(Pocket-lint) - The next-generation console war is spinning up into full action - the next generation of major games consoles is almost upon us, in the form of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S and Series X.
Microsoft was the first to blink by releasing an actual, honest-to-goodness price and release date for its consoles - 10 November. Now Sony's joined it and confirmed it'll launch the PS5 on 12 November in the US and a selection of other countries, and 19 November around the world. Both, though, are available to pre-order right now (if you can find one in stock!)
A striking change this generation is that both Xbox and PlayStation are launching two versions of their consoles, one with a disc drive and one without.
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If you're thinking of getting rid of discs and going all-digital, you might be wondering which new console would suit you best. We've got you covered, with this detailed comparison of the Xbox Series S and the PlayStation 5, plus its Digital Edition.
Theses are two mightily divisive consoles, and no mistake.
The PS5 Digital Edition might not be quite as massive as the standard PlayStation 5, but it's mighty close, and has a totally new, winged white design that some people love and others hate.
It's a tall console, with those flaring edges tapering, leaving the bottom of the console looking thinner than the top. Frankly, we like it - it might not be subtle, but it certainly stands out from the crowd of recent consoles that are a bit like boring black boxes.
Let’s make it official!— Xbox UK (@xboxuk) September 8, 2020
Xbox Series S | Next-gen performance in the smallest Xbox ever. £249.99 (ERP).
Looking forward to sharing more! Soon. Promise. pic.twitter.com/fGp13TkFjU
Xbox might have gone pretty conventional with the bigger Series X, but the Series S also has a very distinctive look. Debuting in white, that black fan grille is what draws the eye first, and it's also dividing opinion.
However, the key difference to know about on the design front is size. There's no getting around it, the Series S is way, way smaller than even the PS5 Digital Edition.
That size difference will be key for some people, but it is largely explained in our next section, looking at performance.
Processing and graphics
The primary reason that the PS5 Digital Edition is so much bigger than the Xbox Series S is that it's not fulfilling quite the same aim - this is quite literally the PS5, just without a disc drive. It has all the same performance possibilities and hardware.
That means it sports an eight-core Zen 2 processor, but at 3.5GHz per core, along with a new solid state hard drive that's apparently wowing developers with its performance. Its RDNA graphics will manage 10.28 TFLOPS across 36 CUs, making for a significant leap over the PS4 Pro, and the ability to manage both ray tracing and 4K native output.
Effectively, Sony's two console versions offer the same performance, but with a lower price for the disc-less Digital Edition.
That's far from the same as Microsoft - the Xbox Series S is an entirely different bit of hardware to the Xbox Series X, although it does share those two factors of a lower price and no disc drive.
It's got the same CPU as the Series X, a custom eight-core chip running at 3.6GHz - or 3.4GHz with multithreading. The GPU it powers, though, is less powerful than its bigger brother, managing 4 teraflops of power to the Series X's 12.
The Series S will also be able to manage ray tracing, but will only be able upscale to 4K, targetting 1440p as standard.
As we mentioned, Sony's new SSD for the PlayStation 5 is making waves, and will be a star feature in the PS5 Digital Edition, too. We now know that the console will come with a 825GB drive, a slightly odd number that's a result of Sony's propietary processes.
The Xbox Series S has a 512GB SSD of its own, by contrsast. That's a slightly limited amount of storage, to be honest, but isn't surprising since the Series S is hitting a really impressive price point.
Optical disc drives
We've mentioned it a few times already, but to be doubly clear - neither the Xbox Series S nor the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition has a disc drive at all. They're both ditching it.
Therefore, if you want a home console that can be a great 4K Blu-ray player as well, you'd better think about picking up a full PS5 or an Xbox Series X instead.
Release date and price
The Xbox Series S has been confirmed at $299 or £249, which is a seriously aggressive and impressive price point, which again is explained by its lower specs and reduced power. The Xbox Series X, meanwhile, comes in at £449 in the UK, and $499 in the US, a fair whack more.
The PS5, by contrast, comes in at $499 or £449 if you want a disc drive, or $399/£359 if you're okay without one.
So, that means that numerically if you're looking for the most affordable next-gen performance possible, Xbox Series S is the obvious choice. However, you'll obviously not be getting the best next-gen performane performance possible - if you're less sure that you want the cheapest possible option, it probably comes down to which game lineup you're keenest on.
Meanwhile, on the release date front, Microsoft has confirmed that the Series S will release on 10 November. Sony's confirmed its own date of 12 November for America, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea, and 19 November for the rest of the world including those of us in the UK and EU.