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Parent’s Guide to Next Generation Consoles: PS5 and Xbox Series X / S Explained

A new generation of consoles is upon us. If you don’t play video games (or even if you do), navigating the technological and gaming landscapes can seem intimidating, even without the additional questions and confusion suggested by the new PlayStation and Xbox systems coming to market soon. If you are a potential buyer, like a parent doing some holiday shopping and find yourself in this field, confused by all the different brands, naming conventions, accessories and technical details, don’t worry! In this guide, we’ll walk you through what’s currently on the market, break down the key differences between PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X and Series S, and try to ease some of that pressure on buying gifts.

Next Gen Explained: PS5 and Xbox Series X

Due to innovations in hardware and other trends and advancements in the gaming industry, new game consoles often launch around the same time. These periods are called “console generation”

;. The current console generation includes Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One, both released in 2013, and the Nintendo Switch, which was released in 2017. When people refer to “next gen”, they’re talking about the next generation of new consoles.

In this case, the next generation of consoles includes the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, which launch in November 2020. For a clearer look at some recent console generations from the past few decades, check out the table below.

Console generation Play station Xbox
Fifth generation PlayStation (1995)
Sixth generation PlayStation 2 (2000) Xbox (2001)
PlayStation 2 Slim (2004)
Seventh generation PlayStation 3 (2006) Xbox 360 (2005)
PlayStation 3 Slim (2009) Xbox 360 S (2010)
PlayStation 3 Super Slim (2012) Xbox 360 E (2013)
Eighth generation PlayStation 4 (2013) Xbox One (2013)
PlayStation 4 Slim (2016) Xbox One S (2016)
PlayStation 4 Pro (2016) Xbox One X (2017)
Xbox One S All-Digital (2019)
Ninth generation PlayStation 5 (2020) Xbox Series X (2020)
PlayStation 5 Digital (2020) Xbox Series S (2020)

If it’s all too confusing, don’t worry. The main thing to know is if you are shopping for someone who is interested in one of the new next generation consoles (or if that person is you), you’ll choose from the files PlayStation 5 (or PS5) or the Xbox Series X / S.

This is where things get a little complicated.

PS5 / Xbox naming conventions and versions

The naming conventions of consoles are becoming more and more confusing, and not just for people who don’t follow game news. While PlayStation is relatively straightforward with its linear numbering system, Xbox is somewhat unconventional. This becomes even more confusing when introducing version types. Yes, both the new PlayStation and the new Xbox have two different versions for sale.

For the Sony PlayStation, there is the PlayStation 5 and the PlayStation 5 Digital.

For Microsoft Xbox, there is the Xbox Series X and the Xbox Series S.

Gallery image 1Gallery image 2
Use the slider to compare Xbox Series X and Series S to PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 5 Digital.

Both the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X are the “base” versions of each console. Think of them as the default. They’re full-priced, high-powered, and come with all the features of a next-generation console.

Meanwhile, PlayStation 5 Digital Edition and Xbox Series S are slightly different. The hardware is mostly the same, give or give a couple of technical compromises. They can both play the same games as their base counterparts. The biggest differences here are the price and the “digital” aspect: this means that none of these consoles come with a physical disc drive, so you can’t fit a game disc into them. You can only buy games digitally from their online stores. If you buy PS5 Digital Edition or Xbox Series S, don’t buy physical games for those consoles – they won’t be able to play them from the disc.

Xbox Series X / S or Xbox One X / S?

An important thing to note here is not confuse Xbox Series X with Xbox One X. Xbox One is the current generation of Xbox consoles on the market. It was released in 2013 and will reach the end of its console “lifespan” when the Xbox Series X launches in November. (This just means that there is a newer system around to replace it and the new games will primarily target Xbox Series X / S.) A smaller version of the Xbox One called the Xbox One S was released in 2016 and a version of high-end called Xbox One X was released in 2017.

Basically, for Microsoft, the X naming convention seems to indicate superiority, while the S naming conventions seem to indicate the slightly lower budget option. Remember this when deciding between the X Series and S Series, but don’t confuse the new Xbox Series X / S (2020) console with soon obsolete Xbox One X / S console (2016-2017).

Differences between PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X / S

If you’re buying a console for someone else, they’ve probably specified which one they want. If not (or if you’re a first-time console buyer looking to buy one for yourself), here’s a quick breakdown of the PS5 and Xbox Series X / S specs and what each console has to offer.

Technical differences

We have a much more detailed comparison of the next-gen console specs if you’re interested, but if you just want a quick recap, these are the main differences, regardless of technical performance.

PlayStation 5 / Digital Xbox Series X / Series S
storage 825 GB SSD 1TB SSD / 512GB SSD
Screen HDMI 2.1 HDMI 2.1
Resolution 4K (up to 8K) 4K (up to 8K) / Target 1440p
Maximum refresh rate 120 Hz 120 Hz
Backwards compatibility Yes (can play PS4 games) Yes (can play Xbox, Xbox 360 and Xbox One games)
Cut it 15.4 inches × 10.2 inches × 4.1 inches (base) / 15.4 inches × 10.2 inches × 3.6 inches (digital) 5.9 inches × 5.9 inches × 11.9 inches (X Series) / 5.9 inches × 2.6 inches × 11 inches (S Series)

Both base consoles support 4K resolution and up to 120Hz. If you want to get the most out of this, making sure you have the right TV is essential – chances are what someone already owns won’t get the most out of these new consoles ( but that’s not necessarily a big deal). We have a guide to the best 4K TVs for PS5 and Xbox Series X, explaining HDMI 2.1, the expectations on the claims of both 8K-capable consoles, and some specific options depending on your budget. The main thing to know about the TV-related specs is that the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 specifically target 4K while the smaller Xbox Series S targets a 1440p experience.

If you need a more specific analysis, we have an explanation on the main differences between PS5 and Series X / S that can guide you through a few other key things to remember, including disparities in storage space and external storage solutions, processing power , new size and shape of both consoles and more.

Exclusives and launch games

On a less technical level, the biggest difference between consoles is its exclusives: basically, the games you can only play on one console against another. Sony has a number of games exclusive to its PlayStation console family, such as The Last of Us 2 and Bloodborne. Xbox consoles also have their own exclusives, such as Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 4. Sometimes these games can also be played on PC.

In the case of Forza Horizon 4 and the upcoming Halo Infinite, both are exclusive to Xbox consoles, so you can play them on Xbox One, the upcoming Xbox Series X / S, is PC – just not on a PlayStation. (If you’re shopping for a big Halo fan, an Xbox Series X is probably the way to go.) The Last of Us 2, on the other hand, is a PlayStation 4 exclusive, so it can only be played on PlayStation 4. – not on Xbox or PC. (But it will be supported by the PS5’s backward compatibility which allows it to play most PS4 games.)

Exclusives aren’t the only games to consider. Many games will be available on both consoles, plus you need to consider the existing library of older generation games and whether or not they are playable on new systems. This is called backward compatibility, referring to a new console’s ability to play games made for older consoles. In this next generation, the PlayStation 5 is backward compatible with PlayStation 4 games only, while the Xbox Series X and Series S are backward compatible with all previous generation Xbox games, including Xbox, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.

For a collection of games that will be available to play on both consoles on or around launch day, check out our guides below. These do not include the full libraries of the consoles, but only exclusive, cross-platform games (which can be played on both consoles) that will be available to play when the new systems are released.

Don’t forget to check out our next-gen console specs comparison for a detailed breakdown of the online services offered by both consoles, including PlayStation Plus and PlayStation Now streaming service, Xbox Game Pass, and xCloud streaming service. Xbox Game Pass should be of particular interest to anyone trying to decide between the two consoles. It’s a subscription service that works like a Netflix for Xbox games, where players can pay a monthly fee of $ 10 (or $ 15 for the updated Ultimate subscription) to access a library of games, which – like streaming TV services – is constantly updated, with new titles added and removed regularly. PlayStation Plus, on the other hand, is also a paid subscription service that offers members two free games every month. The Plus Collection, a next-generation update to this service, will give PS5 users access to a roster of popular games from the PS4 era.

Price and release date

If you’re ready to make a decision between the two consoles, the last things you need to know are the release date and price, as well as where to pre-order.

PlayStation 5 / Digital Xbox Series X / Series S
Release date 12 November 2020 (NA) November 10, 2020 (NA)
Price $ 499 (basic) / $ 399 (digital) $ 499 (X Series) / $ 299 (S Series)

The base versions of both consoles, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, cost $ 500. The digital-only editions, PS5 Digital and Xbox Series S, vary in price. The PS5 Digital costs $ 400 and the Xbox Series S costs $ 300.

Where to pre-order

We have full listings of where you can pre-order both consoles and accessories, such as additional controllers, in our pre-order guides below.

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