The Sony PlayStation 5 brings a bevy of anticipated exclusive titles, such as Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and God of War: Ragnarok. The system features quick load times, in addition to high-resolution visuals and fluid frame rates. The DualSense controller features innovative haptics, but the console itself can be unwieldy.
- Incredibly fast SSD
- Wildly inventive DualSense controller
- Gorgeous 4K visuals
- Massive, unwieldy design
- Controller may feel too big for some
The Xbox Series X is the most powerful game console currently available, featuring detailed graphics, fluid frame rates and rapid load times. The device also sports a fantastic game library, with backwards compatibility going all the way back to the original Xbox. With the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription service, the Series X can be the centerpiece of a robust ecosystem.
- The only Xbox you need
- Lots of power
- Games load very fast
- Few next-gen launch games
- Large and heavy
Almost two years after their launch, 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
|Row 0 - Cell 0||PS5||Xbox Series X|
|Price||$500 (PS5); $400 (PS5 Digital Edition)||$500|
|Key Exclusives||Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Horizon II: Forbidden West, Gran Turismo 7||Halo Infinite, Microsoft Flight Simulator, Forza Motorsport 8|
|Backwards Compatibility||Almost all PS4 games, including optimized PS4 Pro titles||All Xbox One games / Select Xbox 360 and original Xbox games|
|CPU||8-core 3.5 GHz AMD Zen 2||8-core, 3.8 GHz AMD Zen 2|
|GPU||10.3 teraflop AMD RDNA 2||12.0 teraflop AMD RDNA 2|
|RAM||16 GB GDDR6||16 GB GDDR6|
|Storage||825 GB custom SSD||1 TB custom NVMe SSD|
|Resolution||Up to 8K||Up to 8K|
|Frame Rate||Up to 120 fps||Up to 120 fps|
|Optical Disc Drive||4K 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.
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 PS5 vs. Xbox Series X exclusive games piece offers a deeper look at this topic.)
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.
And over the past two years, we've seen the arrival of Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, Returnal, Gran Turismo 7, Horizon Forbidden West and the mighty God of War: Ragnarok. All of those show off the power of the PS5, with Horizon Forbidden West really putting on a next-generration graphics showcase.
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” 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.
A handful of semi-exclusive Xbox Series X titles, such as Microsoft Flight Simulator, Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5 all showed off what the system is capable of, though. The Xbox has the scope to shine this year with Starfield expected to arrive before too long, Redfall set for a May 2 release, and more Xbox-only games coming in 2023.
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 later on, 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.
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, meanwhile, has the PlayStation Plus Premium tier, which offers hundreds of games to download and/or stream from the PS1, PS2, PS3, PS4, PS5 and PSP platforms. The functionality is not nearly as refined as Game Pass, but the raw game library is bigger, so take it for what it's worth.
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.
PS5 vs. Xbox Series X: Performance
Comparing PS5 and Xbox Series X performance is difficult at present, as Tom's Guide does not have the specialized equipment required to measure resolution and frame rate in great depth.
Bearing that in mind, I compared two games qualitatively across both systems: Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition. The former is a huge open-world title, where it’s easy to measure load times as you fast travel from one distant point of the map to another. The latter is a fast, frenetic action game, where any drop in framerate is immediately noticeable.
First: Sony’s ambitious claims about the PS5’s load times aren’t exaggerated, as far as I can tell. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla went from the main menu into the game in less than a minute; fast travel took less than 10 seconds from point to point. However, while the Xbox Series X took longer to load the game initially (almost a minute), fast travel time was exactly the same.
Gameplay-wise, if you handed me an ambiguous controller and put either the PS5 or Xbox Series X version of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla on a screen in front of me, I honestly wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Both systems ran the game at 4K at 60 frames per second (although I understand that the 4K is probably upscaled in both cases), and neither one seemed to have any major difference in animation fluidity, lighting, etc. Texture pop-in seemed a little more noticeable on the Xbox Series X, although that may have just been the area I was in.
Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition told a similar story, although this time, I was able to discern some slight differences in the lighting. While both the PS5 and Xbox Series X offer ray tracing, the Xbox Series X’s ray tracing in this game was a little richer, offering greater contrasts between light and shadow, particularly in the game’s early, eerie red-and-purple landscapes. (Digital Foundry found the same thing, with some stats to back it up.) The Xbox Series X also seemed a little bit smoother when I turned on the 120 fps performance mode, although again, I’d be hard-pressed to tell the two titles apart if I didn’t know which one was in front of me.
Evaluating performance with these two games is difficult, however, because they were both designed with PS4 and Xbox One in mind rather than PS5 and Xbox Series X exclusively. While I can also talk about how impressive games like Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Gears 5 looked, they’re not possible to compare directly.
For now, I can say that the two consoles both perform extremely well, although the PS5 has slightly shorter loading times.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 the PlayStation Plus revamp, which lets you stream a variety of PS3 titles, as well as some PS4 titles, to PlayStation consoles and PCs. It costs $10 per month for a tier that includes streaming capabilities.
The Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, as discussed above, costs $15 per month, and lets you stream games to Android, iOS, non-gaming PCs and even Xbox consoles.
While the PlayStation Plus revamp has some potential, Xbox Cloud Gaming is currently a much more refined and functional service.
Winner: Xbox Series X
PS5 vs Xbox Series X: Verdict
|Row 0 - Cell 0||PS5||Xbox Series X|
|Backwards compatibility (10)||7||9|
|Cloud gaming (5)||3||4|
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. Plus, the PS5 also offers access to next-gen virtual reality tech via the PS VR2 headset accessory. Currently, Microsoft does not have an equivalent VR product of its own for Xbox users.
From having used both consoles extensively over the last few years, 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.
PS5 vs. Xbox Series X: Buy now or wait?
Now that both consoles have been out for more than two years, we'd say they are now well-worth buying. While you won't find many discounts on the PS5 or Xbox Series X, they do have a solid range of games and accessories to use with them,
And we are now reaching a point where new games aren't set to be cross-generation, meaning getting an Xbox Seres X or PS5, or indeed both, now makes a lot of sense for gaming fans.