With both PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S hitting next week, it’s time to decide which new-gen console is right for you. After spending weeks with PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S, we feel good about the starting point for this generation and its ability to elevate our gaming experience. However, a few differentiating factors could make one or the other a better fit for your situation.
As you read in our PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S reviews, both consoles are physically large and offer substantial performance boosts over their predecessors, slashing load times while adding processing power, audio improvements, and features like ray tracing. With a strong emphasis on getting the player into the game as fast as possible, the two consoles accomplish this in different ways. Xbox Series X/S’s Quick Resume feature lets you suspend several games and bounce between them, picking right up where you left off. This means if you’re the kind of person to play through multiple games in parallel, Xbox’s approach could save you a ton of time. Meanwhile, PlayStation 5 uses Activity Cards, which often let you load directly into the mode or lobby you want to enter, skipping the menu song and dance, and allowing for rapid switching of activities within a given game.
As for the piece of hardware you’ll find in your grip so often, you really can’t go wrong with the controllers of this new generation. If you, like us, think the Xbox One controller is among the greatest ever released, you won’t be disappointed by the Xbox Series X/S controller, which largely keeps the same form factor, but adds an easier way to capture screenshots and footage with an added button. However, the PlayStation 5 DualSense turns the traditional DualShock design on its head, adding haptic feedback and innovative triggers that can be tuned by developers to behave differently, and feels especially innovative.
While it’s not technically a part of the hardware, the games available on these systems inevitably play a massive role in your console-buying decision. There’s no denying PlayStation has done an outstanding job cultivating a terrific catalog of established and proven exclusive franchises. With a launch lineup that includes Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Demon’s Souls, and 2021 offering new entries in the God of War and Horizon series, PlayStation shows no signs of slowing down. Xbox promises new releases in franchises like Halo, Hellblade, and Fable in the future, plus games from the bevy of studios it has acquired over the last several years. However, while those developers are full of talent and potential, the future projects are more uncertain than PlayStation’s at this time.
One area where Xbox has the definite advantage is the Game Pass subscription model. The Xbox team has spent the last few years investing heavily in this service, putting blockbuster triple-A titles, promising indie games, and all first-party releases on Game Pass. Simply put, Xbox Game Pass is the best value in gaming and is becoming increasingly vital to the Xbox ecosystem. PlayStation 5 has some comparable services like PlayStation Now and the PlayStation Plus Collection, but as of this writing, those focus on games from previous generations, and PlayStation has not demonstrated the commitment Xbox has with Game Pass.
Compatibility was a key point heading into this generation, with nearly all last-gen games working on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S. However, Xbox took things a step further, making it so all Xbox One-compatible peripherals work on the new systems, bringing forward all our peripherals in addition to the games. PlayStation doesn’t deliver that level of hardware compatibility.
If you’ve embraced digital, both PlayStation and Xbox offer cheaper consoles that forego the disc drive. While the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition has all of the same bells and whistles of the standard PS5 (minus the disc drive), the Xbox Series S loses a large amount of the Series X’s processing power, causing it to drop its maximum resolution to 1440p. If you’re not concerned about playing physical media of any kind, these consoles are good options available at a cheaper price.
We can dissect every component of these consoles, but which console wins out could boil down to two factors: what your friends choose and what you’re already invested in. With near-full backwards compatibility, it could be a painful proposition to leave your entire catalog behind to jump to the other side. Similarly, while crossplay between competing platforms is becoming more prevalent in popular multiplayer games, it makes more sense to play on the same platform as your group of friends to ensure you’ll be able to enjoy all of this generation’s games together.
Regardless of which console you choose, we have ample reason to be excited for the future. As we move into the next generation of video games, both PlayStation and Xbox have provided superb starting points. Now that we have the new consoles, all we can do is patiently await the amazing games that will come to define this generation even more than the hardware itself.