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PS5 vs PS5 Digital Edition: which should you buy?

PS5 vs PS5 Digital Edition: which should you buy?
(Image credit: PlayStation)

You wait ages for a next-generation PlayStation, then two come along at once. Because Sony has not one but two new games consoles ready to debut this winter: the PS5 and PS5 Digital Edition. And, thanks to the recent PS5 price announcement and the first official hands-on reviews, the final pieces of the jigsaw are in place, including the prices of both consoles and both the on-sale and pre-order dates.

The main difference between them? One has a disc drive, and the other doesn't. (You can see this disc drive in Sony's official teardown of the full-fat PS5.) That means the disc-less Digital Edition will only be able to stream games, films, music and TV shows, rather than running them straight off a CD, DVD or Blu-ray. But that's not the only thing to consider when deciding which is best for you.

Here we'll run down all the major factors to take into account to help you decide which console to pre-order... 

PS5 vs PS5 Digital Edition: price

PS5 vs PS5 Digital Edition: which should you buy?

(Image credit: Sony PlayStation)

Sony has finally revealed the price of both the PS5 and PS5 Digital Edition.

The PS5 costs £449 ($499, €499, AU$749) while the PS5 Digital Edition price is £359 ($399, €399, AU$599). Pre-orders at certain retailers started on Thursday 17th September.

As suspected, the disc-less Digital Edition is cheaper than the 'full-fat' version. That's the same approach as Microsoft has taken with the upcoming Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S. After all, if you're getting less functionality, it surely follows that you should pay less, right?

We had assumed that the full-fat PS5 wouldn't cost more than £500 ($500, AU$800). Estimates put the main console price at around £449 ($499, AU$750), with the Digital Edition costing around £100 less: £349 ($399, AU$600). And these were pretty much spot on.

There's talk of Sony cutting its production target by 4 million units due to production issues, but hopefully, this won't happen.

As for the release date, Sony has announced there will be two different on-sale dates depending on territory. Live in the US, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand or South Korea? You can get your hands on a PS5 on the 12th November. However, the rest of the world has to wait until the 19th November.

This gives Microsoft a slight advantage here, as the Xbox Series X will go on sale 10th November.

For reference, the PS4 launched at £349 ($399, AU$599), but that was back in 2013 when that sort of money went a lot further. Asking a little more than that for the version of the PS5 with a built-in 4K Blu-ray player seems reasonable.

So if you want to save a bit of money, the PS5 Digital Edition should be the obvious choice, especially given there are no major performance sacrifices if you opt for the cheaper console.

PS5 vs PS5 Digital Edition: design

PS5 vs PS5 Digital Edition: which should you buy?

(Image credit: PlayStation)

As you can see from the photos, the main difference between the two consoles looks-wise is that one has a disc drive, while the other doesn't. This also allows the Digital Edition to be slightly slimmer towards the base.

It actually helps its design. Both consoles have a sculpted, sci-fi look to them, but without the disc slot blotting its looks, the Digital Edition is actually the sleeker of the two. 

But they both have the same distinctive design elements, namely a high, white-collared shell that's separated from the black body of the unit by finned gaps to aid ventilation. At 39 x 26 x 14cm, the PS5 is Sony biggest ever console and will tower over other consoles when positioned vertically.

You can get a closer look at the PS5 in this hands-on video. And the official teardown gives a good look at the console's innards, including the 4K Blu-ray drive. This is "completely covered with a sheet metal case and mounted with two layers of insulators to reduce drive noise and vibration when the discs spin", according to Yasuhiro Ootori, VP, Mechanical Design Department, Hardware Design Division at Sony Interactive Entertainment.

Sony recently invited a handful of Japanese publications to try out the PS5, including 4gamer, who commented that the PS5 "feels slimmer than the actual size from almost any angle". 

Aesthetically, the PS5's is a striking design that has split opinion. But we like it.

PS5 vs PS5 Digital Edition: specs

PS5 vs PS5 Digital Edition: which should you buy?

(Image credit: Sony PlayStation)

According to Jim Ryan, President & CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment, PS5 and PS5 Digital Edition offer performance parity. In a post on the official PlayStation blog, Ryan noted the consoles share identical power and features, including 4K graphics, ray-tracing support, the same ultra-high-speed SSD and PS5 3D audio – "whichever PS5 you choose, you’ll enjoy the same breathtaking, next-gen gaming experiences".

They also have the same 825GB of storage for games, 8K video support, a frame rate of up to 120fps, and HDR.

Talking of games, you'll be able to transfer most PS4 games to PS5 and in most cases, enjoy free upgrades such as increased frame rates. However, it's worth noting that to do this you'll need to use the PS5's disc drive to transfer the game discs to the next-gen console.

As for HDR, Dolby has already confirmed that the Xbox Series X and S will be the first-ever consoles to support Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos surround sound for gaming, so the ball's now in Sony's court. We're hoping the PS5 will support at least HDR10 and Dolby Vision. There was no mention of HDR support at the September PS5 showcase.

Both could also be pretty special on the audio front, with Sony claiming the PS5 will set a new 'gold standard' in audio. Indeed, the PS5's 3D Audio engine, called Tempest, is said to deliver object-based 3D sound that will allow gamers to "hear individual raindrops". 

And according to Returnal director, Harry Krueger, "in a fast-paced action game with lots of verticality, [3D Audio] can help with the player’s situational awareness, and make it more intuitive for players to pinpoint the locations of nearby enemies or incoming projectiles in the heat of combat".

Otherwise, both consoles feature the same AMD Zen 2-based CPU, the same 16GB GDDR6 / 256-bit memory, and the same 825GB SSD and so forth. According to Japanese games publication Famitsu, which recently went hands-on with the hardware, the PS5 runs extremely quietly and loads games in the "blink of an eye".

That solid state drive could quickly be filled up with games, though. PS4 titles average about 40GB in size, and more advanced PS5 games are only going to get bigger – but an external hard drive should help.

Given we now know the Xbox Series S is less powerful than its Series X sibling – it can only play games at a maximum resolution of 1440p – the PS5 Digital Edition looks like it has the edge in terms of power. It will appeal to those gamers and streamers who are happy to ditch physical game discs but who don't want to sacrifice performance.

PS5 vs PS5 Digital Edition: verdict

Given the only differences between the PS5 and PS5 Digital Edition are the presence of a disc drive and price, which console is right for you will really come down to whether you can live without disc support.

If you want your games console at the heart of your entertainment set up, to frequently double as a DVD/Blu-ray/CD player, you'll likely want the full-fat PS5. If you use your console purely for gaming, however, or have a speedy and robust internet connection for streaming and downloading and can cope with storing games digitally rather than on disc, the Digital Edition could save you a fair bit of money.

PS5 preorders are opening up across the console's launch territories. Here's a quick rundown of what we've found in the UK, US and Australia.

UK:

  • JD Williams – pre-orders live, new stock available periodically
  • Amazon – pre-orders live but currently unavailable
  • Game – pre-orders live but currently unavailable. More stock arriving 25.09
  • Smyths Toys – pre-orders live but currently unavailable
  • Currys PC World – pre-orders live but currently unavailable
  • Argos – pre-orders live but currently unavailable
  • Box.co.uk – register your interest
  • AO.com – back in stock soon
  • Carphonewarehouse – register your interest 
  • CoolShop – no consoles but plenty of P5 games and accessories

US:

  • Amazon – pre-orders live but currently unavailable
  • Best Buy – pre-orders not yet live (online only, not in-store)
  • Target – pre-orders live but currently unavailable
  • Walmart – pre-orders live but currently unavailable
  • Gamestop – pre-orders live but currently unavailable

AU:

  • Rube2k
    There are two missing issues in this article and it’s analysis. One is price of content. Visit the PS4 store and take a look at the price of The Last of Us Part 2 - about £60 today (22.08.2020). On Amazon it’s £41 so after a few games the disc drive will pay for itself.
    Secondly (but kind of related) I can then give the disc to my friend or my nephew and they can play it for free or even pay me £20 - win/win.

    Digital edition should be avoided for these reasons.
    Reply
  • ImNotHamza
    Rube2k said:
    There are two missing issues in this article and it’s analysis. One is price of content. Visit the PS4 store and take a look at the price of The Last of Us Part 2 - about £60 today (22.08.2020). On Amazon it’s £41 so after a few games the disc drive will pay for itself.
    Secondly (but kind of related) I can then give the disc to my friend or my nephew and they can play it for free or even pay me £20 - win/win.

    Digital edition should be avoided for these reasons.
    Well yes, avoid the digital edition if you like having discs.
    Reply
  • HisDudeness
    ImNotHamza said:
    Well yes, avoid the digital edition if you like having discs.

    Avoid the digital edition if you're planning on buying more than 4 games, because in that case it is most likely the more expensive option.
    Reply
  • RedPanda1987
    Avoid the digital edition if you're buying it purely to save money, really. I'm considering it because I like owning digital games. They're a lot more convenient and not always more expensive (other stores sell codes, and there are sales). But yes, it's not likely to end up cheaper, or even as cheap, as buying the disc model and accompanying discs.
    Reply
  • HisDudeness
    RedPanda1987 said:
    Avoid the digital edition if you're buying it purely to save money, really. I'm considering it because I like owning digital games. They're a lot more convenient and not always more expensive (other stores sell codes, and there are sales). But yes, it's not likely to end up cheaper, or even as cheap, as buying the disc model and accompanying discs.

    Why deliberately choose the device with less features, knowing that it will most likely be more expensive in the long run?
    Reply
  • RedPanda1987
    HisDudeness said:
    Why deliberately choose the device with less features, knowing that it will most likely be more expensive in the long run?
    My point is it's only more expensive vs buying discs. If I buy the standard PS5 (which I might, I still haven't decided) then I'll still probably be buying at least 90% of my games digitally because I'll take the convenience over saving money (especially as I rarely bother selling games on when I'm done, so they just take up space and don't always save much money anyway). That situation may not apply to many people (I have no idea) but I'm sure I'm not the only one, so there certainly is a market for the digital edition.
    Reply
  • lacuna
    I used to buy discs for my PS3/PS4 from secondhand shops (CEX etc.) and then trade them in for the next game. I don't really do that anymore because it isn't a huge saving over a digital copy when they are on sale, which is quite frequent. For example, Doom (2016) is currently £12.84 on Amazon but only £4.79 on PS Store

    I also now have a subscription to PS Now which provides me with more than enough to keep occupied. I have a 4tb external drive and with 77 games that is only about half full.

    It is likely that I will get the version with the disc drive though because it isn't vastly more expensive and since I won't be buying it this year the prices are likely to fall anyway.
    Reply