To say that the Xbox One and Playstation 4 would look the same in their 2013 versions would be a bit much. The two black boxes are very similar to each other. A similarity that Microsoft and Sony now apparently want to avoid in their fight for supremacy in the console market.
The new consoles look very different now. The Xbox Series X is a no-frills cuboid with matt black surfaces. The controller is less reminiscent of a toy and more of a design object for the living room table. Even with the little sister console, the Xbox Series S, Microsoft relies on straightforwardness.
In contrast, the curved design of the Playstation 5 seems to scream at you. The console from Sony looks massive compared to the Xbox due to the two white side wings. The so-called Dualsense controller, which is kept entirely in black and white, is slightly larger and sits a little better in the hand than its predecessor.
The appearance of all three devices should convey a message: These devices represent a new generation, a new era.
The Xbox Series X and Series S
A short sequence of tones signals the start of the Xbox Series X and then you first hear – nothing. The new console from Microsoft works almost silently. In terms of graphics performance, it should achieve a new record: According to Microsoft, the Xbox Series X reaches a maximum of twelve teraflops. The graphics processor can do up to twelve trillion calculations per second. For comparison: The theoretical maximum performance of the previous console, the Xbox One X, is around half at six teraflops. The 2013 Xbox One hit 1.3 teraflops. But what do these numbers mean for the player?
Microsoft promises that all games will run smoothly in 4K resolution and at 60 frames per second. According to the manufacturer, up to 8K and 120 images per second are possible.
In addition, the new console supports so-called ray tracing, with which the incidence of light and reflections in computer games should be displayed more realistically. The effect can be seen in the tested games on closer inspection. For example, the reflections in the car paint in the racing game “Forza Horizon 4” seem a tad more realistic on the Xbox Series X in direct comparison with the One X. But nothing more.
Fast loading times and backwards compatibility
You can feel the one terabyte SSD of the Series X much more clearly. This shortens the loading times enormously. There is also a new function that frequent gamers will find useful: quick resume, so continue quickly. The player can interrupt his game at any point, for example while the quarterback in the American football simulation “Madden” is throwing the ball at a teammate. You can then play another game and later return to that exact football throw. This also works if the console was switched off in the meantime.
The new, smaller Xbox Series S can do all of this, but it has a little less power under the hood. In addition, the smaller console does not have an optical drive. Those who can do without the haptic game collection on the shelf are well served with the Series S. In the test, there was no real difference in performance on the slimmed-down entry-level console.
The Playstation 5
The Playstation 5 welcomes the player with a visually changed operating system. Apart from a change in the usual color scheme – gray instead of blue – Sony relies even more on tiles. The PS5 also runs quietly, but the fan is a bit louder than that of the Xbox.
On paper, the graphics processor of the Sony console achieves less power than the competition from Microsoft: around 10.3 teraflops. Overall, the Japanese manufacturer promises pretty similar things. The Playstation 5 should also run at up to 120 frames per second on 4K televisions. And the graphics processor can also calculate reflections and shadows according to the ray tracing principle. However, this does not mean big leaps in the graphics quality compared to the PS4, at least with the tested games.
The built-in SSD with 825 gigabytes of capacity offers less storage space, but according to Sony it can theoretically process data about twice as fast. As a player, you notice a significant improvement compared to the Playstation 4. Some of the games load in less than ten seconds. The Playstation 5 is also available in the so-called Digital Edition, which does without a drive, but otherwise does not differ from its sister console.
The controller vibrates with every raindrop
One innovation is immediately noticeable when playing two Sony titles: the haptic feedback from the new Dualsense controller. If the player in the new “Spider-Man” steps into the New York subway as Miles Morales, he feels in his fingers how the train bumps over the bumps on the tracks. When skating in “Astro’s Playroom”, it really feels a bit like you’re sliding over ice on blades. And every single raindrop, every hailstone triggers a small vibration in the controller, which should make the weather more noticeable. In addition, the trigger buttons on the PS5 controller adapt to the game. For example, if the player is stretching a bowstring, it takes more force to fully press the key.
Nintendo fans have known these tricks about the rumble function for a long time. Very similar things are possible with the controllers of the Switch from 2017. The technology has not really caught on since then. But the fact that Sony is now jumping on this bandwagon could mean that many more computer games will rely on haptic feedback in the future.
As with previous generations, the success of the two new console families depends above all on the games. A handful of new games that have been optimized for the new generation will be released for both Sony’s and Microsoft’s new flagship. An exclusive blockbuster, a purchase argument for one of the two consoles is not among them. Titles like “Halo Infinite” (Xbox) or “Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart” (Playstation) will not be available until 2021.
Both consoles, Xbox Series X and Playstation 5, are significantly faster than their predecessors and offer improved graphics quality. But there is still a game missing that provides a wow factor and exploits the new capabilities of the consoles. Both consoles have a unique function that sets them apart from the competing product. But whether that Quick resumeFunction for Microsoft is sufficient to catch up with the last runaway competition from Sony, has to show.
The Xbox Series X and Series S will be available on November 10th. The Series X costs around 500 euros, the smaller version around 300 euros.
The Playstation 5 will hit the market on November 19th. The version with an optical drive costs around 500 euros, the digital edition around 400 euros.