The idea of a console war is a little silly these days, given both the PS5 and Xbox Series X are brilliant machines with their own merits. But assessing the PS5 vs Xbox Series X conundrum is still relevant, as not everyone has a hefty $1,000 to get both games consoles.
But I’ve long struggled to give a definitive quick-fire answer to which console one should get. At first I advised waiting until the nightmare of tracking down a PS5 restock or seeing out an Xbox Series X restock became easier to handle. Then I decided that both have merits and if you can, both are worth owning; I still stand by this.
However, if you were to put a gun to my head — please don't, as it’s not my idea of fun — and force me to pick one one, I’d now choose the PS5.
But this is a very recent realization and one that I feel could only happen thanks to the state the PS5 is now over a year after its release.
Not only has Sony ironed out issues with the console thanks to a suite of PS5 updates, as well as letting users add in more internal storage, we now have enough titles to properly populate a best PS5 games list; backward compatibility has also improved on the PS5.
Yet that’s not why I’d choose Sony’s big, bold machine. Rather I’m interested in the PS5’s narrow but excellent hardware ecosystem.
When the term ‘ecosystem’ is mentioned, it’s easy to think of Xbox and its play-anywhere ethos thanks to Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Cloud Gaming. And on the software and services side, Xbox reigns supreme.
Used in tandem, the whole experience of playing a first-party PS5 game like the stellar Deathloop feels that bit more special. Sure, the Xbox Series X has a brilliant controller and the very good Xbox Wireless Headset, but neither come with the custom advanced haptics or proprietary Tempest 3D Audio tech of Sony’s peripherals.
Granted, the DualSense and Pulse 3D Wireless Headset aren’t exactly new things for the PS5, but it’s only recently that I they’ve come to the fore for the console experience.
Deathloop was the first PS5 exclusive that really grabbed my attention since the console’s launch in November 2020. It showed how the clever haptics of the DualSense can aid immersion, while the headset allowed me the precise audio feedback to get a feel for when rival assassin Juliana Blake was sneaking upon me.
Both are tuned to take advantage of the PS5’s haptic capabilities and its 3D audio, as well as put the graphical horsepower and super-fast SSD to the task.
In Horizon Forbidden West, the DualSense lets you feel the tension of a drawn bow string through the controller’s triggers, as well as the subtle feedback from brushing against long grass or swapping stokes while swimming.
The Pulse 3D Wireless Headset adds to this immersion, especially when compared to just using TV speakers. I can pick out the mix of whirrs and clanks of the machines in Horizon Forbitten West, as well as the skimming of wind across large open spaces.
And in Gran Turismo 7, the 3D audio effect is arguably better, with audio tuned to deliver a soundscape that really makes you feel like you’re on a track; speaking as someone who took an Audi R8 around the Ascari race track, I can say that with a degree of confidence.
The DualSense plays a big part too, with the haptic motors conveying the feedback of subtle track changes such as momentarily going off the track and onto grass — another thing I’ve experienced first hand. The haptic feedback also lets virtual drivers get a feel for tires at the limit of grip, as well as the difference in pedal feel and acceleration through the DualSense triggers.
Take all this and add in bite-the-back-of-your-hand gorgeous graphics and load times that make for near instantaneous gaming, and using the PS5 feels simply awesome.
I’ll pour myself a drink, turn down the lights, get comfortable, pop on the headset and grip the DualSense, a smile creeping onto my face as the PS5’s splash login screen gives way to a carefully curated library of amazing games. This feels like the gaming equivalent of sitting down to a three-course meal at a high-end restaurant with a limited yet tantalizing menu in front of me; I love it.