Getting your hands on any of the new-gen consoles is still difficult, with some players literally winning online lotteries to get the opportunity to order one. I myself lucked out recently and was able to walk into a Target to buy an Xbox Series X (they get daily shipments, so if you're on the hunt for one, stopping by in the morning to ask about inventory is your best option). Having played PS4 for years and acquired a PS5 at launch, I was deep into the Sony ecosystem without ever so much as glancing at an Xbox. A combination of Game Pass offers and some financial liquidity from the end of 2021 convinced me to go through with the purchase and see what Xbox was all about. Having spent time with both systems, it's clear to see they're both powerful machines that run their first-party and third-party games exceptionally well, but there are some clear areas where one console excels over the other.
Read on to see what PlayStation 5 features Xbox Series X should adopt, and what Xbox benefits would be good for Sony players to enjoy.
Game Selection: PS5 Needs an Answer to Game Pass
It's no stretch of the imagination that, technical capabilities of Xbox Series X and PS5 being the same, this generation will be defined by games, not consoles. Sony tends to dominate with their prestigious, well-polished AAA exclusives, whereas Microsoft has spent years building a brand where gaming can be accessible to as many people as possible through services like Game Pass and Cloud Gaming. Having spent every console generation never even considering buying an Xbox, Game Pass is what ultimately sold me on the Series X. This relative low bar of entry that gave me access to hundreds of titles made me desire a Game Pass machine in my living room, even though I already owned a gaming PC that would have essentially served the same purpose.
Yes, the value of Game Pass has become a meme at this point, and we're no strangers to publicly praising it on the TechRaptor Podcast. The fact that the service just surpassed 25 million Game Pass subscribers proves it's not showing any sign of slowing down. It's no wonder why Sony is reportedly going to respond with its own answer, code named Project Spartacus, later this year. Virtually nothing is known about Spartacus, but what little we can infer based on the bread crumbs is that it will cover multiple generations of PlayStation games, including providing access to a selection of PlayStation 3 games, a console that has been famously difficult to develop for and emulate.
Currently, PlayStation Now offers what I would call a half-step to Game Pass. It does include a very large selection of games, but most of them are available only via the cloud, making this option not viable to anyone with a poor internet connection. To truly compete with Game Pass, Sony's service needs to make much of their first-party catalog available as downloadable games, while also adding a firm selection of third-party titles. One area where Microsoft will have an edge, though, is day-one games. It is highly unlikely we'll see games like God of War Ragnarok available day and date to subscribers. Where Microsoft wants to make you a Game Pass subscriber, Sony still wants to sell you a product at a premium. If the PlayStation 5 subscription service can rise to the occasion and eliminate costly buy-ins for individual games, it will help level the economic playing field and give players access to more games, which only ever helps players.
Jumping Across Titles with Quick Resume
Both PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X include blazing-fast internal SSDs, exponentially cutting down on load times from the previous generation. Microsoft has made it even easier to switch between multiple titles with the Xbox Series Quick Resume feature. Currently, PlayStation 5 has a Game Switcher card to help you conveniently swap between games, but it doesn't pick up exactly where you left off in the game. You still need to load through the opening menus, whereas Xbox Quick Resume can load you right back into the game.
Quick Resume is an excellent option when you're going between multiple games, especially if you've moved to a mostly or all-digital option for your console. And thanks to the Xbox backwards compatibility, you can suspend multiple games across multiple generations at the same time. If PS5 includes a Quick Resume option to replace the Switcher, it'll make jumping across games much easier, which will be a much-welcomed feature given the number of video game releases coming in 2022.
Expandable Storage: Customization Is Key
In an age where video game file sizes can exceed 100 GB, storage space is at a premium. Both consoles offer relatively small internal hard drives, with the PlayStation 5 SSD providing 667 GB of usable space and the Xbox Series X giving you 802 GB. Unless you want to continuously download and delete games off your console, expanding your storage will be a necessary investment.
In the expandable storage category, each console could learn from each other. Adding an Xbox Series X drive is relatively simple, as there's a port on the back of the console you can just plug into, and players have been able to upgrade their storage since day one. However, Seagate is the only company that currently manufactures expandable drives for the Series S and X, and the cost per GB is far more than what other third-party manufacturers are charging, making the Xbox drives a convenient but costly option.
On the flip side, installing a PlayStation 5 SSD is slightly more involved by removing the fins and using a screwdriver to access the SSD expansion slot. You have your option of buying M.2 drives from different brands, making it easier to shop around for a good deal, but the read/write speeds must be as fast as Sony's internal drives, leading to many manufacturers labeling their M.2 SSDs as "PS5 Ready" or not. During Black Friday 2021, I was able to buy a 2 TB SSD expansion for my PS5 for around $300. Though it pained me to essentially pay for a Nintendo Switch just for storage, I never think twice when I see a game I'd like to download.
Both consoles offer the option to use external hard drives, but they won't run current-gen games due to the speed. At some point Microsoft will be expanding the number of companies that manufacture their hard drives, but at the moment it's a steep price to pay for the convenience, whereas PS5 requires a little bit more legwork, but you can get more for your dollar. Sony should lean into convenience, and Microsoft should lean into affordability.
Controllers: PS5 DualSense Changes the Game, but Xbox Dominates Rumble Features
Where the Xbox controller hasn't significantly changed in many years, the PlayStation 5 abandoned their DualShock models for the DualSense. Not everyone is a fan of the haptics in the DualSense, but I personally love the trigger resistance in shooters and tactile rumbles to simulate rain, footsteps, and other in-game elements. The Xbox Series controller doesn't include haptics like these, but it does pack one heck of a rumble. Games like Halo Infinite and Doom Eternal make their gameplay so much more satisfying thanks to the deep rumble provided by the controller. Combine PS5 haptics with Xbox rumble, and you'll have the best of both worlds in a single controller.
Another excellent Xbox feature is loading specific accounts with different controllers. If you share your console with your family, you'll find yourself logging between different accounts based on who is playing. Microsoft solves this issue by allowing you to tie an account to a specific controller. With multiple controllers, each account can have their own, and that person need simply to pick up their controller and use it for the console to recognize who is playing. This would be an amazing feature for PlayStation 5 to implement.
When you compare the Xbox and PlayStation controllers, available playtime on a full battery charge is important. Currently, Xbox controllers still use AA batteries, whereas DualSense, like nearly every other modern video game controller, has a rechargeable battery pack. Microsoft claims a rechargeable battery wears down the fastest in a controller, and they improve longevity by requiring AA batteries. This annoyance can be slightly mitigated by purchasing a third-party rechargeable battery pack, but the presence of alkaline batteries does make your current-gen console feel a little low-tech.
Happen to use your controller for any other device, such as a phone or PC? On PS5, you'll need to manually reconnect your DualSense via USB, whereas Xbox Series S and X make it simple to reconnect with the press of a button. This convenience is especially welcome if you play across devices with Cloud Gaming. Obviously, Sony doesn't support that same ecosystem, but it would be nice if you could resync the controller with the touch of a button.
Backwards Compatibility: PS5 Is Sorely Behind
Sony has been hesitant about embracing backwards compatibility for their present consoles. The PlayStation 5 does an excellent job with PS4 titles, but doesn't offer any support for any previous generations. Meanwhile, Xbox Series X makes it possible to load in any disc dating back to the original Xbox or download any digital game. In the past, Sony has reported that backwards compatibility is a feature everyone asks for, but few people actually use, making it not a valuable asset for them to develop. With whatever Project Spartacus offers, this could change, but currently no console can compete with Microsoft when it comes to the compatibility of their games.
Customize the UI: Where Are PS5 Themes?
Customization on Xbox Series consoles is great. You can select themes from your favorite games, pin games to the home screen, reorder your menu as you see fit, and adjust any number of settings to customize the console. PlayStation 5, on the other hand, is more rigid. Over a year later and we haven't been given folders, themes, or any kind of dynamic backgrounds. The background does change based on which game you're viewing, which is cool, but it leaves much to be desired for a device you just spent $400 or $500 on.
The ability to organize games and adjust the UI to your liking is a core part of any technology. Whereas Xbox users can pretty reliably set up their console the exact way they'd like, PS5 gamers are stuck with the same UI that was introduced on day one. Hopefully this will be part of any number of sweeping updates that could come from Sony at some point this year.
Should I Buy Xbox Series X or PS5?
The value proposition of any question like this boils down to is it worth it to you? and that's not a question I can answer. If you love PlayStation exclusives like Ratchet & Clank, God of War, and Returnal, PS5 is a great choice. If you like the variety and convenience offered by Game Pass and are intrigued by what the Microsoft Activision Blizzard deal will bring to the service, an Xbox will fair you well. As for which you can actually get your hands on, Xbox consoles have a bit more availability, with the possibility of spotting the Series S physically in stores and the Series X not far behind. PlayStation 5, on the other hand, may as well be a myth for many of those seeking to pick one up. If you have the funds, both consoles are excellent, and 2022 will hopefully reveal a variety of updates that will make them even better investments as we approach their two-year anniversaries this fall. If you'd like to learn more about each console, you can see our competing pieces of why it's better to buy an Xbox Series X vs. PS5 or why you should buy a PS5 over the Xbox Series X.
Is there anything on Xbox Series X or PS5 that you would love to see come to the other console? Which one do you find yourself spending more time on? Let us know in the comments!