The 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.
- Find the best deals on the PS5
- All the latest Xbox Series X deals
- PS5 vs Xbox Series X: the flagship 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. But then 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 has mentioned monthly repayment options for the PS5, but it seems these will be set and offered by retailers rather than dictated by Sony.)
Microsoft has also had a far smoother Xbox Series X pre-order experience, with far fewer stock shortages than the PS5 pre-orders. The Xbox Series S goes on sale all over the world on the same day, too (10th November), while Sony's consoles hit the shelves on either 12th or 19th November, depending on which country you're in.
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.
That means you get the same 4K graphics, ray-tracing support, ultra-high-speed SSD and PS5 3D audio as on the full-fat PS5. Or, as Sony's Jim Ryan puts it, "Whichever PS5 you choose, you’ll enjoy the same breathtaking, next-gen gaming experiences." Quite.
The Digital Edition should have 825GB of storage for games (more than the Xbox Series S), 8K video support, frame rate of up to 120fps, and HDR.
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 the edge in terms of power over the Xbox Series S. 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.
Its cooling vent is on the side, and looks like a speaker grille.
How the consoles look 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 look like absolute beasts when it comes to power, they'll have 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 power, 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