Sony PS5 vs. Microsoft Xbox Series X: Next-gen consoles power up

The two major living-room game console companies, Sony and Microsoft, will be fighting over whatever holiday shopping dollars you have — or at least those that aren’t already earmarked for a Nintendo Switch That’s when we expect both the highly anticipated PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. We already know a bit about the PS5 and new Xbox — a lot more about the Xbox than the PS5 — thanks to deep dives recently offered by the companies but we’re still missing critical facts including their prices, specific release dates and in the case of the PS5, games. And we still don’t know what the PS5 will look like, beyond its logo.

Sony was slated to reveal more about the PS5 during a livestream in early June, but it was bumped due to protests over institutionalized racism and violence against black people in the US. Microsoft held the first of its Xbox 20/20 livestreams in early May to highlight upcoming games.

Complicating the availability situation is the possibility of higher-than-expected prices for the PS5 thanks to ongoing trade disputes and the continuing phone-driven shortage of memory and storage options. Plus there could conceivably be production delays resulting from steps being taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus

This next chapter of the console wars may be especially important. Not because 8K video or ray-traced audio will be must-have features, but because the gaming landscape has become more complicated and fragmented since the last generation of boxes came out. 

In addition to competing with PCs, consoles now face challenges from new hardware-free cloud gaming services such as Google Stadia and Nvidia GeForce Now, as well as Microsoft’s own still-in-beta Project xCloud. To a lesser extent, they also compete for your time with mobile game-subscription services such as Apple Arcade

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The most novel aspects I’ve heard about for the PS5 are related to the controller — still unnamed, but my money’s on DualShock 5, for obvious reasons. Sony has replaced rumble with more sensation-specific haptic feedback and adaptive triggers, which may deliver a much better gaming experience as long as developers opt to support them. Plus, it’s got new speakers and a USB-C connection. The PS5 is jumping to solid-state storage, making it a better match for large game downloads. The only game confirmed for the PS5 right now is Godfall.

On the downside, the PS5 has a relatively small 825GB SSD. Its NVMe SSD expansion slot is standard-ish, but because it needs to fit within specific space, thermal and power requirements, Sony will need to validate it, and we won’t know until some time after launch what we can use or how much it will cost.

Read our ongoing coverage of the PS5.


We at least have an idea of what the Xbox Series X looks like. It resembles a bookshelf speaker rather than the DVD-player-esque Xbox One line. Microsoft has also talked about its controller enhancements, which are more about reducing latency (with its Dynamic Latency Input tech) than tweaking feel and feedback like Sony. Another new feature Microsoft’s touting is Smart Delivery, which precludes you from having to pay to play a game on the Xbox One if you’ve already ponied up for a Series X version, and it will automatically serve up the right version for your box.

As for games, we have a more complete list of ones that are coming, with an idea of what we’ll get around launch time, with some notable ones like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Call of the Sea, Chorus, Cyberpunk 2077, Dirt 5, Halo: Infinite, Hellblade II, Outriders, Scarlet Nexus, The Ascent, Yakuza: Like a Dragon and more. 

Read our ongoing coverage of the Xbox Series X.

While the specs are quite different in places, ultimately we still don’t know how many of them will translate into actual differences in experience. For example, it’s tempting to say that the PS5’s graphics processor is less powerful than the Xbox’s because it’s got fewer compute units and less arithmetic power (as measured by the floating-point operations performance spec, aka TFLOPS). 

But the two platforms have different hardware and software architectures, so you don’t know how the components will affect their respective performance or visual quality, or where tradeoffs will hit hardest. For instance, maybe the Xbox needs more CUs because it offloads a lot more to the GPU, or balances the resources differently between the two.

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No matter how it balances out, though, they’ve both taken a big leap in power over their predecessors. They’re based around roughly similar AMD Zen 2-architecture processors plus AMD Radeon Navi-generation graphics processors with 16GB memory. They both support ray-tracing, decompression acceleration, whizzy new proprietary SSD implementations and a whole lot more. Toss in backwards compatibility with older games (which gain a lift from the faster hardware and technologies like Microsoft’s HDR reconstruction), and all of this adds up to the PS5 and Xbox Series X promising noticeably better visual quality, faster frame rates and generally speedier operation than before.

As always, however, the games drive much of the real interest, and while we finally received a rundown from Microsoft about the biggest titles for the Xbox Series X,  we’ve only heard about a few for the PS5. And price will be key, too, not just for the boxes but for the ancillary add-ons; for instance, the Xbox’s 1TB SSD storage add-on uses a proprietary design, which may make it more expensive than we’d like. Right now, most educated guesses place the price at about $500 for both the Xbox and PS5 — it’s likely they’ll be the same in order to compete with each other. 

Confirmed specifications

PlayStation 5 Xbox Series X
Processor 8-core AMD Ryzen Zen 2-architecture CPU at max 3.5GHz 8-core AMD Ryzen Zen 2-architecture CPU at 3.6 or 3.8GHz
Graphics AMD Navi/RDNA 2-family GPU with 36 CU at 2.23 GHz (10.3 TFLOPS, FP unit unknown) AMD Navi/RDNA 2-family GPU with 52 CU at 1.825GHz (12TFLOPS FP32)
Video memory 16GB GDDR6 with 256-bit interface (448GB/sec) 16GB GDDR6 with 14Gbps 320-bit interface (10GB at 560GB/s allocated to GPU, 6GB at 336GB/s allocated to rest of system with 3.5GB for GPU)
Storage 825GB SSD at 5.5-9GB/sec; NVMe SSD slot; support for USB HDD 1TB NVMe SSD; proprietary 1TB SSD add-on module; USB 3.2 external HDD support
Optical drive Yes, 4K Blu-ray Yes, 4K Blu-ray
Maximum output resolution 8K 8K
Maximum frame rate 4K/120fps 4K/120fps
Audio 3D, accelerated by custom Tempest Engine hardware; for headphones only at launch, supplemented by virtual surround for speaker audio Ray traced
New controller features Haptic feedback, adaptive triggers, USB-C connector Share button, Dynamic Latency Input
VR support Yes, compatible with PSVR headset Unknown
Console streaming Yes (Remote Play) Yes (Console Streaming)
Backwards compatibility PS4 games Xbox One and supported Xbox 360 and Xbox games
Notable launch game(s) Godfall Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Cyberpunk 2077, Halo: Infinite, Rainbow Six Siege, Madden NFL 21, Yakuza: Like a Dragon
Subscription tie-in PS Now Xbox Game Pass
Release date Holiday 2020 Holiday 2020
Price Unknown Unknown