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PS5 vs. Xbox Series X: Which console wins?

a photo representing the PS5 vs. Xbox Series X
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

More than a year after their release, the PS5 vs Xbox Series X battle remains a fierce one. In our reviews we were suitably impressed with both games consoles and remain so, with the two machines gaining more features and games as the latest generation gathers pace. But if you can only choose one, you'll want to find out which one is best for you. 

As such, Tom’s Guide has compared the two consoles head-to-head, and without spoiling the results, it’s a very close contest between two high-quality consoles. Read on to discover how each system fares in our PS5 vs. Xbox Series X faceoff.

PS5 vs. Xbox Series X: Specs

PS5Xbox Series X
Price$500 (PS5); $400 (PS5 Digital Edition)$500
Key ExclusivesSpider-Man: Miles Morales, Horizon II: Forbidden West, Gran Turismo 7Halo Infinite, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2, Forza Motorsport 8, State of Decay 3
Backwards CompatibilityAlmost all PS4 games, including optimized PS4 Pro titlesAll Xbox One games / Select Xbox 360 and original Xbox games
CPU8-core 3.5 GHz AMD Zen 28-core, 3.8 GHz AMD Zen 2
GPU10.3 teraflop AMD RDNA 212.0 teraflop AMD RDNA 2
RAM16 GB GDDR6 16 GB GDDR6
Storage825 GB custom SSD1 TB custom NVMe SSD
ResolutionUp to 8KUp to 8K
Frame RateUp to 120 fpsUp to 120 fps
Optical Disc Drive4K UHD Blu-ray (Standard PS5 only)4K UHD Blu-ray

While the specs are handy to know, they only tell part of the story when it comes to performance. As such, this section isn’t scored. However, we can say that the Xbox Series X has more powerful hardware, in terms of both GPU and SSD. Check out the performance section to see how this hardware performs in action.

PS5 vs. Xbox Series X: Price

Both the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X cost $500 apiece. Since the two systems are very similar, this category would seem to be a tie at first glance. However, the standard PS5 and Xbox Series X are not the only variants available. There’s also the $400 PS5 Digital Edition and the $300 Xbox Series S.

The PS5 and the PS5 Digital Edition are identical, save for a 4K Blu-ray physical disc drive in the former. The latter has no disc drive, as the name suggests. On the other hand, the Xbox Series S has significantly different hardware from the Xbox Series X: a less-powerful GPU, a smaller SSD, less RAM and so forth.

(You can see a more comprehensive breakdown in our Xbox Series X vs. Xbox Series S article.)

As such, both consoles have cheaper variants, and both the PS5 Digital Edition and the Xbox Series S have legitimate applications: the former for digital diehards, the latter for casual players or secondary setups. Still, since the Xbox Series S is a somewhat different system, and not just a console variation, it's hard to pick a definitive winner. Both full-fledged systems cost the same amount of money; that's the most important thing at the moment.

Winner: Tie

PS5 vs. Xbox Series X: Games

The PS5 and Xbox Series X have fundamentally different approaches to game libraries. The Xbox Series X assumes you’ll pick up the same games you left off on the Xbox One, and will want optimized performance across the board for all favorites. The PS5, on the other hand, has a bevy of exclusive titles that launched alongside its new console — although most of them are also available on the PS4, to be fair. (Our look at PS5 vs. Xbox Series X exclusive games explores this in greater depth.)

Spider-Man: Miles Morales

Spider-Man: Miles Morales (Image credit: Sony)

At present, it’s hard to deny that the PS5 has the more exciting game selection. Just in terms of first-party titles, the PS5 launched with Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Demon’s Souls, Sackboy: A Big Adventure and the surprisingly delightful Astro’s Playroom.

Compare and contrast with the Xbox Series X, which didn’t have any exclusive titles at launch. Instead, Microsoft released a list of 30 “optimized for Xbox Series X/S (opens in new tab)” titles, including fan favorites like Gears 5, Ori and the Will of the Wisps and Forza Horizon 4. While the Xbox Series X optimizations are indeed impressive, not all of these games are brand new, and they’re all available on Xbox One, PC or both.

Because of its superior game selection (and because you can play Xbox Series X games on PC), one staffer chose the PS5 over Xbox Series X. But Microsoft's stable of titles should improve as time goes on. You can also check our PS5 exclusives vs. Xbox exclusives story to see how the two libraries stack up.

assassins creed valhalla

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (Image credit: Ubisoft)

Beyond that, both consoles are well-stocked with third-party titles, like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Borderlands 3, Fortnite, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War and so forth. They both got Cyberpunk 2077, Madden 21 and Destiny 2 late last year, and third-party parity is likely to continue well into this year and beyond. Both systems also have excellent backwards compatibility features, although that gets its own section further down.

xbox game pass ultimate

(Image credit: Xbox)

It’s also worth mentioning Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, to which Sony doesn’t currently have a perfect answer. This $15-per-month subscription service lets you download more than 100 games across a variety of genres, and play them on Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Xbox One, PC and even Android. 

Sony recently introduced the “PS Plus Collection,” which lets PlayStation Plus subscribers download a few dozen PS4 classics. It’s not nearly as sweeping or comprehensive as Xbox Game Pass, though, so Sony could still expand these offerings much further. In fact, Sony is reportedly starting a new project Spartacus that would potentially combine PlayStation Plus and PS Now and be a direct competitor to Xbox Game Pass, but it's not slated to arrive until sometime in 2022. 

Halo Infinite (Image credit: 343 Industries)

Of course, both systems will also have some interesting games coming down the line. But restricting ourselves to what we can play and review right now, the PS5 has the stronger lineup.

Winner: PS5

PS5 vs. Xbox Series X: Performance

Over the past 12 and a bit months since the PS5 and Xbox Series X launched there have been a suite of cases where one is better than the other in certain games.

The Xbox Series X has more overall power to play with but that doesn't always mean it performs the best. Similarly, there PS5 has the faster SSD, but that doesn't mean there's much of a real-world difference in loading time between the consoles. 

What we can say is the PS5's exclusive games look utterly stunning with Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and Returnal being some of the most visually striking games around. Horizon Forbidden West also looks incredible on the PS5, though it's also a PS4 title. 

(Image credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment)

The Xbox Series X doesn't have any true exclusives dedicated to the platform, as all Xbox first-party games are available on Windows PC as well. 

But it has Forza Horizon 5, which looks stunning and runs very well. Halo Infinite might not look as good, but it's still striking and can run up to 120 frames per seconds, which isn't something we see with many PS5-dedicated games. 

(Image credit: Playground Games)

In short, both consoles both perform extremely well, although the PS5 has slightly shorter loading times overall. You won't be disappointed in the performance of either. 

Winner: Draw

PS5 vs. Xbox Series X: Design

For the most part, whether you like a console’s design comes down to personal preference. But my personal preference is that I cannot stand how the PS5 looks. Not only is the system comically large; it’s also a pain to switch from vertical to horizontal configuration, and the standard version sports an ugly, asymmetrical design.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The front panel is prone to fingerprints; the “power” and “disc eject” buttons are indistinguishable. It’s rare that I recommend you hold off on a console purchase simply to wait for the prettier redesign, but you should very strongly consider doing that with the PS5.

(Alternatively, you could invest in an official PS5 cover, which will at least make your console a bit more colorful. It won't change the overall design, however.)

One person has made an unofficial PS5 Slim that looks pretty good, albeit with some heavy caveats. 

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Xbox Series X, on the other hand, is still pretty bulky, but manages its space much better. Rather than looking like an oversized router, the Xbox Series X is a sleek black box that looks, at least in its vertical form, kind of like a small tower PC (or a tiny refrigerator). It has a clearly defined power button, as well as a pairing button to make wireless connections painless.

There was some chatter about concerns that the Xbox Series X vents can get clogged with dust, but there's been no hint of this with the Series X consoles the Tom's Guide team has. 

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The only big advantage the PS5 has over the Xbox Series X is the presence of a USB-C port — which is a big deal, especially as more accessories get USB-C adapters. But even if the Xbox Series X design is much more conservative, it’s also much more sensible overall.

Winner: Xbox Series X

PS5 vs. Xbox Series X: Controller

Another area in which the Xbox Series X plays it safe, to its credit, is in its controller. The Xbox Series X controller is nearly identical to the Xbox One model, save for textured grips and shoulder buttons, an improved D-pad and a new “share” button in the center.

xbox series x review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

It’s a smart upgrade for one of the best controllers ever made. Still, the fact that it runs on AA batteries instead of a built-in rechargeable unit feels positively archaic, and also pasts a lot of cost onto the end-user, whether they choose to buy AAs or rechargeable packs.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The PS5 DualSense, on the other hand, is a big departure from the DualShock 4, with a two-tone color scheme and much bigger grips. It also adds a variety of new features: extremely sensitive haptics and a built-in mic among them. The haptic feedback is impressive, mimicking the feel of objects rolling around in a box, or putting up realistic resistance when you push a trigger. However, the DualSense still has a ton of wasted space (particularly in the touchpad), and the haptics have the potential to take you out of the game as much as they immerse you in it. As an aside, If you're pondering the PS5 DualSense vs DualShock 4 debate, the new controller comes out on top for sheer innovation alone.

Winner: Tie

PS5 vs. Xbox Series X: Backwards compatibility 

Both the PS5 and the Xbox Series X have excellent backwards compatibility features, but there’s no denying that the Xbox reaches further back into Microsoft’s library. Not only is the Xbox Series X compatible with just about every Xbox One game; it’s also compatible with many Xbox 360 and original Xbox games. While it doesn’t include every stab Microsoft’s ever taken at backwards-compatible games (the Xbox 360 still plays many original Xbox games that the Series X can’t), it’s an impressive effort with zero friction.

(Image credit: Future)

The PS5 can play just about every PS4 game on the market, but compatibility doesn’t go back any further than that, unless you count its PlayStation Now streaming service for PS3 games. Still, it’s not quite the same as playing games you already own directly on a console.

Most recently, a new patent application filed by PlayStation designers hints that the PS5 will someday be able to run PS1, PS2 and PS3 games — but we've got no time frame on when that might come to pass.

Winner: Xbox Series X

PS5 vs Xbox Series X: Cloud gaming

Cloud gaming isn’t a huge issue for either the PS5 or the Xbox Series X, since you can simply download games and play them natively on either platform. But as cloud gaming grows over the next few years, it’s good to know where each company stands at the outset of this console generation.

The PS5 has PlayStation Now, which lets you stream a variety of PS3 and PS4 games to your PS5 or PC. You can also download certain PS4 titles. It costs at least $8 per month, and doesn’t work on mobile platforms.

Xbox game pass

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate (Image credit: Microsoft)

The Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, as discussed above, costs $15 per month, and lets you stream games to Android, Windows PCs, macOS machines, iPhones and even the the Xbox Series X, Series S and Xbox One themselves. 

With this comprehensive suite of cloud-based streaming the Xbox Series X is the winner here, 

Winner: Xbox Series X

PS5 vs. Xbox Series X: Buy now or wait?

Ever since the two consoles launched it's not been easy to find a healthy Xbox Series X restock or PS5 restock. And while the situation is perhaps not as dire as it was 18 months ago, you may still need to weigh up which console to dedicate your time to in hunting down. 

Both machines have their merits, but for our money we'd chose the PS5. That's simply down to there being more cross-generation games for the Xbox Series X and how a lot of the current best Xbox Series X games are also available on Windows 10 and 11 PCs. So if you have a powerful gaming PC, you can afford to skip the Series X, whereas a PS5 will give you access to exclusives like Deathloop, Gran Turismo 7 and Returnal.

Winner: PS5

PS5 vs Xbox Series X: Verdict

PS5Xbox Series X
Price (10)88
Games (20)1815
Performance (15)1312
Design (10)58
Controller (10)77
Backwards compatibility (10)79
Cloud gaming (5)33
Total (80)6162

While both consoles are off to a strong start and show significant room for improvement, the Xbox Series X seems like a slightly better investment for the moment. With more powerful hardware, a better design, a more comprehensive game subscription service and a delightful controller, the Xbox Series X has the early lead in the next generation of consoles.

Still, the PS5 has some virtues that the Xbox Series X does not. There’s a full-featured digital console, a more inventive controller, a faster SSD and — this is not to be understated — a better selection of exclusive games.

From having used both consoles extensively over the last few months, my gut feeling is that they have more similarities than differences, and whichever one you get should be more than sufficient to power your gaming for the next few years. Of course, you could always just build a gaming PC — but that’s a different story.

Marshall Honorof
Marshall Honorof

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi. 

With contributions from
  • MizzezP85
    Wow what a let down. Can we get a non-Sony fanboy to write a comparison article please? Some of us are actually interested and aren’t just fanboys. You literally refused to score sections or found a way to “tie” them when it sounded like the Series X was better in your analysis. It became super clear rather immediately what the choice would be at the end due to your obvious bias. I mean, I’m getting both of them, but would still like more of a data-based comparison please. Preferably not written by a Sony (or Xbox) shill thanks.
    Reply
  • MuppetThumper
    MizzezP85 said:
    Wow what a let down. Can we get a non-Sony fanboy to write a comparison article please? Some of us are actually interested and aren’t just fanboys. ... Preferably not written by a Sony (or Xbox) shill thanks.

    Er, I read it the other way. He scores Xbox for the win in spite of playing heavily on PS5. He rates the controllers a TIE after lambasting use of AA batteries in the Xbox (notwithstanding the total failure to recognise the innovations of the dualsense). I don't know where you get Sony fanboy from, perhaps you're a Microsoft one!
    Reply
  • kuhne
    Seems fair to me, maybe a bit on the xbox side, there's no way the controllers would be a draw, the PS5 gamepad is something else and the haptic triggers may very well become the standard for gamepads in the future.

    Other than that, xbox series x clearly has better backwards compatibility and has better services while the PS5, regardless of having inferior specs is actually getting more stable framerates and faster loading times in games. A good example is Vallhalla, which was supposed to be optimized for xbox and ended up running better on ps5.

    And of course you have the games/exclusives, which isn't really a competition at the moment since the xbox doesn't offer anything here of note.

    I think it was fair and balanced, both consoles seem great to me.
    Reply
  • adamaj74
    No on 8K for the PS5, and it takes an image quality hit for running at 120 fps, all because of its lower bandwidth HDMI port.
    "the Xbox Series X can output bandwidth of up to 40GB/s via HDMI 2.1, the PlayStation 5 is currently limited to 32GB/s. In practice, this means that when playing a game at 120 Hz, the console will have to switch to 4:2:2 chroma subsampling, while Microsoft's next-gen console is able to keep the optimal 4:4:4 format."
    https://wccftech.com/ps5-hdmi-2-1-bandwidth-is-limited-to-32gb-s-unlike-xbox-series-xs-40gb-s/
    Reply
  • Yessirs
    MizzezP85 said:
    Wow what a let down. Can we get a non-Sony fanboy to write a comparison article please? Some of us are actually interested and aren’t just fanboys. You literally refused to score sections or found a way to “tie” them when it sounded like the Series X was better in your analysis. It became super clear rather immediately what the choice would be at the end due to your obvious bias. I mean, I’m getting both of them, but would still like more of a data-based comparison please. Preferably not written by a Sony (or Xbox) shill thanks.
    Actually, quite the opposite. They listed out Sackboy's Big Adventure and ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart which was really hype. The games on the PS5 were definetly better than the graphics that Xbox has because they will probably look very similar with only minor differences anyway. You can't tell me Halo is gonna beat Horizon 2, Sackboy's Big Adventure, ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart and other PS4 games like Final Fantasy 7 Remake, God of War, Person 5 Royal, especially when all Xbox gets is a new shiny Halo with other playable games like Halo.I am not a Sony fanboy here, this is just logic.
    Reply
  • Just Some Person
    This review was overall informative, but some of the analysis and subsequent scoring I disagree with. Subjective takes on design aesthetics are fine but that shouldn't bleed into the score, the PS5 got snubbed there. The CPU and GPU weighs in Xbox's favor more than what was ultimately scored here.

    The consoles really feel like a wash either way though, just exclusives to really stand them apart. I might sit this generation out and go PC.
    Reply
  • KhaosOfficialYT
    Look, I want to know why the Dualsense and the Xbox controller have the same rating. The Dualsense haptic feedback feels very, very great. Wasted space? WASTED SPACE? the touchpad are essential for particular games and make typing easier. In Miles Morales u can swipe left and right to pull up the phone. The DualSense should've been rated higher
    Reply
  • Kvally
    I am curious as to how he came to the conclusion that the PS5 has better exclusives. I have my PS5 sitting dormant since finishing up Miles Morales.
    Reply
  • Elterrible
    MizzezP85 said:
    Wow what a let down. Can we get a non-Sony fanboy to write a comparison article please? Some of us are actually interested and aren’t just fanboys. You literally refused to score sections or found a way to “tie” them when it sounded like the Series X was better in your analysis. It became super clear rather immediately what the choice would be at the end due to your obvious bias. I mean, I’m getting both of them, but would still like more of a data-based comparison please. Preferably not written by a Sony (or Xbox) shill thanks.

    I didn’t think it was horrible, but the series x is clearly now winning the performance game. While the FPS might vary game to game, the Sony tends to run lower resolutions to get to where it might get a small advantage.

    As for exclusives, I would say Microsoft’s acquisitions have made this a fairly level playing field.
    Reply
  • BaaaaL44
    The PS5 lost points in Design just so that Xbox could take the win. In an unbiased review, they would receive the same number of points for design, because it is up to one's preferences (I prefer PS5's design, the Xbox is a huge black block, there is no actual design to speak of, but it is perfectly fine to like it more). I also do not understand how and why they received the same number of points for controller. The DualSense is chock full of innovations (haptic feedback, adaptive triggers, etc.) and the author actually points this out, while Microsoft did not even bother to include an inbuilt battery, and they are still using AAA batteries like a plastic toy from the 90s. If anything, what they should be equal in is performance (PS5 has faster load times thanks to the much faster SSD, but the Xbox has slightly higher raw computing power, so none of them has a clear edge).

    So an unbiased head-to-head would be something like (PS5-Xbox)

    Price: 8 -8
    Games: 18 - 16 (again, the Xbox does not deserve a 15, what games you enjoy is more a preference than a fact of life)
    Performance: 13-13
    Design: 8 - 8 (whatever you prefer, really)
    Controller 9 - 7
    Backwards Compatibility 7 - 9
    Cloud Gaming 3 - 3
    Total: 66 - 64
    Reply