PS5 vs. Xbox Series X: Which console wins?


More than a year after their release, the PS5 vs Xbox Series X battle remains a fierce one. In our reviews we were suitably impressed with both games consoles and remain so, with the two machines gaining more features and games as the latest generation gathers pace. But if you can only choose one, you’ll want to find out which one is best for you. 

As such, Tom’s Guide has compared the two consoles head-to-head, and without spoiling the results, it’s a very close contest between two high-quality consoles. Read on to discover how each system fares in our PS5 vs. Xbox Series X faceoff.

Update: Want to gift an Xbox Series X or S this holiday season? Better buy it now.

PS5 vs. Xbox Series X: Specs

PS5 Xbox Series X
Price $500 (PS5); $400 (PS5 Digital Edition) $500
Key Exclusives Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Horizon II: Forbidden West, Gran Turismo 7 Halo Infinite, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2, Forza Motorsport 8, State of Decay 3
Backwards Compatibility Almost all PS4 games, including optimized PS4 Pro titles All Xbox One games / Select Xbox 360 and original Xbox games
CPU 8-core 3.5 GHz AMD Zen 2 8-core, 3.8 GHz AMD Zen 2
GPU 10.3 teraflop AMD RDNA 2 12.0 teraflop AMD RDNA 2
Storage 825 GB custom SSD 1 TB custom NVMe SSD
Resolution Up to 8K Up to 8K
Frame Rate Up to 120 fps Up to 120 fps
Optical Disc Drive 4K UHD Blu-ray (Standard PS5 only) 4K UHD Blu-ray

While the specs are handy to know, they only tell part of the story when it comes to performance. As such, this section isn’t scored. However, we can say that the Xbox Series X has more powerful hardware, in terms of both GPU and SSD. Check out the performance section to see how this hardware performs in action.

PS5 vs. Xbox Series X: Price

Both the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X cost $500 apiece. Since the two systems are very similar, this category would seem to be a tie at first glance. However, the standard PS5 and Xbox Series X are not the only variants available. There’s also the $400 PS5 Digital Edition and the $300 Xbox Series S.

The PS5 and the PS5 Digital Edition are identical, save for a 4K Blu-ray physical disc drive in the former. The latter has no disc drive, as the name suggests. On the other hand, the Xbox Series S has significantly different hardware from the Xbox Series X: a less-powerful GPU, a smaller SSD, less RAM and so forth.

(You can see a more comprehensive breakdown in our Xbox Series X vs. Xbox Series S article.)

As such, both consoles have cheaper variants, and both the PS5 Digital Edition and the Xbox Series S have legitimate applications: the former for digital diehards, the latter for casual players or secondary setups. Still, since the Xbox Series S is a somewhat different system, and not just a console variation, it’s hard to pick a definitive winner. Both full-fledged systems cost the same amount of money; that’s the most important thing at the moment.

Winner: Tie

PS5 vs. Xbox Series X: Games

The PS5 and Xbox Series X have fundamentally different approaches to game libraries. The Xbox Series X assumes you’ll pick up the same games you left off on the Xbox One, and will want optimized performance across the board for all favorites. The PS5, on the other hand, has a bevy of exclusive titles that launched alongside its new console — although most of them are also available on the PS4, to be fair. (Our look at PS5 vs. Xbox Series X exclusive games explores this in greater depth.)

Spider-Man: Miles Morales (Image credit: Sony)

At present, it’s hard to deny that the PS5 has the more exciting game selection. Just in terms of first-party titles, the PS5 launched with Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Demon’s Souls, Sackboy: A Big Adventure and the surprisingly delightful Astro’s Playroom.

Compare and contrast with the Xbox Series X, which didn’t have any exclusive titles at launch. Instead, Microsoft released a list of 30 “optimized for Xbox Series X/S (opens in new tab)” titles, including fan favorites like Gears 5, Ori and the Will of the Wisps and Forza Horizon 4. While the Xbox Series X optimizations are indeed impressive, not all of these games are brand new, and they’re all available on Xbox One, PC or both.

Because of its superior game selection (and because you can play Xbox Series X games on PC), one staffer chose the PS5 over Xbox Series X. But Microsoft’s stable of titles should improve as time goes on. You can also check our PS5 exclusives vs. Xbox exclusives story to see how the two libraries stack up.

assassins creed valhalla

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (Image credit: Ubisoft)

Beyond that, both consoles are well-stocked with third-party titles, like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Borderlands 3, Fortnite, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War and so forth. They both got Cyberpunk 2077, Madden 21 and Destiny 2 late last year, and third-party parity is likely to continue well into this year and beyond. Both systems also have excellent backwards compatibility features, although that gets its own section further down.

xbox game pass ultimate

(Image credit: Xbox)

It’s also worth mentioning Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, to which Sony doesn’t currently have a perfect answer. This $15-per-month subscription service lets you download more than 100 games across a variety of genres, and play them on Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Xbox One, PC and even Android. 

Sony recently introduced the “PS Plus Collection,” which lets PlayStation Plus subscribers download a few dozen PS4 classics. It’s not nearly as sweeping or comprehensive as Xbox Game Pass, though, so Sony could still expand these offerings much further. In fact, Sony is reportedly starting a new project Spartacus that would potentially combine PlayStation Plus and PS Now and be a direct competitor to Xbox Game Pass, but it’s not slated to arrive until sometime in 2022. 

Halo Infinite (Image credit: 343 Industries)

Of course, both systems will also have some interesting games coming down the line. But restricting ourselves to what we can play and review right now, the PS5 has the stronger lineup.

Winner: PS5

PS5 vs. Xbox Series X: Performance

Over the past 12 and a bit months since the PS5 and Xbox Series X launched there have been a suite of cases where one is better than the other in certain games.

The Xbox Series X has more overall power to play with but that doesn’t always mean it performs the best. Similarly, there PS5 has the faster SSD, but that doesn’t mean there’s much of a real-world difference in loading time between the consoles. 

What we can say is the PS5’s exclusive games look utterly stunning with Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and Returnal being some of the most visually striking games around. Horizon Forbidden West also looks incredible on the PS5, though it’s also a PS4 title. 

(Image credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment)

The Xbox Series X doesn’t have any true exclusives dedicated to the platform, as all Xbox first-party games are available on Windows PC as well. 

But it has Forza Horizon 5, which looks stunning and runs very well. Halo Infinite might not look as good, but it’s still striking and can run up to 120 frames per seconds, which isn’t something we see with many PS5-dedicated games. 

(Image credit: Playground Games)

In short, both consoles both perform extremely well, although the PS5 has slightly shorter loading times overall. You won’t be disappointed in the performance of either. 

Winner: Draw

PS5 vs. Xbox Series X: Design

For the most part, whether you like a console’s design comes down to personal preference. But my personal preference is that I cannot stand how the PS5 looks. Not only is the system comically large; it’s also a pain to switch from vertical to horizontal configuration, and the standard version sports an ugly, asymmetrical design.

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

The front panel is prone to fingerprints; the “power” and “disc eject” buttons are indistinguishable. It’s rare that I recommend you hold off on a console purchase simply to wait for the prettier redesign, but you should very strongly consider doing that with the PS5.

(Alternatively, you could invest in an official PS5 cover, which will at least make your console a bit more colorful. It won’t change the overall design, however.)

One person has made an unofficial PS5 Slim that looks pretty good, albeit with some heavy caveats. 

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

The Xbox Series X, on the other hand, is still pretty bulky, but manages its space much better. Rather than looking like an oversized router, the Xbox Series X is a sleek black box that looks, at least in its vertical form, kind of like a small tower PC (or a tiny refrigerator). It has a clearly defined power button, as well as a pairing button to make wireless connections painless.

There was some chatter about concerns that the Xbox Series X vents can get clogged with dust, but there’s been no hint of this with the Series X consoles the Tom’s Guide team has. 

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

The only big advantage the PS5 has over the Xbox Series X is the presence of a USB-C port — which is a big deal, especially as more accessories get USB-C adapters. But even if the Xbox Series X design is much more conservative, it’s also much more sensible overall.

Winner: Xbox Series X

PS5 vs. Xbox Series X: Controller

Another area in which the Xbox Series X plays it safe, to its credit, is in its controller. The Xbox Series X controller is nearly identical to the Xbox One model, save for textured grips and shoulder buttons, an improved D-pad and a new “share” button in the center.

xbox series x review

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

It’s a smart upgrade for one of the best controllers ever made. Still, the fact that it runs on AA batteries instead of a built-in rechargeable unit feels positively archaic, and also pasts a lot of cost onto the end-user, whether they choose to buy AAs or rechargeable packs.

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

The PS5 DualSense, on the other hand, is a big departure from the DualShock 4, with a two-tone color scheme and much bigger grips. It also adds a variety of new features: extremely sensitive haptics and a built-in mic among them. The haptic feedback is impressive, mimicking the feel of objects rolling around in a box, or putting up realistic resistance when you push a trigger. However, the DualSense still has a ton of wasted space (particularly in the touchpad), and the haptics have the potential to take you out of the game as much as they immerse you in it. As an aside, If you’re pondering the PS5 DualSense vs DualShock 4 debate, the new controller comes out on top for sheer innovation alone.

Winner: Tie

PS5 vs. Xbox Series X: Backwards compatibility 

Both the PS5 and the Xbox Series X have excellent backwards compatibility features, but there’s no denying that the Xbox reaches further back into Microsoft’s library. Not only is the Xbox Series X compatible with just about every Xbox One game; it’s also compatible with many Xbox 360 and original Xbox games. While it doesn’t include every stab Microsoft’s ever taken at backwards-compatible games (the Xbox 360 still plays many original Xbox games that the Series X can’t), it’s an impressive effort with zero friction.

(Image credit: Future)

The PS5 can play just about every PS4 game on the market, but compatibility doesn’t go back any further than that, unless you count its PlayStation Now streaming service for PS3 games. Still, it’s not quite the same as playing games you already own directly on a console.

Most recently, a new patent application filed by PlayStation designers hints that the PS5 will someday be able to run PS1, PS2 and PS3 games — but we’ve got no time frame on when that might come to pass.

Winner: Xbox Series X

PS5 vs Xbox Series X: Cloud gaming

Cloud gaming isn’t a huge issue for either the PS5 or the Xbox Series X, since you can simply download games and play them natively on either platform. But as cloud gaming grows over the next few years, it’s good to know where each company stands at the outset of this console generation.

The PS5 has PlayStation Now, which lets you stream a variety of PS3 and PS4 games to your PS5 or PC. You can also download certain PS4 titles. It costs at least $8 per month, and doesn’t work on mobile platforms.

Xbox game pass

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate (Image credit: Microsoft)

The Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, as discussed above, costs $15 per month, and lets you stream games to Android, Windows PCs, macOS machines, iPhones and even the the Xbox Series X, Series S and Xbox One themselves. 

With this comprehensive suite of cloud-based streaming the Xbox Series X is the winner here, 

Winner: Xbox Series X

PS5 vs. Xbox Series X: Buy now or wait?

Ever since the two consoles launched it’s not been easy to find a healthy Xbox Series X restock or PS5 restock. And while the situation is perhaps not as dire as it was 18 months ago, you may still need to weigh up which console to dedicate your time to in hunting down. 

Both machines have their merits, but for our money we’d chose the PS5. That’s simply down to there being more cross-generation games for the Xbox Series X and how a lot of the current best Xbox Series X games are also available on Windows 10 and 11 PCs. So if you have a powerful gaming PC, you can afford to skip the Series X, whereas a PS5 will give you access to exclusives like Deathloop, Gran Turismo 7 and Returnal.

Winner: PS5

PS5 vs Xbox Series X: Verdict

PS5 Xbox Series X
Price (10) 8 8
Games (20) 18 15
Performance (15) 13 12
Design (10) 5 8
Controller (10) 7 7
Backwards compatibility (10) 7 9
Cloud gaming (5) 3 3
Total (80) 61 62

While both consoles are off to a strong start and show significant room for improvement, the Xbox Series X seems like a slightly better investment for the moment. With more powerful hardware, a better design, a more comprehensive game subscription service and a delightful controller, the Xbox Series X has the early lead in the next generation of consoles.

Still, the PS5 has some virtues that the Xbox Series X does not. There’s a full-featured digital console, a more inventive controller, a faster SSD and — this is not to be understated — a better selection of exclusive games.

From having used both consoles extensively over the last few months, my gut feeling is that they have more similarities than differences, and whichever one you get should be more than sufficient to power your gaming for the next few years. Of course, you could always just build a gaming PC — but that’s a different story.

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