PlayStation 5 vs. Xbox Series S and Series X

What you should know about the new generations of gaming consoles

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CLAY COUNTY – New video game consoles come out once every seven or so years and their releases require a moment of reflection.

A reflection on the past years you’ve been using what is now the old generation of consoles. A reflection on what you loved about those consoles, what you didn't love, and what changes you’d like to see. Every single thing you think of in those moments, whether you know it or not, impacts your decision in buying the next generation of consoles. This year’s PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S and Series X replace last generation’s PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, respectively, and with Christmas right around the corner, it’s time to make a decision. I’m here to help.

Price Tag

Put simply, these new consoles are expensive. The PS5 and Xbox Series X will run you $500, and that doesn’t include the cost of games or additional controllers you might buy with it.

If $500 is something you can work with, let me say this: these two consoles are nearly identical in function, and that’s because they’re more like computers than they are anything else.

If $500 isn’t something in your wheelhouse, then Xbox might have you covered with their $300 Xbox Series S.

The Series S is significantly smaller and less-flashier than the PS5 or Series X. It’s not as powerful, but the difference in power is much smaller than the gap between $500 and $300, which is my way of saying it’s still very much worth the money. Let’s break down everything you need to know about the Series S first before moving on to the other two powerhouse consoles.

Xbox Series S

The Xbox Series S is still a new Xbox console – it launched day and date with the Series X and is considered a next-generation console by Xbox and its owner, Microsoft. The main thing you need to know about this console is that the disc drive is gone. There’s no slit anywhere to be found where you might insert a disc and that’s because discs do not work with this console. You will need to buy all of your games for it digitally through the Xbox digital marketplace.

We should note before moving on that the PS5 has a hard-to-find disc-less version that runs for $400. It’s identical to the PS5 in every way except that it doesn’t have a disc drive, which means physical games won’t work on it and all games will need to be purchased digitally on the console.

If you or the person you’re buying a new console for enjoys buying physical games from GameStop or somewhere else, completing them, and then trading them in to places like GameStop for credit to purchase other games, this isn’t the console for you since they’re no longer compatible.

If we’re talking specs, the Series S still hits most of the highlights: it can play games up to 120hz, assuming your TV or monitor can keep up, and 60hz. All games playable on the Series X will be playable on the Series S and the user interface of the Series S and Series X are identical.

If you weren’t able to actually see the box, you likely wouldn’t know the difference. The main big difference between the two different Xbox skus this generation is the resolution output. The Series X is capable of 4K resolutions, assuming you have a 4K TV or monitor, while the Series S maxes out at 1440p.

If those minor differences are fine with you, the $300 Xbox Series S will be a great purchase this holiday season. If you’re stuck between the PS5 and the Series X, read on for a breakdown of what each can do.

PlayStation 5 vs. Xbox Series X

I own both of these consoles. Both cost me $534 after taxes. Each day that I play them, I feel great about the money I spent on these machines and that’s because they’re both fantastic.

The quick version of what I’m about to break down is this: these consoles are nearly identical in function. Their differences lie in their physical appearances and their first-party, or in other words exclusive, games offerings. If you’re a PlayStation 4 owner who’s loved that machine for the past seven years and can only buy one new console, buy the PS5. If you’re an Xbox One owner who’s loved that machine for the past seven years and can only buy one new console, buy the Series X.

If you’re on the fence, here’s what you need to know.

Both of these consoles are massive. The Series X is a few inches smaller than the PS5, but both will demand any and all attention from anyone within viewing distance. The Series X favors a more brutalist approach while the PS5 favors a more futuristic, Jetsons-like appearance.

The Series X controller is nearly identical to that of the Xbox One, while the PS5 controller is quite different from the PS4 controller. It’s girthier, heavier, glossier, and features haptic feedback and adaptive triggers that are more immersive than any other controller I’ve used.

When you pull back the bow to shoot an arrow in a game, the controller’s trigger will fight against your finger to simulate the resistance of a string on a bow. This use of the haptic feedback and adaptive triggers can be felt across a number of games.

The newest Call of Duty game, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, features dozens of guns and on the PS5, every single gun feels different to use because every single gun has a different trigger profile on the PS5’s DualSense controller. A shotgun’s trigger pull is tougher than the trigger pull of a submachine gun and so on.

I’d say the PS5 DualSense controller is the most “next-gen” thing about this next generation. It truly feels unique and if developers latch on to everything the controller can do, could prove to be quite revolutionary in the gaming space.

If you’re more concerned about power and internal specs than you are a controller, however, the Xbox Series X might be the console for you. Without getting too deep into the minutia I love that you probably have no interest in hearing, the Xbox Series X is just a tad more powerful.

Both the PS5 and the Series X can run games up to 120hz at 4K resolutions with high-dynamic range. The Series X’s internal specs are slightly better than the PS5 and while you won’t notice that now, it could one day allow games to run and look better on the console as developers learn more and more about what this console can do for their games.

The verdict

The best way I can summarize the differences between these two consoles is that Xbox is more concerned with building an ecosystem of Xbox consoles and services. It has Xbox Game Pass, which is a Netflix-like game subscription service that allows you to download and play games from a selection of over 100 games for a set monthly price, the same user interface as its previous generation of consoles, and for the time being, every game that comes to the Series X will release on last generation’s Xbox consoles too. Microsoft and Xbox are less interested in pushing you forward into the future and more interested in easing your way into it.

Sony and the PS5, on the other hand, are asking you to take a leap of faith. The PS5’s controller is vastly different from that on the PS4, it's already selling games that can only be played on the PS5, and everything about its user interface and games ecosystem is different from the previous generation of PlayStation consoles.

On one hand, I love the Xbox approach to this generation. It’s like buying a new iPhone – it’s the same ecosystem you love, just in a better box.

On the other hand, I love that Sony is urging consumers to join them in the future of Sony PlayStation games with an entirely new machine. No matter which console you choose, though, you’re the winner in this bout of consoles because both are excellent additions to your living room.

Be sure to check out Clay Today’s video game shopping list for breakdowns of the best games to buy and play on your shiny new console once you’ve made up your mind.

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