Should you pre-order a PS5 or an Xbox Series X? It's a tough one. Both Sony and Microsoft's next-generation consoles promise blazing-fast performance, stunning 8K visuals and a slew of must-have launch titles.
The good news is, there's plenty of time to make up your mind as both the PS5 and the Xbox Series X won't hit the shops until Christmas 2020. As the next console war starts to heat up, which machine will be the best option for you?
We already know plenty of details about how the PS5 and the Xbox Series X both shape up, including how they look, what's under the hood, how the controllers will change and which games you'll want to get your mitts on first.
We also know that both Sony and Microsoft plan to offer cut-price, all-digital (disc-less) consoles to tempt gamers on a tighter budget.
Read on as the PS5 and the Xbox Series X go head-to-head in this detailed comparison of the rival machines...
- PS5 vs PS5 Digital Edition: which should you buy?
- Best gaming TVs 2020: best TVs for Xbox, Nintendo and PlayStation
PS5 vs Xbox Series X: release date
The first big question is which next-gen console will launch first? Will it be the Xbox Series X or PS5?
Microsoft originally announced the Xbox Series X would launch 'Holiday 2020' before some Xbox product pages in a handful of regions suggested the official launch would be 'Thanksgiving 2020' (Thursday 26th November), just in time for Black Friday and the Christmas shopping season. Microsoft has since retracted this information and reverted back to its original stance of 'Holiday 2020'.
In June 2020, the release date of the PS5 may have leaked online. According to a Twitter user who goes by the handle @IronManPS5, Japan will see the PS5 on 14th November. North America and Europe will have to wait until 20th November.
We finally got to see the PS5 console in the flesh at a recent PlayStation live stream event, where the covers were taken off not one but two new versions, including a disc-less PS5 Digital Edition.
Talking of all-digital models, Microsoft is said to be unveiling its own disc-less Xbox Series S in August. Microsoft hasn't officially confirmed the existence of the Series S (also codenamed Lockhart) yet, but it's been all-but confirmed through this leak of the official controller.
PS5 vs Xbox Series X: price
As yet, there are no confirmed prices for either the PS5 or the Xbox Series X, only speculation.
In January 2020, an anonymous leaker claimed the PS5 would cost £449 in the UK and $499 in the US. For context, the first PlayStation and PS2 launched at £299/$299, the PS3 was priced at £425/$499 and the PS4 debuted at £350/$399.
And in June 2020, Twitter user @IronManPS5 claimed to have the scoop on pricing. In a series of tweets, the user appeared to confirm that the PS5 price for the full-fat console (the one with the disc drive) will be £449 ($499, about AU$799) while the digital-only console will apparently retail for £349 ($399, about AU$599).
In the same tweets, as above, @IronManPS5 claimed that the PS5's DualSense controller would launch with a price of £55 ($60, about AU$99), while the HD camera would reportedly go for £55 ($60, about AU$100). The dedicated Pulse 3D Wireless headset could set you back £129 ($159, about AU$229), making it the most expensive PS5 accessory.
As for the Xbox Series X, it's not a million miles away from the PS5 in terms of spec so we'd expect it to be competitively priced around the £449/$499 mark.
Too pricey? Microsoft is also rumoured to be launching an all-digital version of the Series X codenamed Lockhart. This appears to have been confirmed by a reference to "Lockhart" in a Microsoft technical document leaked in June 2020.
A recent leak predicts that the supposed disc-less, all-digital Series X console cost as little as $200, and a full-price Series X could cost from $400. The Series X is understood to feature a 4K disc drive, be more powerful (12 teraflops of GPU vs 4 teraflops of GPU) and have twice the RAM of the Xbox Series S (13.5GB vs 7.5GB).
Whether there's any truth to that eye-catching $200 price tag – or rumours that Microsoft plans to undercut Sony's disc-less PS5 Digital Edition – remains to be seen.
- PS5 price and pre-orders: how much will the PlayStation 5 cost?
- Xbox Series X price and pre-orders: how much will the new Xbox cost?
PS5 vs Xbox Series X: design
Thanks to Sony's recent PS5 console reveal, we now know Christmas 2020 will see the launch of two strikingly different-looking consoles.
The design of the Xbox Series X was confirmed by Microsoft back in 2019. It looks not too dissimilar to a matte black tower PC – a clear departure from the current Xbox One – that can be stood vertically or laid horizontally. It measures 30.1 x 15.1 x 15.1cm (hwd), weighs 4.45kg and works with a 130mm fan that draws cool air up through vents in the bottom and sends hot air out through outlets at the top. Unlike previous generations of Xbox, there are no HDMI inputs and no optical-output.
Sony unveiled the PS5 logo at CES 2020, and we saw mock-up after mock-up come and go, but PlayStation finally took the covers off not just one but two new PS5 consoles on the 11th June 2020. From the pictures we've seen, the PS5 looks very sci-fi. Its curvaceous lines and glossy white finish contrast the Xbox's sharp, geometric silhouette and stealthy matte black paint.
Some have even said that the PS5's white shell has the look of a high-collared catsuit, with an opening that plunges down to creates a 'V' that could denote that this is the fifth-generation PlayStation.
As for dimensions, the PS5 is taller than the Xbox Series X, but also slimmer, even with the disc drive. The PlayStation 5 Digital Edition is slimmer still.
And note the slight bump on the standard PS5 compared to the Digital Edition, which is down to the presence of a 4K Blu-ray drive. Both consoles can sit upright or be positioned horizontally. The PS5 appears to have air vents running around the inner edge of the console, highlighted by slim blue neon lights that follow the vents along.
Finally, it seems that the PS5 will be getting a revamped dashboard to match its bold new exterior. In a LinkedIn thread, Sony’s VP of UX design at PlayStation, Matt MacLaurin, promised a “100 percent overhaul of the PS4 UI and some very different new concepts”. MacLaurin hinted the new dash looks “more subtle than flashy."
In contrast, Microsoft may not change much about its less-than-popular Xbox dashboard. According to Forbes, Microsoft will make a few minor tweaks to the current Xbox user interface ahead of the Series X launch.
PS5 vs Xbox Series X: specs
Microsoft and Sony have pretty much put their cards on the table, and it looks like both machines will be exceptionally powerful.
The PlayStation 5 will ship with an AMD Ryzen chip — a 7nm chip on Zen 2 architecture — and a GPU from the Radeon Navi-family. It will also come with SSD storage. The promise from this trio of hardware is fast load times, large bandwidth capabilities and oodles of graphics grunt. Whether that includes true, native 8K gaming remains to be seen – but the PS5 is certainly capable of it.
We also know, for example, that PS5 game Gran Turismo 7 will not be in 8K. The game's creator, Kazunori Yamauchi, said: "I think, display resolution-wise, 4K resolution is enough."
The Xbox Series X will sport a similar 'brain': a chip based on the AMD Zen 2 capable of supporting 8K gaming with frame rates of up to 120 fps. We also know it will support variable refresh rates (VRR), which should help with smoothness and motion handling. As for which console is the more powerful, Xbox says that the Series X will be 'four times more powerful than the Xbox One', and have twice the graphics processing power of the Xbox One X – Microsoft's most powerful console to date.
In a February 2020 blog on Xbox Wire, Spencer added a bit more meat to console's bones, promising the new advancements in CPU, GPU and storage technology will "give you frictionless access to new stories and new creators constantly". He also confirmed developers would have 12 TFLOPS (Teraflops) of GPU performance at their disposal.
Both machines will feature ray-tracing, the tech found in expensive gaming PCs. It calculates the exact path of each ray of light as it passes through transparent objects or bounces of reflective surfaces to give super-realistic lighting.
And both machines will use solid-state hard drives and GDDR6 RAM memory. This killer combo will drastically reduce, or even eliminate, loading times. According to Sony, loading up a game on the PS5 will be 'ten times faster' than on the PS4. Your games will start instantly and you won't have to endure lengthy pauses between scenes or when dipping in and out of maps. It's been revealed the PS5 will sport an expandable 825GB SSD hard drive at launch, while the Xbox Series X's is 1TB and also expandable.
So, whether you choose the PS5 or Xbox Series X, you should see a huge leap forward in performance and graphics. Keep a close eye on our PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X news pages for the latest leaks, updates and official specs.
PS5 vs Xbox Series X: storage
Microsoft has confirmed that the Xbox Series X will come with a 1TB internal SSD and that it will be expandable through 1TB expansion packs that have been designed in conjunction with storage specialist Seagate. These dense little units are very much like classic-look memory cards. There was no comment on whether there would be versions of the console with different amounts of internal storage.
Prolific PlayStation leaker @PSErebus tweeted in late November 2019 that the PS5 would come with 2TB of SSD (solid-state) storage. Sadly, that turned out to be untrue.
We now know that the PS5 will come with an internal 825GB SSD unit at launch. Thankfully, Sony says PS5 owners will be able to expand their console's storage by:
1. Expanding the internal SSD storage, though it's not yet clear whether doing so would involve replacing the existing 825GB SSD or adding an extra one
2. Connecting an external hard drive to the PS5 via USB, but it seems likely that such a drive won't be fast enough to handle PS5 games. Instead, you could use it to store PS4 games or PS5 game progress.
The PlayStation is no stranger to slot-in, slot-out external hardware and it would likely free up valuable extra space for games libraries (in addition to physical PS5 games, which will come on 100GB discs).
With rumours of a £200/$200 'all-digital' Xbox Series X, and confirmation of a PS5 Digital Edition, these more affordable versions of the main consoles could help tempt gamers on a budget. All we've been told is that pricing and additional details for the console will be announced "at a later date".
PS5 vs Xbox Series X: backwards compatibility
Both Sony and Microsoft have said they will support backwards compatibility to some degree, meaning the PS5 and Xbox Series X will be able to play some older titles from previous console generations.
Sony has called the backward compatibility of the PS5"incredibly powerful". While the PS5 won't play every PS4 title, PlayStation's Hideaki Nishino stated in a blog that "we believe that the overwhelming majority of the 4,000+ PS4 titles will be playable on PS5". Put simply, PS4 owners won't have to start their games collections from scratch.
Better still, those PS4 games that do make it onto the PS5 will do so with "higher or more stable frame rates and potentially higher resolutions".
Sony has been tight-lipped about the details but one online report suggests that the PlayStation 5 will be able to act as an emulator for PS3, PS2 and even original PlayStation games, but there's been no official confirmation of this. Fingers crossed.
Finally, it's also worth mentioning that Sony has told PlayStation 4 game developers that any new titles submitted for certification after 13th July must also be compatible with PlayStation 5 (thanks, Eurogamer).
As for the Xbox Series X, Microsoft has said it will deliver "four generations of content, better than you've ever seen them before". In other words, the Series X could accommodate Xbox One, Xbox 360 and even original Xbox titles.
Indeed, Microsoft has already added backwards compatibility to over 600 Xbox and Xbox 360 games for its current consoles, which are expected to become available to Series X owners at launch. Many titles have had their graphics polished up, too.
The Xbox Series X will also employ a feature called Smart Delivery, which will allow you to buy a game once and be sure that it will be optimised for whatever Xbox you want to play it on. Microsoft has said that all Xbox Game Studio titles will offer Smart Delivery, but it will be up to other game developers to use it for titles that launch on Xbox One first and come to Xbox Series X at a later date.
Finally, Microsoft has confirmed that older controllers and accessories will be compatible with the Xbox Series X (and, in most cases, vice-versa).
PS5 vs Xbox Series X: controller
We now know both consoles will be getting new controllers. Sony revealed its new pad, called the PS5 DualSense, back in April.
It's a sleek and modern-looking design with a two-tone finish. Haptics have replaced the rumble technology to deliver more realistic feedback and more nuanced sensations. The L2 and R2 triggers are now adaptive so players can feel more tension carrying out certain actions.
There's a built-in microphone array, which means players can chat to their friends without the need for a gaming headset, and the 'Share' button has been replaced by a new 'Create' button. It's to "create epic gameplay content to share with the world" according to Sony.
To fit these new components, the style and shape of the new controller has been tweaked. The angle of the hand triggers has been changed and the grip updated too The aim is to make the DualSense still feel light and small. The light bar has also shifted to the sides of the touchpad from its position on top of the DualShock 4, which is a rather pleasing aesthetic if nothing else.
There's a headset jack on the controller for connecting a gaming headset, but PS5 owners will also have the option of buying the optional Sony Pulse 3D Wireless Headset which supports 3D audio and includes dual noise-cancelling microphones .
As for price, Twitter user @IronManPS5 has tipped the PS5 DualSense to cost £55 ($60, about AU$99).
The Xbox Series X controller also has some new tricks up its sleeve. It features a slightly evolved physical design with more rounded bumpers and triggers with more textured and ergonomic grips.
The D-pad's hybrid design involves a deeper “dish” for your thumb to rest in, and the angles are “finely tuned to give you a good amount of leverage with minimal movement”. The idea is to create a device that works better with a larger variety of hands.
There's also a USB-C charger, indicating a built-in, rechargeable battery and we know that the controller will be compatible with Xbox One consoles. Haptic feedback, lower latency and a 'share' button for sending screenshots to friends are also all expected.
Microsoft has also confirmed the presence of Dynamic Latency Input (DLI), a new feature that "synchronises input immediately with what is displayed". It should result in a more responsive and precise gaming experience.
Lastly, Xbox has also confirmed that the Series X controller can be used with the Xbox One, and vice-versa. It'll even work on Windows PCs and remember multiple devices. All of your current headsets and other Xbox One-compatible accessories will work on the Series X too.
PS5 vs Xbox Series X: video quality
The good news is that both the PS5 and Xbox Series X will boast optical disc drives. Sony has already confirmed that the PS5 will play 4K Blu-rays and, while Microsoft hasn't said the same of the Xbox Series X, we expect it to be a formality.
As for video quality, both machines are capable of screening 4K at 60fps and feature similar chipsets, so both camps should deliver impressive performance. However, we'll be testing the picture quality of both at the earliest opportunity. It should be an interesting comparison.
Xbox has confirmed that it will include an Ultra High-Speed HDMI cable in the box to connect to your display. It should come in particularly handy if your display has HDMI 2.1 inputs and can take advantage of the Xbox's features such as high frame rates up to 120fps and Variable Refresh Rate (VRR).
Other new Xbox Series X features include the ability for the Xbox Series X to use machine-learning to add HDR to legacy titles that didn’t support it as standard at launch.
PS5 vs Xbox Series X: sound quality
As it stands today Microsoft has a significant edge over Sony when it comes to gaming audio. The current Xbox One consoles features Dolby Atmos and DTS:X for gaming, while Sony's PS4 consoles are limited to standard surround sound.
Will the launch of the PS5 level the playing field? We know the Xbox Series X, supports Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Windows Sonic but we don't know the specifics of the PS5 apart from the confirmation it will support 3D audio. Given it includes a 4K Blu-ray drive, we'd be surprised (and disappointed) if Sony's console didn't tick the Dolby and DTS boxes.
PlayStation system architect Mark Cerny claims the PS5 will become the 'gold standard' in gaming audio, and that a new 3D audio engine will deliver more immersive sound without extra hardware. Does that mean the PS5 will be compatible with Sony's 360 Reality Audio format? Quite possibly. We've already seen how keen Sony is to get 360 into a host of different products, including even the Sony Vision-S car at CES 2020.
As for 3D Audio, it seems likely that to enjoy it you'll need headphones. Fortunately, the Pulse 3D wireless headset will be available at launch to fulfil Sony's audio ambitions. We think it unlikely that the Pulse 3D wireless headset will come bundled with the PS5 (either the full-fat 4K version or the Digital Edition). Instead, Twitter user IronManPS5 has claimed it'll be available separately for £129 / $159 (about AU$229).
Not to be outdone, Microsoft has teamed up with Bang & Olufsen to create a "high end audio proposition" for the Xbox Series X. Details have yet to be announced but it seems that B&O has been enlisted to inject its formidable audio engineering expertise into the next-gen console.
The Danish audio brand tweeted the news (along with this tantalising picture) on 9th June, promising 'Designed for Xbox' functionalities, which "will ensure seamless connectivity and an enhanced user experience."
Currently, Xbox console owners must download the Dolby app if they want to hear Atmos through their home cinema systems. You need to pay an additional fee if you want to experience it through headphones. With any luck, the Xbox Series X will offer all this functionality straight out of the box.
PS5 vs Xbox Series X: accessories
Both next-gen consoles will come with all-new controllers. But for those with funds to spare, there'll be plenty of official (and unofficial) accessories to splurge on.
In the case of the PS5, there's the Pulse 3D Wireless headset, said to cost £129 ($159, about AU$229), a HD camera, reported to cost £55 ($60/ about AU$100) and a charging station for the PS5 controllers, capable of charging two at once. That's rumoured to cost £25 ($30, about AU$45).
Reddit user Barron-Blade, who claims to work for a major games retailer in Canada, has also tipped a slew of third-party PS5 accessories to launch on 3rd November. These include a magnetic controller dock, a magnetic play and charge cable, a PS5 stand, a USB-C glow cable and a controller grip kit.
One such third-party to already show its hand is the platform-agnostic Audeze Penrose wireless gaming headsets which have PS5 and Xbox Series X in mind. Both headsets feature the US firm's highly regarded 100mm planar magnetic drivers, in addition to a detachable 'broadcast quality' boom mic for chat and streaming.
As for virtual reality, PlayStation lead architect Mark Cerny has pointed to compatibility with the PSVR virtual reality headset, though he didn't mention whether a PSVR 2.0 would be launched alongside the PS5.
Meanwhile, Microsoft is yet to unveil any accessories and Xbox head Phil Spencer has said the console is unlikely to support virtual reality at launch. Any potential VR headset would likely be based on Window's Mixed Reality platform and could potentially arrive at a later date.
PS5 vs Xbox Series X: games
With the PS5 and the Xbox Series X offering a slew of mouth-watering launch titles, choosing which console deserves a place under your TV could be tricky.
Microsoft recently showed 'gameplay' footage from a number of new third-party titles including Assassin's Creed: Valhalla. At the company's Xbox games showcase, it revealed 22 console launch exclusives and five new games made for the console by Microsoft’s own Xbox Game Studios. All of these games will also be available through the Xbox Game Pass.
Highlights include the next installment of Halo, Halo: Infinite, Destiny 2: Beyond Light, State of Decay 3, Crossfire X, Tetris Effect and Forza Motorsport. Xbox even teased a reboot of the much-loved Fable franchise.
Microsoft has also shown off an exclusive title called Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2, the sequel to Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice. If the photo-realistic graphics are anything to go by, it should be a visual treat.
At the same event as the PS5 unveiling, Sony treated us to engine footage and gameplay footage from a number of key PS5 titles that will be launching at the end of 2020 and beyond. These include Gran Turismo 7 (due 2021), Spider-Man: Miles Morales (due Holiday 2020), Resident Evil 8: Village (2021), Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart (release date tbc) and Oddworld: Soulstorm (release date tbc). PS5 will come with a standalone version of Grand Theft Auto Online which you'll be able to claim and play at launch, provided you have a Playstation Plus membership. This will be followed in 2021 by an enhanced version of Grand Theft Auto V, which will also be available for Xbox Series X. You can find the full list of confirmed PS5 titles here.
Ubisoft's hotly-anticipated Watch Dogs: Legion was originally due to launch on the PS4 in Spring 2020 but is now being held back for the launch of the PS5. The same goes for Gods and Monsters. Ubisoft's Rainbow Six Quarantine has also been delayed and is expected to be confirmed for the PS5 soon.
Feudal Japanese adventure Ghost of Tsushima is also being tipped as a headline PS5 exclusive, while Bluepoint Studios – best known for remastering classics games such as Metal Gear Solid – is developing an untitled PS5 game.
A slew of two-console PS4 and PS5 games are in the pipeline, too. Hideo Kojima's Death Stranding, for example, has already launched on the PS4 but is expected to grace the PS5.
Talking of PS4, those hoping to see a futuristic Keanu Reeves in Cyberpunk 2077 will have to wait until September. "Night City is massive - full of stories, content and places to visit, but due to the sheer scale and complexity of it all, we need more time to finish playtesting, fixing and polishing," said developer CD Projekt Red. The hotly-anticipated role-player, first announced in 2012, has been designed with the PS4 and Xbox One in mind but is expected to make the leap to PS5 and Series X.
So, plenty of choice in both camps. Still torn? The new Call of Duty and FIFA titles are expected to hit both consoles. Whichever way you go, expect a small and long-overdue price rise on games. Both the PS5 and Xbox Series X are expected to retail at $70 (£65/AU$110) as standard.
PS5 vs Xbox Series X: verdict
The console war between Sony and Microsoft is set to reach new heights in 2020 with the launch of new high-powered hardware. Both consoles will launch with a epic line-up of games and, if you're lucky enough to own an 8K TV, we're hoping they both serve up a truly epic 8K gaming experience.
Which machine is better? That really depends on whether you've built up a PlayStation or Xbox library, as well as the final feature counts. So far, it seems that Sony's PS5 could offer a more impressive range of features and accessories, while Microsoft's all-digital Xbox, rumoured to cost as little as $200, could be the best bet for gamers on a budget.
That said, until Sony and Microsoft reveal all and we're sat down testing the pair side by side, we'll stay firmly on the fence.
Either way, Q4 2020 is going to be interesting as all the hype reaches fever pitch.