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PlayStation 5 vs Xbox Series X: Console Face-Off

PlayStation 5 vs Xbox Series X
(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

For consoles, it's officially next gen. We have reviewed both the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5. Both have made similar upgrades, jumping to Zen 2 CPUs, RDNA 2-based GPUs and SSD storage. Both support ray tracing and 4K 120 Hz gaming (though not necessarily simultaneously), but there are some major differences when it comes to the game library, design, controllers and more.

There's an argument that you don't need either new console right now, as many games are still coming to current gen systems. But if you can't wait, here's how the two new systems stack up fresh off of our reviews. 

Design

Of the two consoles, the Xbox Series X is the more understated of the two. It's a 5.9 x 5.9 x 11.8 inch (151 x 151 x 301 mm) black rectangle, similar to something like the Corsair One. The obelisk has a USB Type-A port and a disk drive on the front, but is otherwise spartan. It has a 12 x 12 grid of exhaust holes on top with green painted accents that make it look like there's a green circle similar to the original Xbox, which is a subtle design element. But that's as flashy as it gets. 

PlayStation 5 vs Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

In contrast, the PlayStation 5 has a, to put it politely, divisive design. It's the biggest modern game console at 15.4 x 4.1 x 10.2 inches (390 x 104 x 260 mm), towering over the Series X. The white side panels draw attention to the system in your living room. The center of the console is a shiny black plastic that easily attracts fingerprints. 

PlayStation 5 vs Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

The Xbox Series X can be stood vertically on an attached stand, or horizontally… with the same attached stand. There are four small feet on its right side, but the bottom stand doesn't come off. It's permanently attached. Iti's fairly small, though, and not distracting.

The PS5's stand is more complex. To attach it vertically requires screwing it into the system. The stand rotates to reveal a compartment hiding the screw (and where you can store a protective cap covering the screw hole). You can also attach it horizontally to the rear of the system, but with no screw, it doesn't feel as secure and could move slightly if you reach around it to jostle cables.

From a purely aesthetic perspective, the Xbox Series X is the clear winner here, though you'll see below that the PS5's design does enable some other advantages.

Winner: Xbox Series X 

PlayStation 5 vs Xbox Series X Specs 

Both the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5 use tech from AMD, with CPUs based on Zen 2 and GPUs based on RDNA 2. That lets both consoles use hardware ray tracing and a number of other effects. 

Sony PlayStation 5Xbox Series X
CPUCustom Zen 2, 8 core/16 thread, up to 3.5 GHzCustom Zen 2, 8 core/16 thread, up to 3.8 GHz
GPUCustom RDNA 2, 36 CUs up to 2.23 GHz, 10.3 teraflopsCustom RDNA 2, 52 CUs, 1.825GHz, 12 teraflops
RAM16GB GDDR616GB GDDR6
Storage825GB NVMe SSD1TB NVMe SSD
PSU350W (340W on Digital Edition)315W
Optical Drive4K Blu-ray (none on Digital Edition)4K Blu-ray
Wireless802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6)802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5)
Price$499.99 with disc drive, $399.99 all digital$499.99 or $34.99 for 24 months on Xbox All Access

The PS5 has an 8-core/16-thread CPU that clocks up to 3.5 GHz, while the Xbox Series X has the same core and thread counts but goes up to 3.8 GHz.

As for the GPU, the PS5 has 36 compute units and goes up to 2.23 GHz, or 10.3 teraflops. The Xbox Series X has 52 compute units at a slower clock speed of 1.825 GHz, or 12 teraflops.

As of right now, it's hard to say how much of an advantage the Xbox Series X will have with a faster CPU and more compute units, or if the faster GPU clock speeds on the PS5 will give it an advantage in some games. But the games we have played on both systems have run the best they ever have.

Both systems also have SSDs. Sony's drive feels blazingly fast, but it's 825GB, with only 667.2GB free out of the box. The Xbox Series X has a 1TB SSD that ends up with 802GB usable. Microsoft has done more with the SSD functionality by instituting Quick Resume, which lets you suspend and resume games in place.

One place the Xbox Series X falls behind is with 802.11ac Wi-Fi, as compared to the newer Wi-Fi 6, which the PS5 uses.

Winner: Xbox Series X, but only barely. Much will have to do with optimization for the games. 

Power and Noise: PlayStation 5 vs Xbox Series X 

So the big question about the APUs in both of these consoles is how much power they draw. As of our reviews, we didn't have access to multiplatform games that run on both consoles, so we had to go with some flagship titles that take advantage of the system's features.  

Xbox Series X GamesPeak Power
Forza Horizon 4169.2 watts
Gear 5192 watts

PlayStation 5 GamesPeak Power
Spider-Man: Miles Morales225.5 watts
Astro's Playroom224.2 watts

Both PlayStation games that we tried caused the system to draw more power than the Xbox Series X games we played (and Spider-Man: Miles Morales had the same peak wattage for both its performance and fidelity modes).

In that regard, the Series X may be the cheaper console to run.

Sony PlayStation 5Xbox Series X
Sleep4 watts11.7 watts
Idle49.6 watts41.3 watts

In their default power modes, which allow downloads and updates, the PlayStation 5 drew less power than the Series X, and they were close at idle, with the PS5 drawing slightly more. 

PlayStation 5 vs Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

From our sound meter, the Xbox Series X was quieter both at idle and running games than the PS5. The Series X was effectively silent. The PS5 wasn't terribly loud, though our unit's fan did make some high pitched noises intermittently at idle and when sleeping.

Winner: Xbox Series X 

Upgradeability of PlayStation 5 vs Xbox Series X  

While the Xbox Series X is the more compact system, that system is sealed shut. You can, however, add storage to the system with proprietary SSDs from Seagate, currently retailing for $219.99 for 1TB.

The PlayStation 5 has a slot for a standard PCIe 4.0 SSD. You have to take off both side panels and remove a Phillips-head screw, which makes upgrading more like a PC than the Series X. It also allows more choice for capacities and price points, though we do have to wait for the support from a future software update, which is a bit of a bummer. 

PlayStation 5 vs Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

With the ability to take the side panel off comes the option to remove dust from specially designed dust catchers on both sides of the system. Microsoft told Tom's Hardware that "There is not a user accessible way to open/clean the system, which was designed to be very open for air flow, and blowing compressed air through the intake vents will help loosen any dust that has accumulated." 

Winner: PlayStation 5, though largely on potential. 

Controllers on PlayStation 5 vs Xbox Series X 

Microsoft's controller for the Xbox Series X and Series S is iterative. It's basically the Xbox One controller all over again, but that means any muscle memory you have won't need to be retrained. It's a bit smaller, but everything is where you expect it. 

PlayStation 5 vs Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

The Xbox wireless controller also has a new D-Pad, similar to what you see on the Elite Controller. It's a major improvement and is nice and clicky. Additionally, there's now a dedicated share button.

But Sony overhauled its controller completely. While there's less forward compatibility with old controllers, the new controller, the DualSense, feels more next-gen in some cases than the jumps in graphics and loading speeds. It's a bit heavier and bigger, but it's a multisensory experience with tons of potential. 

PlayStation 5 vs Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

The DualSense has haptic feedback, adaptive triggers (which I found to be the best part), a speaker, microphone, light bar and touchpad. In Astro's Playroom, it showed off with sound synced to the action and with detailed rumble that imitated rain, stepping in tar, diving into water, and getting hit from all sides. In Spider-Man: Miles Morales, the triggers felt great while swinging through Manhattan. I truly hope third party developers spend the time to utilize this.

Winner: PlayStation 5 

Game Library of PlayStation 5 vs Xbox Series X 

The winner of this category is a real toss-up, depending on where your priorities lie.

If you value exclusives, the PlayStation 5 is the easy winner right now. It's launching with Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Astro's Playroom, Demon's Souls and Sackboy: A Big Adventure. Bugsnax and Godfall are third party games exclusive to Sony's console (Godfall is also coming to the Epic Store on PC). It's backwards compatible with all but ten PlayStation 4 games, as well. Additionally, Sony has started the PlayStation Plus Collection with popular PS4 games like God of Wari, The Last of Us: Remastered, Fallout 4, Battlefield 1, Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, The Last Guardian, Resident Evil 7 Biohazard and more included in the subscription.

Microsoft doesn't have any exclusives at this launch, and the two majors ones it had planned — Halo Infinite and The Medium — have been delayed into 2021. However, the system is backwards compatible with almost every Xbox game ever, going back to the original console (with the exception of some Kinect games). And some popular Xbox One titles like Forza Horizon 4, Sea of Thieves and Gears 5 are being optimized for the Series X. 

What Xbox does have is Game Pass, Microsoft's subscription service with over 100 games to play, some of which are among the 30 games that are ready for the Series X launch day. So if you're happy playing a back catalog in its best form, there's still plenty to do.

Both systems will ultimately have a substantial third-party library, including Assassin's Creed Valhalla, Watch Dogs: Legion, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War and Cyberpunk 2077.

Microsoft will eventually have exclusives like Halo and Senua's Saga: Hellblade II, but Sony has a reputation for incredible games you can only play on its systems. So this category is a tie, because it all really depends what you prioritize.

Winner: Tie 

RoundSony PlayStation 5Xbox Series X
Design 
Specs 
Power and Noise 
Upgradeability 
Controllers 
Game Library
Total34

PlayStation 5 vs Xbox Series X: Bottom Line 

It's the very beginning of the console generation, and both Xbox and PlayStation are coming out swinging.

The Xbox Series X has superior specs on paper, a more elegant design, is effectively silent and has a big back catalog for Game Pass subscribers.

Sony, with the PlayStation 5, has an innovative controller, a design that, while divisive, will appeal to enthusiasts who want to keep things clean and a game library with more immediate exclusive content to play.

While Microsoft wins the battle of PlayStation 5 vs Xbox Series X by a hair in this count, those who prefer PlayStation Studios titles would still be best off going with the PS5. And frankly, if you have either last-gen system, there's no reason you can't wait to see how the chips fall, as many of the most exciting games will come to the PS4 and Xbox One through at least some of next year.

But both new systems are exciting, and for those who either prefer to play on a console or to augment a PC, both systems have a ton of potential.

  • VforV
    From a purely aesthetic perspective, the Xbox Series X is the clear winner here
    It's not, you know why? Because aesthetics are purely subjective and everyone has their own taste and likes... that is why both should have received an X, that way it would have been a real tie 4-4. Which more closely resembles the average of reality - objectively - regarding the aestetics of these 2 consoles.

    The author confounds his personal subjective likes in aestetics with objective journalism. That, or he's something worse...
    Reply
  • hotaru.hino
    VforV said:
    It's not, you know why? Because aesthetics are purely subjective and everyone has their own taste and likes... that is why both should have received an X, that way it would have been a real tie 4-4. Which more closely resembles the average of reality - objectively - regarding the aestetics of these 2 consoles.

    The author confounds his personal subjective likes in aestetics with objective journalism. That, or he's something worse...
    A review by definition is a subjective piece.
    Reply
  • Murissokah
    From my purely aesthethic perspective, they both suck. One is a black block and the other is too flashy. I prefer the PS5 because it actually fits under my TV, while Xbox would need to be on top of the rack and cause me all sorts of side stares from the missus. A black PS5 would improve things considerably.
    Reply
  • aisalem
    hotaru.hino said:
    A review by definition is a subjective piece.
    Fully agree as that can be also added to upgradability. Right now we know that X-Box have extra dives available while Sony might have them in the future (month from now or a year?). Also no one said Sony approved SSD will be any cheaper and once available XBox might have more drives on offer. And I do prefer to use compressed air on the box than having to unplug things, grab the screwdriver, etc.
    So in my view XBox definitely better in that area.
    Reply
  • atomicWAR
    Murissokah said:
    From my purely aesthethic perspective, they both suck. One is a black block and the other is too flashy. I prefer the PS5 because it actually fits under my TV, while Xbox would need to be on top of the rack and cause me all sorts of side stares from the missus. A black PS5 would improve things considerably.

    I agree the aesthetics suck for both though I find the PS5 several fold worse in appearance. As for using them in my current entertainment center for me it is the opposite. The size of the PS5 means I would at the very least have to change the shelving in my home entertainment center and run the PS5 on its' side because standing upright which is my preferred positioning, the PS5 is too tall to fit. Where as I can put an XBSX in my current setup standing upright (to lay on it's side requires re-shelving as well do to the number of consoles I run on that shelf). So I think the ease of use is going to vary greatly between users depending on the setups.
    Reply
  • nofanneeded
    Sorry Tomshardware , but ignoring that PS5 is the only Console with VR titles and VR hardware is not acceptable ...

    With PSVR and VR games already available , AND PSVR2 rumored to come soon ... I am really puzzled that you did not include this in your comparison.

    Xbox has no plans what so ever to add any VR hardware to their system , nor VR games.

    AstroBot :Rescue Mission on PS4/5 is one of the best VR games ever made ...

    AceCombat 7 PSVR as well ...

    https://www.techradar.com/news/best-playstation-vr-games-2020
    How on earth Tomshardsware ignored VR altogether I have no clue.

    8Z3qwrFFOJwView: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Z3qwrFFOJw

    qrpfDOn64xcView: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrpfDOn64xc
    ha4moWLjLt8View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ha4moWLjLt8


    Spoiler alert : gameplay

    -CshUDofAw4View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CshUDofAw4
    Reply
  • spongiemaster
    hotaru.hino said:
    A review by definition is a subjective piece.
    This isn't a review. It's a comparison, which can be done using only objective metrics.
    Reply
  • okbud
    beware: p.t. does not support on ps5, it was but
    Reply
  • VforV
    hotaru.hino said:
    A review by definition is a subjective piece.
    The more subjective that "review" is the more flawed and skewed it is. Even a review or like in this case a comparisson (even more so), can and should be as objective as possible.

    There is a difference between amateur and professional journalism.
    Reply
  • Mandark
    I’m not worried about it because I’ll have both of them in the house
    Reply