Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5: early impressions

This week, my family got a copy of each new major game console: the Microsoft Xbox Series X and the Sony PlayStation 5. I haven’t yet had time to try them out well, but I know enough to give my first impressions.

They are both very similar machines from the inside. The same kind of processor, the same kind of memory. Reportedly, the Xbox Series X has a few more cores, and it might be the fastest of the two, but it is only fair to say that they are close. They sell at a comparable price.

But of these consoles look at first glance like an incremental upgrade on the previous generation. Though the PlayStation 5 is much taller than a PlayStation 4, it is basically functionally the same. I just removed the PlayStation 4 and put the PlayStation 5 instead. In another room where we tried it, it would not work, but it had to do with a bad HDMI cable. Using the Sony PlayStation 5 with the provided HDMI cable solved the problem. Upgrading to the PlayStation 5, we were able to bring back all our games, and they appear to work well.

The PlayStation 5 controller is like nothing I have ever experienced before. It is not that the Xbox Series X has a bad controller: they appear to be much the same. But the PlayStation 5’s “haptic feedback” feels like a form of virtual reality. You can feel textures, and water, and so forth. It is also much slicker looking that the PlayStation 4 controller. It remains to be seen whether game makers will take advantage of the new controller.

Both machines offer a qualitatively different experience: they are both very fast. So much faster than the previous generation that you get a real leap. Everything is snappier.

The PlayStation 5 has a fast, but tiny disk. Our disk is already almost full. There is no way to expand it right now. You can connect an external drive, but it will only help you with legacy (e.g. PlayStation 4) games. This is going to be a big problem, and quick. The Xbox Series X has a more reasonable disk, but it will also fill quickly.

They are both quiet game consoles. They generate a fair amount of heat but they do so quietly.

The Sony PlayStation 5 appears to fully support bluetooth components, while the XBox Series X only supports hardware adopting Microsoft’s proprietary wireless technology.

The XBox Series X has a legacy USB port that can be used to recharge your controller… and not much else. You cannot hook a microphone or speakers to it. To connect a speaker or a microphone to your XBox Series X without going through the television, you have to hook it up to the controller through a dongle. The Sony PlayStation 5  has modern and seemingly fully functional USB ports.

The XBox Series X has a wide range of games available through Microsoft gamepass, and the price is attractive. There are few new generation titles, but the XBox Series X  makes it up in volume. The fact that there are relatively few (if any) games exclusive to the XBox Series X  probably makes it a less exciting console if you already have an XBox.

The Sony PlayStation 5 can play your PlayStation 4 games, and it has a few interesting titles coming out. I am looking forward to receiving and trying Spider-Man Miles Morales.

Overall, it is a great time to be a gamer, especially if you can afford these consoles. If not, you might rejoice in the fact that used XBox and PlayStation consoles just got cheaper.

Published by

Daniel Lemire

A computer science professor at the University of Quebec (TELUQ).

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