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Xbox Series X vs. PS5: Which next-gen console will win?

(Image credit: Microsoft/LetsGoDigital)

At The Game Awards 2019, Microsoft surprise revealed the Xbox Series X, the official version of its Project Scarlett console. It’s the first look of the first contender in the next console war — which will pit the Series X against Sony's PS5 when both consoles arrive in Holiday 2020.

Details about the Xbox Series X (formerly known as Project Scarlett) and the PlayStation 5 have been piling up over the months, and will likely continue to as late 2020 draws nearer. Here's how the Xbox Series X and PS5 stack up so far.

Xbox Series X vs PS5 price and release dates

Both consoles will arrive on time for the Holiday season of 2020. There’s no specific date for the Xbox yet but the PS5's rumored release date is November 20, the same date that the next generation version of Gran Turismo is expected to debut.

As for the price, the rumor is that the PS5 will cost $499. The current top-of-the-line Xbox also debuted at that price, so we can expect a similar price. It’s hard to believe that the consoles will have hefty SSD units at those price points, however. Maybe that’s why the PS5 may have optional expansion cartridges.

Xbox Series X vs PS5 specs


Xbox Series XPlayStation 5
PriceTBD$499 (unofficial rumor)
Release DateHoliday 2020Holiday 2020
GamesHalo Infinite, Hellblade II Senua’s Saga, plus games from 13 Xbox Game Studios titles, full compatibility with existing Xbox gamesWatch Dogs: Legion, Rainbow Six Quarantine, The Elder Scrolls VI; full PS4 backwards compatibility
CPUAMD Zen 2 (Custom processor based on Ryzen architecture)3rd-Gen AMD Ryzen (8 core)
GPUAMD RDNA-based (like Navi)AMD Radeon Navi
RAMGDDR6 (rumored to be 16GB)TBD
StorageSSD with seconds of load timeSSD with seconds of load time (rumored to be 2TB), potential SSD expansion cartridges
Resolution and Refresh RateUp to 8KUp to 8K
HDRYes (rumored)Yes (rumored)
Frame RatesUp to 120 fpsUp to 120 fps
Backward CompatibilityYes (Xbox One , Xbox 360, Xbox)Yes (PS4)
Optical disc driveYesYes

Sony says that its PS5 will be powered by a CPU based on AMD's third-gen eight-core, 7-nanometer Ryzen processor. The Ryzen processor is based on AMD’s Zen 2 architecture and the Xbox Series X will have a custom processor that uses Zen 2 as well. 

In other words: both consoles will have sibling CPUs. We don‘t know what the key differences will be.

Same goes for graphics: Both consoles will use the AMD RAND graphics architecture  — the same used for AMD’s Navi GPUs., complete with ray tracing support.

We also know that Microsoft will use GDDR6 RAM, which should be a relief to Xbox gamers after the software giant chose slower bandwidth DDR3 RAM in the Xbox One over the faster GDDR5 memory found in the PS4. We don’t know about the type of memory in the PS5, but it likely will sport something similar.

Rumors claim that the Xbox Series X will have 16GB of RAM, with 3GB available for the OS and the rest for games.

The upcoming Xbox and PlayStation consoles will both come with SSDs that promise to load games in seconds. The PS5 is rumored to have a 2TB drive, although this seems unlikely.

According to recent patents, the PS5 may have SSD expansion cartridges too.

Xbox Series X vs PS5 graphics and performance

Both Microsoft and Sony confirmed that their consoles will support 8K resolution gaming. That might seem like overkill considering 4K monitors and TVs have only recently penetrated the market, but a future of 8K panels is inevitable.

Games should also play much smoother on these new consoles. Xbox Series X will support up to 120 frames per second while Sony confirmed 4K gaming at a 120Hz refresh rate. 

It's important to be careful of the phrasing here: the consoles can support up to 8K resolution and up to 120fps, but that doesn't mean you'll be playing an 8K game at 120fps. Xbox Series S is targeting a steady performance of 4K resolution at 60 fps, for example.

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Both consoles will also support ray tracing, an exciting graphics rendering technique that makes lighting and reflections look practically photorealistic by literally tracing rays of light off the surface of objects and through transparent ones again and again.

Regarding performance, the most significant upgrade coming to these consoles is superfast storage. With the adoption of SSDs, the next Xbox and PlayStation will have blistering fast download speeds and load times.

Sony's Mark Cerny demonstrated to Wired how a fast-travel sequence in Spider-Man that takes 15 seconds on a PS4 Pro would take just 0.8 seconds on the new machine. On team Xbox, Microsoft said it would use a custom SSD that promises a 40x performance increase over previous consoles with virtually no load times. That storage drive can also be used as virtual RAM to speed up data access while you're gaming.

Speaking of RAM, Microsoft claims that the GDDR6 memory it's using will “usher in resolution and framerates we’ve never seen before.” The latest rumor is that it will contain 16GB of RAM, with 13GB available for games. That’s a sharp increase over the current 12GB GDDR5 RAM in the Xbox One X. It will be weird for the PS5 not to have similar RAM speed specs, although we don’t know about the size. The PS4 Pro has 8GB of GGDR5.

Because they both run on AMD's third-gen Ryzen CPUs, we expect the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X to offer similar processing performance. Microsoft will use a custom chip, though it's unclear what improvements will be made to it. The company said the next-gen Xbox will be "four times the power" of the Xbox One X, the newest and most powerful console on the market today. 

However, a recent rumor pointed out that the console will offer 12 teraflops of power vs the 6 teraflops in the Xbox One X. While teraflops is a good measure of raw computing power, it’s not the only thing affecting performance. It may very well be that the Xbox Series X does indeed have four times the power of the current top Xbox. 

Xbox Series X vs PS5 design

(Image credit: Microsoft)

The Xbox is black monolith full of raw graphical power. A minimalist beauty, it features the same big cheesegrating holes as the Mac Pro on top. Even while that makes it look like a public ashtray, the overall design is sober and futuristic. It exudes power. In an interview with GameSpot, Xbox head Phil Spencer noted that the vented design is built to make the Series X as quiet as possible, and that the console can be laid either vertically or horizontally.

(Image credit: LetsGoDigital)

We haven’t seen the PlayStation 5 yet. The only things we have seen have been renders of a model in Sony PS5 patents which seem to be the design for the developer units. It looks very retro and weird. It’s pretty unlikely that Sony will have the guts to sell a piece of hardware that seems to belong in a 1960s Star Trek episode. Most likely, it will follow the company’s current design code.

Xbox Series S vs PS5 games and backward compatibility

The highly anticipated and long-awaited Halo Infinite will be a launch title for the next-generation Xbox. That Xbox-exclusive game alone has enough weight to get people to choose green over blue, though its worth noting that Infinite will also come to Xbox One and PC. While we haven't seen any gameplay, a cinematic trailer for Halo Infinite has us begging for more time with Master Chief.

There’s another Xbox Series X game that was announced at The Game Awards: Senua’s Saga:  Hellblade II.

We don't know anything else about the Xbox launch lineup, but the new console will support all existing Xbox One games, including every backward-compatible Xbox and Xbox 360 game.

Sony has yet to confirm any launch title for the PlayStation 5, so we can only speculate as to what games will release alongside the next-gen console. The Last of Us Part II and Death Stranding (which hits PS4 this November) are a few that come to mind, as well as sequels to Horizon Zero DawnSpider-Man and God of War. The Japanese company has confirmed that the PS5 will be backward compatible with PS4 games, but the verdict is out on whether it'll support older-generation PlayStation games.

Xbox Series X vs PS5 features and subscriptions

If virtual reality is the future of gaming, then Sony is way ahead in this console war. PlayStation VR was released in 2016 and now supports more than 200 games. The current PSVR headset is confirmed to be compatible with the PS5, and a new version of the accessory could be on its way.

Microsoft put its own in-house gaming headset on hold until new technology like wireless connectivity became more feasible. Microsoft has not yet announced support for virtual reality on Xbox Series X. In fact, Spencer has said in the past that VR will not be a target in the new series — at least for now.

(Image credit: Sony)

While Sony has the clear-cut lead in VR, one could argue that Microsoft has a better gaming subscription service in Xbox Game Pass. Now with Game Pass Ultimate, Microsoft has combined Game Pass ($10/month) with Xbox Live ($10/month) and Game Pass for PC ($10/month) so you can get online multiplayer and access to more than 100 games for $15 a month.

Microsoft is also getting into cloud gaming with Project xCloud, a service that will let you stream Xbox One games from your phone or tablet. Xbox owners can use their consoles as a server to stream any Xbox game they own or they can borrow Microsoft's powerful data centers. Microsoft hasn't announced pricing options or how it will tie into Project Scarlett.

PlayStation Now is Sony's version of Game Pass, and while it has improved over the years, there are a few things that hold it back. For example, you can't download games, which means you're at the mercy of your Wi-Fi connection to stream them, and the service is fairly pricey.

Sony hasn't laid out its plans for subscription-based gaming for the PlayStation 5. The company could either keep PS Now as a competitor to both Game Pass and xCloud or create a new service. Interestingly, Sony and Microsoft announced a partnership earlier this year in which the companies will leverage the Azure cloud for gaming. This joint effort could lead to an entirely new platform designed to compete with Google Stadia.

If you prefer a physical format over digital downloads or cloud streaming, don't worry: both consoles will have disc drives. And if you're an audiophile, Sony has the edge for now because the PS5 is confirmed to come with a custom 3D audio unit within its AMD CPU. 

Xbox Series X vs PS5 configurations

The Xbox Series X may consist of more than one console. At least two insider reports, including one from Windows Central, have named two consoles in the Project Scarlett lineup. This alleged duality coincides with the “Series X” moniker, which seems to reference that there will be more than one model in the series.

The one you are seeing above — with a disc drive — is codenamed Anaconda and it will be the most powerful of the two models. It will have a main CPU expected to produce 12 teraflops of power, which will be enough oomph to push the most complex games. According to these sources, it will but perform “four to five times better” than the Xbox One X thanks to “vast improvements to caching, new silicon architecture, and other general bespoke, proprietary optimizations.” It will also be capable of doing raytracing for hyperrealistic graphics.

The other rumored Xbox Series X console is Project Lockhart, an 8-core 3.5GHz processor that will be similar but slower than Anaconda. It’s said to produce four teraflops of processing power, more than double the capability of the 1.4-teraflop Xbox One S. Lockhart, which won’t feature a disc drive, is expected to be the heir of the One S.

It’s yet to be seen how Microsoft will handle two consoles with such a disparity in processing power. We can imagine that this will be just like PCs, with games only running at full res and full detail in the top-of-the-line console.

The Sony PlayStation 5 is not expected to have a lesser model, though. The Japanese company has abandoned any plans to have a portable game machine. (It seems that Nintendo is free of enemies thanks to the Switch’s unique features).

There have been no news or rumors about the PS5 since our last update. We know that there are developer units in the wild (see the photo above) and that the console may feature removable SSD cartridges that will allow Sony to keep the PS5’s base price as low as possible while allowing users to expand its high end storage at will.

Sony seems to be so laser-focused on PS5 that they are keeping their cards close. For now, we only know that the PS5 seems to be a console very similar to the Xbox Series X in terms of specs, even running the same CPU and GPU families, plus similar low loading times SSD storage architectures.

Outlook

It’s still too early to tell who will win the next console war. The Xbox Series X looks fantastic from a visual standpoint. The PS5 will probably also look amazing.

But beyond that, it seems that both machines are more similar than ever in this generation. The Series X and PS5 have processors and GPUs with the same architecture, solid storage architectures that allow for ultra-fast loading times, graphics power with the same resolution, frames per second and color gamuts, and disc drives. While in the past the power capabilities and hardware seemed distinct enough to tilt the balance to one side, this doesn’t seem to be true anymore. 

And sure, the PS5 will have VR. Maybe that will be a definitive distinction — one day? I don’t know. It still seems to be too niche, despite the steady growth.

At the end, it seems that the biggest difference here will be the only thing that matters: games and services. Whoever can provide the best exclusives and the better services will win. It may not matter in a couple of years, however, if game streaming services such as Google Stadia can level the playing field, eventually making all these spec wars completely unnecessary.