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- The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X have been on the market for a little over two years.
- Though supply is still limited, both consoles have set sales records and offer a full library of games.
- The Series X is a media powerhouse, but the PS5’s exclusives deliver a more impressive gaming experience.
The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X are the respective flagship video game consoles for Sony and Microsoft; both have helped set company records since their launch in November 2020 and remain difficult to find in stores.
But, despite similar performance and price tags, the PS5 has managed to be more popular with shoppers. Sony recently announced that more than 30 million PS5 consoles have been sold, while Microsoft has reportedly sold about 20 million units between the Xbox Series X and Series S, according to VGChartz.
Sony has driven PS5 sales with blockbuster exclusives like God of War: Ragnarok and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. Meanwhile, Microsoft continues to add value to the Series X with Xbox Game Pass, its Netflix-style gaming subscription. That said, the Series X lacks must-have exclusives since nearly every new Xbox game is also available on Windows and older Xbox One consoles.
Ultimately, each system has its own strengths and weaknesses that might push buyers in one direction or the other. After two years with both consoles and several quality of life updates from Microsoft and Sony, we’ve broken down what each system does best to help you decide which is right for your needs.
The PlayStation 5 offers the best console gaming experience thanks to its next-gen hardware, exclusives, and 4K Blu-ray drive. Note: The PS5 remains sold out at most retailers but stores do offer new stock on occasion.
PS5 and Xbox Series X boast similar performance
In head-to-head comparisons for newly released games, the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X deliver similar performance for graphics and loading times.
In terms of hardware, the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 improve on previous consoles with new solid state drives and enhanced processors. In practice, that means new games need just a fraction of the loading times required on PS4 and Xbox One, and installing games takes significantly less time too.
The new graphics processors are capable of ray tracing, an advanced lighting feature first introduced for PC games. Ray tracing gives games on PS5 and Xbox Series consoles more realistic reflections and lighting based on the in-game environment, creating visuals that are too demanding for older machines.
The new consoles can also improve the overall resolution and frame rate of demanding games originally designed for Xbox One and PS4, like Cyberpunk 2077.
Exclusive PS5 titles are the best showcase for new gaming technology
PS5 boasts a growing list of exclusive titles that aren’t available on Xbox or computers — like God of War: Ragnarok, Gran Turismo 7, Horizon: Forbidden West, Returnal, and Demon’s Souls — and they all serve as great showcases for new gaming tech. Comparing the PS5 remasters of The Last of Us Part I and Spider-Man to their PS4 versions also perfectly demonstrates what’s possible with the newer console.
Spider-Man: Remastered utilizes ray tracing to spread live reflections across the landscapes of New York City, and the PS5’s extra processing power lets the game run at 60 frames per second, twice the frame rate of the PS4 version. Load times that took minutes in PS4’s Spider-Man now take just a few seconds on PS5, allowing developers to replace entire loading screens with a quick fade to black.
Other PS5 exclusives, like Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, employ similar features to eliminate load times and present ray-traced visuals or a smoothly animated 60 frames per second. While a few games on Xbox Series X also demonstrate some of these features, the fact that they’re also designed for the weaker Series S and Xbox One usually limits the upper-levels of their performance.
New Xbox games being available on PC and older consoles makes the Series X feel less important
Microsoft has taken a more inclusive approach with games on Xbox platforms. New Xbox originals, like Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5, are still designed to work on older Xbox One consoles and Windows PCs.
These games still perform at high levels on the Series X, but there are compromises in design that make them feel less advanced when compared to PS5’s top offerings that have been built specifically with the console’s strengths in mind.
You can also get even better performance with these titles on a powerful PC, which makes the Series X feel less essential for a premium gaming experience.
The PS5’s unique features create an added level of immersion
The Xbox Series X also fails to match some of the PS5’s console-specific features. Sony’s exclusives make special use of the PS5’s DualSense controller, which has a built-in speaker and sensitive haptic feedback that’s not available on Xbox.
While these features don’t make a huge difference in gameplay, they do bring an added level of immersion and make playing the PS5 feel like a more distinct experience. The upcoming PlayStation VR2 will further add to the number of unique experiences on the PS5.
Xbox Series X does have other console-exclusive features like quick resume, which stores the exact place you stopped playing and lets you swap between games without lengthy initial loading screens. However, quick resume doesn’t work for every game and mostly speeds up navigation rather than enhancing your gameplay experience.
Xbox Series X has a better subscription service and support for more classic games
Xbox does beat PlayStation when it comes to backwards compatibility, which is a feature that lets you play games from older consoles. Xbox Series X can play games dating back to the original Xbox, which was released in 2001.
PlayStation 5 can play PS4 titles, but games from the PS3 and earlier are more difficult to access. Sony has made dozens of the most popular PS1, PS2, and PSP titles downloadable for PS5, but it hardly compares to the hundreds of games available with the Xbox Series X’s true backwards compatibility.
You can also easily get access to more than 100 new and classic games with an Xbox Game Pass subscription ($10/month), including Microsoft’s latest exclusives. Sony also has a subscription service of its own, called PlayStation Plus, which offers hundreds of games on PS5, but it doesn’t include new Sony day-and-date releases like Microsoft has on Game Pass.
As an added bonus, the Series X will also enhance some older titles with HDR contrast and boost the frame rate of some games to 120 frames per second, creating smoother looking animations and better visuals overall.
PS5 feels like a must-have for hardcore gamers, but the Xbox is a powerhouse for both gaming and media
As media players, the PS5 and Xbox Series X both offer a robust set of features, but the Xbox’s adoption of Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos sound formats make it slightly more appealing as a streaming device.
Xbox offers movies and TV shows for sale via the Microsoft Store, while the PlayStation Store discontinued movie purchases in August 2021. Xbox has also been quicker to adopt new apps and services, like the recently added option to join Discord voice chats directly from the console.
However, while the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X are similar in terms of quality and performance, the PS5’s exclusive games and gameplay-focused features make it more enticing for buyers who want an immersive experience and don’t want to miss major releases.
Xbox Series X succeeds as a powerful media center with access to more than 15 years worth of Xbox games, but the ability to also play the newest Xbox titles on PC and Xbox One make the Series X less of a must-have machine.
Ultimately, if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on the PS5 or Xbox Series X amid the ongoing supply shortage you won’t be disappointed; both systems offer awesome exclusives and an impressive upgrade over the last generation of consoles.