Why is the PS5 outperforming the ‘world’s most powerful console’?

Microsoft has been proudly discussing how powerful its Xbox Series X console is for months now. There have been deep dives into the tech inside, promises it’s “the world’s most powerful console,” and even news that the company waited on a specific AMD technology to give it a mysterious edge over the PS5. On paper, the Xbox Series X looks more powerful than the PS5. But in practice early game tests show the PS5 outperforming Microsoft’s console.

Digital Foundry has been analyzing a number of new games across both the PS5 and Xbox Series X, and the results are surprising. With the Xbox Series X capable of 12 teraflops of GPU performance vs. 10.28 teraflops on the PS5, most onlookers expected there to be a small gap between the consoles. Microsoft’s next-gen Xbox also has higher levels of memory bandwidth and more compute units, but Sony offers developers less compute units running at a variable (and higher) clock rate to extract better performance out of the PS5.

While the Xbox Series X takes a slight lead in 4K and ray tracing performance modes on Devil May Cry 5, the high frame rate mode runs noticeably better on PS5 with frame rate gaps between the two systems at more than 40fps in some scenes. “The dips look really strange to me, and it kind of suggests to me some kind of API limitation on the Xbox side where the GPU is being held back by something,” suggests Digital Foundry editor Richard Leadbetter.

These dips matter because sudden drops mean a more obvious judder or stutter for players. Variable refresh rate displays can help smooth this out, but if the dips are significant then you’ll still feel the changes in frame rates either way.

Devil May Cry 5 also offers a ray tracing quality mode, where the Xbox Series X doesn’t show a significant lead. “I don’t really have any technical explanation for it, except the sense you’re getting here is that PlayStation 5 spec wise is punching above its weight, and something is up with Xbox — which on paper at least should be significantly ahead,” adds Leadbetter in the Digital Foundry analysis.

Elsewhere, Microsoft has a marketing deal for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla so that every time you see it promoted in a TV ad, it’ll appear alongside next-gen Xbox consoles. You’d expect Xbox Series X would be the best place to play this new game on console, but the PS5 outperforms again. Digital Foundry found that the Xbox Series X version of Valhalla includes a lot of screen tearing and regular dips below 60fps. The PS5 version appears to run a lot more smoothly. Variable fresh rates do make up for this screen tearing on the Xbox Series X, but you’ll need a modern TV to support that.

The Xbox Series X also falls behind the PS5 in both image quality and resolution in Dirt 5. The PS5 version (in image quality mode) gets better texture filtering and the average resolution is a little higher, too. Over in the performance mode, which targets 120fps, the detail level on PS5 is far higher than the Xbox Series X. Codemasters has acknowledged the gap here and says it will be fixed in an upcoming patch. As the performance mode has higher textures on the PS5, the performance dips below 120fps more often than Xbox Series X, but it’s hard to compare these two modes without Codemasters fixing the detail-level discrepancies. Either way, variable refresh rates on the Xbox Series X certainly help smooth out the gameplay experience, but they shouldn’t really be needed.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War also demonstrates the differences between these consoles. It shows an advantage for Xbox Series X in ray tracing performance, but Microsoft’s console falls behind in the 120fps mode. Black Ops Cold War includes ray-traced shadows, which aren’t as demanding as ray-traced reflections, but they add some depth to scenes. The PS5 drops to 40fps in some scenes with ray tracing, where the Xbox Series X holds 60fps.

All of these comparisons show that the Xbox Series X isn’t outperforming the PS5 in most scenarios, and it’s often Sony’s console taking the lead. Some of these differences could be down to bugs, but I’ve been speaking to developers (who wish to remain anonymous) about the Xbox Series X development environment and it’s clear things are a little complicated.

Microsoft only allowed developers to submit games for Xbox Series X certification in June, after delivering an update to its Game Developers Kit (GDK). That followed the company’s rather tight schedule for dev kit allocations, all while I’ve been consistently hearing that many developers had access to PS5 dev kits far in advance of Xbox versions.

Microsoft’s Xbox Series X console.

It always takes time for developers to get used to the new software and tools involved in creating games for next-gen consoles. One developer tells me Microsoft’s switch to the GDK has been troublesome for basic things like user profile switching or gamepad linking.

Microsoft has spent years improving its tooling situation since the Xbox One, which was a messy launch period for developers. Still, I consistently hear that Sony’s tools are superior, even in the basics of providing more clear documentation for developers to follow.

Not all developers are still getting used to the GDK, though. The team behind Dirt 5 praised Microsoft’s GDK ahead of the Xbox Series X launch. “We started doing the groundwork for Xbox Series X development long before we even received the hardware,” said Codemasters technical director David Springate back in June. “This kind of thinking from Xbox allowed us to get a real head-start on next-gen development, so after receiving our early Xbox Series X hardware, we were up and running really quickly.”

These performance gaps, weird bugs, and differences between the Xbox Series X and PS5 versions of games look like issues related to the games rather than a platform problem for the Xbox. If Microsoft delivered dev kits and tools far later than Sony, then it could take creators more time to optimize further for Xbox. It may also explain why we didn’t see a lot of Xbox Series X gameplay in the months ahead of launch, but Sony was happy to regularly deliver PS5 gameplay.

Expect to see a lot of game patches either way. Codemasters is fixing up Dirt 5, and I understand Ubisoft is working on an Assassin’s Creed Valhalla patch for the Xbox Series X to improve gameplay. Microsoft is also working with developers to resolve issues and has acknowledged the comparison videos in a statement to The Verge.

“We are aware of performance issues in a handful of optimized titles on Xbox Series X|S and are actively working with our partners to identify and resolve the issues to ensure an optimal experience,” says a Microsoft spokesperson in a statement to The Verge. “As we begin a new console generation, our partners are just now scratching the surface of what next-gen consoles can do and minor bug fixes are expected as they learn how to take full advantage of our new platform. We are eager to continue working with developers to further explore the capability of Xbox Series X|S in the future.”

Microsoft also hasn’t explained why it waited for full RDNA 2 support from AMD for the Xbox Series X. Xbox chief Phil Spencer revealed to The Verge recently that Microsoft started manufacturing consoles in late summer. “We were a little bit later than the competition, because we were waiting for some specific AMD technology in our chip,” says Spencer.

Things have clearly been coming in hot on the Xbox Series X side, but the PS5 has also launched without variable refresh rate support to help smooth out any frame rate issues. These features and overall performance do matter greatly on these consoles as it affects how we all experience playing the games that developers create. The Xbox One consistently struggled to hit 1080p early on compared to the PS4, and while the differences aren’t that big yet this time around, it will clearly take months or even years to determine how this next generation of consoles will change the way games are played.

Microsoft may have been beating its chest about 12 teraflops and the “world’s most powerful console,” but that hasn’t materialized yet. Despite this, I understand Microsoft is still quietly confident that bigger and more obvious performance gains will appear on Xbox over time, thanks to full RDNA2 support and its maturing developer tools.

Exactly what “full RDNA2 support” will bring is still unclear, though. Microsoft hasn’t detailed why it waited for AMD or why full RDNA2 matters. This is all while AMD is still working on its super sampling technology that it’s promising will improve ray tracing frame rates and could be available on Xbox Series X.

Ultimately, it’s the games that matter and Microsoft’s launch lineup has relied heavily on third-party games that aren’t backing up its performance claims. The Xbox Series X has been great at backward compatibility, accessibility, and accessory support, but Microsoft still needs to deliver more games from its Xbox Game Studios to really show the power of the console.

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Comments

and while the differences aren’t that big yet this time around, it will clearly take months or even years to determine how this next generation of consoles will change the way games are played.

I feel like this should be the most important take away from all this. Launch games aren’t usually the best at showing off what a console is capable of.

Besides, the Xbox is about backward-compatibility with last gen games — they run better.

Clearly, there’s more than backwards compatibility to attract users to XSX, and if there isn’t, then they’re doing it wrong and MS and Sony are playing two very different games.

PS4 Pro owners might like the improvements provided by PS5, but next gen is definitely the target for Sony.

At this point PS5 definitely has a better game lineup.

Any company that goes out of their way to purposely make two different consoles, with wildly different speed ratings and support different GPUs, RAM, and storage. Has to know that most developers, and development companies are going to make games for the lowest common denominator, which is the Xbox series S.

Both PS5 boxes have the same RAM, CPU, GPU, and storage. So any PS5 developers can target any PS5 box, and know that their games or apps will run the same on either box.

This is just common sense.

I think that arguments over played. There’s nothing particularly new here. If you look at devices that cross platform and cross gen developers are targeting there’s currently 7 major hardware SKUs devs are targeting, assuming you ignore PC and Nintendo. It’s something developers need to deal with either way when doing cross platform releases and they should be fairly proficient in doing so.

I do think you have to consider that Switch ports often come significantly later and perform significantly differently to the PS4/XB1 versions. And what comes out on PC is often all over the place.

I think my concern with microsofts approach is. If you are a developer, are you going to set your baseline at XSX, and try to really push to get the most out of the console, and then just downgrade performance on ps5. Unlikely if 70% of xboxes sold are series S. Then perhaps you target an optimise for the PS5, downgrade for the S, and upgrade for the X. You’ll probably end up with generally similar performance on the PS5 and Series X in that scenario I would imagine.

I think the Series S is disappointing, and is currently failing to live up to the expectations set for it, and I think it always will, it appears significantly underpowered compared to the others. Honestly, I think its a horrible buy for most people. I know people liek to convince themselves that they only have a 1080p tv, but are you really going to have that for the next 7 years? And if you are unlikely to upgrade your tv and the price difference between Series S and either a PS5 discless or Series X is too much, surely you shouldnt be buying a launch console. Particularly when there’s barely a compelling reason to get the ps5, let alone the Xbox.

Also, i’m a bit sick of the endless praise for backwards compatibility. It’s great and Microsoft seems to be knocking it out of the park. But really, do most enthusiasts really want to spend most of their time replaying last gen titles? I know there are different sort of gamers out there, and personally I really like a bit of every genre. But for me, i am only interested in backwards compatibility to play games i missed, not replay Dead Rising or something.

All of this makes me seem super down on Xbox this generation, but I actually think its super hard to pick this time round. And if I was able to have both PS5 and XSX, I would get both.

Switch aside, most devs are still shipping for the One, One X, PS4 and PS4 Pro alongside the PS5, Series S and Series X. There isn’t 1 PlayStation and 2 Xbox currently…there’s 4 Xbox and 3 PlayStation that are relevant to anyone other than Sony’s first party devs who may be in a position to ship exclusively for the PS5.

I think this is just something Devs are used to. It’s effort for sure, but toolsets are there to scale too. I also wouldn’t assume a single hardware config is Sony’s strategy in the long run. They shipped a PS4 Pro last gen and split that market, no reason to expect they wouldn’t do the same in a few years time. Hell given how amazingly successful the PS4 was, we could conceivably see a PS5 Pro in 3 or 4 years as PS4 support is winding down. The PS4 may have a long tail given the console has a 100+ million user base for developers to tap into for some for some time. We’ll have to wait and see in regards to those aspects.

As for the 1080p situation. I’ve purchased a Series X to go under the families Christmas tree as I agree it’s the better proposition, especially due to the versatility the disc drive provided. That said, for people on a budget or are only light gamers, I think the Series S is still a worthwhile unit. Even if those customers buy 4K TVs, the system will upscale and I’m sure the results will be adequate for many buyers.

Microsoft also has other bets such as XCloud which could provide 4K gaming on a Series S down the road too.

That’s not how game development works lol.

Nope, As per the early leaked documentation for Xbox Series X developer kit which allows game developers to enable a special Lockhart mode(Lockhart profiling mode) that has a profile of the performance that Microsoft wants to hit with this second console (Series S); independent of Series X performance.

I mean, zoom out. Which game universe has more fun titles, Xbox or PlayStation? If you don’t buy one or the other you’re missing out honestly

I think Sony messed just like Xbox did in 2013. I was going to get the PS5 digital , but i’ll just get a Xbox Series X. Not supporting peripherals from the PS4 was a major reason.

I’m not biased at all, I still hate that Microsoft has an Series S, when they should have done just a digital console. I also think Sony is nice with free to play games being free unlike Microsoft. Plus that dumb memory card for the Xbox Series X is unwanted.

I’m playing COD Cold War right (when I don’t crash) on a 840 Evo Samsung and still load quicker then both new consoles haha.

Each console has some pros and cons, but to me Xbox Series X is better for me.

I was able to sell my ps4 and the few games I had sitting around in July for the same price as PS5/XSX. SO as a result i didnt have any peripherals left over. All i’ve ever bought is 1 spare controller, and honestly I barely used it. I just think theres such a small window of your life as an adult where you would be able to regularly have multiple people in the same room to play.

I mean the price difference between the Series X and the Discless PS4 is most of the way 2 extra controllers. What else did you need to bring over?

I guess, i’m not seeing how Sony’s console this time round is even close to the 2013 microsoft screw up?

Anyway, the Series X will be great, and if you had the ps4 last time, at least their will be a few exclusives from the XB1 era to go back and replay.

Yeah, all of this will be meaningless in a year or so. I’ve been trying to get my hands on a PS5 and have failed, but honestly it’s probably better for both consoles to get all the bugs worked out and toolchain + games optimized first anyway. In a year, I doubt there will be a definitive winner, both consoles will have amazing looking games with only very minor differences.

The winner is the console that moves more units and delivers a stronger lineup of platform & console exclusive games. That will undoubtedly be PS5. It’s easy to foresee.

Everyone seems to have their own definition of "Winner"; I’m not sure if any of those definitions have much relevance in the industry though. The industry primarily cares about turning a profit and ensuring sustainability

Which Sony has done, as well.

All 3 major platforms are in rude health at the moment, which can only be a positive.

why is console exclusivity an important point for you? You quite literally gain nothing, if a game is exclusive…

Some gamers obsess over exclusives because being elitist is a facet of the fanboy culture.

Or because they help to define the experience you’ll gain from that console. Game consoles would be nothing but underpowered PC’s players if they all shared the same games and same experiences. Nintendo wouldn’t be Nintendo without their console exclusives & unique tie ins to the gameplay experiences they’ve delivered through their consoles. Sega hasn’t been Sega since they left the console space. Sony wouldn’t be Sony if not for the unique gameplay experiences they brought to the console. The gaming industry would be boring AF if competitors didn’t offer unique gameplay experiences. Every generation of gaming has shown that what matters to gamers are unique gameplay experiences. It’s only you pretentious few who try to act like they don’t matter when they ALWAYS have & always will.

The incessant denial that exclusives don’t matter is asinine. That competition through unique gameplay experiences is some foreign idea for you wrap your brain around. If every game was available on Console A, B & C what defines & differentiates these consoles from one another beyond price and power? They become overpriced & underpowered PC’s. I may as well buy an iPad & call it a Switch. Buy a PC & call it a PlayStation.

Being able to compete based off of what unique gameplay experiences you bring to the table in the form of games is how video game console remain a thing. You think Nintendo or Sony would be able to compete against Apple or Microsoft if they openly shared all of their IP & exclusives with their competition. They would’ve floundered years ago. They’d be a shell of their former selves.

I swear none of you put much thought into it.

Wow. Edgy much.

Dude – calm down. Nobody is denying the importance of exclusive content to help differentiate a product. I was simply pointing out that obsessing over it is a facet of fanboy culture.

Nobody gets this excited about exclusives on Netflix. We just enjoy the content.

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