The PlayStation 5. The Xbox Series X. The next generation of console gaming is upon us. As is our sacred duty, we must now compare the two in a variety of very important scientific categories: Size. Design. Molecular density. Usefulness at a picnic. And of course, the dreaded essay section. Which next generation console reigns supreme? Let’s find out.
First impressions are everything. Before the power goes on and the games are downloaded and we wait for the day one patches, we see the fruits of months of hard work from designers and engineers. A game console is something that sits on our shelves for years, gathering dust and harboring cockroaches until smaller, more sensible models are released.
Xbox Series X: Sometimes the design process can be pretty simple. For the original Xbox, Microsoft made a box shaped like an X. Over the years the company has slowly evolved that design into the Series X, a box with an X on it. One has to admire the simplicity. This dark monolith for ants commands respect, fealty, and perhaps regular offerings of fruit and fresh meat.
PlayStation 5: After decades of PlayStation consoles that look nothing like any sort of station, Sony finally gives us a game console design worth of the starship Enterprise, or at least one of the ships from Babylon 5. If we’re being honest, it’s as if Sony’s engineers attempted to out-prototype those wacky internet kids who mock up their dream PlayStation models every console generation.
Vertical or horizontal, the Xbox Series X is ready to do some serious gaming business. The PS5 is drunk. It thinks it looks cool, but I keep looking over at it, wincing, and shaking my head. Also it makes me crave Oreo tacos, which are not a thing. Also it’s too damn big.
How much should a powerful new video game console cost? Spurious science says the answer is somewhere in the $300 to $500 range.
Xbox Series X: $500
PS5 (with optical disc): $500
When it comes to buying things, the true winners are the money-havers. Note that these results do not take into account the sub-models of the Xbox Series X and PS5.
While evaluating the Xbox Series X and PS5 it’s important we don’t lose sight of both consoles’ optical drive-free counterparts: the smaller, cheaper, less powerful Xbox Series S, and the slightly skinnier digital PS5.
Xbox Series S: It’s small, it’s white, its profile’s pretty tight. For the first time ever in a console launch, customers can opt to spend $200 less than they would for the $500 Xbox Series X for a less powerful version of the hardware. It’s such an iPhone move. While I’ve not had the pleasure of playing with the Series S personally, I am not averse to the idea. So what that it doesn’t do 4K games.
PS5 Without An Optical Drive: This system features the full power of the PS5 without the optical drive for $100 less than the PS5’s $500 asking price. This teaches us that a 4K Blu-ray drive costs around $100, while making us ask ourselves how much we really need such a drive.
As strange as it is to have two console models with such a large power discrepancy at launch, the value proposition of the Xbox Series S is clear, and its $300 pricing makes it a much more attractive option than the missing slit PS5.
Unless you are attempting to build a sturdy, load-bearing wall, the exterior design of a video game console is nowhere as important as what’s on the inside, not including living and/or dead insects.
Xbox Series X: Powered by a custom eight-core AMD Zen 2 CPU, 16GB of GDDR6 memory, and a custom AMD RDNA 2 GPU, the Xbox Series X is on the cutting edge of console gaming technology. Add exciting new super-speedy SSD storage and you’ve got a recipe for one hell of a gaming device.
PS5: Powered by a custom eight-core AMD Zen 2 CPU, 16GB of GDDR6 memory, and a custom AMD RDNA 2 GPU, the PS5 is on the cutting edge of console gaming technology. Add exciting new super-speedy SSD storage and you’ve got a recipe for one hell of a gaming device.
While the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 share a lot of similar components, Microsoft’s machine edges out Sony’s in terms of pure power. The Xbox’s Zen 2 CPU runs at 3.8GHz to the PS5’s 3.5GHz. The PS5 graphics processor sports 10.28 teraflops of power to the Xbox’s 12 teraflops. The Xbox Series X and PS5 have the same amount of memory, but the Xbox accesses its memory much faster with more bandwidth. Sony’s machine is more versatile, adjusting CPU and GPU frequency as needed, but in terms of raw power, Microsoft comes out on top.
“How does my game console taste?” is one of the most important questions a person can ask, as it often leads to console licking, which is the best. Go on, lick it.
Xbox Series X: Tastes like plastic.
PS5: Also tastes like plastic. Weird.
With both plastic consoles tasting strangely of plastic, this particular criteria comes down to mouthfeel, as with many contests in life. While the Xbox Series X does some interesting things with textures, treating the tongue to the pure delight of all the little vent holes, it’s largely uniform. The PS5’s grayish-white wings have a similarly rough plastic feel, but the black bits in the middle are shiny, polished plastic. It’s like a playground for the tongue.
Determining the best-tasting console is easy; which console has the best loading times is a bit more complex. Both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X utilize a combination of incredibly fast solid-state drives and creative data and compression management to speed up game and game asset loading to speeds never-before-seen from a gaming console. Both consoles rely on games specifically optimized to utilize these new technologies in order to fully benefit from them, but older, backward-compatible PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and Xbox games should see some sort of benefit as well.
It’s a bit hard to compare new games, as the games benefiting most from the load time reductions are platform or publisher exclusives. Forza Horizon 4 loads in under 30 seconds now on the Xbox Series X, but that means nothing to a PS5 player. Likewise, new PS5 owners are sure to be impressed by how Insomniac’s Miles Morales transitions from start screen to gorgeous open-world New York City in a few seconds, but Xbox Series X owners can’t play that.
Instead, we have to look at how fast legacy games load. Or, to be more precise, GameSpot has to look at that, while our people nod and take notes. We did test out The Witcher 3 on both the PS5 and Xbox Series X, with the Sony console several seconds faster, but GameSpot tested a bunch more. They loaded a number of older games, including Final Fantasy XV, Red Dead Redemption 2, and Destiny 2, none of which have received next-gen performance patches as of yet. In almost all cases, the Xbox Series X hard drive performed faster than the PS5’s. Sometimes the differences are miniscule. The Xbox Series X makes it to the Batman: Arkham Knight menu one second faster than the PS5. Not a big deal. Other times the gap is bigger, like Monster Hunter: World taking 23 seconds to load on Xbox to the PS5’s 32 seconds.
Both consoles’ loading speeds are impressive, especially with new or newly-enhanced games. The Xbox Series X’s are just slightly more impressive.
This one’s going to be pretty easy, not going to lie. Feel free to skip down to the PlayStation 5 winning part.
Xbox Series X: There are no new, console-exclusive games on the Xbox Series X. There are a couple of next-generation exclusives: Yakuza: Like a Dragon won’t be on PS5 until March. Indie shooter Bright Memory is still on track to make its console debut on Xbox. And Gears Tactics counts, if you’re into that sort of thing. However, the Xbox’s biggest potential system-seller, Halo Infinite, slipped to 2021 earlier this year, while horror exclusive The Medium was pushed to next year just this morning.
PS5: Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales. Also, Bugsnax. And Demon’s Souls.
Oh hey, and there’s that new Sackboy game.
Surprised? I said it right in the lede. One day you’ll be at a picnic with a game console and you’ll thank me for this.
Right off the bat let’s eliminate points for holding down the picnic blanket on a windy day, as that’s something both consoles can do. Also we’ve already covered sitting on either console. The PS5 and Xbox Series X are both equally effective in warding off rabid bears, which is to say not at all (apologies to the families of our test subjects).
Xbox Series X: Our most useful imagined use for an Xbox Series X at a picnic would involve having the console connected to power, preferably while running a demanding game. The heat that rises from the system’s top vents is not enough to cook food, but is certainly enough to keep it warm. Plug the Series X into a long extension cord, fire up a purely hypothetical (until embargo) Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, and you’ve got the most powerful burger and dog warmer this side of an exploding Samsung Galaxy Note 7.
PS5: You’re never lacking serving platters if there’s a PS5 at your picnic. Pry off those side panels and fill them with chips, your favorite dip, macaroni or potato salad, or a delicious, fluffy pile of marshmallowy ambrosia. For a non-food use, stand the console up and let the kids use it as a slide.
Beneath the trees, where nobody sees, they’ll trace some rays, and load games with ease, and that’s the way the PlayStations have their picnic.
The Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 are both incredibly powerful video game playing devices, but what else do they do? Being more powerful than the older one is nice, but what do these consoles bring to the table that’s new, besides faster loading screens?
Xbox Series X: The Xbox Series X does everything an Xbox One X does, only better and faster, but it doesn’t do a lot new. The controllers are slightly redesigned, but overall feel familiar. The games run a bit faster and at higher resolutions, but nothing completely transformative. The closest thing the Series X and S have to a game-changing feature is Quick Resume, literally a game-changing feature that allows players to pause multiple games at the same time, picking up right where they left off upon returning. When it works, it’s amazing, but it’s not exactly a must-have next-generation feature.
PS5: If all the PlayStation 5 had in terms of innovation was the new DualSense controller, with its powerful haptic feedback and triggers capable of providing degrees of resistance against players’ thumbs, that would be enough. I can’t wait to see reactions on the internet once new PS5 owners get their hands on Astro’s Playroom, the free pack-in game built to highlight the new controller tech. I had a smile on my face and a tingling in my hands the entire time I played.
The PlayStation 5 is also doing something new with its dashboard, integrating game tips and challenges into new titles. In supported games players will be able to hit the PlayStation button on their controller to bring up a list of tasks or unattained trophies. In some cases clicking on them will transport the player to exactly the spot in the game they need to complete said challenges or achievements. We’ve not had much experience with this feature during our time with Sony’s review units, but I’m excited to see what comes of it.
The Xbox Series X makes games play better. The PlayStation 5 has the potential to make them feel better.
In these days of always-connected consoles with options for foregoing optical media entirely in favor of downloading games and streaming movies directly from the internet, talking about how games are sold and media is streamed is very important.
Xbox Series X: The Series X uses the same store and media apps as the Xbox One. They’re fine. It can get a little confusing knowing which versions of games you’re looking at now that there is a new Series X layer added, but we’ll figure it out.
PS5: We’re not allowed to talk about any of this yet. I’d explain why, but we’re not allowed to talk about that either.
We’d love to, but we can’t.
How are we on eleven? Science said we’d only have to do five tops, followed by fruit juice and Nutter Butters, dammit. Fine. Let’s talk about backward compatibility, AKA the vast majority of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X launch libraries.
Xbox Series X: Every game that runs on the Xbox One will run on the Xbox Series X, except for Kinect games and face it, if you’re still playing Kinect games the government is probably watching you play them. That includes just about every Xbox One game, plus all of the Xbox 360 and original Xbox games that are playable on the Xbox One via its backward compatibility. That also includes all games on the Xbox Game Pass subscription service. A new Xbox Series X owner can, without regrets, toss their Xbox One in the garbage. Or donate it to a children’s hospital. In fact, forget I mentioned garbage.
PS5: Most PlayStation 4 games can be downloaded and played on the PlayStation 5 at launch. I’ve had no problem downloading and installing the games I was playing on my PS4 before the PS5 arrived, picking up where I left off via cloud saves. I cannot hook up PlayStation VR right now, as I lack the free camera adapter Sony is distributing, but they are playable with that hardware. It’s a nice library of games for a console launch, but it would be much nicer with a nice selection of PlayStation, PS2, and PS3 games to play.
Not only does the Xbox Series X have four generations of playable games at launch, it also has Xbox Game Pass, a relatively inexpensive monthly service that gives subscribers instant access to hundreds of them.
The battle between the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 is just beginning, and by battle I mean friendly scuffle, because who needs console wars anymore. As decades of gaming consoles has proven, two competitive consoles and whatever underpowered but lovable bullshit Nintendo’s put out can exist together in complete harmony. Can anyone predict where the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 will be in five years? Sure, I’ll give it a shot right now.
Xbox Series X: In five years’ time the Xbox Series X will be the tired old man of the Xbox Series series of consoles. Microsoft console gamers will be eagerly awaiting news of the upcoming Xbox Series X2 while playing games on their Xbox Series XYZ consoles, which will be adorable little cubes with HDMI outputs and tiny little Xs on the front.
PS5: In grand PlayStation tradition, Sony will release a smaller, sleeker version of the PS5 hardware that’s only 12 inches tall instead of 15. Fans will call it adorable. I’ll hold off on buying one but cave at the last minute.
Science never loses, so the title of “Best New Console” goes to both science, for being right all the time, and console gamers, who have two shiny new game consoles to play with. Turns out the “Best New Console” was inside us all along.