Which Next-Gen Console Should You Buy?

The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X headline the ninth generation of video game consoles. Both have a lot to offer, but which is right for you?

Let’s compare the PS5 and Xbox Series X in several key areas to help you decide which one you should buy.

PS5 vs. Xbox Series X: Pricing

The Xbox Series X and standard model of the PlayStation 5 both cost $500, though the PlayStation 5 is also available in the Digital Edition for $400. The only difference with that console is that it lacks a disc drive, so you’re limited to digital games.

If you don’t want to pay upfront, Microsoft offers the Xbox All Access program. This allows you to pay $35 per month for an Xbox Series X, plus a subscription to Game Pass Ultimate, over the course of 24 months.

Note that Microsoft also offers the Xbox Series S, a smaller and less powerful console that lacks a disc drive. Since that system is different, we won’t consider it here. See our comparison of the Xbox Series X and Series S if you’d like more info on it.

In the months following the launch of the Series X and PS5, both systems have been notoriously difficult to find, due to supply shortages and other reasons. Don’t pay scalpers for a new console—wait until they are available at their true price.

Winner: Tie. The price is the same and both offer an alternative option for price flexibility.

PS5 vs. Xbox Series X: Specs

Both the PS5 and Xbox Series X are powerful machines. They support 4K gaming, and can run games at 60FPS (or higher).

The consoles both include an SSD for faster loading than prior generations, but these come in different sizes. The PS5 has a custom 825GB SSD (667GB usable), while the Series X has a 1TB SSD (802GB usable).

On paper, the Xbox Series X is slightly more powerful. However, from early real-life tests, both systems are about equal in performance. If you’re interested in a detailed breakdown, see our comparison of the Xbox Series X and PS5’s technical specs.

Winner: Xbox Series X, by a hair. We’ll see how this plays out in the future.

PS5 vs. Xbox Series X: Design

The PS5 and Series X differ greatly in design. The PS5 is a giant console, standing tall next to any other system. It features a curved design, which might make it difficult to fit into your entertainment center.

Save PS5 games on USB drives

The Xbox Series X, on the other hand, has a square length and width, making it feel more like a desktop PC. It’s not as large as the PS5, so if you’re cramped for space, that console will fit your setup better.

Xbox Series X

The PS5 has a USB-C port, which the Series X lacks. Otherwise, this part mostly comes down to your preference, as both consoles work in either a vertical or horizontal position.

Winner: Xbox Series X, due to its more compact size.

PS5 vs. Xbox Series X: Controllers

Sony and Microsoft took different approaches with their controllers this time around. The Xbox Series X controller is nearly identical to the Xbox One’s controller. The only differences are a reshaped D-pad, a dedicated Share button, and additional texture for grip.

An Xbox Series X controller in blue.

Unfortunately, the Xbox Series X controller still uses AA batteries. You can buy the Xbox Rechargeable Battery kit if you don’t want to worry about changing batteries all the time, but this is an additional expense. As a perk, all Xbox One controllers are fully compatible with Xbox Series X (and vice-versa).

On the other hand, the DualSense controller for the PS5 looks fairly different than the DualShock 4 from the PS4. The adaptive triggers are the biggest new standout—the L2 and R2 buttons can dynamically adjust their resistance so you “feel” what you’re doing in the game, such as the trigger becoming tighter when driving a car through mud.

dualsense shoulder buttons

The DualSense also includes a mic in the controller, allowing you to communicate even without a headset. And haptic feedback allows for more detailed vibrations than older controllers.

Read more: Reasons We Love (and Hate) the PS5 DualSense Controller

Otherwise, it still has the familiar PS button layout, including the touchpad seen on the DualShock 4. Like that controller, the DualSense is rechargeable. You can use the DualShock 4 on the PS5 when playing PS4 titles, but PS5 games require a DualSense.

Winner: PS5. Worrying about AA batteries is a pain, and the DualSense has a few new exciting features.

PS5 vs. Xbox Series X: Games

Of course, no console is worth buying without games. The PS5 and Xbox Series X have several facets to consider in this sphere, so let’s break them down one-by-one.

Exclusive Titles

The PlayStation 5 started with few exclusives, but is slated to get many more as time goes on. The remake of Demon’s Souls and Returnal are two of the first. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is arriving in June 2021, while the upcoming God of War: Ragnarok will also be exclusive to PS5.

Other games are available on both PS4 and PS5, but not any other console. These include Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Sackboy: A Big Adventure, and the upcoming Horizon Forbidden West.

At the time of writing, the Xbox Series X has very few exclusive games. The Medium is a horror game that’s console-exclusive to Xbox Series S|X, though it’s also available for PC. An announced Fable game and the latest Forza title will be console-exclusive to Xbox Series S|X, but those aren’t available yet.

For now, Microsoft seems to be focusing on releasing games for Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, and PC. Making these games more widely available is great, but it means there aren’t as many reasons to get the newer console right away.

Winner: PS5, now and for the near future.

Backward Compatibility

The PS5 is backward-compatible with nearly all PS4 titles. If you have the standard PS5, you can simply insert PS4 discs to play those games. On either PS5 model, you can access your entire digital library of PS4 games and download them on your PS5 easily.

However, the Xbox Series X’s ability to play older games goes much further. While it’s compatible with almost all Xbox One titles, it can also play over 500 Xbox 360 titles and a few dozen original Xbox titles. That means you can enjoy a lot of disc-based games you already own, as well as catching up on Xbox classics from previous generations.

On both systems, older games will run better thanks to the more powerful hardware. The exact features available depend on the game; Microsoft touts FPS Boost to run older titles at smoother frame rates.

Winner: Xbox Series X, due to the sheer volume of older Xbox games you can enjoy on the console.

Game Streaming

Xbox’s killer feature is Game Pass, a subscription service that provides unlimited access to hundreds of high-quality games for $10 per month. It’s available on Xbox One and Xbox Series S|X, as well as a separate plan for PC. If you want Game Pass on both Xbox and PC, plus Xbox Live Gold, you can pay $15/month for Ultimate.

Game Pass is one of the strongest reasons to consider an Xbox Series X, especially with AAA game prices going up to $70 apiece in some cases. Game Pass lets you enjoy big-name games and indie titles alike at an affordable cost, even without waiting for a sale. It’s one of the best deals in gaming.

On the PlayStation 5 side, Sony does offer a similar service called PlayStation Now. However, it’s not as impressive. Streaming is your only option for some titles on the service, which can lead to hiccups if your connection isn’t strong enough. PS Now offers more games, but there’s a lot of filler and major PlayStation exclusives don’t appear in the catalog.

Check our comparison of Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation Now for more information.

On the PS5, Sony also offers the PlayStation Plus Collection for PS Plus subscribers. This grants you access to a set of top PS4 titles to download and enjoy with backward compatibility. It’s a great option if you missed out on the PS4, but is only available with an additional $60/year PS Plus subscription.

Winner: Xbox Series X. Game Pass is hard to beat.

Virtual Reality

If you’re into virtual reality, the PlayStation 5 is the console for you. The PlayStation VR (originally made for the PS4) works with PS5, and Sony has announced that a successor to the PS VR is coming.

Microsoft has no plans to introduce VR for Xbox, so don’t expect any VR support on Series X now or going forward.

Winner: PS5.

PS5 vs. Xbox Series X: Ecosystems

As we’ve seen, both the PS5 and Xbox Series X have a lot going for them. However, there’s another important element that you have to decide for yourself: which console ecosystem makes more sense for you.

Backward compatibility is a lot more appealing when you already have a library of games to play. But don’t forget about other aspects, like moving your saved data, keeping your Trophies/Achievements, being able to play with your friends, enjoying your existing subscriptions, controllers you already have, and similar.

So if you’ve been an Xbox player for years, even if you’re tempted by the PS5, it might make more sense to stay with Xbox. That way, you don’t have to start over with all the above aspects, and the true cost of upgrading is lower.

Winner: Depends on your situation.

Should You Buy the PS5 or Xbox Series X?

There’s no clear answer as to whether the PS5 or Xbox Series X is the better console, especially this early in their lifetimes. Counting each section winner above results in a tie score.

As a result, we would recommend the following:

  • Buy the PlayStation 5 if: You want to play PS5 exclusives, aren’t tempted by Game Pass, don’t have a library of older Xbox games, or are interested in VR.
  • Buy the Xbox Series X if: You want to use Game Pass, aren’t interested in the PS5’s exclusives, or are deeply integrated into the Xbox ecosystem.

If you don’t think either console is right for you at the moment, don’t forget about the excellent Nintendo Switch, either.

Image Credit: Miguel Lagoa/Shutterstock

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