PS5 Digital Edition vs Xbox Series S: which digital-only console should you buy?

PS5 Digital Edition vs Xbox Series S
(Image credit: Future)

PS5 Digital Edition vs Xbox Series S may seem like a close contest to the average buyer. Both consoles are fully digital, meaning you can't use physical media on either one. As a result, their retail price is much cheaper than their respective disc-based counterparts.

That's why many people are happy paying less for these digital-only variants. But if you're interested in buying the PS5 Digital Edition or the Xbox Series S, how do you decide which disc-less console is for you? 

There are other important details to consider, too. For starters, the PS5 Digital Edition is essentially a PS5 without a disc drive, but its specs are otherwise identical to its disc-based counterpart. The Xbox Series S is an entirely different proposition when compared to the Xbox Series X, offering a pared-down option for buyers on a budget. If you’re curious to know how Xbox's flagship system weighs up against the PS5, we’ve got you covered in our PS5 vs Xbox Series X guide.

You don't want any last-minute buying headaches, or to make any rushed decisions you'll later regret. That's why we've got all the details needed about both digital consoles below, so you can make the right choice based on your gaming needs and budget size.

Before you get excited and buy your new console, we recommend you take a look at our where to buy PS5 consoles and Xbox Series S stock guides. We keep these updated as soon as we find any news about availability. If you’re interested in the differences between the two PS5 variants, check out our PS5 vs PS5 Digital Edition guide too.

PS5 Digital Edition vs Xbox Series S: price and release date

Xbox Series S against a black background

(Image credit: Shutterstock/m.andrei)

By removing the 4K Blu-Ray drive, Sony knocked $100 off the price of the PS5 Digital Edition, compared to the standard PS5. It's available now depending on your territory and initially retailed for $399 / £359 / $AU599.95. However, Microsoft’s Xbox Series S is the cheapest current-gen console at $299 / £249 / AU$499. It released alongside Microsoft’s flagship console, the Xbox Series X, on November 10, 2020.

However, there's been a recent PS5 price hike with Sony citing soaring inflation globally. While the US price is unchanged, the PS5 Digital Edition now costs £389.99 / €449.99 / $AU649.95. Thankfully, Xbox won't follow PlayStation with price hikes, which places them in an even more competitive position over the PS5. But Xbox doesn't rule out future price hikes, so we'll keep this updated if anything changes. 

As it stands, the Xbox Series S has a $100 / £130 price advantage over the PS5 Digital Edition, then, but that doesn’t mean it’s a clear-cut victory for Microsoft. Not unless the price is your most important factor.

PS5 Digital Edition vs Xbox Series S: specs

PlayStation 5 with its controller next to a TV

(Image credit: Future)

The PS5 Digital Edition is identical to the standard PS5, no 4K Blu-Ray drive aside. Its removal gives the console a more symmetrical shape, but appearance aside, you won’t find any differences in performance between Sony’s two PS5 consoles. Check out the technical specs below:  

  • CPU: Eight-core up to 3.5GHz (variable frequency) custom AMD Ryzen Zen 2
  • GPU: 10.3 teraflops, variable frequency, up to 2.23 GHz
  • RAM: 16GB GDDR6
  • Framerate: Up to 120fps
  • Resolution: Up to 8K
  • Optical: No disk drive
  • Storage: 825GB NVMe SSD 

If you’re happy to forgo physical media and prefer buying your games digitally, then the PS5 Digital Edition makes sense. There are a few caveats to consider, though. 

Physical games are usually cheaper than their digital counterparts and are more prone to heavy discounts. If you don’t like a game, you can trade them in or sell them and recoup some of your investment. There’s also something comforting about owning a disc as opposed to digital copies, there’s a greater sense of ownership, but this isn’t an issue for some. 

With digital titles often costing full price, if not more, it means that $100 you’ve initially saved might quickly disappear once you've bought a few $70 / £69.99 PS5 games. So, unless you wait for a sale, you’ll have no choice but to pay full price on the PlayStation Store. 

The Xbox Series S, on the other hand, is fundamentally different from the Xbox Series X, and in turn, the PS5 Digital Edition. Microsoft’s cheaper console targets a 1440p resolution instead of 4K, and has a significantly less powerful GPU. However, thanks to hardware advances these last few years, the system should prove to be extremely capable, albeit less so than the PS5 Digital Edition for raw specs. 

Check out the Xbox Series S specs below:

  • CPU: Eight-core 3.6GHz (3.4GHz with SMT) custom AMD 7nm 
  • GPU: 4 teraflops at 1.550GHz 
  • RAM: 10GB GDDR6 
  • Framerate: Up to 120 fps 
  • Resolution: 1440p with 4K upscaling 
  • Optical: No disk drive 
  • Storage: 512GB NVMe SSD 

Microsoft’s strategy of targeting both the high and low-end of the market is an interesting one. It’s worth noting the company has already tipped the Xbox Series S to outsell its more expensive sibling.

While it’s easy to dismiss the Xbox Series S as the weakest console and therefore, the inferior pick of the bunch, it still delivers a new-gen experience. It supports all the key technological advancements that both the PS5 and Xbox Series X boast: that includes ray-tracing, super-fast load times, and 120fps capabilities. However, its more modest resolution target means it can achieve these goals for nearly half the price of the Series X. 

It also means Microsoft’s been able to create the smallest, and arguably its most aesthetically pleasing console to date. The Xbox Series S is significantly smaller than the Xbox Series X, and tiny compared to the gargantuan PS5. So, if you’re after something that’s more discreet and a better fit for your home entertainment setup, the Xbox Series S might appeal. 

One thing to note, though, is that the Xbox Series S only comes with a 512GB SSD. That means space will fill up fast, but Microsoft confirmed game files should be 30% smaller than on Xbox Series X as they don’t use  4K textures, which can seriously bloat up file sizes. There's also an expandable storage solution with a Seagate Expansion Card, which comes in at 512GB, 1TB, and 2TB options, but it's pricey. 

PS5 Digital Edition vs Xbox Series S: games

Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales PS5

(Image credit: Sony)

Games are subjective – and that’s why competition and variety is so important. Thankfully, there’s a deluge of great-looking games for both consoles, but both Sony and Microsoft’s approach is different once again.

With its superb library of exclusive games on PS4, Sony is backing its internal studios to deliver enticing titles once again. Alongside the back catalog, the PS5’s launch was bolstered by Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Demon’s Souls, and Sackboy: A Big Adventure, all console exclusives. More recently, we've seen The Last of Us Part 1, Gran Turismo 7, Horizon Forbidden West, and God of War Ragnarok

Microsoft, meanwhile, upgraded numerous last-gen exclusives for the new generation, and we’ve since seen games like Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5. However, the appeal of the Xbox Series revolves around Microsoft’s phenomenal Xbox Game Pass service, which includes hundreds of games that can be downloaded and played à la carte. 

If you're hoping to get Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for an even cheaper price, we've got good news. While this is currently being trialled in just the Republic of Ireland and Colombia, Microsoft is looking to launch an Xbox Game Pass family plan, allowing you and four players to jump in for a monthly cost of €21.99 – which comes to around $21.99 / £19.99 / AU$32.99

It also includes backward compatibility for four generations of Xbox games. You’ll find full compatibility for Xbox One games, alongside select games for Xbox 360 and the original Xbox. Better still, all of which promise to look and play better than ever before. That said, Sony's recently expanded PS Plus with new tiers, giving those who subscribe to Extra or Premium access to a wider games catalog. While you won't get day one exclusives from Sony like Microsoft do, there's not as much in it now.

Both systems are accompanied by various timed exclusives and third-party titles, of course, as previously seen with Yakuza: Like a Dragon on Xbox and Godfall on PS5. The choice then ultimately comes down to which games you find appealing, or which ecosystem you’ve already invested in. 

PS5 Digital Edition vs Xbox Series S: verdict

Master Chief speaking to Cortana in Halo Infinite

(Image credit: Microsoft)

The decision over which digital console to buy will ultimately come down to personal preference. Both remove the disc drive, so physical media is a no-go, and the Xbox Series S is aimed squarely at opening up the market to make new-gen gaming more affordable. 

The $100 / £130 saving on the PS5 Digital Edition is appealing at first glance, but you may end up spending more in the long run. It’s all worth bearing that in mind if you're sticking firmly with Sony's machines. 

Either way, both consoles promise to offer a superior experience over their predecessors. So far, we’ve seen clear demand for both disc-less systems, though perhaps more so with the Xbox Series S.

Adam was formerly TRG's Hardware Editor. A law graduate with an exceptional track record in content creation and online engagement, Adam has penned scintillating copy for various technology sites and also established his very own award-nominated video games website. He’s previously worked at Nintendo of Europe as a Content Marketing Editor and once played Halo 5: Guardians for over 51 hours for charity. He is now an editor at The Shortcut.

With contributions from