Deciding to purchase a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X is a big investment. While both consoles are poised to offer incredible value over the next few years, there are several variables to consider before breaking out your credit card and ordering one of the next-gen systems.
The affordable Xbox Series S and PlayStation 5 Digital Edition make your decision even more difficult. These offer much of the same tech as their expensive siblings, but carry a more wallet-friendly price tag and rely on digital-only content.
That begs the question – which console is the best overall value?
PlayStation 5 Vs. Xbox Series X Hardware Specs
While hardware isn’t the end-all-be-all battle it’s often billed as, we still think it’s important to take a look at what your money is actually buying. On paper, the Xbox Series X seems to offer a bit more firepower than the PlayStation 5, however real-life analysis between the two often results in a toss-up.
Here’s a quick look at some important stats for both Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5.
Xbox Series X Specs
- CPU: 8x Cores @ 3.8 GHz Custom Zen 2
- GPU: 52 CUs @ 1.825 GHz (12 TFLOPS)
PlayStation 5 Specs
- CPU: 8x Cores @ 3.5 GHz – Variable Frequency
- GPU: 36 CUs @ 2.33 GHz – Variable Frequency (10.3 TFLOPS)
Technical babble aside, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X provide impressive hardware for their price tag. Regardless of your purchase, you’ll be happy with what’s under the sleek exterior design.
Microsoft went all-out with backwards compatibility on the Xbox Series X. Not only can you play old Xbox One games, but you can also run most original Xbox and Xbox 360 titles if you happen to still have them in your collection (this works with both discs and digital copies). You can even use your current Xbox One controller to play Xbox Series X games – meaning you can pick up a cheap, second-hand Xbox One controller if you want to take on some couch co-op.
Things are a bit different on PlayStation 5. While you can still access and play old PlayStation 4 games, you won’t be able to run anything from PS3 or PS2. And while you can use your current DualShock 4 controller to play PS4 games on PS5, you’ll need a new DualSense controller to play any PS5 games.
Both platforms also offer visual upgrades on select last-gen titles, such as Gears 5, Ghost of Tsushima and Rocket League.
Winner: Xbox Series X
While it’s great you can use your old DualShock while playing PS4 games on your new PS5, there’s no denying the incredible backwards compatibility of the Xbox Series X. Based on the value it brings to the table – and the amount of money it helps keep in your pocket – Xbox Series X comes out ahead of the PlayStation 5.
Digital Console Comparison
This is where things get interesting. Both Sony and Microsoft offer a digital-only version of their next-gen console, but their approaches are radically different. The PlayStation 5 Digital Edition is identical to the regular PlayStation 5 – minus an optical drive for physical games. The Xbox Series S also lacks an optical drive, but its internal hardware is significantly underpowered compared to the Series X.
Those weaker internal components make Xbox Series S the cheapest next-gen console on the market. It won’t play games in 4K, but it lets you make the next-gen jump for just $299.
While PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X truly feel like next-gen consoles, it’s hard to argue with the frugality of the Xbox Series S. If you don’t have a stack of physical games lying around your home – and don’t mind the lack of 4K or reduced framerate – it’s hard to beat the value Xbox Series S brings to the table.
However, physical games often see sales more frequently than their digital counterparts and can be traded in when you’re done with them. If you’re one of the many people who still prefer physical games to digital, or plan on trading in games once you’ve finished them, it might be best to spend the extra money on a traditional console.
Winner: Xbox Series S
As the most affordable way to get in on the next-gen fun, it’s hard to argue with the Xbox Series S. Since the digital-only PS5 only costs $100 less than than the full-fledged version, it’s harder to recommend people don’t just shell out the extra money.
PlayStation 5 brings a bit more value when it comes to peripherals and accessories, as you’ll have the option to pick up a VR headset and enjoy a new dimension of gaming. It’s not cheap – but it’s a more affordable alternative than building out a robust gaming PC and picking up a Valve Index.
Then there’s the DualSense controller, which is simply a more feature-complete controller than the new Xbox Series X gamepad. Microsoft did recently announce a slick new headset for Xbox Series X, but it’s not enough to beat out the added value of DualSense and PSVR.
Winner: PlayStation 5
When it comes to peripherals and accessories, PlayStation 5 offers more added value than its Microsoft counterpart.
The main reason you’ll want to buy a next-gen console is for the upcoming games. While PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X have a feeble catalog at the moment, with few experiences unique to these consoles in particular, both have several heavy hitters launching in 2021.
For example, PlayStation 5 fans can look forward to Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, Deathloop, God of War: Ragnarok, Horizon Forbidden West and Gran Turismo 7; while Xbox Series X players have Halo Infinite, Psychonauts 2 and a new Fable game. No matter how you cut it, both consoles have a lot to offer over the next few years.
For the immediate future, however, the PlayStation 5 seems to have the edge. Its lineup of first-party titles is surprisingly deep, and it’ll keep you satisfied with its planned catalog of games.
Winner: PlayStation 5
Both PS5 and Xbox Series X have a stellar roster ahead of them. Which one is better is largely a matter of opinion, but most players will find little to complain about with Sony’s upcoming calendar.
Frequency of Digital Sales
PlayStation and Xbox owners are treated to dozens of digital sales throughout the year. Black Friday discounts are usually the most enticing, but we also see numerous discounts in the summer and fall. From lengthy, week-long promotions to daily flash sales, players always have access to some sort of promotion.
In short – both platforms will provide a wide variety of deals and discounts. Sony and Microsoft do an excellent job keeping the discounts flowing, and third-party retailers are always quick to chip in. If there’s a certain game you’ve got your eye on, be sure to set up a Slickdeals Deal Alert to be notified when experts find an incredible bargain.
Historically, we tend to see bigger discounts on the PlayStation Store, but this could be because of the increased backwards compatibility on the Series X. However, now that both systems offer backwards compatibility, it’ll be interesting to see whether that changes.
Regardless of your platform, you’ll almost always be able to pick up popular games at a discounted price.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a subscription service that offers more value than Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. For just $14.99/month, you gain instant access to more than 100 games for your new Xbox Series X|S, PC and Android smartphone. You also get free perks such as exclusive in-game content and various discounts and deals on downloadable content. Xbox Live Gold is even included with your membership. It’s often regarded as one of the best deals in gaming, and few would adamantly disagree.
PlayStation offers a similar service – PS Now – although it doesn’t feature as many blockbuster titles in its library. It does, however, have several games from past generations and several high-profile PlayStation exclusives, but it simply can’t compete with the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate lineup – which recently announced a slew of Bethesda games for its roster. It also doesn’t include a PS Plus subscription, so you’ll need to spend some extra cash to access online multiplayer.
Both PS Plus and Xbox Live Gold offer free monthly games, although the quality varies each month and there isn’t a clear winner.
Winner: Xbox Series X
Hundreds of blockbuster games and Xbox Live Gold for just $14.99/month is an incredible deal. PS Now and PS Plus together cost $19.98/month, although that number goes down if you purchase more than one month at a time. Still, the service offered by Microsoft is second-to-none.
Which Next-Gen Console is the Best Value?
If you’re looking for the most value-oriented way to get into next-gen gaming, the Xbox Series S is your best choice. Access to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate and the upcoming lineup of stellar first-party titles are enticing enough on their own, but throw in the low price tag of just $299, and there isn’t a more budget-friendly way to join in on the next-gen fun.
However, the Xbox Series S recommendation comes with a few caveats:
- If you currently have a substantial library of physical games you’d like to continue playing on next-gen consoles, the Xbox Series S isn’t a great fit. Because it lacks an optical drive, those old discs will be useless on your new system.
- Xbox Series S does not support 4K resolutions. If you want a truly next-gen experience – that is, a 4K image with 60fps on nearly all your games – the Xbox Series S will leave you disappointed.
When it comes to a winner between PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, PlayStation 5 barely manages to beat out the competition. After looking at its first-party lineup, innovative DualSense controller, PSVR and the ability to access hundreds of games through PS Plus and PS Now, it slightly edges out Xbox Series X as a better value.
Your best option – if you’re an avid gamer and don’t mind dropping a few extra bucks – is to pick up an Xbox Series S today, then purchase PlayStation 5 later this year when its exclusives start to release.
Although I believe PlayStation 5 is the more enticing console, I’ve actually spent more time with an Xbox controller in my hand since the consoles launched last November. After spending 30 hours swinging around New York as Miles Morales on PlayStation 5, I dove deep into the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate catalog on Xbox Series S – and haven’t found my way out since.
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