Sony PlayStation 5 vs. Microsoft Xbox Series X: What’s new and different

Sony PlayStation 5 vs. Microsoft Xbox Series X: What’s new and different

It looks like the two major game console companies will be fighting over your holiday dollars, or at least those that aren’t already earmarked for a Nintendo Switch. The 2020 holiday shopping season is when we expect both Sony’s PlayStation 5 and Microsoft’s Xbox Series X, and while we already know a bit about the PS5 and new Xbox, we’re still missing critical facts including their prices, specific release dates, and game exclusives. 

Possibly complicating those are the possibility of higher-than-expected prices for the PS5 thanks to ongoing trade disputes and the continuing phone-driven shortage of memory and storage options. Plus there could conceivably be production delays resulting from steps being taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the recent new coronavirus. We haven’t heard any warnings about the latter as yet, but it seems like a real risk at the moment.

This next chapter of the console wars may be especially important. Not because 8K video or ray-traced audio will be a must-have feature, but because the gaming landscape has become more complicated and fragmented since the last generation of boxes came out. 

For example, in addition to competing with PCs, consoles now face challenges from new hardware-free cloud gaming services such as Google Stadia and Nvidia GeForce Now, as well as Microsoft’s own still-in-beta Project xCloud. To a lesser extent, they also compete for your time with mobile game-subscription services such as Apple Arcade. 

Based on what we know thus far, however, there doesn’t seem to seem much new to differentiate the two consoles from each other though Sony seems to have made fancier controller enhancements than Microsoft. As always, the games drive much of the real interest, and we’ve only heard about a few. They’re both based around AMD Zen second-gen processors and AMD Radeon Navi-generation graphics processors, and have switched from spinning drives to solid-state: Those three together mean you can expect significantly better performance from the new consoles over the old.PlayStation 5Sara Tew/CNET

The most novel aspects I’ve heard about for the PS5 are related to the controller (still unnamed, but my money’s on DualShock 5, for obvious reasons). Sony’s replaced rumble with more sensation-specific haptic feedback and adaptive triggers, which may deliver a much better gaming experience as long as developers opt to support them. Plus, it’s got new speakers and a USB-C connection. The PS5 is jumping to solid-state storage, making it a better match for large game downloads. The only game confirmed for the PS5 right now is Godfall.

Like the Xbox Series X,  the PS5 will still support optical discs, showing that some legacy technology is hard to ditch. While 8K TVs may be few and far between, like the Xbox the PlayStation 5 will be capable of 8K or 120fps output with variable refresh rate support. Both are based on custom AMD Zen 2 CPUs and Navi-generation GPUs delivering hardware-accelerated ray tracing, and they’ve switched to solid-state storage, which is much faster than the older spinning hard disks. Read our ongoing coverage of the PS5.

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