I am fed up. Fed up with people shouting from the mountain tops about how the PlayStation 5 is going to crush the Xbox Series X. I am also fed up with people who shout about how the Series X is going to destroy the PS5. There are so many unknowns at this time about each system that it’s almost impossible to figure out the “better” buy right now, but that isn’t stopping people from making guesses. But what do we really know that could help us figure out which console, the PlayStation 5 vs the Xbox Series X, will come out the winner at the end of the year and beyond?
Let’s get this party started with the brain of the system, the CPU. Just like the current systems, both Sony and Microsoft have partnered with AMD to develop custom 8 core CPUs based on AMD’s Zen 2 architecture. We haven’t been fed any other info thus far but, given the power of AMD desktop (and upcoming notebook) CPUs, we can count on a strong performance with efficient power consumption keeping the heat levels down.
Winner: Until we get more specifications on each system’s CPU, this one is up in the air.
Just like the CPU, both systems will be running custom AMD graphics chips. There are plenty of buzzwords being used by both camps – 8k resolution, 60 frames per second, ray tracing – you know, everything that makes a gamer open their wallets. Before we get too excited let’s have a reality check. Right off the bat, realize the words ‘up to’ are spoken very quietly before either side starts spewing out all their claims. Do you know who else had those words lingering in their marketing hype recently? That’s right, Google used them before the Stadia launch and we all know how well that is going.
There have been some benchmark leaks recently that are being eyed as the first indicators of what kind of power both consoles will be packing. They include plenty of tech jargon for those interested but what we are going to focus on is each console’s expected teraflops, which is an all-around measurement of the graphical power of a unit. Based on the unconfirmed leaks, the Xbox Series X will edge out the PS5 with a rumored 12 TFLOPS vs 9.2 TFLOPS. For comparison, the PS4 Pro (4.2 TFLOPS) and Xbox One X (6 TFLOPS) are able to hit 60 fps even at 4k resolution.
What does this really mean for the average user? It means we can expect solid 60+ fps when playing at 1080p and 4k, but we’ll have to wait to see how the systems run with ray tracing slowing things down. Even a top of the line Nvidia RTX 2080ti (14 TFLOPS) struggles to keep its head above the 60fps watermark with ray tracing on and that’s a $1200 behemoth. I won’t even mention 8k since anyone with enough cash and desire to own a TV of that quality is obviously picking up both consoles anyway.
Winner: Technically the Xbox Series X will be more powerful graphically but both systems should give performance that is much improved over what console gamers have today.
Both Microsoft and Sony already announced their new systems will come with a solid-state drive (SSD) packed inside and, for most gamers, that should be the most exciting hardware announcement for the next generation consoles. Without any moving parts, an SSD is much faster than the hard drives in the PS4 and Xbox One. When talking about load times, switching from a mechanical hard drive to an SSD will take us from the current ‘grab a drink and sandwich’ load times to just enough time to check if you got any texts from your friends.
Not much is known about the size of the included SSD (expect 1TB as the minimum considering the current size of game installs), but there have been some other interesting specs tossed out to the crowd. Sony has announced they will be using PCIe 4.0 interface, meaning they should have top tier performance and with Microsoft playing coy on the subject the PS5 may get a small advantage here.
Winner: If the PS5 delivers on the rumored performance of if its proprietary drive it should be the winner here, even if it’s only by a second here and there.
There is an image of the PS5 floating around that shows off a unique looking case and some people may jump on board because it is futuristic looking. For me, the simple black monolith look that has been confirmed for the Series X is a much better choice. Remember, this thing is going to be sitting below your TV alongside a cable/DirectTV box, another console or two, and possibly a DVD player or audio receiver, so do you really want it to stand out? I don’t. The Series X case will blend in and still get the job done, assuming it will offer the cooling needed to keep everything running.
Winner: Xbox Series X. Although the PS5 is breaking from the norm the utilitarian design of the Xbox Series X will fit in with the rest of your electronic equipment.
If there is one area where the phrase, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” comes to mind, it’s the world of controllers. Of course, there will be a new controller coming out for both consoles but we are talking about evolutionary changes as opposed to something revolutionary. The Dualshock 5 will be getting haptic feedback with a better feel than the current rumble motors of the Dualshock 4 along with adaptive triggers providing variable resistance.
The Xbox Series X is taking a similar incremental approach. The shape will be familiar to anyone with a current Xbox One controller, but it will be a smidge smaller to accommodate a wider user base. There’s also a revamped d-pad similar to that of the Xbox Elite 2 controller, as well as the addition of a Share button to facilitate the sharing of screenshots and game clips.
Another exciting tidbit is both the PS5 and Series X will be compatible with the current-gen controllers. You can never have too many controllers for when friends come over to play, and it’ll be nice not having to pony up for a full set of controllers on day one.
Winner: You’re probably getting tired of hearing it, but we have another tie.
Both camps have confirmed the new consoles will have backward compatibility. Early on Microsoft jumped on the backwards compatibility train, announcing that the Series X would be able to play games from ALL prior Xbox generations. In fact, Microsoft is committed to ensuring new games will work on both the Xbox One and the Series X for at least a couple of years.
Sony has also confirmed that their system will be backwards compatible. At first, it appeared that would mean PS4 games but newer information suggests at least PS3 and maybe even PS3 games will be on tap.
Winner: Ladies and gents, we have a tie. For anyone who enjoys going back into their old library of games instead of picking up the latest and greatest titles, it seems both Microsoft and Sony are prepared to give you what you want.
Microsoft stated the Series X will not have any exclusive titles at launch whereas Sony has already locked up Gearbox’s looter-slasher Godfall. Although that alone might be enough to give the PS5 a win in this category, I think it’s a reason to boycott the PS5 altogether (even though I will hypocritically ignore that statement when the system comes out). One of the biggest pain points for gamers over the last couple of years has been cross-play. We can assume that not everyone is going to buy one system or the other, so exclusives ARE BAD! No matter which system you plan to buy there is a good chance at least one of your friends is buying the other. So even if you pick up the PS5 for its exclusive titles you still won’t be able to play with Jerry because he still bleeds green.
Winner: The PS5 gets the nod when it comes to platform exclusives, but does anyone other than Sony benefit from the absence of cross-play that comes with exclusives?
Game Subscription Service
Both PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold cost $9.99/mo (cheaper if you take advantage of multi-month subs) and are needed to access to online multiplayer so regardless of which system you go with and come with free games (2 with PSPlus, 4 with Live Gold) per month, and although they are hit and miss titles, it’s a safe bet to assume you’ll at least recoup the price of the subscription at some point during a year’s subscription.
With the basic subscriptions being a pretty close draw we will have to look at the other options each console has available, PlayStation Now and Xbox GamePass:
- Game Library – At $9.99 per month, both services grant you access to more games than you could probably play in a year, saving you a ton of money versus buying each game separately. It’s a great way to finally play those games you couldn’t justify laying down $60 for when they were new.
- New Releases – Both services focus on older titles but the GamePass also offers up some newer titles as well. The GamePass also offers all first-party titles on the service on day one, meaning titles like Halo Infinite will be there for you at launch. For me, Gears 5 and The Outer Worlds were both must-play titles that were available on GamePass, virtually making the service free for the year.
- Cost – As mentioned above, both services cost $9.99 per month. Once again the GamePass finds a way to be a better value ala the GamePass Ultimate. Ultimate combines Xbox Live Gold, Xbox GamePass, and the GamePass for PC for just $14.99 a month.
- Streaming – For those who have powerful enough internet, PlayStation Now does include a streaming service, giving you the ability to play an expanded library on your PS4 or PC. Xbox does have its streaming service, xCloud, in beta right now. xCloud is currently free but odds are it will have a subscription price once it releases and it’s unknown if it will be bundled into any of the current Xbox offerings.
Winner: Overall, the Xbox GamePass is currently the better service. Unless Sony does something magical with its subscription service when the new consoles come out it is expected the Xbox GamePass will continue to be the better choice.
At this point choosing which system is top on your list is really more often about choosing sides than it is choosing the better device. Gamers can be a very loyal bunch, so the pre-release build-up to a console launch is similar to presidential debates, with trash talking and name calling aplenty. There is no doubt Sony won the current console battle, at least in terms of overall console sales, but cloud gaming and the Xbox GamePass could be the one-two punch that ignites a Rocky-esque comeback for Microsoft.
Winner: With a larger install base currently, if every gamer buys based on their current system then the PS5 will sell more units.
It’s really too early to call one way or the other which system will win the next-gen war. Xbox chief Phil Spencer is already declaring the war with Sony over and is instead naming Amazon and Google their real competitors on the Cloud gaming front. Whether this is just posturing to downplay the importance of the upcoming console launch or not remains to be seen. With Sony waiting to see where the Series X pricing falls before finalizing their pricing is enough to show they don’t share the same feelings. No matter how you look at it, I am sure there will be some over-hyped reveals coming soon, and I for one can’t wait to see how everything falls into place.
How about you? Have you already decided which console you’re going to buy? Are you even picking up a new console this holiday season or are you waiting until the smoke clears and a winner is chosen to spend your hard-earned cash?