We've been seeing the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X for months, but finally the new consoles are starting to look real, with price, pre-order and officially set release dates, hardware shown, and launching game trailers spread across the YouTube to drool. But now that consumers are finally smart enough to make an informed decision, both companies have announced cheaper and exclusive alternatives for digital use for their next-generation machines, which can make a decision much more challenging.
Xbox Series X vs PS5 specifications
To compare the PS5 Digital Edition without a disc and the Xbox Series S, we need to start with the cutting edge models: the $ 499 PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X. We didn't have it yet. a chance to put any of these consoles to the test, so that when it comes to practical performance, we can only follow what the manufacturers have told us – while we might be able to redeem some of the previous consoles.
Both machines feature 8-core AMD Ryzen CPUs, with 16 GB of RAM and custom integrated AMD Radeon graphics. However, the PS5's CPU runs at 3.5 GHz (with variable clock speeds) and its GPU at 2.23 GHz, with 10.28 teraflops of graphics power. The Xbox Series X CPU is marginally faster at 3.8 GHz (3.6 GHz with multi-threading is used) and the slower GPU at 1.825 GHz – although its larger number of computing units puts its total computing power in about 12 teraflops, slightly larger than the PS5.
Clock speeds and teraflops are not the end of the performance but it is the only tip we have now of how the consoles will compare. Both aim to produce 4K graphics and can handle up to 120 frames per second for super smooth motion – although many games will likely require you to lower the resolution to achieve that frame rate. Most games are likely to target 30 to 60 frames per second at 4K.
The consoles are not running identical hardware, so one is likely to have slightly stronger features (if we're speculating, it's probably the Xbox Series X), but the two will be more similar than different, playing many of the same games with comparable graphic fidelity. I would be surprised if the average player could tell the difference between graphics without pixel-peeping.
That said, peepers are going to peep, so we're sure to see these differences soon. The Xbox One X, for example, was able to run games at slightly higher resolutions than the PlayStation 4 Pro, or with less frame rate drops – which meant slightly sharper graphics with smoother movement. If a console, like the PS5, has to increase the resolution to 4K, it can also introduce small "artifacts" or graphic flaws in the image. You can see some examples in in this video from Digital Foundry that compares 4K grid on PS4 with native 4K on a PC. We won't know how big this gap is with the next generation of consoles and how the disadvantages of the slower model manifest themselves, until we see a few more games in motion.
Xbox Series S vs PS5 Digital
Sony and Microsoft probably knew that $ 500 was a hard pill to swallow, so both are offering low-cost alternatives to their top-of-the-line models: Sony offers the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition for $ 399, and Microsoft offers the Xbox Series S for $ 299. It may be tempting to directly compare these two – after all, you’ll probably see them sitting side by side on some shelves – but they’re different enough that comparison doesn't make much sense.
The PS5 Digital Edition has the exact same specifications as its disc-compatible older brother, which means that games should look and play identical on each. The only difference is the 4K Blu-ray drive, which is not present in the Digital Edition. This is pretty self-explanatory: if you plan to buy games digitally and streaming instead of watching Blu-rays, digital editing is worth the $ 100 savings.
The Xbox Series S, on the other hand, uses different hardware than X Series to reach that affordable price of $ 299. Your graphics chip can only reach 4 teraflops, with 10 GB of RAM and a 512 GB storage drive that is half the size of the terabyte drive within the X Series. Microsoft says it targets a resolution of 1440p, which is somewhere between the 1080p of the original Xbox One and 4K of the Xbox Series X. It will be upgraded to 4K and is capable of running games at a super-smooth speed of 120 frames per second, but, again, it is likely to be close to 30 or 60 frames per second, unless you lower graphics in games that support such options.
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Perhaps most revealing is the fact that the low-cost S Series, although compatible with next-generation games, will not play the Xbox An X-enhanced version of these games – instead, it will play the "Xbox One S version" – the "standard" version backwards compatible – albeit with some improvements like smoother frame rates, faster load times and HDR. In other words, it may fall somewhere between One S and One X in terms of graphical fidelity. So, while the PS5 Digital Edition is a next-generation console (with a small discount for the lack of disk drive), the S Series looks more similar to a next-generation console in terms of graphics output, although it is still able to play the latest games.
Microsoft hasn't said exactly how it will look beyond resolution and frame rate, but it could also mean that certain graphics settings have been reduced – perhaps the shadows are a little more unstable, or perhaps certain textures have a little more blur in the S Series. Ray tracing could also be reduced to slightly less realistic lighting, according to Microsoft. Last generation comparisons can give us a clue as to what the differences may be – in Shadow of War, for example distant objects like trees are noticeably less detailed on Xbox One S than on Xbox One X. And if you remember its predecessor, Shadow of Mordor, it was seriously undermined on Xbox 360 and PS3 compared to PS4 .
I would be surprised to see a difference between the Xbox Series S and The X Series is as brutal as something like the shadows between generations of Shadow of Mordor, but it depends on how far developers push the hardware boundaries. Most of what we’ll probably see is slightly reduced graphics, with lower resolution and / or frame rate. Even with these small sacrifices, the S Series sounds like a great deal for $ 299.
So, which one do you buy?
If you're biting your nails trying to decide which of the four new consoles to buy, here are some considerations:
Games: Choosing between Camp Xbox and Camp PlayStation is probably easy: games will probably make all the difference. If you are a fan of God of War, Horizon and Spider-Man, all of these games will have exclusive representation on PS5 ( and PS4 ). If you are addicted to Halo, Fable and Forza, they will all be getting their own installments on the latest Xboxes .
Resolution: Between the Xbox Series X and Series S, the X Series will provide the best experience in terms of detailed graphics and smooth movements – albeit at a higher price. If you don't have a 4K TV, you're just a casual gamer, or if you want to get a better return on your money, the S Series will be a great budget option with little sacrifice.
Performance: Pixel count aside, both versions of the PS5 and Xbox Series S / X will be able to achieve frame rates of up to 120FPS – although we will probably still see many games at 30-60FPS as well. Given the low-tech equipment that powers the Xbox Series S, you are likely to see some reduced visuals as well – like running a game in “normal” vs. “high” settings on the PC.
Digial vs Physical: At the end of things for PlayStation, it's hard to say no to Digital Edition: for $ 100 less, you get a system with exactly the same specifications as your big brother, but without a unit disk. If you already plan to buy games digitally, it's a no-brainer. That said, don't discard the value of the discs. Buying physical PS5 games can provide enough savings to make up for that $ 100 in the long run, since you can buy and sell used discs. In addition, 4K Blu-rays are incredible – better than 4K streaming – making both disc-based consoles attractive to movie buffs.
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And don't feel that you need to make that decision now. If you're on the fence, postponing it can help you avoid a case of buyer's remorse, allowing you to see how these consoles work in person before you shell out your hard-earned money. That is, if you can take the wait.
Whitson Gordon is a writer, player and tech nerd who has been building PCs for ten years. He eats potato chips with chopsticks to keep his mechanical keyboard from getting dirty.