Get ready for a new generation of game consoles. Microsoft and Sony have both announced their next big things, and unless plans change, it looks like we will see them as soon as the end of this year. In Sony’s corner, there’s the PlayStation 5, the sensibly named next iteration of the PlayStation. In Microsoft’s corner, there’s the Xbox Series X, a game console that looks like a PC and hints at an entire line of systems.
Both companies have released extensive information about these systems, and we now have a good idea of what they’ll be able to do. Here’s what we know so far about the PS5 and the Series X.
Xbox Series X: Big, Blocky, and Beefy
Xbox Series X
Microsoft has been happily teasing loads of details about the Xbox Series X, from deep dives into its hardware to the final or near-final design of the system and controller. The design element is particularly interesting because the Xbox Series X looks very different from any previous model. In fact, it looks more like a PC desktop than any kind of game console, with a vertical tower design that can sit comfortably next to a monitor or under a desk.
The dimensions of the console haven’t been released, but based on a rendering of the system with a gamepad in front of it, the system looks far larger than the 12-inch-tall, 6-inch-wide Xbox One X.
Xbox Series X Specs and Power
That big size means Microsoft can stuff some impressive hardware into the console. The Xbox Series X is built around a 3.8GHz octa-core AMD Zen 2 CPU and a 52-core GPU capable of processing 12 teraflops. The console also features 16GB of GDDR6 RAM and a 1TB SSD, which in terms of pure power and capacity puts it right in the realm of a capable gaming PC.
As for what all that power can do, Microsoft claims the Xbox Series X can display 4K graphics at 60fps, and lower resolutions at up to 120fps. The GPU can also support ray tracing like Nvidia’s RTX-capable GeForce cards, and the SSD promises much faster loading times than the hard drives of previous Xbox consoles.
Xbox Series X Extra Tricks
The Xbox Series X boasts some new features that sound very convenient for busy gamers. Quick Resume technology will enable the system to maintain suspended states in multiple games at once, letting players switch between them and apps instantly instead of needing to load each game individually to continue playing. That’s a huge boon if you have a handful of favorite games you play at any given time.
Smart Delivery is a more cross-generational consumer benefit than anything related to performance. When there are multiple versions of a game available on the Xbox Series X, including versions released on previous consoles, Smart Delivery will automatically download the best version of the game for your hardware. If there’s a revised port for the Xbox Series X that takes better advantage of the system’s power than the Xbox One version, that’s the version you’ll get.
That brings us to another important aspect: Backward Compatibility. The Xbox Series X will almost certainly work with Xbox One games, and since the Xbox One is backward compatible with many Xbox and Xbox 360 games, that means that the Xbox Series X will be the only Xbox you’ll need to play games from the last 20 years. Not every Xbox and Xbox 360 game is backward compatible with the Xbox One or will be compatible with the Xbox Series X, but that list has grown to cover nearly every major release to hit a Microsoft console.
Xbox Series X Gamepad
We’ve gotten a good look at the new Xbox Series X controller. There aren’t any big surprises here, and it looks very similar to the Xbox Wireless Controller we’ve enjoyed since the Xbox One S came out. In fact, the new gamepad is also called the Xbox Wireless Controller.
Xbox Wireless Controller
The layout and features are largely the same, with offset dual analog sticks, four face buttons, four triggers, and a direction pad. The direction pad has been redesigned, combining a conventional plus shape with the octagonal plate design of the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2’s alternate pad. It’s a circular pad with very clear cardinal directions and easy-to-find diagonals. It looks good.
Besides that, the new Xbox Wireless Controller adds a Share button similar to the DualShock 4, or the Capture button on the Nintendo Switch. It’s a welcome addition that lets users capture screenshots or record video with one button press instead of exploring a menu.
PlayStation 5: The Tall Titan
Sony has finally revealed what the PlayStation 5 looks like, and it’s a pretty hefty beast. This curvy black and white tower stands high above the Xbox Series X, and like the Series X it might have some trouble fitting in a media cabinet. The system will also be available in two versions, one with an optical drive (an Ultra HD Blu-ray player capable of playing 4K media) and a digital-only version that relies entirely on downloaded and streaming games and media.
PlayStation 5 Specs and Power
Sony gave Wired a close look at the hardware underneath the shell of the PlayStation 5 last year. The system will be built around an octa-core AMD Zen 2 CPU with a custom Radeon GPU, which stacks it up very closely to the Xbox Series X. Yes, that means the PS5 will be capable of ray tracing, and presumably 4K. The PlayStation 5 will also feature an SSD instead of a hard drive for storage, which should further boost performance, just like the Series X. The SSD seems to be the most significant aspect of the PS5, as Sony has heavily promoted the near-instant load times it will allow.
While backward compatibility with at least the PS4 was teased before, Sony has not yet confirmed this feature, or any other sort of backward compatibility for the PS5 yet.
PlayStation 5 Gamepad
The controller that comes with the PS5 will not be called the DualShock 5 as expected, but instead is known as the DualSense, and it’s a pretty significant redesign from previous PlayStation gamepads. The layout is the same, but the overall look is more plump than the DualShock 4, with a big, rounded design reminiscent of the Xbox One’s gamepads.
The DualSense features haptic feedback in the triggers, and incorporates a microphone in addition to a speaker in the design to enable voice chat and (presumably) commands. It still has a touchpad like the DualShock 4, but it looks quite different.
When Are the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X Coming Out?
It looks like both consoles are heading toward a face-off at the end of the year, with planned holiday 2020 release dates. Of course, those estimates came before the recent coronavirus pandemic, which has led to manufacturing and supply disruptions. We have been unable to confirm whether either manufacturer has been affected yet, or whether the pandemic will affect the release dates of the systems, but there’s a chance you’ll be waiting until 2021 for one or both.
How Much Do the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X Cost?
This is the big question, and it’s one we don’t have any good answers for yet. Based on rumors, speculation, and hardware specs, either system could retail for anywhere from $400 to $600. That’s the best estimate we can give at the moment, and neither Microsoft nor Sony has been willing to narrow that number down to something more concrete.
We’ll be updating this story as new information, so make sure to check back soon.