Microsoft changed the Xbox Series X marketing over time. Originally the software giant hit hard on the Series X being the most powerful console ever, period. Games like Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla even advertise on the box that the game runs best on Xbox.
If you buy into the marketing, Xbox Series X performance can seem pretty cut and dry. However, even with the advertising and the Series X’s more powerful hardware, the performance delta between the consoles, today, may surprise you. Let’s get into how and why the PS5 can run some games better than the Xbox Series X.
Over the course of the PS4 and Xbox One generation of home video game consoles, games were often 30fps on either console and 900p and 1080p on PS4 and Xbox, respectively. This is a result of the power gap between the Xbox One and the PS4, the latter being significantly more powerful.
With the Pro versions of the Xbox One and PS4, the situation essentially flipped. 30fps continued to be the general default on both consoles, but the more powerful Xbox One X would often run at native 4K (or closer to native 4K), while the PS4 Pro would often render at resolutions closer to 1440p and then upscale the image to 4K.
In terms of backwards compatibility of PS4 Pro/Xbox One X and Xbox One/PS4 games on the PS5 and Xbox Series X, the nature of these games can lead them to sometimes perform better on PS5. Without any extra attention given to a title or a dynamic resolution scaler, Xbox One/PS4 games that ran at 30fps last-gen will continue to run at 30fps next-gen, and games that ran at 900p on Xbox One will run at 900p on Xbox Series X, just as games that ran at 1080p on PS4 will run in 1080p on PS5. The PS5 will be maintaining the same framerate at a higher resolution.
Because backwards compatible PS4 Pro/Xbox One X games on next-gen consoles don’t tap into the full power of the consoles, and because the visual difference in resolution of upscaled 1440p and higher native resolutions is far smaller than the difference between lower resolutions like 900p and 1080p, the Xbox Series X can perform worse, as its rendering at a higher resolution without much improvement to image quality.
This is a case-by-case basis and can be improved by later patches, but this is the situation today, and without any major marquee Xbox releases, fans and owners of the console will want to be aware of what actual performance is like on games they can play.
Current-generation games are complicated beasts, often coming with multiple performance modes, and performance can be further impacted by what kind of display you’re using. That aside, games like Devil May Cry 5 and Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, as evidenced by Digital Foundry and gamers across the internet, have been shown to generally perform better on PS5. The data doesn’t lie.
There are, also, definitely cases where the Series X outperforms the PS5, like in Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War where ray-tracing performance is stronger on Series X and 120fps is stronger on PS5. Regardless, though, why is the performance delta between the consoles so small? Isn’t the Series X supposed to be more powerful?
The answer is less complicated and less flashy than you may expect or want to hear. Developing for these new consoles is a difficult, slow switch on the developer side. Furthermore, the PlayStation has been the lead development platform for an entire generation, and Sony’s PS5 dev tools are an evolution of the PS4’s tools. With Xbox, Microsoft has continued to change things behind the scenes to make development across its ever increasing number of platforms easier.
What all this boils down to is the simple fact that the new Xbox consoles have development environments that are less familiar to actual devs and that haven’t been the primary platform for an entire generation. With more time spent on learning the architecture of the new console, devs will better be able to take advantage of what’s on offer.
Essentially any game, today, that runs better on PS5 could be patched to outperform it on Series X, but that’s not likely to happen, especially considering the massive catalog of backwards-compatible games. However, new games that come to the new consoles will likely, over time, see better and better performance on Series X.
It’s important, though, to remember that the visual difference between incredibly high resolutions, like 1800p upscaled to 4K and native 4K, is very small, while it’s often much more expensive to run games at native 4K than 1800p upscaled. If Series X games routinely come out with more aggressive resolution targets than PS5, it’s possible the slight boost to image quality won’t outweigh possible performance issues introduced by rendering at such a high resolution.
Ultimately, though, we’ll all have to see what the future holds. What do you think about PS5/Xbox Series X performance? Let us know in the comments down below!