The PS5 and Xbox Series X may have "drastically" different designs, and also there's clear difference in the way that they are approaching next-generation gaming, but under the hood they have a lot of similarities.
Console gaming has never looked more exciting.
With Sony announcing the price and availability of the PlayStation 5, we are finally in a position to compare it with Microsoft’s competing console, aka Xbox Series X, more or less down to a T. Of course, how these consoles stack up in terms of actual performance will be decided in November; but it is safe to say for now, looking at their hardware, console gaming has never looked more exciting. Also, with Nvidia recently dropping its next-generation GeForce RTX 3000 series GPUs for PCs, 2020 surely looks like the year when gaming took centre stage.
The PS5 and Xbox Series X may have “drastically” different designs, and also there’s clear difference in the way that they are approaching next-generation gaming, but under the hood they have a lot of similarities. Both consoles are based on the same silicon. It is just how they’re going to use this silicon to drive upcoming (and existing) games, that will set them apart from each other. There’s also the angle of “exclusives” that Sony has mastered over the years (even as the Xbox Series X is set to launch without any AAA exclusive) but Microsoft’s backward compatibility means most of your existing Xbox games will continue to be playable on next-gen, and some of them will play even better.
Since there’s a lot of ground to cover, let’s quickly jump into it and try to decode the PS5 and Xbox Series X, and how they compare with each other.
PS5, Xbox Series X prices
Microsoft beat Sony to the punch by revealing the full details of the Xbox Series X first, something that could have been a factor for Sony in deciding the PS5 pricing.
In the US, the Xbox Series X will cost $499. The PS5 on the other hand will cost $499.99. The PS5 Digital Edition which is basically a PS5 without a 4K Blu-ray drive will cost $399.99. Sony has the upper hand here with its all-digital option, so if you’re someone okay with buying and playing your games digitally, you can say that you can get a PS5 at an instant $100 discount (that also makes it cheaper than the Xbox Series X).
In India, the Xbox Series X will be available at an estimated retail price of Rs 49,990. Sony is yet to announce India price of the PS5 and PS5 Digital Edition.
The Xbox Series X will launch globally including in India on November 10. Pre-orders will start from September 22 (though this is not confirmed for India yet).
The PS5 and PS5 Digital Edition will launch on November 12 in the US, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea with pre-orders starting as early as September 17 from select retailers. Globally, the PS5 and PS5 Digital Edition will be available from November 18. Sony is bringing the console to Europe, Middle East, South America, Asia and South Africa. There is no word on when the PS5 will be available in India at this point of time.
PS5, Xbox Series X hardware, features
The PS5 (and PS5 Digital Edition) and Xbox Series X pack an AMD Zen 2 CPU. Based on a 7nm manufacturing process, the AMD Zen 2 CPU inside the PS5 has 8 cores clocked at 3.5GHz each. That’s 3.8GHz on the Xbox Series X. With simultaneous multithreading (SMT) factoring in, the difference in clock speed here is negligible though — at least on paper.
It’s the GPU side that’s particularly interesting. Both the PS5 and Xbox Series X use an AMD RDNA 2 GPU. The PS5 features 36 compute units running at up to 2.23GHz, effectively capable of delivering 10.28TF of peak performance. The Xbox X Series X can boast 12 teraflops and 52 compute units but clocked slower at 1.825GHz each.
Now here’s the technical bit. Unlike the Xbox Series X, the PS5 opts for “variable” frequencies, for the CPU and GPU. The frequency can vary based on the workload (and not the power which stays constant). The PS5 has a set power budget that’s linked to the console’s thermal management system, which means its performance may vary depending on how demanding a game is. This entails a console that can, at least in theory, extract more performance-wise from the 36 available RDNA 2 compute units. Sony claims the PS5 can hit GPU frequencies “way, way higher than we expected.”
Also, by offering less compute units (than the Xbox Series X) but each running at a variable frequency, Sony is hoping to squeeze more performance out of the console. This should ideally give developers greater flexibility to tell their story the way they imagined, rather than being limited to a fixed ballpark figure.
Moving on, both PS5 and Xbox Series X have solid-state drive storage or SSD. Sony is offering 825GB on-board storage and 5.5GB/s of peak performance while the Xbox Series X has 1TB NVME SSD that can do only 2.4GB/s. Another thing that works in the PS5’s favour is that the console will support expandable storage with regular NVMe PC drives. The Xbox Series X on the other hand will support custom expansion cards. Only Seagate seems to be making them for now and we still don’t know how much they’ll cost, but proprietary storage can be expensive.
PS5, Xbox Series X games – new and existing
The Xbox Series X will launch with “thousands” of games spanning four generations but no AAA exclusive. Microsoft was supposed to launch the Xbox Series X and Halo Infinite together but the game has been delayed to 2021.
So instead, Microsoft is highlighting its Xbox Game Pass subscription service alongside more than 50 “new” games including Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Dirt 5, Gears Tactics, Yakuza: Like a Dragon, and Watch Dogs: Legion with optimizations for the Xbox Series X. To be clear, all these games will be available for the PS5 as well. More than 40 existing games like Destiny 2, Forza Horizon 4, Gears 5, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, will also be optimized for the Xbox Series X at launch.
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War, and Demon’s Souls will launch alongside the PS5 on November 12. Unlike Microsoft, Sony has confirmed pricing of next-gen games as well and it is not good news. Sony has announced that its own Worldwide Studios titles will be priced from $49.99 to $69.99. That’s in line with the purported $10 jump we’ve been hearing for some time now which means that in India, PS5 games could be priced upwards of Rs 5,000. Xbox Series X games should be priced on similar lines though we will have to wait and watch out on that one.
Sony has also announced PS4 versions of some of the PS5 exclusives. Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Sackboy A Big Adventure, and Horizon Forbidden West will launch on PS4 as well and will come with a free upgrade on next-gen. Sony has also announced the PlayStation Plus Collection which will allow PlayStation Plus members to download and play a curated library of PS4 games including Batman Arkham Knight, Bloodborne, Fallout 4, God of War, Monster Hunter: World, and Persona 5 on the PS5. All this is meant to support the existing PS4 community.
Though supporting existing games is where Microsoft takes the lead. The Xbox Series X will be compatible with all existing backward compatible Xbox and Xbox 360 games, and Xbox One titles. And unlike Sony, Microsoft has also revealed the benefits of playing older games on the Xbox Series X. The Xbox Series X will be able to play backward compatible games natively “with the full power of the CPU, GPU and the SSD.” Not only will these games run at peak performance, in some cases, they’ll be able to perform even better.
The Xbox Series X will allow some of these older games to run in HDR and at up to 120fps without developers needing to do anything to achieve HDR and 120fps in their games because Microsoft has put these capabilities in the platform itself. Some of these games will also be able to support hardware-accelerated DirectX ray tracing, higher and more steady framerates, reduced in-game load times, and Microsoft’s new Quick Resume feature which will allow gamers to switch between multiple titles quickly.
While it would be interesting to see how all of this translates in real-world usage, surely the Xbox Series X and PS5 both have their unique selling points. Let the console wars begin.