The next generation of games consoles won’t be with us until 2021 at the earliest. In the meantime, we can entertain ourselves with Fortnite (like everyone else), but that doesn’t stop us wanting to keep up with all the latest news and announcements as to what precisely the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5 will have to offer. And while many gamers may stay loyal to the platform they currently use, they will still be curious as to how these next-gen models compare with each other. So what are the key differences between the two consoles that we know about so far?
You’ve got the look
Let’s consider external appearances first, as here the differences are incredibly striking. The Xbox Series X is a tall black monolith like something out of 2001: A Space Odyssey. The very minimal, hard-edged design looks more like a PC than a console or, to put it less kindly, a large brick. It has an airflow grid on top for efficient heat management.
The PS5 could not be more different, and in terms of science fiction film design, it’s more like something from the original Star Wars or even Logan’s Run. Tall, narrow, sleek, and curvy, the black interior seems wrapped in a white cloak with a horned collar. It comes in two models, one that loads discs and one that is all-digital.
Both designs are very distinctive, and chances are you’ll either love them or hate them.
Both consoles use Zen 2 CPU architecture and Navi-based RDNA 2 GPU technology from AMD and are likely to be extremely impressive compared to anything currently on the market. Both will support ray tracing and 120 FPS, as well as 4k and potentially 8k resolution. In terms of graphic processing power, the Xbox does slightly better at 12.18 teraflops compared to the PS5’s 10.28 teraflops, but whether that will make much difference in practice remains to be seen.
The Xbox also has more storage, offering 1TB SSD compared to 825 GB SSD on the PS5. Both use ultra-fast NVMe technology, but the way games are going, you’ll likely need external storage in both cases, and it’s here that differences may be more critical. The Xbox has backup from a proprietary 1TB SSD by Seagate and insists that players won’t experience any loss of speed between the two drives. Other external drives can be used to install games or transfer data, but Series X games will need to be loaded onto either the internal or Seagate drive before they can be played. Compatible Xbox One games can be played off any external drive.
The PS5 includes an internal m.2 expansion slot so that it can be used with most current m.2 NVMe drives. But they will need to be at least as fast as the internal SSD, as PS5 games are designed to handle the maximum capacity of the drive. Backwards compatible PS4 games can be played off any external drive.
A deciding factor for many floating voters will be which games are available on which platforms. Of course, many big games will be released for both, and those that have been announced so far include Resident Evil: Village, Hitman III, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, Dirt 5, NBA 2K21 and Control. Grand Theft Auto Online will be free for PS5 users in its first three months, and an expanded, enhanced version of Grand Theft Auto V will be released alongside the PS5 in 2021.
PS5 exclusives will include some big-name sequels such as Gran Turismo 7, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, and the Demon’s Souls remake. Over at Xbox, the big draw is Halo Infinite, which will launch with the Series X and will also come in an Xbox One version. Microsoft has also brought a large number of developers into its first-party Xbox Game Studios, increasing the number of exclusives they’ll be able to offer. These new game releases may also be available for Microsoft PCs and Xbox One, but they won’t be on the PlayStation.
This is likely to be another big issue, and a significant selling point for the Series X is that all current Xbox One, Xbox 360 and original Xbox games will play on the Series X. Furthermore, all downloaded first-party Xbox games (and selected third-party ones) will use smart delivery so that a single purchase gives you two versions of the game, optimized for Series X and Xbox One, respectively. Your hardware will automatically load the correct edition.
With the PS5, the details are vaguer: Sony has said that it “believes an overwhelming majority” of PS4 games will play on PS5 but has refrained from making any definite promises.
More differences will undoubtedly come to light as we get closer to the release date for both consoles. At present, however, it is clear that both will provide top-end performance well beyond anything currently available. It is tough to say whether one is definitively better than the other, and this will likely remain the case. Which console you choose will be a matter of individual preference.