Henry Hargreaves for Polygon

The new Xbox controller’s aesthetics aren’t bad by any means. Like the black cube of a console, the new Xbox controller does a better job of disappearing into the background of your living space than the DualSense does

But unlike many of the other data points here, you can easily decide this one for yourself, thanks to our lovely photography.

PS5 or Xbox: Which controller has more features?

This is not even a contest. The PS5’s DualSense adds several major features that its predecessor did not have. The adaptive triggers, which adjust the tension of the triggers based on what’s happening on screen, are incredible. As are the new haptics, which make the controller’s vibrations far more accurate and varied. The DualSense also has a returning touchpad, a gyroscope for motion controls, and a built-in speaker.

The new Xbox controller brings with it all of the features that the Xbox One controller had and adds a Share button and an improved D-pad. But most of the internals are pretty much the same as what was in the Xbox One controller.

Photo: Henry Hargreaves for Polygon

PS5 or Xbox: Which controller has better battery life?

Yet another no-contest category, but this time it’s the new Xbox controller that takes it (with some caveats). Dropping two AA batteries into it should grant you between 30 to 40 hours of gameplay time. This will vary somewhat, but overall it’s pretty good bang for your buck. If you’d rather not blow through disposable batteries, Microsoft does make a Play and Charge Kit for the new controller. We haven’t used it, but if it’s anything like the last one, it should give you 20-30 hours per charge (with diminishing charges over the course of several years).

The PS5’s DualSense comes with a battery pack built in (another reason for the higher price). We haven’t done extensive battery testing, but early teardowns have shown that the battery pack has about 50% more capacity than the DualShock 4’s battery pack. The DualShock 4 was rated for around six hours per charge, which would put the DualSense in the nine-hour range. But, because of all of the new bells and whistles inside the controller, this battery life could be much less, depending on how much is being used. A game like Astro’s Playroom, which constantly uses the fanciest DualSense features, is liable to drain your battery much faster, for example.

Photo: Maddy Myers/Polygon

It’s also worth remembering that DualShock 4 controller batteries have a tendency to peter out after several years of use, offering dramatically less time per charge. And, like the DualShock 4, the new DualSense’s rechargeable battery isn’t removable, so you may have to plunk down another $69.99 if yours dies an early death. That would not be ideal.

PS5 or Xbox: Which controller is more versatile?

Back in the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 days, having a Microsoft controller around was a boon as it meant you could use the Xbox controller on both your PC and your console. Sony’s controller, meanwhile, was much less friendly to other devices.

Times have changed since then, with the Xbox and PlayStation controllers playing nice with all sorts of devices, from PCs to tablets to phones.

Photo: Henry Hargreaves for Polygon

But, in terms of immediate ease of use, the new Xbox controller is the way to go on PC, just because of its ubiquitous support there. You won’t have to worry about messing with drivers or other settings with an Xbox controller on PC. It should just work. Sony’s DualSense, meanwhile, will likely need unique drivers to work properly. Games that worked fine with a DualShock 4 don’t seem to function at all with the DualSense, and may need to be patched (a problem for older games that may never see patches). These issues may smooth out over time, but it’s hard to say when or if the DualSense will just “work” on PC and other platforms.

PS5 or Xbox: Which is the better controller?

Oof, man, really putting me on the spot, huh? As you can see from the above, there are benefits to both controllers. For versatility and battery life, you really can’t beat the Xbox controller. Meanwhile, the PS5 controller packs in modern features that will make playing certain games a lot more engaging (so long as things like haptics and adaptive triggers are supported by the game). For sheer audacity and ambition, it feels like the PS5’s DualSense has the edge here, but if you’re looking for a multi-platform workhorse, go with the Xbox controller.

The Xbox Series X will be released worldwide on Nov. 10, followed by the PlayStation 5 on Nov. 12. For this review, Polygon tested an Xbox Series X (and the new controller) provided by Microsoft, and a PlayStation 5 (and DualSense controller) provided by Sony. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.

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