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 blistering loading times, stunning 4K visuals, 3D sound and a slew of must-have launch titles.
There's not long to wait. Both consoles will launch in November, and – in some countries – just a couple of days apart. So, as the next console war heats up, and pre-orders open, let's compare the two machines and see which comes out on top.
We finally have full details of pricing and release dates for both next-gen consoles, as well as how the PS5 will stack up against the Xbox Series X, what's under each console's hood, and each machine's unique features.
So, which should you buy first? And should you splash out on the full PS5 or Xbox Series X, or save money and go for the cheaper, disc-less versions?
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: best TVs for Xbox, Nintendo and PlayStation
- PS5 Digital Edition vs Xbox Series S: which all-digital console is better?
PS5 vs Xbox Series X: release date
Microsoft has the jump on Sony in terms of release date. The Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S will go on sale on 10th November. It's a global launch, so everyone in the world can get their console at the same time, providing it's sold in their territory, that is. The PS5 goes on sale two days later, on 12th November. But that's only in US, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea. Everyone outside of those countries will have to wait a week longer, until 19th November. First blood, Microsoft.
Xbox pre-orders are open but not across all retailers, and most sellers are already out of stock. Check out Xbox pre-order page here for the latest news and tips on pre-orders. PS5 pre-orders are also live and also selling out fast. Most retailers have sold their allocation of PS5s but you might find a few PS5 Digital Editions knocking around. Check our PS5 pre-order page here for more info.
In our opinion, Microsoft has the upper hand in this area. One launch date for every global market sends a much clearer message, as there's only one date to remember, not two. Sony's pre-orders have been far from plain sailing so far as well. Pre-orders went live on certain sites but then the pages went down – even retail behemoth Amazon wasn't spared. And some retailers are yet to have pre-orders active, which again, sends consumers a mixed message.
The consoles' launch dates were much debated since the machines were officially confirmed all those months ago. The big takeaway is that both consoles will launch before Black Friday, one of the biggest sales days of the year. But because they're so new, you can expect deals on both to be thin on the ground.
Bundles, however, could be a different matter...
The bad news? Both will miss Amazon Prime Day. Usually this takes place in July, but this year it was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic. It's now rumoured to happen in October.
PS5 vs Xbox Series X: price
Microsoft was first to reveal the price of its next-gen console. The Xbox Series X will cost £449 ($499, AU$749) and the Series S £249 ($299, AU$499).
Despite matching its pricing for one console and exceeding it for the other, Sony could have the upper hand in this area. Its full-fat PlayStation 5 will cost the same £449 ($499, €499, AU$749) as Microsoft's Xbox Series X, while the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition will cost £359 ($399, €399, AU$599) – slightly more than the Xbox Series S.
So how could Sony have the upper hand? Its PS5 Digital Edition has the same specs (read: power and storage) as the full-fat disc drive version, whereas the Xbox Series S has less power than its bigger brother. A smart move? Or is a less powerful console at a cheaper price the wiser strategy? Only time will tell.
The disc drive-equipped version of each console isn't cheap, but these prices are in keeping with past games machines. The Xbox One launched in 2013 for the same $499 as the Series X, while the PS4 was slightly cheaper at $399. Still, considering that smartphones now regularly cost £1000/$1000, Sony and Microsoft's new machines look positively cheap.
- 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 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. We think the PS5 looks very sci-fi. Its curvaceous lines and glossy white finish contrast with 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.
Mind you, the PS5 is the largest console in modern gaming history, according to The Verge. It measures up at 10.4 x 39 x 26cm (hwd) when laid horizontally. That's bigger not only than the new Xbox but also the 60GB PS3, Xbox One and original Xbox. It's an absolute beast.
There's a 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, if that will help it fit into your setup. The PS5 also has air vents running around the inner edge of the console, highlighted by slim blue neon lights that follow the vents along.
PS5 vs Xbox Series X: specs
So, cards on the table time. Which console has the most power?
The first thing to note is that both machines will be exceptionally powerful and capable of native 4K gaming.
The PlayStation 5 will ship with an AMD Ryzen chip — a 3.5GHz 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.
The Xbox Series X will sport a similar 'brain': an eight-core 3.6GHz chip based on the AMD Zen 2, capable of supporting frame rates of up to 120 fps at 4K (as will the PS5).
Both consoles will support variable refresh rates (VRR), which should help with smoothness and motion handling.
As for which console is the more powerful, that's a matter for debate. On paper, the Xbox Series X is a little more powerful than the PS5, and has more storage (1TB compared to the PS5's 825GB, though both are expandable). But of course specs only tell half the story: it really comes down to how games perform, and there's a lot more to that than pure specs.
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. And as previously reported, the Home screen promises to load 50% faster than the current Xbox One X.
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 off 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.
As you'd expect, the Xbox Series S not quite as powerful as it's pricier sibling, with 4 teraflops of GPU compared to 12TF. That's not to say the Series S is underpowered though. Microsoft claims it will still "deliver four times the processing power of an Xbox One console."
The Series S can run games with a 1440p resolution at up to 120 frames-per-second, and totes 4K upscaling for games, 4K media playback and support for DirectX raytracing.
PlayStation's rival to the Series S, the disc drive-less PlayStation 5 Digital Edition, is no less powerful than the disc drive-equipped PS5. In the words of Jim Ryan, President & CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment, "whichever PS5 you choose, you’ll enjoy the same breathtaking, next-gen gaming experiences."
Whether you choose the PS5 or Xbox Series X, you should see a huge leap forward in performance and graphics.
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. The Series S has 512GB of internal storage – half that of the 1TB SSD Series X.
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).
PS5 vs Xbox Series X: backwards compatibility
Both Sony and Microsoft have said they will support backwards compatibility to a reasonable 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.
Jim Ryan went further than this, telling The Washington Post that the PS5 will be "99 percent" compatible with PS4 games. Those with a PlayStation Plus subscription will be able to download and play a classic collection of PS4 games, including God of War, The Last Of Us: Remastered, and Unchartered 4: A Thief's End.
Any 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.
However, it's been confirmed that the Xbox Series S won't run Xbox Series X enhanced versions of older games. Instead, the Series S will make do with gussied up Xbox One S versions of Xbox One and Xbox 360 games.
“Xbox Series S was designed to be the most affordable next generation console and play next-generation games at 1440P at 60fps,” a Microsoft spokesperson told games site VGC.
On the upside, 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, Sony has confirmed the PS5 DualSense controller will cost €69/$69.
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 and both are capable of playing 4K Blu-rays.
But in a coup for Microsoft, Dolby has confirmed that both the Series X and S will be the first-ever games consoles to support both Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos surround sound in games.
"Current Xbox One consoles support HDR10 and Dolby Vision for apps, but gaming support is limited to basic HDR10. Xbox Series X and Series S will be the first consoles to support the Dolby Vision HDR format with dynamic metadata for gaming," reads Dolby's website.
However, Dolby Vision HDR won't be supported at launch. Instead, fans will have to wait until 2021.
As for video quality, both machines are capable of displaying 4K at up to 120fps 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.
That could be carried over into the next generation of consoles. We know that the Series X and S will both support the immersive surround sound Dolby Atmos audio format at launch.
So far, Dolby has confirmed that open-world action adventure Cyberpunk 2077, Call of Duty: Warzone, Ori, F1 2020 and Gears 5 will all be Atmos-ready for gaming, although presumably all of the games that already support Atmos via the One X and One S (Forza Horizon 4, for example) will also play in Atmos through the new consoles.
Sony has taken a different path and is pushing its own 3D audio format. 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. In other words, expect Sony's 360 Reality Audio format. 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.
To enjoy 3D Audio, you'll need headphones. Fortunately, the Pulse 3D wireless headset will be available at launch to fulfil Sony's audio ambitions. It will cost $99/€99 (UK pricing is still to be confirmed).
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."
How will the PS5 with 3D Audio stack up against the Series X with Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Windows Sonic? We'll bring you full reviews as soon we get out hands on both consoles.
Of course, even if Sony does tick the Dolby box, you’ll still need a compatible AV receiver and Dolby Atmos speaker package, or Dolby Atmos Soundbar, to truly appreciate the extra dimension of height that Dolby Atmos adds.
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 aforementioned Pulse 3D Wireless headset (£90/$100), an HD camera (€59/$59), a charging station that can charge two PS5 controllers at once (€29/$29), and a Media Remote (€29/$29).
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. 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 there's been no mention of a PSVR 2.0 to launch 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 instalment 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.
Sadly, Halo Infinite developer 343 Industries recently announced that the game would be delayed until 2021 due to multiple factors including "ongoing COVID-related impacts."
To sweeten that rather bitter pill, Microsoft has said that there are "over 100 optimized for Xbox Series X titles" planned for this year and that the next-gen console will launch with thousands of games 'spanning four generations of Xbox'.
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.
Sony has confirmed the PS5 first-party launch line-up. It comprises five games (or six if you count the Spider-Man game twice). These are: Astro’s Playroom, Demon’s Souls, Destruction All Stars, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Mile Morales Ultimate Edition, and Sackboy A Big Adventure.
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), 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. And there's a sequel to God of War coming to the PS5 in 2021.
You can find the full list of confirmed PS5 titles here.
More PS5 hands-on gameplay has been confirmed for 4th October (via gamesradar). A slew of Japanese YouTubers will go hands on with some of the top games. Sony hasn't confirmed the titles but expect it to include Spider Man: Miles Morales.
YouTube channel RedGamingTech has tipped PS1 classic Metal Gear Solid to get a full remake for the PS5.
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 4K games.
Which machine is better? That really depends on whether you've built up a PlayStation or Xbox library. So far, it seems that Sony's PS5 could offer a more impressive range of features and accessories, while Microsoft's £250 ($299) all-digital Xbox could be the best bet for gamers on a budget.
Either way, November 2020 is going to be interesting as all the hype reaches fever pitch.