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It’s been seven years since two of the biggest video game brands — Xbox and PlayStation — released new consoles. But just in time to be two of 2020's saving graces, both manufacturers gave quarantined gamers a new way to occupy their time by releasing brand-new systems: the Xbox Series S and X and the PlayStation 5.
As the parent of a 12-year-old who is obsessed with all things gaming, I can confirm that there was much dinner table discussion about the new systems for months leading up to their early November releases.
And my son isn’t alone in that sentiment. Since their releases, retailers are unable to keep either platform’s newest addition in stock. It's a good problem for Microsoft and Sony, but a major bummer for parents hoping to score one as a holiday gift for their kids. Somehow, I managed to get my hands on both.
My family has spent the last few weeks testing out both the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X, and we are a house divided.
I sat down with my two favorite guys and asked them to argue their case for their favorite system. Sometimes they agreed, sometimes they didn’t, but here’s what the gamers in my house thought of both the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X.
While there are still wired and less pricey wireless controllers that can be used on the new systems, the next-generation controllers — which each system comes with one of — are, in my son’s opinion, worth investing in.
His favorite “next-gen” controller of the two? PlayStation 5.
“It’s $70 for a good reason because there have been a lot of advancements,” he said. “It’s a lot more advanced than the Xbox controller because the vibrations are really good. When you get hit in a game, you can feel where in your surroundings you were hit because it’ll vibrate in that spot on the controller. And depending on how heavy the weapon you’re attacking with is, it’s harder to press the buttons and feels different in certain games."
For my husband, who thinks both systems have controllers that feel super-sturdy, it’s a toss up.
“I think both of the controllers feel next-gen. They feel sturdier and like they’re built better, like maybe they realized kids throw these things around and they need to be more durable.”
Both the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5 have received big upgrades since the 2013 release of the Xbox One and the PS4. Both promise 4K resolution and high-dynamic-range (HDR) imaging. As a mom who doesn’t get it, I asked why those are a bonus.
“There’s more pixels on the screen, so the picture is more detailed,” said my son. “In the last seven years, they’ve both really improved their graphics displays.”
My husband says it’s helpful to have a television that maximizes HDR display. He enjoyed finding a Black Friday deal on a new TV to really give the systems a chance to perform. And honestly, on both systems, the display is so beautiful that most of the games my son plays look like he’s watching a movie.
They’re also faster.
“It’s like less than 20 seconds for most games, meaning when you click ‘play’ on a game, it takes like 20 seconds or less to get into the game,” my son explained.
The verdict: On the general specifications, my family agreed that the systems are pretty similar.
“They’re still similar specs-wise,” said my son. “Unless you’re a big tech nerd and you know from the start which one’s more powerful and how much more powerful it is, you won’t notice a difference between the two and you wouldn’t really care.”
The game subscriptions
My husband, always the budget-conscious father, says when it comes to game subscriptions on each platform, “Xbox is killing it.”
He loves Xbox’s lease-like option to pay a monthly fee for an Xbox and Game Pass, the platform’s game subscription.
“There’s over 100 games,” he said. “Not every game is one your kid is going to love, but it’s $10 a month for unlimited games and you don’t have to put as much money out upfront for games as you do with the PS5.”
My son says Sony’s option, PS Plus, may be less economical, but is still a good option.
“If you go buy PS Plus, which is $60 a year,” he explained, “you get two PS4 games and a new PS5 game each month.”
While Xbox has no “platform exclusives,” games only available on one specific gaming platform, PlayStation has plenty. In fact, the reason my son bought a used PlayStation 4 several years ago was just to play Spider-Man, a platform exclusive and one of his favorite video games of all time.
But what are the best games he’s played on each system since we plugged them in?
1. Apex Legends
This battle royale game is similar to Fortnite, but since there aren't as many expert players using the game, my son found it easier to accomplish big things and win more battles.
This is a platform game, meaning you move through different levels and platforms attacking enemies to advance the story.
"It’s one of the most jaw-dropping experiences I’ve had on this console," my son said. "Everything is beautiful."
This action role-playing game can get a bit violent, but my son enjoyed the feature that allows you to adjust the level of blood and gore. Overall, he enjoyed the beautiful graphics and the missions within the game, but says it's better for kids who are 13 and older.
This action-adventure game allows players to explore the city of London and complete different tasks and missions. Like Assassin's Creed Valhalla, my son loved the stunning graphics displays on this one.
"This one is just a continuation of one of my favorite games of all time," my son said. "The combat is a lot of fun and it’s a great continuation of the old story."
Of all the games my husband and son have tried on both systems, Demon's Souls has won out for its graphics and game play. The name scared me a bit as a mom, but it wasn't as scary as it sounds.
"I like its difficulty and challenges," said my son, "and it's stunning visually."
This game won points from my son because it's fun as a two-player experience.
"A lot of the games are one-player-oriented, but it was fun to play through this with a friend to show him what the system could do," he said.
Astro's Playroom comes pre-installed on the PlayStation 5 and is a great way to test out the haptics on the next-gen PS5 controllers.
"It's kind of like Mario Odyssey but for the PS5," my son explained. "It's a good way to test out what the controller can do because it integrates the controller’s main features into the gameplay."
At the end of the day, my family is enjoying both systems. Both my gamer guys agree that, if you find one of the two in stock, you can’t go wrong with grabbing what’s available. However, in a perfect world where you could pick either off the store shelves, my husband and son had different votes for which to buy.
My husband’s vote: Xbox Series X
“For me, it would be the Xbox because of Game Pass,” my husband said. “Kids blow through video games so quickly, and this gives them a chance to try a ton of video games and see what they like. Maybe they can narrow in on the genre that they like before they buy newer games.”
“And on paper,” he added, “it has better specs, both in processing and storage. And there’s backwards compatibility, which is a big plus. You can go back and play all the old Xbox games from earlier systems, and they’re all optimized with better graphics.”
My son’s vote: PlayStation 5
“My vote is Sony,” my son said. “This console is amazing, everything from the haptics in the controller to the platform exclusive games. They have tons of games that are not available on their rival consoles. And with PS Plus, you’re getting monthly games, and one of those games every month is guaranteed to be next-gen, meaning it will have optimized graphics and speed for use on the new system.”
“I had been looking forward to it for months, and it was worth the wait to get one.”
For more stories like this, check out:
- 17 video games that are kid-approved, according to a 12-year-old
- Nintendo Switch: What it is, where to buy it and what games to get
- The new PS5 may be sold out, but these 25 gamer gifts are just as good