The next generation of console gaming is here and it might be the biggest jump we’ve seen from generation to generation. PC gamers have been enjoying the next-gen performance for quite a while, but console gaming pushes game developers to implement new features and push the boundaries more widely. This generation we have the Xbox Series X from Microsoft and the Sony PlayStation 5.
I personally like console gaming because it’s an all-in-one package and ready to go out of the box. All the games are made for the current generation and you don’t have to worry about specifications or compatibility. Additionally, being able to sit down in front of my TV for a gaming session instead of in front of a computer (where I spend most of my days) is much more appealing to me.
The console wars have never been more tightly contested than now. We’re now at the point where Microsoft and Sony are buying up studios to get console exclusives and try to get an edge up on the competition. If you want to play all the best games, you need to have all the consoles (Nintendo included) because of the exclusives.
I’ve been lucky enough to acquire and spend the last six months with both the Xbox Series X and Sony PlayStation 5. It’s not an easy comparison with a clear winner so I’ve pitted the two against in each other in seven different categories. Read on to see who comes out on top.
Xbox Series X:
8-core 3.8GHz CPU
12 Teraflop 1.825GHz GPU
1TB Internal NVME SSD
1TB Expansion Card (Sold Separately)
4K Blu-Ray Drive
Buy on Amazon
8-core 3.5GHz CPU
10 Teraflop 2.23GHz GPU
825GB Internal NVME SSD
Internal NVME SSD Slot (Drive Sold Separately)
4K Blu-Ray Drive (Optional)
Buy on Amazon
Winner: Xbox Series X
With a faster CPU, GPU, and more internal storage, the Xbox is the clear winner here. The PS5 is no slouch and as of writing this, cross-platform games perform almost identical on both systems.
Some small things the PS5 has over the Xbox are a USB-C port and an internal SSD expansion slot.
The Xbox Series X is a square-shaped obelisk that could be mistaken for a scale-model of a refrigerator. All the heat exits out the top through a green accented grate. With a matte black finish all the way around, it really disappears into your home. It’s not small, but it’s solid and packed with components and cooling. It would be best compared to a cereal box in terms of height size. This may be the first Xbox that stands up to calling it a box.
The PlayStation 5 is massive and futuristic looking. Matte white sides flare up over the glossy black core. Fans spin heat out through the black core fins that are backlit with multi-color LEDs. It looks best standing vertically but the included stand also supports horizontal orientation. I wasn’t expecting the PS5 to be as large as it is and honestly, I have no where to put it in my home theater area. It’s too tall and too deep to fit in any compartment I have.
Winner: Xbox Series X
Fitting into my “entertainment center” is a big plus. The PS5 is so massive it has to sit on top of my furniture under the tv and sticks out like a sore thumb. That being said the Xbox is a very PC-like simple console. It looks great for what it is and the simple design goes a long way. I applaud Sony for taking a risk on the design on the PS5 and if it wasn’t so large, I would prefer its aesthetic.
Mostly unchanged between last generation and the Series X, the Xbox controller’s minor updates take a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach. Microsoft added a much-welcomed new button (that Sony had first), a dedicated share button for screenshots and video clips. Other than that a few comfort tweaks and design refinements makes this minor revised controller still great.
Some consider the DualShock 4 from the PlayStation 4 to be one of the best controller designs ever. I tend to agree, but Sony said “hold my beer”. The new DualSense controller brings new and exciting features to an already great input device. Adaptive trigger buttons allow the system to give you resistance when pressing them down. Haptic motors (similar to those found in iPhones and Nintendo Switch JoyCons) give you force feedback in various points on your hands. Both of those new features are revolutionary for console gaming and can really only be realized first hand.
Winner: PlayStation 5
New features, style improvements, and two-tone paint job make the PS5 DualSense controller the clear winner. I wasn’t sold on it until I actually tried it. I’m looking forward to game developers implementing these new tactile features.
The Xbox comes with a 1 terabyte (TB) SSD that gives you about 802 gigabytes (GB) of useable space for games, saves, and media. You can quickly and easily expand this with a 1TB memory card add-on, for $219! This gives you an additional 920GB of storage. Both of those storage methods can play Series X games no problem. A third option is an external USB hard drive or SSD. I have a 1TB SSD connected via USB that gives me 931.5GB more of space. The drawback is that can only be used for non-Series X games. Not too bad if you have a huge digital library.
The PS5 comes with an 825GB SSD that gives you about 662GB of useable space for games, saves, and media. If you want to expand this, you need to purchase a very specific type of computer SSD chip and install it inside your PS5. Depending on the size SSD you buy, you could get up to 4TB of additional internal space. Like the Xbox, PS5 games can be played on either internal storage options. Similarly, you can connect a USB drive to get more storage for older games. Sony touts that their built-in SSD is faster, but we’ve yet to see any games that take full advantage of this.
Winner: Xbox Series X
In the “next-generation” games are going to be huge. Both console makers have a digital version of their latest hardware so that means gamers will need even more storage. Xbox offers more storage out of the box and provides a simple way to expand that. They partnered with Seagate and have a branded memory card you can shove into the back of your Xbox instantly giving you double the storage. PS5’s option is slightly more complicated and can give you a headache trying to find the right SSD. If you’re not tech savvy, installing the SSD module may seem frightening.
Microsoft has slowly been changing the Xbox UI for the better over the last few years. Prior to the release of the Series X, Microsoft updated the UI of the outgoing generation machines to be very similar to what we would see on the next generation. This reduced the wow factor when booting up your Series X for the first time. I went from the Xbox One X to the Series X and didn’t really notice much change. It was comfortable and what I was used to, it appears Microsoft was going for familiarity.
Each generation Sony gives a little more refining to their UI. The Cross Media Bar (XMB) has been a staple in the Linux based UI for quite some time. At times on the PS3 and PS4 the XMB got a little confusing, cluttered, and cumbersome to navigate. On the PS5, Sony gives us a new clean interface that is perfect for the 4K displays the machine was built for. All the stuff you don’t need is off the screen and everything else is within a few clicks. My favorite thing about the new PlayStation UI is the fluidness and how everything is snappy.
Winner: PlayStation 5
Sony knocked it out of the park on this one. It’s so clean and friendly sometimes I wake it up just to move through the UI. The old PlayStation store was slow and took a ton of time to get things done. The new store is blended right into the main UI I often forget that I’m in the store. While better than Xbox and very clean, they do have room for improvement. I hope they keep it tidy but add some important missing features.
Xbox Game Pass. That’s the major difference here. Almost all the Xbox exclusives are available, day one, through Game Pass at no additional cost. While Game Pass is a monthly subscription, it might be the best bang for you buck from all the subscription services out there. As of writing this I have 25 Series X games installed and 58 available to me.
Sony put the cart before the horse this time around. I think we can all say they won the last generation, mostly because of their exclusive games. They launched the PS5, presumably early to combat the Xbox, with very little PS5 games. I honestly can’t even name a launch title. They felt so bad that they gave all PS5 owners a bundle of older, really good, games to give them something to play. We’ll see how this generation plays out as studios get back to working on games, but so far, it’s not looking good for Sony. As of writing this I have six PS5 games installed and 11 available to me in my library.
Winner: Xbox Series X
Getting the latest console on launch day usually means getting to try out all the new games and see what the new horsepower is all about. Unfortunately, not this time around. Having Xbox Game Pass makes the Xbox so much more enjoyable and I spend 90% of my gaming on Xbox at this point. Over the last six months, I’ve been able to play the following games through Game Pass the day they were released, without dropping a dime: Minecraft Dungeons, MLB 21: The Show (a Sony developed game), Microsoft Flight Simulator, and many more. While the major titles are available on both platforms (e.g. Call of Duty, NBA 2K, Assassins Creed, etc.) Xbox Series X offers more to play at a smaller barrier to entry.
I’m relatively new to the Xbox ecosystem so I don’t have a vast digital backlog and zero physical Xbox discs to try, but that being said, I have yet to encounter a game that’s not playable on the Series X. I may be wrong, but everything available in the store, all the way back to the OG Xbox, is playable on the Series X. Someone might have some old stuff that’s not playable, but who cares. Every last gen game is playable and that’s where it really counts. Do you have a Call of Duty Ghosts Xbox One disc laying around? Fire it in the Series X and it will play just like the day you got it. Some games will fare even better. Microsoft is adding support for older games to have things like HDR and higher FPS which is incredible.
PlayStation’s backward compatibility story was mixed and underreported before launch which left a lot of people surmising that it just wasn’t going to work. To the surprise of many, it’s a lot like Xbox. Almost any old game can be played on PS5, if it was playable on PS4. Also like Xbox, anything in the store can be downloaded and played on your new console. I also have yet to run into a game that cannot be played on my PS5.
This was hard to award a winner because if you’re upgrading from a PS4/Xbox One to the latest generation, everything you were able to play before can be still played. I think backward compatibility will be a a talking point of the past, very soon. In the age of reboots, remasters, and remakes, we find ourselves with plenty to play and nostalgia to look forward to.
If you’re keeping score at home, the Xbox Series X wins by a score of 5-3. It’s a close battle and I think it’s worth saying they are both really great.
If someone were to ask me which console they should get, regardless of what they had before, my answer would immediately be Xbox Series X with Xbox Game Pass. It’s changed the way I game and overall I’ve spent less money and played more games.
Also, on paper, the Xbox Series X is better performance-wise, but if you care about things like the controller, UI, and your digital library, you may find yourself wanting a PlayStation.
My favorite game to play on Xbox Series X (as of publishing): MLB 21: The Show
My favorite game to play on PlayStation 5 (as of publishing): Ghost of Tsushima
Reach out to me on social media and let me know your thoughts and experiences with the next-generation.
Ready to buy a next-gen console? Read about getting the best out of it with a new TV.