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PlayStation 5 vs Xbox Series X: Everything You Need to Know

What's the difference between a CPU and a GPU and why do they matter? Which console is the strongest? How do the games libraries look? And how much will they cost?

After months of Microsoft sharing interesting information about the Xbox Series X, including some very impressive hardware specifications, Sony finally decided to talk more about the PlayStation 5 as well on March 18. This hardware deep dive obviously makes it easier to compare the two consoles, which also led to many of you asking us questions like: "Which console is the strongest?" "When will they launch?" and "How much will they cost?". Well, some of these questions will be difficult to answer with absolute certainty before launch, but let us compare and explain each aspect of the two consoles in layman terms to hopefully give you a nice overview and help you make an informed decision when it's time to make your purchase.

PlayStation 5 vs Xbox Series X: Everything You Need to Know

CPU
PS5: Custom Zen 2 CPU with eight cores up to 3.5 GHz (variable frequency)
versus
Xbox Series X: Custom Zen 2 CPU with eight cores at 3.8 GHz (3.66 GHz with simultaneous multithreading)

The central processing unit is one of the most important components of a console, as it's basically the spine at the centre of the hardware. This little thing gathers signals and information from other parts of the console and makes the smaller calculations to translate all of these ones and zeros to something happening on your screen, in your speakers, and in your controller.

Both Sony and Microsoft have as usual teamed up with AMD to make their own unique CPU, and this time they've ended up with a version built upon AMD's Zen 2 microarchitecture. That doesn't mean that the two will be exactly the same however, as they're running at different speeds and utilise the power in different ways. Where the Xbox Series X has the advantage of offering a fixed speed of 3.8 GHz for games using just one core and lowering it to 3.66 GHz for stuff that requires multiple cores, the PlayStation 5 takes a different approach by having a lower, more adjustable maximum with 3.5 GHz. Why does having a more adjustable frequency matter? Well, being able to adjust the power to suit an action's requirements leads to it being easier to cool, so it's clear that Sony doesn't want us having a PS4 situation where the console threatens to fly away because the fans are going insane.

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GPU
PS5: Custom RDNA 2 10.28 TFLOPs, 36 CUs up to 2.23GHz (variable frequency)
versus
Xbox Series X: Custom RDNA 2 approximately 12 TFLOPS, 52 CUs at 1.825 GHz

Then we have those famous teraflops, which in its simplest terms is a measurement of how fast the consoles can solve the more challenging calculations that the CPU can't handle.

The numbers alone indicate that the Xbox Series X is twice as powerful as the Xbox One X (Microsoft's best console right now), while the PS5 is almost two-and-a-half times stronger than the PS4 Pro (Sony's most powerful console right now). That's not quite right though, because they'll actually be able to perform better than that. One of the reasons for this is that the power-potential can be restricted or bottle-necked by how good your hard drive or SSD is. Let's say that the GPU represents how many complex math problems your brain can make every minute, while the difference between a fantastic and good hard drive or SSD can be compared to noting down your answers by hand or simply yelling them out. Yes, a powerful SSD is that good

So, while the Xbox Series X seems to be stronger than the PS4, by having 1.8 more teraflops, it's might not end up being such a big difference in practical terms. Sure, while having more CUs is like having more people working on an equation together, Sony's decision to make the frequency adjustable and faster complicates the comparison a bit. Where the latter could lead to a more stable experience on the PS5 because of the cooling, the Xbox Series X's extra power gives it a more potential without extra optimisation work from the developers. It's another area where Xbox Series X has the greatest brute power, but the PS5 could offer about the same or maybe even more by using finesse.

Memory
PS5: 16GB GDDR6 with a 256mb bus and 448GB/s bandwidth
versus
Xbox Series X: 16GB GDDR6 with a 320mb bus and 10GB at 560 GB/s, 6GB at 336 GB/s bandwidth

This aspect is much easier to explain, as it's the amount of data the console can store at once. Call us naive, but being able to store 16GB at once and with each console's memory being this fast, it leads us to believe that this aspect of the consoles will be the same across both.

Internal and external storage
PS5: Custom 825GB SSD with 5.5GB/s (Raw), Typical 8-9GB/s (Compressed) IO throughput
versus
Xbox Series X: Custom 1TB NVME SSD with 2.4 GB/s (Raw), 4.8 GB/s (Compressed) IO throughput

An area where speed does matter however is in storage. Having both Sony and Microsoft replacing internal hard drives with SSDs is the difference between night and day. This determines how fast the data stored can be transferred to the different components and then your screen. It's somewhat disappointing that neither console will offer more than 1TB of internal memory, and especially the PS5 having as little as 825GB of usable space. We're willing to live with having one less Call of Duty or Rockstar game on our console when the speed of the PlayStation 5 is this fast though! Sony showed just how much of a difference in load times and streaming assets the SSD makes compared to the PS4 Pro's hard drive with Spider-Man, and you can see Microsoft's comparison in the video below.

Where the Xbox Series X is a bit more powerful than the PlayStation 5 in terms of both CPU and GPU, Sony's SSD absolutely crushes the one Microsoft has made. Marcus Fenix might do his bent over sprint to the goal, but Nathan Drake has rockets attached to his back. That was mostly just to get the blood of fanboys boiling out there, as both machines will deliver an experience the like of which console players have never experienced before. More than double the speed is quite remarkable, however. Looking past the fact that most developers probably also will use the extra power to make prettier and bigger games and with that increase the amount of data required, both consoles will deliver much shorter load times, far less pop-in, make games start up straight away after selecting them, and generally make things snappier.

Another noteworthy difference between the consoles is the solutions for external storage. Where the Xbox Series X requires proprietary external SSDs to be able to play games optimised for Xbox Series X and the velocity architecture, PlayStation 5 will support third-party SSDs as well. Not that the latter won't have its limits either. Mark Cerny has said the PS5 will only accept M.2 SSDs that meet the new PCI Express 4.0 standard, and there aren't many of those right now. Even Cerny has stated that certified SSDs probably won't arrive until "a bit past" the PS5's launch. Only times will tell how much both these and Microsoft's proprietary units will cost, but expect to spend a decent amount if you need more storage. The good thing is that both of them will let us use our old hard drives to store games from the previous consoles, so your SSD can be for just Senua's Saga: Hellblade II or Spider-Man 2.

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Games
Speaking of games, this is an area neither Sony nor Microsoft has said especially much about. Microsoft will have the biggest selection at launch, as we know the Xbox Series X will be fully backwards compatible, meaning it'll let you play pretty much all of your Xbox, Xbox 360 and Xbox One games. Meanwhile, Sony hopes to make have most of the 100 most popular PS4 games and many more playable on the PS5 and have the large majority of the PS4 library join the selection shortly after.

You're not buying a new console to play old games, are you? And even if the Xbox Series X will be able to "magically" make older games run and look better without any extra work from the developers. We want new, prettier, bigger and better games! Microsoft is ready to start strong by finally having a Halo game being part of a console launch again with Infinite set to be available on launch day. We also know that Senua's Saga II: Hellblade is incoming and that several of the company's new and old studios are hard at work on new games. And it's important to remind you that Microsoft has acquired many new, talented studios over the last few years, so don't expect the same kind of console exclusive game drought as some would say this generation has seen for the Xbox One.

Sony has almost been radio silent in terms of exclusives. The only confirmed console exclusives are Bluepoint's secret project (spoilers: it's a Demon's Souls remake) and Counterplay Games' Godfall. Those are only the official ones, however, and PlayStation Worldwide Studios has many exciting projects in the works. We're expecting to learn more about Gran Turismo 7, sequels for both God of War, Spider-Man, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Ratchet & Clank and other beloved IPs, and sprinkle in the rumours of a new Uncharted, whatever Naughty Dog will do after The Last of Us: Part II, a multitude of titles from Japan Studios and the rest.

Most of the library will consist of multiplatform games anyway, and there's no lack of exciting titles on the way. The upcoming Assassin's Creed, a new Far Cry, Gods & Monsters, Rainbow Six: Quarantine, Watch Dogs Legion, Outriders, the Gothic remake, Deathloop, Starfield, The Elder Scrolls VI, Dragon Age 4, a new Battlefield, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order 2, Playdead's next game, another Hitman, Warner Bros' leaked Harry Potter RPG, Call of Duty and so many more.

PlayStation 5 vs Xbox Series X: Everything You Need to Know

Price
We don't know the official price yet, so we'll update this section when it's announced. While we wait, it's worth noting that a Bloomberg report claims it costs $450 USD to produce a PS5, so consider yourself fortunate if the console ends up costing exactly that considering we also have to take marketing, packaging and other factors into account. With the Xbox Series X sporting more powerful and expensive components, expect that to be even more expensive. Sound like a bit too much for you? Don't forget about the all but confirmed weaker and cheaper Xbox codenamed Lockhart that will allegedly launch around the same time as its big brother, as that should be a fair bit cheaper.

Launch date
But when will the consoles actually launch? Both Sony and Microsoft have reiterated that they still plan to launch the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X in "Holiday 2020" - even in the midst of coronavirus. "Holiday" usually means October or November for these two companies, so unless the virus continues to spread fear and close factories this summer, they are the two months worth circling on your calendar.

Please let us know if you have further questions, and we'll do our best to keep you and this article updated.



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