It's Console Wars D-Day, ladies and gentlemen. We've got both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series. We've got all the launch games you care about, and we are running HDMI 2.0 into an 88-inch OLED TV. It's time to put these consoles side by side and see how they perform mano a mano.
We've already heard a ton about the super-fast loading speeds on both next-gen consoles, thanks to their SSDs. The Xbox Series X's SSD has a raw throughput of 2.4 gigabytes per second, while the PlayStation 5 more than doubles that to 5.5 gigabyte per second raw. So you might expect the PS5 to beat the Xbox in every test by a wide margin, right? Well, hold on a minute.
Both booting the consoles cold and waking them from sleep are faster on the Xbox by a few seconds, and even when it comes to loading games, the consoles trade blows. In Assassin's Creed Valhalla, loading a game from the menu was a bit quicker on the Xbox, while in Dirt 5, the PlayStation 5 pulled ahead by a slight margin. And of course, if the game needs to connect to an online service before dropping you back in, that's going to inflate the load times, no matter what constantly you're planning on.
If you're loading a game from a console sleep state, though, the Xbox is always faster, at least in our tests. It seems that the faster SSD on the PlayStation 5 might be being bottle-necked by its slightly slower CPU, meaning that in almost every backwards compatible game or games that aren't optimized for either system's I/O architecture specifically, the Xbox will likely load faster, and that's without even mentioning the Xbox's Quick Resume feature, which drops you right back into the action instead of into the game's start menu. It is sorely missed on the PlayStation 5. But, considering next-gen load speeds absolutely decimate the minute-plus wait times of previous consoles, it's hard to complain about a few extra seconds here or there.
Now let's compare some game visuals starting with multi-platform titles. Wow, these are remarkably similar. That's because the consoles are architecturally similar with AMD Zen 3 CPU's and RDNA GPU's, though the Xbox has a slight advantage in both cases, at least on paper. In practice, the image quality between the consoles is very similar, but differences can emerge, depending on the situation.
Our friends at Digital Foundry have pointed out that while playing on the favor frame rate mode, the PlayStation 5 actually adds more background foliage in Dirt 5, whereas in favor resolution mode, where the resolution remains locked at 4k in for looser frame rates, games either felt slightly smoother, perhaps because the PS5 doesn't have variable refresh rate implemented just yet, or pushed closer to full res more often on the Xbox, letting small details like the car's grills look slightly better.
Some games are more of a toss-up though. NBA 2K21 looks truly next-gen on both consoles, except for the visible aliasing. On the PS5, it's slightly smoother, but the depth of field effect and extra per object motion blur on the Xbox deals with it in its own way.
How about next-gen exclusives, though? Well, the Series X doesn't have any, which brings us then to Spider-Man: Miles Morales on the PS5. While the game looks great, it feels less next-gen than I had hoped, looking better than the PS4 version, but not really that much better, which, if you think about it, is really just praise for the incredible optimization job they did on the two-year-old PS4 version. On the PS5 though, the addition of ray-traced reflections make swinging through a frozen, glassy New York feel brand new, although ray-tracing is locked into the 30 FPS mode. Once you switch to 60 FPS, you're probably never going to go back to ray-tracing, even if it uses less attractive screen space reflections.
The PS5 has global settings like universal toggles for game difficulty, performance priorities, and accessibility options. Like the Xbox's Quick Resume, they're just nice to have things. Strangely though, the thing I found most exciting about my experience on the was actually the controller. Yes, the DualSense has been upgraded with a mic, USB Type-C charging, and resistive triggers, which make the Xbox triggers feel dull and boring in comparison.
Until today, I gotta say, I never really imagined feeling directionality in the vibrations of a controller. The experience was something totally new, like hearing a stereo recording after a life of mono.
In conclusion, you can't go wrong with either choice. Each console offers a compelling set of reasons why it's the best console. Xbox has power, speed, backwards compatibility, and the value with financing and Xbox Game Pass. But, while Sony doesn't have a real competitor to Game Pass, they do have some proven studios making amazing exclusive games right now. They've got a non-proprietary storage upgrade solution, although you can't quite upgrade just yet, and they've got an all-digital console that packs all of the firepower of it's more expensive sibling for a $100 cheaper, making it look to me way more compelling than the Xbox Series S.