It’s not as clear cut as it seems…
So the PlayStation 5 and Xbox series X had a lot more details released 2 weeks ago, with us covering the Series X in more detail while getting PS5 info in drips during and after their in-depth game developer talk. We’ve also listened to some opinions of other game or tech based websites just to get what other experts think, and now that we’ve done that, we can finally give our thoughts on both consoles as well as which one is seemingly better or more powerful and if it’s even possible to choose a winner right now. S o let’s start with a good-old spec list comparing the two below:
|Categories||PlayStation 5||Xbox Series X|
|Processor||AMD Zen 2 (3.5GHz, eight-core)||AMD Zen 2 (3.8GHz, eight-core)|
|GPU||AMD RDNA 2 (10.28 teraflops, 36CU)||AMD RDNA 2 (12 teraflops, 52CU)|
|Memory||16GB GDDR6||16GB GDDR6|
|Storage||825GB (NVMe SSD)||1TB (NVMe SSD)|
|Optical drive||4K Ultra HD Blu-ray||4K Ultra HD Blu-ray|
|Ports||TBA||Three USB-A 3.0 ports, HDMI (out), optical audio, proprietary memory slot|
|Dimensions (in.)||TBA||5.94 x 5.94 x 11.85|
So let’s start with the obvious thing: The Xbox is more powerful….kind of. In fact, let’s rephrase that statement, the Xbox Series X is more powerful, but the PS5 might be more efficient, which might lead to almost the same level of performance. How? Well, the best comparison we can give (besides the muscle car one in the IGN video below) is smartphones. If we look at iPhones and their Android competitors, performance has always ranged somewhere between largely the same or iPhones even being a generation or so faster, yet on paper we could all easily say that Apple’s devices seem much less powerful tan their Android competitors. For example the iPhone 11 Pro still uses only 4GB of RAM, a figure that Android phones stopped using around 3 years ago , and even last year’s Galaxy S10 Plus used up to three times that in 12GB of RAM. So say if this were a simple spec sheet test, Android phones should while the floor with the iPhone right? Yes, but it’s not just a direct spec sheet comparison, Apple’s A series processors have made for some of the most advanced modern processors in any type of computer these days and then they’ve gone on to tailor those processors to iOS while optimizing iOS for those processors as well. This has led to a performance advantage that in many ways surpasses Android and again has iPhones keeping up with or surpassing their counterparts, and this might be the case when it comes to these new consoles. Right off the bat, the Xbox’s GPU is will run at 12 teraflops with 52 compute units (CU) running at 1.825 GHz each , while the PS5 will offer 10.28 teraflops with 36 CUs running at 2.23GHz instead. A flop itself is essentially a floating point operation which is at the core of operations needed to essentially make a modern game run (we’ll put an explainer video below) and having more flops generally means better performance, yet this is also dependent on some deeper computer science problems that could actually make the performance of these two consoles at around the same ball park. In fact most people are already theorizing this, that while the Xbox is definitely more impressive as far as raw performance seems to be the case, chances are the PlayStation will match it at almost every turn , and there may only be a select few games (likely in-house Microsoft Studios titles) that may show how the Xbox is better, especially when the PS5’s higher clock rate per CU might actually give it an advantage in a lot of third-party developer games.
Then there’s the issue of the storage , which is a little different this generation because for starters, the Xbox series X at the very least gives you a full TB of space (with likely up to a hundred taken up by the OS at most) while the PS5 is coming in at only 825 GB. Now being a storage nut, this had me pissed off too, but there is seemingly a reason for this.
While Microsoft is using a seemingly more standard SSD for their Xbox, Sony has made an incredibly custom one meant specifically for PS5 games. Mark Cerny went into huge developer level detail about this, but essentially the PS5 SSD has been designed with the development of PS5 games in mind, offering advantages such as caching memory , rearranging how game elements are loaded, making games smaller in size but offering better quality, and of course making the games load faster leading to overall better performance . But even with those enhancements, it stings a little that Sony made a smaller drive, especially with games now averaging at 80 to 150 GB of storage. Amusingly enough when it comes to expansion of said storage Sony is taking the more classical route, allowing you to simply expand the PS5’s storage by inserting another drive into the drive bay and making the drive a standardized size, however the company did go at length in stating that due to their specialized design compatible PS5 SSD’s will only release after the PS5’s launch, so buyers will need to be aware of that. As for Microsoft, well their storage solution is for the internal drive is pretty conventional but then their expansion method is well……interesting to say the least. The Series X will be using Seagate based memory expansion cards, essentially really small 1TB SSDs that look around the size of a PS2 memory card (which again, is retro-future tech at it’s best), but it’s unknown if the main drive is replaceable. The new cards are obviously impressive but as this is proprietary tech specifically from Seagate, it’s safe to say everyone should be a little worried about the price. We brought up how USB sticks that worked on the Xbox 360 at first were incredibly overpriced and it’s likely these expansion cards are the same situation, hopefully it’s not as bad as we think.
Then there’s an area Sony seems to specifically be focused on that Microsoft doesn’t really seem to care about: audio. Now I understand what you’re thinking. When most of us think about games, how they look and play tends to come before how they sound. But While both Sony and Microsoft are implementing ray-tracing on their graphics and visuals, Sony wants ray-tracing like realistic 3D audio that will help with games’ sense of presence the same way well edited sound does in movie theatres. It sounds more like a quality of life thing than anything, but if it’s done right it could bring a signature experience to the PlayStation that Sony could use as an edge to differentiate itself , especially when the Xbox Series X looks like , is specced like and will share all of it’s games with PCs.
And finally, there’s backwards compatibility. We’re not going to sugarcoat it here; the Xbox has this in the bag. No question. The PS5 will play most of the top 100 PS4 games at launch, with support for more games expected to come in software updates. It’s an understandable scenario, except Microsoft dealt with this with the Xbox One around three years ago. In fact, the Series X will be able to play not only Xbox One games, but also Xbox 360 and original Xbox games! Now to be fair it won’t be every game ever, but a lot of the popular ones will run, with enhancements for the Xbox as well. This is also an advantage from Microsoft always using a PC-like architecture for the Xbox while Sony tended to shift approaches with each PlayStation generation, and now Microsoft is reaping rewards for that. If you’ve been an Xbox fan for years and still have a collection of games, this is where it will pay off.
But whats about the games?
Well that’s where all this comes to a head isn’t it? As powerful as the PS5 and Xbox Series X may be, people wouldn’t really care about what they can do if there aren’t any amazing new games to play them on. In fact, it’s always the new games of a console generation that make people move on to the new consoles. And this is where the new consoles are going to be interesting as well, because for starters, they’ll run all the old games from last generation. The Xbox Series X has actually been confirmed to have no exclusive titles for at least the first year of its release, with system sellers like even Halo: Infinite being released on Xbox One as well. It’s an interesting move, and one indicative of the future Microsoft is building for itself, where game streaming, multiple console iterations over the years and the bridging of the PC and Xbox ecosystem will lead to a world where you play anywhere , anytime and supposedly with not too much of a care as to what games are exclusive to where. And look, as far as the gaming of the future is concerned, this is definitely the right way to go about it. As for gaming now and the early lead? Well, I don’t see that being the case. Sony won the PS4/Xbox One war by putting out some of the greatest games of the generation and making the exclusive to the PS4. Horizon Zero Dawn, Spiderman, Uncharted: A Thief’s End, God of War. All these games were best sellers and critical darlings, and all of them were only on PS4. And even Nintendo prove this point by having most big switch games be Nintendo exclusives yet the switch is essentially about as powerful as the over a decade old PS3 now. So, exclusives matter, and Sony definitely aims to use them as leverage. While we may not have any official reveals yet almost everyone can be sure that the PS5 will have the likes of a God of War 2 and Horizon Zero Dawn sequel, along with a return to form in Gran Turismo 7 and other upcoming games, making new buyers rush for the PS5 in order to play them. This doesn’t mean that no one will buy the Series X, I mean it’s an amazingly impressive console, but it might mean Sony’s age-old strategy will still give them an early lead.
And then there’s that part most of you were dreading but also waiting for. After all it’s why these consoles are made anyway: money. And right now, neither Sony or Microsoft have shown their cards when it comes to their pricing or pricing strategy. Both consoles were expected to be around USD $500 at launch but people are getting a little hesitant over the Series X as it might be slightly above that , while the PS5 might actually be slightly be lower than that, hence the price cutting approaches in being less powerful and saving on hard drive space. So perhaps it could be a $450 to $550 range, but it’s almost certain that Microsoft doesn’t want to repeat the overpricing mistake it made with the original Xbox One as well so it will likely try and wait for Sony to announce pricing first and try and work out an attack strategy of their own, but in the end price is obviously going to be a factor as well, and in the end all these factors will add to which console you’ll choose.
And thus, there lie the two consoles coming up this year, and pretty much everything they have to offer. It’s a lot to take in, but it basically comes down to this: The Xbox Series X is a beast, but we have yet to see what that beastly power will actually do. While the PS5 can keep up with it, beat it in some cases, and aims to offer better quality of life experiences. None of this of course can be ascertained this early and thus we have yet to see which of these consoles is truly better. We’ll keep you posted on all the updates about the new consoles (starting with what the PS5 will look like) and hopefully help you make the decision of which console will make you lose an arm and a leg.