PS5 vs Xbox Series X: which next-gen console should you buy?

PS5 vs Xbox Series X side by side
(Image credit: Future)

The battle of PS5 vs Xbox Series X has never been fiercer. That's because both consoles have been available now for around two years. There are many different games with the former leaning on its exclusives and the latter relying more on Game Pass. Continue reading to find out more. 

For an in-depth look at both consoles, check out our full PS5 review and Xbox Series X review. But before we get into the details, the key thing you need to know about the PS5 and the Xbox Series X is that there isn’t an outright winner. Both consoles are extremely well designed, and already have a fantastic selection of games to play (see our list of best PS5 games and best Xbox Series X games if you don't believe us).

It's hard to crown one console a true winner. They both have unique features, different gamepads, services, and pros and cons to consider. Both the PS5 and Xbox Series X are capable of 4K gaming at up to 120 frames per second, support ray tracing, and boast fast load times. It means both consoles are incredibly powerful and similar in many aspects, which can make choosing one more challenging. 

That's only good news for consumers, though, as the more Microsoft and Sony battle it out for the top spot, the better it is for gamers.

An official image of the Xbox Series X controller

(Image credit: Microsoft)

So if neither console is better than the other, then – at least, not objectively – the choice about which to buy ultimately comes down to personal preferences. From exclusive games, including like The Last of Us Part 1, Gran Turismo 7, and Horizon Forbidden West on PS5, to the new quality of life features like Quick Resume and FPS Boost on Xbox Series X, there’s much to love about each console. It may also be the case that you simply just want to play on the console that your friends already own.

Although Microsoft and Sony have pulled out all the stops to create the ultimate consoles for this generation, they also keep getting better, too. A new announcement edges one console ahead of the other every couple of weeks, whether that’s a new feature, a game, an exclusivity deal, or a quality of life update like PS5 VRR support.

The good news is that you can’t go wrong with either console, not really. But there are several differences between the two new machines that you need to know about if you can only choose one. Keen to find out more about the key similarities and differences between the two new-gen consoles? Here’s everything you need to know about the PS5 vs Xbox Series X.

PS5 vs Xbox Series X: key facts

The side panel of a PS5

Image credit: Sony (Image credit: Sony)
  • What are they? Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5 are the current-gen games consoles from Microsoft and Sony, which deliver more ambitious and graphically impressive gaming experiences than ever before
  • Xbox Series X and PS5 release date: The PS5 released on November 12, 2020, in select regions, and on November 19 for the rest of the world.  The Xbox Series X was released on November 10, 2020
  • What can I play on it? We've seen some big games, like Marvel's Spider-Man Miles Morales on the PS5 and Halo Infinite for the Xbox Series X, and more are coming. Both consoles are backward compatible, too
  • Is the PS5 more powerful than Xbox Series X? The processing capabilities of both consoles are very similar, but Microsoft has a slight advantage when it comes to sheer processing power
  • What will the PS5 and Xbox Series X cost? The PS5 currently costs $499 / £479.99 / €549.99 / AU$799.95, which is higher in most countries than the Xbox Series X

PS5 vs Xbox Series X: design

Xbox Series X controller on top of an Xbox Series X console

(Image credit: Shutterstock/Joshua Seiler)

Despite being similar, both companies have tried to differentiate their consoles from the other, particularly in design. The PS5 is a towering machine, and the biggest console Sony has ever made.  The Xbox Series X, on the other hand, looks more akin to a gaming PC thanks to its cuboid shape. But no matter how you feel about the size and shape of each console, both stay cool and quiet in operation. 

Sony has focused on increased immersion in games with its new DualSense controller, as well as continuing to deliver exclusive experiences. Meanwhile, Microsoft is banking on the sheer value proposition of Xbox Game Pass (and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate) to lure people into its ecosystem. We've even seen Discord for all Xbox Series X players, though PS5 Discord integration is on its way.

Both systems are backward compatible, which means you can play older games on them – though the PS5 only supports PS4 titles. The Xbox Series X, meanwhile, can play games from every Xbox generation, including the full Xbox One library, plus select Xbox 360 and original Xbox games. If you've hung on to your older 360 games, then, it's nice to know you can play them on Microsoft's new system.

PS5 vs Xbox Series X: price and release dates

PS5 vs Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Sony)

Sony's standard PS5 (with the disc drive) costs $499.99 / £449.99 / AU$749.95, while the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition (without the disc drive) comes in at $399.99 / £359.99 / AU$599.95. Both versions of the PS5 launched on November 12 in the USA, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and South Korea, with the PS5 released in the rest of the world on November 19.

However, much like the Oculus Quest 2, we've recently seen the PS5 get a price hike with Sony blaming this on soaring inflation globally. While the USA won't be seeing any price increases, that's affected pricing across the UK, Europe, Australia, and more, currently costing £479.99 / €549.99 / AU$799.95. It's also worth considering, is the PS5 Digital edition cheaper in the long-term? That'll depend on what you're after.

The Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, launched on November 10, 2020, for $499 / £449 / AU$749 and $299 / £249 / AU$499 respectively. Thankfully, Xbox won't follow PlayStation with price hikes like we've seen Nintendo confirm for the Nintendo Switch. Some argue this is the worst time to buy a PS5, but it's worth remembering that Xbox doesn't rule out future price hikes,

Still, it's not a like-for-like comparison between these four consoles. Microsoft's digital console is weaker than the others – it focuses on 1440p resolution instead of 4K, and targets 60/120 fps. With the PS5 Digital Edition, however, it's exactly the same specs as the standard edition – minus that physical disc tray.

For sheer value, the Xbox Series S wins out here – but it comes with some caveats. Both it and the digital PS5 lose out on the ability to play 4K Blu-ray discs too. In reality, it seems that the choice this time will come down to your loyalty to one console brand or the other – and their services, plus each company's commitment to respecting the library of games you've already built up with them.

PS5 vs Xbox Series X: specs

PS5 vs Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Microsoft)

When it comes to specs, Sony and Microsoft have taken a similar approach, though there's a few key differences to point out. 

The PlayStation 5 is powered by a custom-built version of the third generation AMD Ryzen chipset, packing in eight cores with the company's new Zen 2 architecture and Navi graphics. The CPU runs at 3.5GHz. The GPU offers 36 compute units running at 2.23GHz and offering 10.28TFLOPs. Those parts are paired with 16GB of GDDR6 with a bandwidth of 448GB/s. It means the PS5 can support features like ray tracing – a performance-intensive lighting technique that has previously been reserved to expensive high-end PC GPUs, which we now know has been "built into the GPU hardware" for the PS5.

The PS5 also supports screen resolutions of up to 8K – far higher than the standard 1080p HD of most people’s televisions, let alone that of the increasingly popular 4K. It also works at 120Hz refresh rates, allowing for super-smooth movement in games if you have an HDMI 2.1 compliant display. These are incredibly performance-intensive specs, so we wouldn’t expect a game to hit these standards regularly (not to mention requiring an expensive TV that will support them), but the PS5 will at least make 4K/60fps a more common sight. 

The PS5 also supports immersive, 3D audio when using a headset whilst playing. Sony delivers this audio through its new Tempest Engine, which can handle hundreds of sound sources for a more realistic audio environment. It's a comparable experience to Dolby Atmos, if you've ever used the spatial audio format. 

Marvel's Spider-Man (PS4) screenshot

Marvel's Spider-Man (PS4) (Image credit: Insomniac Games)

Perhaps the most interesting element of the Sony build is its commitment to using SSD storage. The solid-state drive in the PlayStation 5 is a custom-built piece of hardware, offering 825GB of storage with a raw 5.5GB/s throughput (and up to 9GB/s worth of compressed data). It results in exceptionally fast load times when booting up a game, allowing developers to overcome many streaming and data bottlenecks of the past. 

The DualSense controller, though, is arguably the most exciting element of the PS5 by utilizing haptic feedback. Replacing the DualShock 4's rumble technology, this can simulate all sorts of subtle vibrations in the hand. Haptic feedback allows developers to fine-tune the sensations players experience, such as the feeling of rainfall or running across a sandy beach. It works incredibly well and greatly improves feedback and immersion.

PS5 DualSense controller

PS5 DualSense controller (Image credit: Sony)

The PS5 DualSense controller also features adaptive triggers, allowing developers to program the resistance of the triggers, simulating actions more accurately. You can feel the tension of pulling back the string of a bow, or the kickback of a gun, for example. Again, it's a wonderful sensation. 

The controller also still has a headphone jack but crucially, now includes a built-in microphone. If you don't have a headset to hand, you can party chat just using the controller or send a voice message to a friend. 

With all of these new features, it's perhaps unsurprising that Sony confirmed (via PlayStation Blog (opens in new tab)) that the old DualShock 4 controller won't work with new PS5 exclusive games. The DualShock 4 still works with PS4 games you play on the console thanks to backward compatibility, just don't expect to use it when you play the PS5 version of Horizon Forbidden West. 

Microsoft, on the other hand, has ensured that the Xbox Series X will work with all Xbox controllers across all of its games.

PS5 vs Xbox Series X

Xbox Series X (Image credit: Microsoft)

The Xbox Series X, meanwhile, is incredibly impressive. It uses custom AMD internals using the same Zen 2 and RDNA 2 architecture of the PS5, making it 2x more powerful than the Xbox One X – the last generation’s most technically-impressive gaming hardware. 

The Xbox Series X GPU boasts 12 teraflops of computing performance, with 3328 shaders allocated to 52 compute units. It runs at a locked 1,825GHz, and unlike most GPUs, doesn't fluctuate between speeds. Instead, it delivers the same clock speed regardless of unit temperature or the game you're playing. The processor is a customized AMD Zen 2 CPU, with eight cores and 16 threads. Interestingly, developers can disable simultaneous multithreading (SMT) to reach a peak speed of 3.8GHz, or hit a base speed of 3.6Ghz when it's enabled.

The Xbox Series X supports 8K resolution, and 120Hz refresh rates at 4K, if you have an HDMI 2.1 compliant TV. The Xbox Series X also matches the PS5 by offering DirectX ray-tracing capabilities, and it's equipped with a super-fast internal 1TB NVMe SSD (which can be expanded with a propriety NVMe card), and can be utilized as virtual RAM to lift load times by up to 40x.

Standard RAM will be of the GDDR6 variety, with the Xbox Series X including 16GB – a pleasing upgrade over the Xbox One X's 12GB GDDR5. These specs show a slight lead for the Xbox Series X over the PS5 in terms of raw performance, but so far the gap in real-world performance has been indistinguishable. 

Microsoft is aiming to make latency a thing of the past on Xbox Series X, with forward-thinking features such as Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM), communication improvements to the Xbox controller, and Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) support taking advantage of TVs with HDMI 2.1 support. You can also set the resolution to 1440p if you're gaming on a monitor. 

PS5 vs Xbox Series X

Xbox Series X (Image credit: Microsoft)

Xbox Series X is backward compatible with the Xbox One’s accessories, so there's no need to rush out and buy new pads or a new headset. The Xbox Wireless Controller, while familiar at a glance, includes new features, such as a dedicated share button, plus textured bumpers and triggers. It isn't as innovative as the DualSense controller - it operates exactly how the Xbox One controller did - but it's more accessible than ever, thanks to its refined dimensions and improved ergonomics. 

Existing Xbox One games like Gears 5 have been enhanced to take full advantage of the Xbox Series X's power. And, if you’re a sucker for buying boxed games over making digital purchases, it comes with a physical disc drive. Just like the PS5, it can also play 4K UHD Blu-ray discs.

The Xbox Series X also has some nifty features like Smart Delivery, which will upgrade your game to the "best possible version" when they arrive in the future. So if you bought a game like Cyberpunk 2077 on Xbox One, Xbox One S, or Xbox One X, you were safe in the knowledge that you could play the souped-up version Xbox Series X once it dropped at no additional cost. 

Microsoft's new Xbox also has a feature called Quick Resume. It lets you suspend multiple games at a time, so you can start playing something else and then pick up where you left off in a previous title in a matter of seconds. It's super useful. 

Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077 (2020) (Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

PS5 vs Xbox Series X: games

Screenshot from Fable's cinematic reveal trailer. Fairy looking at a flower

Fable (Xbox Series X) (Image credit: Microsoft)

After major delays, Halo Infinite is now available on the Xbox Series X. Originally planned as a launch title for the new console, when it finally arrived in December 2021, it was worth the wait. We enjoyed its captivating story and its liberating gameplay. Developer 343 Industries has created a campaign that'll resonate with veteran Halo fans and inspire a new generation of players.

At launch, the Xbox Series X offered Dirt 5, Yakuza: Like a Dragon, and Viking-themed Assassin's Creed Valhalla. Further down the line, we can expect more titles, such as Redfall and Starfield – plus many more. Here's the current list of confirmed Xbox Series X games.

A statement of intent if there ever was one, Microsoft later acquired of ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda, announcing similar plans for Activision Blizzard too. This means games such as The Elder Scrolls 6 will likely become Xbox exclusives, and that many games from ZeniMax and Activision Blizzard studios will come to Xbox Game Pass in the near future, like Doom Eternal

Perhaps just as much of a big deal as new games is the fact that Xbox Series X is backward compatible with all existing Xbox platforms. If you have games for the original Xbox, the Xbox 360, and the Xbox One, there’s a good chance they’ll work on Xbox Series X – especially your Xbox One library. 

Not only that, Microsoft is keen to support cross-gen play for a good while after the launch of the Xbox Series X. While that's now dwindling nearly two years in, this does mean the Xbox Series X won't have many platform-specific exclusives driving you to upgrade for now. Still, it's a consumer-friendly, accessible approach and the Series X will still offer the highest quality experience of the devices in the Xbox family. 

Of course, games that haven't been developed by Microsoft's first-party studios could be a different matter – it's up to these studios to decide whether they want to develop their game for both Xbox One and Series X. Even Microsoft's first-party studios have begun moving over to the Series X after nearly two years. 

Godfall screenshot

Godfall (PS5) (Image credit: Gearbox)

As for PS5 games, Astro's Playroom comes pre-installed on every console, and there's enticing exclusives such as Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Demon's Souls. PS5 owners also have Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, Horizon: Forbidden West, and Gran Turismo 7. Final Fantasy 16 is confirmed to be a PS5 exclusive, while a new God of War (2018) sequel, God of War: Ragnarok, is also out.

If you don't want to shell out for a load of new games immediately, the PS5 is backward-compatible. The console supports almost the entirety of PS4's game library and thanks to the revamped PlayStation Plus service, anyone subscribing to Premium tier can access PS1, PS2, and PS3 (via cloud streaming) games, which could fix this issue.

PS5 owners can enjoy a new PS Plus subscriber bonus called the PlayStation Plus Collection. It currently gives PS5 owners free access to 19 of the best-ever PS4 games to download to their new console from day one, including titles like God of War (2018), Uncharted 4, and Bloodborne.

Somewhat differently to Microsoft's cross-gen inclusivity, Sony has emphasized that it still believes in generations, stressing the importance of its new-gen exclusives in making the most of the PS5 capabilities. In a rather sharp U-turn, though, some PS5 exclusives such as Spider-Man Miles Morales and Horizon Forbidden West were made available for PS4, as well as GT7. 

Of course, there's also the matter of game streaming. While Google entered the gaming fray with its Google Stadia game streaming platform (it's now shutting down) along with Amazon's Luna, Microsoft and Sony entered a partnership to share and collaborate on game streaming technologies for the new generation. Exactly how this will play out remains to be seen. 

But Microsoft's Xbox Cloud Gaming streaming service is already out now and is included for free with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscriptions. This allows Xbox owners to play Xbox Game Pass games on their supported Android and iOS devices, as well as PC and via the console itself. EA Play is also now part of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which makes the deal even sweeter than before. 

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

Already offering value for money, adding Xbox Cloud Gaming makes Game Pass and Xbox an even more appealing option for those who like to have platform flexibility.

PS5 vs Xbox Series X: verdict

PS5 vs Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Future)

The PS5 and Xbox Series X are both fantastic devices, but right now, we've been swayed by the PlayStation 5's excellent controller, fun and fresh user interface, and its stronger line-up of exclusive games. But that's just us. The Xbox Series X is still a fantastic console with some excellent titles like Forza Horizon 5, and the similarities between the two consoles mean there isn't a huge gulf between these two. They're also unique in numerous aspects. 

From a design standpoint, the two consoles couldn't be more different. Both are silent in operation, and extremely powerful, but the PS5 is massive in size. The Xbox Series X is smaller, but its boxy shape won't be loved by everyone, particularly when the console is laid horizontally. 

Sony and Microsoft's joint commitment to SSD tech means games load faster than ever before, with boot times often taking seconds instead of minutes. Both consoles also offer fantastic backward compatibility support, though Microsoft's commitment currently spans further, particularly in terms of accessories and previous generations. 

Of course, there's still tribalism among the fans, and so, as ever, first-party gaming content is going to be perhaps more important than it’s ever been. Sony has started strong again in this regard, while the lack of Halo Infinite at launch certainly hurt the Xbox Series X's early appeal. We've seen both companies splash the cash on high-profile studio acquisitions too, in an attempt to offer more exclusive content that might sway gamers who can't decide on either Sony or Microsoft's console. 

Whichever console you decide to purchase, remember that the generation has only just begun - there's plenty more excitement to be had in the years to come and the competition is likely to be fierce throughout.

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