Get those I’s dotted and those T’s crossed with this next generation console starter guide.
The future is here, Deer Reader! As of this writing, we are less than two weeks away from the launch of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S. Certainly, we’re all excited about next-gen gaming, but are we all prepared for next-gen gaming? With both Sony and Microsoft offering not only different console SKUs but also varying degrees of backward compatibility and online services, there’s more to research than one might traditionally think. So, to help ensure you’re all set for next-gen, let’s take a look at how you can squeeze the most out of your new console.
First, let’s examine topics which are common to both Xbox and PlayStation alike. Each console promises 120fps (frames per second) gaming. Console players would traditionally be happy to have a game run at 60fps – a performance both new consoles promise across the board – but frames of up to 120 are nigh unheard of for those of us without a beefy PC. In order to take full advantage of 120fps, however, users must have a TV which supports 120fps. A TV needs an HDMI 2.0 (for 1080p @120fps) or HDMI 2.1 (for 4K, 120fps) input in order to show off those beautiful frames. The chances are high that your current TV is not ready for 120fps, so make sure you take this into account when weighing the specs of each console.
Another elephant in the room (almost literally in the case of the PS5) is the size and orientation of each console. Both Sony and Microsoft have crafted machines with a huge emphasis on heat management. The PS5 and Series X reflect this with how they were designed. While each can be laid on it’s side for a horizontal posture, both the PS5 and Xbox Series X were designed to stand vertically for best heat flow. I’ll let you be the judge on how each console looks while laid on it’s side, but it’s pretty safe to say that both look better while standing up. For those of us who are used to laying a console horizontally inside an entertainment center, that expectation might need to be revisited. Furthermore, for PS5 owners the sheer size of the unit may present an interesting puzzle for those with limited space. I recommend researching the dimensions of the console you are buying before setting it up.
Shifting gears over to Xbox, let’s first look at the differences between Microsoft’s two consoles: Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S. Xbox Series X (MSRP $499.99) is the beefier of the two consoles sporting tech specs which can produce 4K resolution images at 120fps. Even 8K resolution is promised for media which would be able to output at that resolution. Xbox Series X is the most powerful console ever created, so selecting this option future proofs you for quite some time. If you’re a hardcore gamer (and don’t have a PC), you’ll probably want the Xbox Series X. On the other hand, the Xbox Series S (MSRP $299.99) drastically trims the price tag and removes some features of the Series X. The most obvious omission is the 4K Blu-Ray disc drive. The overall horsepower of the Series S has also been throttled a bit from what the Series X offers. While 120fps can still be enjoyed, a maximum resolution of only 1440p will be available at that performance. Additionally, the included SSD is only 512GB versus the 1TB packed into the Xbox Series X. Take into account that the system OS and apps will eat up drive space, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that an Xbox Series S will only have around 350-400GB of free space. Taking a look at the official Seagate storage expansion cards might be wise if the Series S is your console of choice.
Not to be left out, Sony also developed a cheaper, discless version of the PlayStation 5. Simply labeled Standard (MSRP $499.99) or Digital Edition (MSRP $399.99), the latter promises just that: a digital only experience with the same power and promise of a standard PS5. There are no technical differences or shortcomings of the PS5 digital edition, but it’s also only $100 cheaper than it’s big brother (in contrast to the Series S, which is $200 cheaper than the Series X). Whether you opt for the 4K Blu-Ray drive or not, both are packed with an 825GB SSD. Like the Series S owner, keeping storage expansion in mind wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for the prospective PS5 owner. Samsung has announced an SSD expansion option for PS5, but like the Seagate card for Xbox, it’s a pricey proposition.
Backward compatibility has been a major talking point over the past few years (almost entirely thanks to Microsoft) and that trend continues as gamers increasingly expect their games library to go with them across devises and console generations. Microsoft continues to lead in this department by allowing all old peripherals, including Xbox One controllers, to be played with Xbox Series X/S. All Xbox One titles and an ever growing number of Xbox 360 and original Xbox titles will be available to Xbox Series owners via backward compatibility – a huge feather in Microsoft’s cap. The highlighting of these features will make more sense when we compare them to Sony’s strategy.
Sony has gone the traditional route with PS5’s backward compatibility. Like PS2 controllers didn’t work with PS3 and PS3 controllers didn’t work with PS4, the DualShock 4 will not work with PS5 games. You can still use your DualShock 4 to play PS4 games on PS5, but if you want to play PS5 games, you are stuck using the new DualSense controller. From a backward compatibility perspective, PS5 will play 99.9% of all PS4 games, but that is where Sony draws the line. PS3 or older games cannot be played on PS5 hardware, at least not at launch. For PSVR owners Sony has offered a free adaptor so that they can continue to play their library of PSVR games on PS5. Despite Sony making strides for PS4 compatibility, it’s still a glaring shortcoming when compared to Microsoft’s backward compatibility offerings.
Finally, let’s look at the online services available from both companies. Game Pass is the best value in games right now. That’s no secret and Microsoft is continuing to do an outstanding job at curating great content for the service. While I won’t go into the launch lineup for each console (I already did that here!) suffice it to say that an Xbox player can simply subscribe to Game Pass and have a fantastic library of games available to them at launch. Combine this with the visual upgrades that grace certain legacy Xbox games via backward compatibility, and there will be no shortage of quality games to play. PlayStation 5 has countered the value proposition of Game Pass by enhancing their existing PlayStation Plus subscription. Sony recently announced the PlayStation Plus Collection which give subscribers instant access to 20 “genre defining” games from the PS4 generation. Titles include God of War, Uncharted 4, and Persona 4.
We here at TRG are extremely excited about the launch of next gen! Tell us what has you excited about next-gen in the comments below and let us know how you’re standing your console, vertical or horizontal?