Sony and Microsoft's next-gen consoles are nearly here. The PS5 and Xbox Series X have been officially unveiled and pre-orders have begun – and that includes their cheaper, disc-less, all-digital counterparts, the PS5 Digital Edition and Xbox Series S. But which of these digital next-gen consoles is the better buy?
Both lack a disc drive and both are quite a bit cheaper than their full-fat siblings. But there are more differences between them. Here you'll find out what they are, and see which console is right for you. Let the games begin.
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- PS5 vs Xbox Series X: the next-gen consoles compared
PS5 Digital Edition vs Xbox Series S: price
New consoles don't come cheap, but Sony and Microsoft have kept the prices lower than feared. And kudos to both for launching a more affordable version of each, too.
The Xbox Series S is the cheaper of the two, costing £249 ($299, AU$499). The PS5 Digital Edition is pricier, at £359 ($399, €399, AU$599). But that's only half the story.
As we'll see, the PS5 Digital Edition has the same power and storage as the full-fat PS5, whereas the Xbox Series S is lower-specced than its pricier sibling.
To make the Series S even more wallet-friendly, Microsoft is offering a monthly repayment plan courtesy of its Xbox All Access subscription service. For the Xbox Series S, you'll pay £20.99 ($24.99, AU$33) a month. That's cheaper than a lot of phone contracts. Sony does not offer a similar monthly repayment option, but you might find that selected retailers set and offer their own payment plans).
Both consoles are in a high-demand and supply is scare. So far, Microsoft has enjoyed a smoother Xbox Series X pre-order experience, with fewer stock shortages than the PS5 pre-orders.
The Xbox Series S goes on sale all over the world on the same day (10th November), while Sony's consoles hit the shelves on 12th November in the US, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Mexico and Canada, and 19th November in the UK and rest of the world.
All in all, the PS5 pre-launch run has been a bit of a mess. Coupled with the fact that the Xbox goes on sale first, we'd hand this round to Microsoft.
**Winner** Xbox Series S
PS5 Digital Edition vs Xbox Series S: specs
The Xbox Series S might be the lesser-powered of the new generation of consoles, but it's still pretty beefy. It has four times the processing power of an Xbox One. That's 4 TFLOPS, stat fans.
It uses an 8-Core AMD Zen 2 CPU working at 3.6GHz (3.4GHz with SMT enabled), along with a 20CU (compute unit) and 1.565GHz GPU. Games run at 1440p at 60 frames per second with support for up to 120fps. Got that?
But the Xbox Series S doesn't run Xbox Series X enhanced versions of older games. Instead, it will make do with beefed-up Xbox One S versions of Xbox One and Xbox 360 games. In other words, the Series S won't run older Xbox titles in 4K, which is something the Xbox Series X allows you to do.
The Xbox Series S also has to make do with a 512GB solid state drive. It will support optional Seagate Storage Expansion Cards but it looks like they won't be cheap – £159 in the UK, or $220 in the US. Ouch.
Audio-wise, it supports Spatial Sound, including Dolby Atmos and will support Dolby Vision HDR through supported streaming apps like Disney+, Vudu and Netflix. Dolby Atmos will be available at launch, but Dolby Vision won't land until 2021.
There's one rather large difference between the Xbox Series S and PS5 Digital Edition: power. While the Series S is lower-specced than its pricier sibling, the PS5 Digital Edition shares the same specs as its bigger brother. All that's different is the lack of a disc drive. And the dimensions.
Just like the full-fat PS5, the Digital Edition offers 4K graphics, ray-tracing support, ultra-high-speed SSD and PS5 3D audio. Or, as Sony's Jim Ryan puts it, "Whichever PS5 you choose, you’ll enjoy the same breathtaking, next-gen gaming experiences." Quite.
Sony has also revealed that the PS5 will come withNetflix, Disney Plus, Apple TV, Spotify, Twitch and YouTube from day one. Amazon Prime Video, MyCanal, Hulu and Peacock will follow. The Apple TV app isn't currently available on Xbox devices but Microsoft is in talks to rectify that ahead of the Series X/S launch.
The PS5 Digital Edition wins the storage wars, too: it comes with an 825GB solid-state hard drive, compared to the Series S' 512GB SSD. Throw in 8K video support, a frame rate of up to 120fps, and HDR and the PS5 Digital Edition looks to be a classy all-rounder.
Sony has claimed the PS5 will set a new 'gold standard' in audio. The PS5's 3D Audio engine, called Tempest, is said to deliver object-based 3D sound that will allow gamers to "hear individual raindrops". Or, more usefully, to more accurately locate enemies or incoming projectiles on sound alone.
Inside is an AMD Zen 2-based CPU, and 16GB GDDR6 / 256-bit memory.
The PS5 Digital Edition has jump on the Xbox Series S in terms of power. Looks like that higher price might be justified after all.
**Winner** PlayStation 5 Digital Edition
PS5 Digital Edition vs Xbox Series S: design and build
The PS5 Digital Edition looks just like the standard PS5, but without a disc drive. That means it can be slightly slimmer towards the base. We like the sculpted, sci-fi looks, especially when they're not blotted by an unsightly disc drive.
With its high, white-collared shell, soft blue lights and finned gaps to aid ventilation, the PS5 Digital Edition is definitely more distinctive than the Xbox Series S. But it's massive, threatening to tower over your set-top box, pot plants, and even some TVs (maybe not that last one, but you get the picture; it's big).
The Xbox Series S is a more modest size. In fact, it's almost 60 percent smaller than the Series X, and could fit inside the Series X. The Series S is the smallest Xbox Microsoft has ever made. Which should make it more portable and easier to store under a TV.
Both consoles offer a slick new user interfaces. Sony recently gave gamers their first look at the PS5 user experience, complete with 4K animation and instant-loading capability. The new Control Center allows users to dip in and out of game levels and video feeds without any lag.
Not to be outdone, Microsoft's already started rolling out a major update to the Xbox user experience. The Home screen promises to load "50% faster" and you'll be welcomed by "refined" animations. The Series S landing page will offer more customisation and will be better integrated with xCloud, Microsoft's cloud gaming service, and popular streaming apps.
Of course, it's not only what's inside that counts. Which design you prefer is very much a matter of personal taste – beauty is in the eye of the beholder, after all – so we'll call this round a draw.
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PS5 Digital Edition vs Xbox Series S: verdict
It's a close one. Both consoles pack powerful engines, both offer access to all the major streaming services, and will run all the biggest games (bar a few console-limited exclusives).
The PS5 Digital Edition just has the edge in terms of raw power and storage, and it's capable of gaming up to 8K. But then, the Xbox Series S is smaller, cheaper, and has the option of a monthly repayment plan.
Console gamers are a dedicated bunch, so chances are Xbox gamers will stick with Microsoft's consoles, while Sony fans will opt for a new PS5. For us? The proof will be in the playing.
See which suits you better: PS5 vs PS5 Digital Edition
Compare Xbox consoles: Xbox Series X vs Series S
Place your order: Xbox Series X pre-orders and price