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PS5 beating Xbox Series X in performance — here's why

PS5 vs Xbox Series X: Which console wins?
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Leading up to the launch of the Xbox Series X, Microsoft touted the console's 12 teraflop performance figure, which happened to top the PS5 output of 10.28. But in real-world tests, that edge in teraflops hasn’t translated to greater overall performance.

In a side-by-side comparison of Devil May Cry 5 Special Edition by Digital Foundry, technology editor Richard Leadbetter and staff writer John Linneman found that while both games run near identically, there are many instances where the PS5 outperforms Xbox.

When Devil May Cry 5 Special Edition is running at a full 4K resolution with an uncapped framerate, both systems run at parity, with the Xbox jumping up at points, besting PlayStation by a good 20fps. But at high framerate mode, which lowers the resolution and upscales it to 4K, the PlayStation grabs a sudden huge lead, where in some instances it’s ahead by 40fps. 

“The dips look really strange to me. And it kind of suggests to me possibly some kind of API limitation on the Xbox side, where the GPU is being held back by something,” Leadbetter said. “Now I don’t think it’s the CPU. And if it’s not the CPU and it’s not the GPU, where do you go from there? It’s not memory bandwidth. So it does suggest something at the system level, something at the API level.”

Microsoft repsonds to Xbox performance testing

In a statement to The Verge, Microsoft confirmed that “we are aware of performance issues in a handful of optimized titles on Xbox Series X|S and are actively working with our partners to identify and resolve the issues to ensure an optimal experience.

"As we begin a new console generation, our partners are just now scratching the surface of what next-gen consoles can do and minor bug fixes are expected as they learn how to take full advantage of our new platform," Microsoft continued. "We are eager to continue working with developers to further explore the capability of Xbox Series X|S in the future.”

Other Xbox Series X vs. PS5 test results

In ray tracing performance mode, which runs at 1080p, things run slightly better on Xbox. And on RT quality mode, which runs at a higher resolution, both consoles run at near identical framerates, with slight advantages of a frame or two going toward Xbox.

“The PlayStation 5 spec-wise is punching above its weight. And something is up with Xbox, which, on paper, should be significantly ahead,” Leadbetter said. “But, we’ve been hearing this from developers for some months now, that when they develop with PlayStation 5, they’re instantly getting into grips with it. It’s an evolution of what they used already on PlayStation 4. That’s paying off for them big time. With Xbox, they’ve had to move on to a new system. And a lot of people aren’t so happy with change. And it takes time to adapt. There may well be inefficiencies in the software stack.”

The PS5 is also slightly faster in loading times, beating Xbox by 1 second. Interestingly, according to Leadbetter, PlayStation should have a 2:1 advantage in memory speed over Xbox, but even then, in the real-world, it only translates to a second or two. 

The Xbox Series X does have Variable Refresh Rate, which is a technology that matches a screen’s framerate with that of the game. It helps gameplay look smoother, and prevent screen tearing or stuttering. At the moment, VRR isn’t supported on PlayStation, but will be coming in a future update

The same performance gaps are popping up on other cross-platform titles. In Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, there are noticeable performance hiccups on Xbox, with much screen tearing and framerate dips, per an analysis from Digital Foundry. In Dirt 5, the PlayStation can keep that 120fps more consistently than Xbox, even with higher textures. Codemasters technical director David Springate told Linneman on Twitter that a fix for Xbox is coming in a future patch. 

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Just like in Devil May Cry 5, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War performs better on Xbox Series X in ray tracing performance, but lags in 120fps mode. 

Xbox Series X performance outlook

According to developers who spoke on background with The Verge’s Tom Warren, much of the PlayStation’s performance gains come from time spent with development kits. Sony was able to get development kits to developers much earlier than Microsoft. This could be because Microsoft was holding back, trying to finalize AMD’s new RDNA 2 technology before pressing start on the production line. That’s why, according to Xbox head Phil Spencer, manufacturing of Xboxes started later than PlayStation’s. 

By the time Microsoft put out an update to the GDK (game developer kit), it gave developers little time to learn all of its quirks. According to Warren, developers feel that Sony provides better tools for developers overall.

While Sony might be outperforming Microsoft on a few metrics now, that could soon flip as developers get used to the Xbox GDK.