Which Is Faster, the Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5? Early Data Says It’s Complicated

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One of the most interesting questions about any console launch is how the platforms compare against each other at debut and how the results of that comparison impact system uptake. In 2013, Microsoft tried to zig when Sony zagged at got shellacked by it, to the point that Microsoft considered killing Xbox altogether. The company learned from its mistake, and both the Xbox One X and the Xbox Series X pack more firepower than their equivalent PlayStation counterpart, at least on paper. The Xbox One X is a proven system and has often been at least modestly faster than the PS4 Pro in head-to-head match-ups, but we haven’t seen any data on the PlayStation 5 versus Xbox Series X, and the first game match-up is a bit stranger than we would have expected.

Eurogamer recently spent time with Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition on both platforms. Happily, the game has seemingly identical rendering modes between both platforms, allowing the publication to use it as a benchmark to compare them. The game runs with an unlocked frame rate when tested on a screen capable of 120Hz, and it offers multiple rendering modes to test.

Normal Mode: Full 3840×2160 rendering (no upscaling). Eurogamer reports the Xbox Series X is about 8 percent faster than the PS4 Pro in this mode.

High Frame Rate Mode: Retains 3840×2160 resolution, but reaches it by upscaling rather than by native rendering. Both consoles exceed 100fps on average in this mode, but Eurogamer reports that the PS5 is significantly faster and more consistent in many gameplay areas. They chalk this up to a potential API difference that’s bottlenecking the Xbox Series X, and there have been rumors that Sony’s console is easier for devs to work with at the moment than its Xbox equivalent. Both Sony and Microsoft have had poor dev tools at various points in earlier generations and things tend to improve as time goes by.

Ray Tracing Performance Mode: 1080p combined with real-time ray tracing plus frustum-aligned voxel fog. Eurogamer reports that RT Performance Mode runs roughly at the same speed as Normal mode, but at a much lower resolution. This is broadly similar to Nvidia RTX GPUs, which also typically take a resolution hit when RT is enabled. The two consoles are described as like-for-like here.

Ray Tracing Quality Mode: RT ray tracing combined with higher resolution, but, the higher resolution target is achieved through upscaling, not natively. The Xbox Series X is noted as winning this comparison, though it’s implied that the gap is small — smaller than in previous modes.

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One negative factor that Eurogamer notes, however, is the way the PS5 handles 120Hz. When the PS5 detects a 120Hz panel, it insists on running at that refresh rate, even if doing so forces the panel out of 4K mode. Eurogamer writes:

[C]onsider a highly popular 4K screen – the LG OLED B8. PS5 sees that it is 120Hz-compatible, and overrides 4K resolution. All modes will run at a 120Hz refresh rate, at 1080p resolution – which is absolutely not ideal. Another popular screen is the Samsung NU8000. It’s a 4K screen but on PS5, Devil May Cry will force through the 120Hz refresh rate instead, resulting in a downscale to 1440p that the user has no control over.

Eurogamer has reported the issue to Capcom, and I seem to recall Sony having various problems with 720p back when the PS3 launched. Hopefully, this can be resolved via patch.

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Overall, the Xbox Series X holds a lead in multiple game modes, but the gap between them isn’t as large as Eurogamer expected, or as the console’s on-paper specs would predict. This is one game and it’s the very first head-to-head game, so I wouldn’t draw conclusions yet in any case. For now, the Xbox Series X appears to have a modest advantage over the PS5, just as the PS4 had an advantage over the Xbox One, with the added wrinkle that the Xbox Series X can also slip badly for reasons that are not clear. We’ll see how figures look as OS support matures and developers get more experience with the new platform.

The news here is objectively pretty good for fans of both ecosystems. Even where the Xbox Series X apparently falls below the PS5, both consoles are putting up over 100fps.

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