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(Pocket-lint) - We're two years into the latest console war and PlayStation and Xbox are duking it out once more with two excellent flagship machines.
The Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 both offer superb specifications and high-end gaming experiences, but which is best for you?
Here's how they stack up against each other to help you make that decision.
Oh, and if you want to compare each of the consoles with their slimmed-down sibling models, check out our Xbox Series X vs Xbox Series S and PS5 vs PS5 Digital Edition features roo.
When it comes to design, the Xbox Series X and PS5 are very different-looking consoles. They are quite unlike anything that has come before - as you can see above, with both consoles shot alongside the smaller Xbox Series S.
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The PS5 is massive - the tallest mass-market games console there's been. It is also uniquely designed, with two faceplates protecting the main console unit sandwiched between them.
It retains some of the company's flair for curves (remember the original PS3?) but is white as standard for the first time. There are alternative faceplates sold by Sony that can change the colour, but we actually like the clean default look.
It can be stood on end or laid horizontally but, either way, it could be a struggle to fit in an average-sized AV cabinet.
The PS5 Digital Edition dispenses with the disc drive, so is slightly thinner, but is still as tall.
Microsoft has opted for an almost opposite approach - the Xbox Series X is chunky and squat. There are few curves to be found here. It looks more like a mini-tower PC than a games console, which is essentially what it is. Heat dissipation is playing the biggest role in the design of both current-gen machines this time around.
Luckily, the Series X too can also lie flat, not just stand on its end, so you'll have a bit of control over how you align it near or under your TV.
Both consoles weigh roughly the same - the Xbox Series X is 4.44kg, and the PS5 is 4.5kg.
Which design you prefer will come down almost entirely to taste, and while the Xbox Series X is certainly a bit stealthier, both are very bulky in reality. We lean toward the funkiness of the PS5, but neither is winning design awards in our books.
Processing and graphics hardware
Both consoles are significantly more powerful than their predecessors.
The Xbox Series X is "four times more powerful than Xbox One X". It sports a custom Zen 2 eight-core processor running at 3.8GHz per core.
The PlayStation 5 runs on an eight-core Zen 2 processor too, but at 3.5GHz per core.
RAM inside both is similar: 16GB GDDR6.
They also both run RDNA 2 graphics. However, the Xbox Series X has a slight upper hand with its GPU having 12 TFLOPS of power across 52 CUs. In comparison, the PS5 has 10.3 TFLOPS of power across 36 CUs.
This effectively means that developers can potentially eke more from the Series X than PS5. And that has proven the case with certain multi-platform games, with the Xbox Series X sometimes offering higher resolutions than PS5.
However, both machines have shown that they are capable of excellent graphical performance.
In terms of their initial graphics capabilities, both are ably matched with similar features.
Each console is capable of up to 4K (2160p) resolutions at 60 frames per second. They can also output 120fps, which is an option on some games, but only at up to 1440p in both cases.
They each include support for ray tracing, which puts them on a par with modern PC graphics cards. It introduces accurate and realistic reflections, lighting and shadows to great effect.
Both consoles also now support variable refresh rate (VRR) and auto low latency mode (ALLM), too. These effectively send signals to a compatible TV to both switch it into game mode and prevent screen tearing in games (by directly matching the frame rate if it is dynamic).
Storage and memory
SSD is where it is at with both consoles. Each has adopted solid state drive tech for storage in order to speed up loading times.
The Xbox Series X features a 1TB internal SSD, with approximately 800GB available to the user after system software, etc. It is capable of read speeds of up to 2.4GB/s (or 4.8GB/s uncompressed).
The PS5 has less storage space. Its SSD offers 825GB, but only up to 700GB of that is available to the user. It runs quicker though, up to 5.5GB/s.
Both have the ability to increase that storage through expansion cards. In the case of Xbox, you can purchase an official 1TB Storage Expansion Card that slots into a dedicated port on the rear.
The Sony machine can be boosted through third-party PCIe Gen4 SSD cards.
Each of the consoles can also play last-gen games stored on external hard drives and SSDs, such as Xbox One and PS4 games respectively.
Optical disc drives
Neither manufacturer wants to ditch the physical disc drive yet. Both the Xbox Series X and standard PS5 sport 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray drives. Neither the PS5 Digital Edition nor Xbox Series S has a disc drive though.
It's worth noting that while the Xbox Series X is the only console to boast Dolby Vision support, for media streaming and future games, its 4K Blu-ray drive is not compatible with it presently. The PS5 does not have Dolby Vision at all, although you can work around it for 4K Blu-ray playback by outputting bitstream audio - selectable in the player app menu.
Both consoles also now offer cloud gaming platforms, although Xbox's is the more built-out right now.
Xbox has Cloud Gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. It comes as part of the monthly Game Pass Ultimate subscription service and allows you to play over 100 Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S games on mobile devices.
The PlayStation 5 has access to the three tiers of PlayStation Plus that Sony relaunched in 2022, which includes a range of cloud streaming games that you can access. It is not as fully formed as Xbox's offering and is only available on PlayStation consoles and through a PC app.
Both PlayStation and Xbox offer backward compatibility with thousands of their respective back catalogues - often introducing performance and frame rate enhancements to older games.
- How PlayStation 5 backward compatibility works: What PS4 games will play?
In Xbox's case, that means almost everything that runs on an Xbox One, including Xbox 360 and original Xbox games, will also work on Xbox Series X (bar anything to do with Kinect). In some cases where HDR wasn't originally implemented, they will even make use of the console's Auto HDR feature for a wider colour gamut and greater contrast.
There is also a thing called FPS Boost on Xbox Series X. It raises the frame rate of some older games to give them a more modern feel.
All Xbox One accessories work on Xbox Series X (and S) too.
The PlayStation 5 is also compatible with the vast majority of PS4 games already out there. And the PS4 DualShock controller will work with them running on a PS5. It won't be able to be used to play native PS5 games, however.
Other older accessories will work with PS5 too, including PSVR, although you do need a PlayStation Camera adapter that Sony offers to eligible customers for free.
- Can you play Xbox One game discs on Xbox Series X or S?
Probably the most important factor of all. At launch, both the Xbox Series X and PS5 cost around £450 in the UK, $500 in the US. In the UK, the PS5's price has now gone up to £479, though. However, should you not need a disc drive, the PS5 Digital Edition is significantly cheaper.
With both costing around the same amount, the main choice could come down to the games, which you can find out more about below.
- PlayStation 5 review
- Xbox Series X review
The PlayStation 5 edges ahead for us when it comes to the games available on each console - where the difference really comes down to exclusives. A Call of Duty release or the latest sports title from EA will play almost identically on both, but exclusive titles are different.
In Sony's corner, you have the likes of God of War, Marvel's Spider-Man, Horizon Forbidden West and Returnal to sink into, with a range of top PS4 exclusives also looking better than ever on the newer hardware. This means you have a hit-list of classics to enjoy.
Beyond the impressive Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5, things are a little thinner for Xbox, but it punches back thanks to Xbox Game Pass and its huge roster of interesting games. This makes checking out a range of titles more possible than ever, putting the value vote marginally back with Xbox.
Since PlayStation launched its game library for PlayStation Plus this has got a little more even, though, and we still think the PS5 has the advantage in terms of both quality and quantity when it comes to exclusive games.
- Best PS5 games: Amazing PlayStation 5 titles to pick up
- Top Xbox Series X and Series S games: Add these titles to your next-gen library
Writing by Rik Henderson. Editing by Max Freeman-Mills.