Gaming’s biggest platforms are getting an overhaul for a new generation of games. In its ninth stage, both the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 are moving the medium forward by giving developers the extra firepower needed to fully realize their visions. For gamers, it’s the experience of being immersed in worlds that seem to become more lifelike with every new hardware iteration. The message is clear in bringing solutions to problems which have plagued the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One’s delivery of a true next gen life cycle. From Ray Tracing, faster loading times, permanent 60 frames-per-second and photorealistic engines, both next gen systems from each behemoth make the dream more believable.
Launch day also marks a daunting choice for gamers on their big week of spending. Its choices are boiled down with less preferences on green and blue. More imagination comes down to knowing which console will feed their favourite franchise exclusives for years. Another consideration brings hardware up to speeds and longevity for the next decade. A final thought can spark from which console would get more commitment than dust. At CGM, we’ve tested and reviewed each next gen system ahead of their retail birth. You can read our specific thoughts on the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 here.
Down to specs, content and the company focusfor gamers, this guide gives you the information for a confident next gen decision at checkout.
Xbox Standard Wireless Controller A, X, Y, B face layout Textured Triggers & Bumpers Bluetooth & USB-C AA Battery & Power Pack Support
PS5 DualSense Controller ▲, X, O, ▉ face layout Haptic Feedback Adaptive Triggers Textured Grips Bluetooth & USB-C Rechargeable Battery
Xbox Standard Wireless Controller A, X, Y, B face layout Textured Triggers & Bumpers Bluetooth & USB-C AA Battery & Power Pack Support
9.9 lbs (Standard) 8.6 lbs (Digital Only)
Halo Gears of War Forza Dead Rising Fable Killer Instinct Crackdown Sea of Thieves Dance Central
God of War The Last of Us Marvel’s Spider-Man Uncharted Ratchet & Clank Sly Cooper Infamous Little Big Planet Gran Turismo Horizon Series
Same as Series X
$629.99 CAD (Standard) $499.99 CAD (Digital)
Round 2: Performance
The Xbox Series X packs higher next gen hardware numbers than the PlayStation 5. Its optimizations focus on fast loading speeds through raw power, while its memory draws on strong caching to pull up previously loaded elements. Performance-wise, this gives the Series X a slight edge over the PS5 for jumping into games. Third-party titles including Red Dead Redemption 2 and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla are two behemoth game worlds which benefit most from both console’s upgrades. This is where Series X can jump into a game ten seconds faster, while the times can make an exponential difference next to the PlayStation 5. Times are also factored in for joining multiplayer games. The PS5’s upgraded WiFi 6 card can give Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War or Fortnite slightly faster – if not a more stable online experience. WiFi 6 also optimizes the PS5 with reduced ping and latency in real-time, while its digital system benefits from quicker game downloads over the Series X.
It’s worth noting both next gen systems use near-identical architectures with AMD providing custom Zen 2 and RDNA 2 chips. Both PS5 and Xbox Series X use a similar CPU, but are optimized differently. This is how the Series X and S offer faster cores on paper, giving users real multitasking between fully-loaded games. The PS5 focuses its 3.5GHz core with stability, working closely with a much faster GPU for 60-120 fps performance. This keeps the PS5 at tip-top shape when pushing PS4 games to their full potential without an explosion or deafening fans. But don’t be fooled – the Series X can perform the same next gen enhancements at a similar efficiency. Its own GPU can handle a bit more processing at 12 Teraflops, but does so at a significantly lower speed than the PS5. This can lead to a slight bottleneck and less stability for Xbox users early on when a game does its first load. Most of the Series X’s GPU power is allocated with a bigger CPU which can push up to 3.8GHZ (if needed). It’s unclear if Xbox will be using the CPU’s full clock speeds, as their shared third-party games can use the PS5’s minimum 3.5GHz without a big difference.
The Xbox Series X has more padding than the PS5 over memory this time around. Though it’s fair to state both next gen consoles are efficient, the Series X pushes over the PS5’s RAM with a 320-bit bus. This gives the Series X some extra reserved speeds when the system is handling multitasking or reloading large game worlds. In the long run, the Series X would suffer less deterioration with its memory while it can continue storing fully-loaded games for instant switching. But this borders on overkill, as PS5 users won’t be shortchanged from its upgraded 16GB memory. Most players would be focusing on one PS5 title at a time, giving the system more than enough room for multitasking apps including YouTube, Spotify and livestreaming with Twitch. Its improved on-board settings can also give PS5 users a more convenient way to tweak hardware setting on-the-fly with an incredibly user-friendly overlay.
Some of the biggest differences can be shown with how PS5 and Series X perform with backwards compatibility. Seeing PS exclusives like God of War and Marvel’s Spider-Man reach a buttery-smooth 60 frames per second is a real winner, with added benefits of ray-tracing and isometric fog. Both consoles will include dynamic lighting and ray tracing for their exclusives, but the PS5’s own in-house graphics take full advantage of its core specs without reservations. Sony’s console makes its own statement in providing efficient performance that looks better in the long run. It also leaves consumers open for a future PS5 Pro system which will undoubtedly blow past the Xbox Series X’s figures. While Microsoft has attempted to future-proof their systems with slightly heavier CPU, GPU and RAM, it can only go so far into the next gen life cycle before adding an upgraded version with a smaller margin of change.
Xbox has taken a new, if unusual approach to launching the cheaper Series S console alongside the Series X. Its previous Xbox One system was given some time to breathe before releasing a smaller, albeit enhanced version of the system at a lower price. For Xbox players, the Series S can work as an affordable and straightforward gateway for next gen gaming. But this is where the Series S’ limited hardware can actually leave owners in need of an upgrade later on. Its specs perform drastically slower than the Xbox Series X and PS5 for lower prices. Series S shares a near-identical CPU to the PS5, giving owners solid multitasking capabilities without big gaps. But performance takes a bigger drop, through longer loading times from having 6GB less memory at half of the frequencies. This has the potential to keep Series S owners waiting twice as long before jumping into an expansive game world. Somehow, the Series S is able to run next-gen games at a third of the processing power compared to the X’s GPU. It also clocks the lowest at 1.5 GHz, giving the Series S some fumbles with consistent 60 to 120fps frame rates.
Making the Series S more interesting is its digital-only format with lower specs. While the PS5 launches with a standard disc-based version, its own (cheaper) digital console shares the exact same hardware for consistency. Xbox attempts the same with a drastically big gap, focusing on costs instead of formats. Its Series X system can play both disc and digital versions, but does more to separate itself from Series S with too big of a performance gap.
Bluntly, PS5 owners have a bigger way to expand their hardware over Xbox Series X and S owners. The Series X includes a 1TB NVME at launch, but PS5 reserves its NVME as an upgradeable feature. This can give PS5 players an even bigger NVME capacity if they choose later on if their SSD fills up. The Series X and S do offer their own HDD expansions, but they’re limited to another 1TB at launch. The PlayStation 5 runs off a custom SSD which can quickly run out as games border on 150 to 250 GB at launch (see Black Ops Cold War). At full capacity, the PS5 is more prone to suffering from performance drops without extra SSD breathing room. This gives the Series X a leg up with its NVME, until it inevitably runs out of road from games and transferable backwards-compatible libraries. In short, the PS5 has less internal storage guarantee than the Series X, but makes up for it with double the options for NVME/HDD expansion. As for the Series S, it comes at a measly 512 GB which can also be upgraded to 1 Terabyte more with an external HDD support. This is a limiting factor for Series S owners who could suffer even more performance drops over their significantly underpowered next gen hardware once their NVME gets full.
All systems can run at a bare minimum of 1080p with 60fps capabilities. It’s high time developers can balance out high-fidelity visuals with a stable, smooth performance that is pleasing for Xbox and PS5 owners. For older games on each console, it removes more barriers for developers unable to compromise visuals and frame rate. Newer games also receive enhancements, with enough power left for processing games at a true 4K resolution. This offers Series X and PS5 owners a top-of-the-line experience with 2160p TVs with future-proofing for 8K displays. The Xbox Series X takes the crown for its overall display resolution options, letting players use 4K, 2K or HD formats without reservations. This is great for players who remained loyal with their older displays and can continue to take full advantage of their resolutions. The enhancements for Series X can also add extra details with its GPU, making graphics look much better regardless of monitors.
PlayStation 5 takes a weirder approach for leaving out a native 2K resolution at 2560x1440p. This leaves out a chunk of players who have enjoyed better performances without 4K. For PS5 games supporting 1080p, it can hamper in-game details and provide a noticeable drop in quality for 2K screens. The Series S suffers a similar issue, supporting 2K resolution but cutting out 4K due to hardware limitations. For entry next-gen, the Series S can still feel like a satisfying experience for older screens without 4K. But regardless of what systems you get, each next gen console can push their games up to 120 frames per second under their highest resolutions. For the sake of playing the latest games, Series S isn’t bound to higher standards set by Series X or PS5 and gives players a highly-accessible way to game with resolutions that have aged like fine wine. Those playing 1080p games over a 2K screen might noticeable even more muddled details from dynamic resolution scaling, which turns down quality to stabilize performance in real-time. To keep up with 4K performance, players on Series X and PS5 might notice it immediately as object from distances could suddenly look blurrier until they’re approached. But this is given that each hardware struggles to master 4K at 60fps in certain games with poor optimization.
Round 3: Content
PlayStation 5 owners can enjoy a more consistent flow of exclusive next gen games, which can knock Microsoft’s franchises out of the water in terms of frequency and variety. Much of the acclaimed franchises including God of War, Uncharted, The Last of Us, Ratchet & Clank and Marvel’s Spider-Man are returning to the system. These formerly PS4-exclusives are also fully-realized on the latest console with boosted performance, breakneck load times and 60fps at maximum resolutions. First-day players get the benefit of moving much of their favourite exclusives over for free, giving Nathan Drake, Kratos and Peter Parker a refreshing twist. With a focus on AAA content, PS5 players can expect to see some of the most anticipated sequels available exclusively. While award-winners such as The Last of Us Part II and HorizonZero Dawn hit the mark for gameplay, it was also hampered by 30 frames and DRS from hardware limitations. But the promising PS5 specs suggest upcoming original games could nail performance and visuals on the first try, without it taking another generation to perfect.
Xbox is a bit more limited with its content, focusing on long-time crowd pleasers such as Halo and Gears to push next gen forward. Despite losing Halo Infinite as a killer launch title, the sequel is the first of other exclusives down the pipeline. There are still a considerable amount of special titles to come across the next decade, including an anticipated Fable sequel which revives the series with cutting edge gameplay. But amid a game shortage during COVID-19, Xbox is starting off their launch with full backwards compatibility. This gives the Series X/S a much-needed reversal uppercut for content, as players are able to access games as far back as the original Xbox. For digital libraries, Series S owners will bask in the same compatible glory as their Series X players. It’s highly accessible for players who’ve accumulated decades worth of 360 and One games, which all have a new home in the next gen Xbox to rule them all. In a player-first focus, Xbox has pledged itself with the Smart Delivery system to make sure rebuying games are a thing of the past. This gives older Xbox One games free upgrades to Series X versions, while much older games are naturally remastered through hardware optimizations. On Day One, Series X/S owners essentially have plenty to do than those with PlayStation 5.
PlayStation 5 owners will have it just as good, if not better than the Series X on next gen and current gen ties. According to Sony last month, “more than 99%” of games in the previous gen are playable with PS5 at launch. For standard owners, they can simply pop in any PS4 disc and immediately play with performance and slight graphical enhancements. Games which looked great at 30fps will also get a much-needed boost to 60fps, making most of your older library worth playing again. Sadly, it falls short of the Xbox’s range for compatibility and PS3 games will forever be missed on the PS5. Digital PS5 owners can get the console at a cheaper price, at the cost of losing backwards compatibility for their physical PS4 collection. But digital PS4 libraries will immediately be detected after logging in, giving the PS5 a sizeable library of owned and PS+ games right away. This also gives PS5 players a nice backlog next to Series X owners, while existing games with crossplay mean nobody is left behind.
Subscriptions to PlayStation Now and the Xbox Game Pass are each console’s greatest next gen weapon. At a single price, the digital library for Series X/S and PS5 are blown wide open at launch. In terms of content, both benefit with their greatest games. Halo The Master Chief Collection is immediately available as a legacy exclusive for Xbox players, while older treasures like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and every Gears of War title to date will be waiting on Day One. Xbox does have just as much value in exclusives than the PlayStation 5, if all generations are factored-in from its backwards compatibility. This is where PS5’s backwards compatibility is reserved for the last gen and PS3 titles can only exist if they were remastered for PS4. Games such as the entire Uncharted series make the cut for PS5 owners, while Little Big Planet, Final Fantasy VII Remake and Marvel’s Spider-Man are enough to buy the system alone. Its sheer quality for the latest games make these instant classics a welcome addition for both backwards compatibility and upgraded versions. The unmatched lifelike car visuals of Xbox’s Forza series are only adding to the Series X’s exclusive library at launch. Communities with Sea of Thieves and Dead Rising can also carry on over Xbox as titles only available on the system.
PSVR players will be pleased to find they can use the PS5 to play their favourite titles, even if it’s under a backwards compatible setting. Oddly enough, Sony has no plans to make future PSVR games. That role goes to third-party developers, including IOI Interactive who have to produce Hitman 3 PSVR as a playable PS4 game for PS5. It falls short of the next-gen future for VR, while Xbox Series X/S continue to play it safe by leaving the platform out. But the PS5 library further inflates with digital PSVR games for players heavily invested in Vader Immortal, Farpoint, Iron Man VR and Firewall: Zero Hour.
Without question, both the Xbox Series X/S and PS5 are perfect for allnext gen third-party games to come. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Watch Dogs Legion, Far Cry 6 and Rainbow 6 Siege are just some of the examples from Ubisoft which will be shared regardless of system. The exclusives are a giant cherry on top of other AAA games coming from other studios. Of course, The Witcher 3, Skyrim Remastered and Cyberpunk 2077 are there to bring next gen players together. Absolutely, Star Wars games from EA will be coming with crossplay regardless of choice. With third-party games, there is no wrong next gen console purchase. It’s standard practice to expect Battlefield and Call of Duty on both Series X and PS5 with near-identical looks and gameplay. Much of the digital services from PlayStation Now and Xbox Game Pass also benefit from including the same third-party offerings from external developers for a jack-of-all-trades gaming experience at launch.
This brings us to the sparse amount of next gen launch titles, which are inflated by available third-party games also on Xbox Series X. Bugsnax is coming for free as the PS5’s first PS+ game. Hard-hitters such as the Demon’s Souls remake are scratching a big Dark Souls itch with a big next-gen impression. An exhilarating rush can come with swinging through next-gen New York City in Spider-Man Miles Morales, delivering more of what made PS4 owners happy in 2018. It’s a sizeable offering when compared to the Xbox Series X/S, which offers virtually zero exclusive launch titles. Most of its special releases are reserved for 2021 amid delays, while Series X/S will be enjoying the same third-party titles as PS5. These include Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War, NBA 2K21, Bright Memory and DIRT 5 which can still offer a promising first entry into next gen until exclusives start rolling in. In hindsight, it’s easy to say PlayStation has made its message clear on Day One with a handful of beefy exclusives. This gives PlayStation 5 owners a closer vision of next gen at launch through its early contenders only available on the system.
The choice is ultimately up to gamers with how they commit to a console at launch time. Those waiting for an Xbox Series X or PS5 can still enjoy much of the same third-party launch titles on current gen systems. These will also come with free upgrades and give players a bonus in playing games now and building up their next gen library when they get a console. While the PS5 continually churns out exclusives with longtime franchises, Xbox Series X benefit from keeping their entire game collection in one place. Both hardware specifications are neck-and-neck, with numbers only making a difference as each consoles are pushed to the limit. Under a standard margin for 60fps and 4K resolutions, both Xbox and PlayStation owners will be seeing similar next gen experiences at launch. Xbox bides their time with their own exclusives coming in 2021 while PlayStation hits hard with launch titles ready to go. Each of these factors definitely won’t stop gamers from owning both, though it would be a balance of attention. The next gen ushers in a new age for the gaming medium with Xbox Series X and PS5, with power ultimately going back to players at checkout.