PlayStation 5 vs. Xbox Series X: Which should you get?

The console war between Sony and Microsoft continues, and this time, the battle lines are drawn between the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X. Both are strong choices but also extremely hard to snag, so you’ll probably have to choose one over the other.

So let’s go over the basics of each console to help you with your decision.

What’s under the hood of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X?

The first thing to note here is that the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X are similarly powerful machines. Both of them support 8K resolution (with ray tracing), load much faster than their progenitors and are extremely quiet. The last point is especially prudent for Sony fans since the PlayStation 4’s fan was notoriously loud.

As you can see from our XR video, the Xbox Series X has a slight edge over the PlayStation 5 in hardware. However, in practice, there isn’t any discernible difference in visual quality or speed.

Can’t decide which next-gen console to get? Click here to see them side-by-side.

When it comes to hardware, the only factor you’ll be considering is price. The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X both come with the same price tag of $500. But their cheaper alternatives are where you’ll do some serious decision making.

Price points: PlayStation 5 Digital Edition vs. Xbox Series S

Sony’s PlayStation 5 Digital Edition is $400 whereas Microsoft’s Xbox Series S is only $300. The PS5 Digital is identical to its big brother in every way but lacks a Blu-ray drive, meaning you’ll have to download all your games.

However, Xbox Series S is smaller and less powerful than the Series X at a much cheaper price. Space will be an issue for both the PS5 Digital and Xbox Series S, especially if you want to play your games with face-melting graphics, which requires you to download a lot more textures.

So this basically comes down to what you want out of gaming. The PS5 Digital is a great choice for people who don’t mind playing only a couple of games at a time and the Xbox Series S is a fantastic little machine for anyone who wants an entry-level product for the ninth generation of consoles.

What exclusives do the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X have?

When it comes to choosing between a PlayStation or an Xbox, it’s always been about the exclusive games.

Sony has been famous for its very competitive portfolio of exclusive titles since the first PlayStation. The PlayStation 4 once again dominated this arena with award-winning exclusives such as Horizon Zero Dawn, God of War, The Last of Us II, Marvel’s Spider-Man, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and the phenomenal Ghost of Tsushima.

Xbox One’s exclusives, in comparison, were far weaker. Halo 5: Guardians was criticized as one of the worst titles in the franchise. Quantum Break and Gears 5 were two other highly anticipated Xbox exclusives that released to tepid reviews.

The PlayStation 5 already has a fantastic collection of launch titles, including exclusives like Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales and the Demon’s Souls remake.

However, that could soon be changing. In 2020, Microsoft announced that it acquired ZeniMax Media in a stunning $7.5 billion deal. As a result, Microsoft owns some of the most prestigious franchises in video games, such as Doom, Fallout, The Elder Scrolls, Wolfenstein and many, many more.

All these franchises belong to Microsoft now.
Credit: Microsoft

This means there’s a good chance that some of those franchises might become Xbox exclusives. Before the Microsoft-Zenimax deal, I would’ve told you that choosing the PlayStation 5 over the Xbox Series X was a slam dunk.

But now I’m not so sure. Microsoft is tight-lipped about whether its newly acquired game series would remain multiplatform or go exclusive. Don’t be surprised if some of them do.

Subscriptions: PlayStation Now vs. Xbox Game Pass

Both PlayStation Now ($20 per month) and Xbox Game Pass ($15 per month for Ultimate) are comparable in price, but Microsoft is the clear winner. Once again, this is all thanks to Microsoft buying out ZeniMax and its extremely powerful gaming portfolio.

The thing about gaming subscription services is that new releases will rarely be found on them. It typically takes some time for third-party games to make their way onto PlayStation Now or Xbox Game Pass.

But now that Microsoft owns ZeniMax, ZeniMax games are considered first-party titles. That means you’ll be able to play a new Doom, Fallout, The Elder Scrolls or Wolfenstein on Xbox Game Pass upon launch.

It should be noted that PlayStation Now has a much larger library than the Xbox Game Pass — over 700 titles compared to Xbox’s 100 titles. However, those 100 games on Xbox Game Pass are all quality titles that you’ll see available on first day.

Don’t count Sony out just yet, though. In response to Xbox Game Pass, PlayStation Now has been expanding its library and slashing prices in order to entice consumers. Both Microsoft and Sony seem to realize that there’s a real future in subscription-based gaming.

But as of now, Microsoft still has the upper hand in the subscription department.

Backward compatibility: Which console can play my old games?

Another decisive win for Microsoft. 

The Xbox Series X is completely backward compatible, meaning it can play titles that were released in 2001 on the original Xbox. It can’t play everything (IGN compiled a helpful list of available titles here) but it can run all the heavy hitters on Xbox, Xbox 360 and everything that’s been released on Xbox One.

Now, if you wanted to fire up your old disc of Metal Gear Solid on a PlayStation 5, I’ve got some bad news for you. The PlayStation 5 can only run PlayStation 4 games and nothing beyond that. You can get around this by downloading some classic titles from the Sony store but it also means forking over extra money.

The Final Verdict: It’s all about the games

As it stands now, the PlayStation 5 has the better exclusives, but the Xbox Series X has the stronger subscription service. The Xbox Series X is fully backward compatible but the PlayStation 5 isn’t.

The tech between the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X is indistinguishable in practice, so this decision should really come down to the games. It’s possible that this could change as game developers take more advantage of the hardware on both platforms, but regardless, both consoles will feature visually stunning games loading at high speed.

Basically, if you enjoy action-adventure games, PlayStation 5 is the way to go because of exclusives such as Last of Us, God of War and Ghost of Tsushima. If you enjoy blockbuster shooters, then maybe the Xbox Series X is more your style with Halo, Gears, Doom and Wolfenstein.

Either way, both are great choices.

If you enjoyed this story, read about Bethesda’s upcoming Indiana Jones game — which could be an Xbox exclusive.

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