Xbox Series X vs. PS5: Which Features Set Each Console Apart?

The Xbox Series X vs. PlayStation 5 war may come down to these features that separate these next-gen consoles.

PS5 vs. Xbox Series X Specs
Photo: Microsoft, Sony

Xbox Series X vs. PS5 will be a console war unlike any other. At a time when console game libraries are becoming more homogenous and we look towards more than just console sales to determine success in this industry, you may think that the decision to buy one console over another really just comes down to a few exclusive titles and personal preferences. Even the specs of the two consoles appear to be fairly similar at a glance:

PS5 vs Xbox Series X Specs

However, a closer look at both consoles reveals just how different these machines truly are. Granted, neither the Xbox Series X nor PlayStation 5 is quite as “out there” as the Nintendo Switch in terms of functionality, but each offers a suite of features that are unique to them. Some of these features, such as the differences in the advanced audio technology each console uses, may ultimately prove to be little more than different ways to wrap the same gift, but others are so unique to either the XSX or PS5 that they could prove to be one console’s advantage over the other.

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Based on what we currently know about the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X at launch, these are the unique features that separates each next-gen console from its competitor:

Xbox Series X’s Unique Features

Quick Resume

While the Xbox Series X’s UI is more of a gradual improvement over what came before rather than an entirely new concept, the console’s Quick Resume feature has rightfully been described as a literal game-changer.

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Quick Resume essentially lets you seamlessly swap between saved states of the various games you have running at once. The feature supports about 4-6 games at a time (the exact number depends on the size of each game) and makes it easier than ever to bounce between games and pick up exactly where you left off.

This feature essentially eliminates the need to reboot a previous game and load back into your save every time you switch to another title. In essence, you can pause midway through the Gears 5 campaign, load up Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and play that for a couple hours, and then switch back to Gears 5 and pick up right at the same pause screen. This feature even works after powering off and turning your console back on, which is very impressive. Quick Resume is also enabled for backward compatible titles and games running on discs.

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At a time when our PCs and smartphones allow us to easily suspend multiple apps at once and quickly return to them as needed, Quick Resume feels like the inevitable way of the future.

1440p Output Support

While 4K is rightfully the resolution king at the moment (at least until 8K becomes more prolific), it’s important to remember that many PC gamers still rely on 1440p monitors as their default gaming resolution due to the friendlier price points, and, in some cases, unique performance advantages.

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That’s why it was fantastic to hear that the Xbox Series X will support 1440p output. While 1440p isn’t really that big of a deal for most console gamers who play on TV, the Xbox Series X will be able to output native 1440p resolution to 1440p monitors while the PS5 will need to upscale from 1080p when attached to a 1440p display.

Again, this isn’t a huge feature for those playing on 4K displays, but it is a fantastic quality of life benefit for many monitor users.

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Multi-Generation Backward Compatibility Support

It actually feels weird referring to this as just another “feature” when it’s also the very best reason to own an Xbox Series X at launch. Simply put, the Xbox Series X supports nearly every Xbox, Xbox 360, and Xbox One game ever made. That level of support is made possible by the console’s disc drive — which can run Xbox, Xbox 360, and Xbox One game discs — as well as the digital Xbox and Xbox 360 emulators and the Series X’s ability to play Xbox One titles on the next-gen console natively.

More importantly, the Xbox Series X supports advanced features such as Auto HDR, an advanced reconstruction technology that enhances the visuals of past-gen titles, giving legacy titles the next-gen remaster treatment without any additional work from the original developer.

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And then there’s the way backward compatible titles benefit from the console’s powerful SSD, which virtually eliminates load times altogether. Overall, backward compatible games are faster, sharper, and more accessible than ever before on Xbox Series X.

Full Support of (Almost) Every Xbox One Accessory

While the Xbox Series X will not support the Kinect or games that require that specific peripheral (which, to be fair, makes sense given the way the accessory was phased out midway through the Xbox One era), Microsoft has confirmed that it intend for the next-gen console to support every other official Xbox One accessory.

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More important than the number of accessories that the Xbox One supports is the way that it supports them. For example, you can use an Xbox One controller to play an Xbox Series X game, but you can’t use a PS4 controller to play a PS5 game. While there are reasons for PlayStation’s policy on that matter that we’ll dive into later in this piece, this feature speaks to Microsoft’s commitment to helping players jump between Xbox generations while navigating as few hurdles as possible.

That being said, it’s important to remember that not every third-party peripheral that worked on the Xbox One will necessarily work on the Xbox Series X. We noted in our review of the console that a SteelSeries Arctis 9x headset was incompatible with the Series X despite working on the Xbox One and seemingly meeting the next-gen console’s compatibility requirements. Of course, that could be the result of a bug or other temporarily missing software component, but we’ll have to see what a wider market test reveals.

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External Storage Options for Next-Gen Games

While the Xbox Series X does suggest you to purchase the 1TB Seagate SSD memory card to expand the console’s storage space, you can also use third-party external SSD drives on the console. More importantly, the Xbox Series X lets you store next-gen game data on third-party external storage drive while the PS5 does not.

Sony has revealed that it’s already looking for solutions to this matter, but for now the PS5 will not allow you to “transfer PS5 games to a USB drive” at launch. Furthermore, Sony has not confirmed which external SSD drives will be able to mimic the PS5’s internal SSD, but those should presumably allow you to at least save and access next-gen games.

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While neither console will allow you to run a next-gen game from an older storage device, the ability to at least “park” next-gen data on older storage devices should help Xbox Series X gamers manage their game saves and download files without needing to purchase new accessories or rely solely on the console’s internal storage.

Smart Delivery

New console generations used to be an especially frustrating time for fans who planned on purchasing new consoles but not at launch. They’d be left in a state of limbo over whether they should purchase certain games right away or wait for the (often barely upgraded) next-gen version of that title.

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The Xbox Series X offers a unique solution to that problem via Microsoft’s Smart Delivery system. Simply put, Smart Delivery makes it so that you only need to purchase one copy of select titles in order to play them on either Xbox One or Xbox Series X. Even better, those who purchase those titles for Xbox One will be able to upgrade them to the next-gen edition of the game at no extra cost. You can find the full list of current Smart Delivery titles here.

While Sony and other publishers have since introduced similar policies, nobody remains as committed to this as Microsoft. The company has even indicated that it intends to support some version of the Smart Delivery program well into the lifespan of the Xbox Series X.

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PlayStation 5’s Unique Features

Dualsense’s Adaptive Triggers

Sony has explained that a big part of the reason why you can’t play PS5 games with a PS4 controller is that many PS5 games are designed to take advantage of the DualSense controller’s unique abilities. Early PS5 test show just how unique those abilities really are.

Few of the DualSense’s features are as potentially impactful as the functionality of its Adaptive Triggers. Those triggers are able to provide dynamic resistance output based on what’s happening in whatever game you’re currently playing. For example, the DualSense’s triggers will be able to accurately convey the feeling of firing a gun that suddenly jams.

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While the Xbox Series X offers advanced feedback support, its triggers don’t feature the same level of dynamic feedback that you’ll experience when playing select PS5 games.

VR Support

While there have been plenty of rumors that suggest the Xbox Series X will eventually support some kind of VR headset, the fact of the matter is that the PS5 is the only next-gen console that will officially support VR at launch and in the near future.

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Granted, we’re still waiting to see whether or not Sony releases a next-gen version of the PSVR, but the very good news is that you’ll be able to use your current PSVR headset on PS5 and play every currently supported PSVR game on the next-gen console.

That’s a big deal for those who not only own a PSVR but anyone who believes in the future of VR technology and wants to buy a next-gen console they know will support it in some form.

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Game Help

From online walkthroughs and YouTube videos to classic print strategy guides, the act of throwing your hands in the air and seeking a solution to an in-game problem is nearly as old as video games themselves.

Well, the PS5 will make that process easier than ever by allowing developers to utilize the console’s built-in Game Help system. When you play a PS5 game that supports Game Help, you’re able able to use the console’s UI to pull up a series of built-in help videos designed to offer varying degrees of assistance.

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We’re waiting to see how many studios will support this feature in the long-term (and how helpful these videos will actually be), but the idea of being able to quickly find a solution to certain in-game challenges without needing to turn to a second screen or print guide is certainly appealing. This could be useful for that Demon’s Souls remake

Activities

It’s actually a little difficult to clearly explain what PS5 Activities are, but that’s only because there are so many things that PS5 Activities can be.

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Based on what we’ve heard from the PlayStation team and PS5 developers, Activities allow you to do everything from check how much there is left to do in a level, to read news related to the game you’re currently playing, to manage trophy progression. Some Activities will even track hidden objectives you may have otherwise missed through a “standard” playthrough.

The basic idea is that Activities will make it easier than ever to explore the games you’re playing without (and this is, again, the key point) needing to actually leave the game you’re playing to find the answers elsewhere.

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Picture-in-Picture Sharing

You may remember that the Xbox One actually launched with a “Snap” feature that let you use other apps while playing a game. Eventually, Microsoft removed that feature largely due to the performance issues it caused.

Well, Sony has essentially revived that concept with the PS5’s picture-in-picture media player that you can load while playing a game. Through that player, you’ll be able to pull up things like Game Help videos or even footage from your friends’ gameplay sessions. It’s a little touch that helps make so many of the PS5’s other greatest features more accessible.

While Sony hasn’t confirmed whether you’ll eventually be able to use picture-in-picture to do things like stream Netflix while playing a game, the fact that this feature is included in the UI at all opens up those kinds of possibilities.

PS5 Remote Play Between PS4, PC, and Other Devices

Sony surprised its fans recently when it revealed that the PS5 version of the Remote Play app will now allow users to stream their PS5 to their PS4, PC, and mobile devices. Some of the finer details of this service won’t be known until PS5 owners have had the chance to play with it a bit, but the point is that it’ll be easier than ever to stream Sony’s next-gen console on whichever platform you choose. At the very least, the new Remote Play functionality should make it so that gamers aren’t so quick to put away their PS4s to make room for the new console.

While you can stream the Xbox Series X through the Xbox app on mobile devices, as well as play Xbox Game Pass titles from the cloud to your compatible phone or tablet, Microsoft hasn’t yet yet have announced an official way to access the console on PC or the Xbox One. We suspect that functionality will be implemented at some point given Microsoft’s cross-platform ambitions, but Sony will have a slight advantage in this area at launch.