The PS5 vs Xbox Series X battle is a fierce one. We've reviewed both the PS5 and Xbox Series X, and it's fair to say that we're impressed with both systems. Both new consoles can deliver up to 8K resolutions, high frame rates, powerful processors and speedy SSDs. But which of the two systems is the superior gaming machine — and which of them offers the better library?
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. And be aware that, as is always the case, the “best” console is the one that supports the games you want to play. (For a glance into the future, check out our guides to what lies ahead for both the PS5 in 2022 and the Xbox Series X in 2022.)
- Check out our Xbox Series X review
- PS5 review — our verdict is in
- Xbox Series X vs. PC: Which is right for you?
PS5 vs. Xbox Series X: Specs
|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, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2, Forza Motorsport 8, State of Decay 3|
|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.
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” 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.
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.
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.
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. While the Tom’s Guide crew works from home indefinitely, we don’t have the tools to measure resolution and frame rate in great depth, nor can we watch games side-by-side or even solicit second opinions.
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. We’ll probably have to wait a few more months — at least — before we see any significant differences.
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.
(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.)
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. 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.
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.
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.
The Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, as discussed above, costs $15 per month, and lets you stream games to Android. You still have to download full titles on a console or PC, however.
At present, neither Sony nor Microsoft’s cloud gaming service is complete. The Xbox Series X’s is a little better, however, in that it offers a mobile option, but the PS5’s is a little better in that it offers a streaming option for non-gaming PCs. This one feels like a draw.
|PS5||Xbox Series X|
|Backwards compatibility (10)||7||9|
|Cloud gaming (5)||3||3|
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.
- More: PS5 vs. Xbox Series X vs. Nintendo Switch: Which console is right for you?