We know a lot more about both PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X this week than we did last week. Both Sony and Microsoft have started laying cards on the table; the similarities between their devices -- which both derive from essentially the same AMD-sourced CPU and GPU architecture -- have been known for a long time, but now we're starting to see the all-important differences.
The merits of the big technical differences -- the Series X has a notably punchier GPU, while the PS5 has opted for a significantly faster SSD -- are going to be hotly debated by experts for months, and even more hotly debated by clueless people for literally years. While I don't wish to understate the technical edge Microsoft's hardware has in this match-up -- about 20% more raw graphical power, it seems -- the reality is that we won't know for certain how much of a difference these hardware design decisions have made until we start seeing finished games running on production hardware, which remains months away.
What we can see for now, however, is a very real difference in the strategic approach being taken by these two companies -- not just to their consoles, but to the whole process of communicating about those consoles to the public.
Aside from price point information, there's remarkably little about the Xbox Series X we don't know
What's arguably just as interesting as the cards we're starting to see laid on the table, then, is which cards are being laid and when. Microsoft and Sony are playing very different games in this regard; the former is being extremely open, to the point of having allowed the media to play with and film a "snap-together" version of its Xbox Series X hardware showing all the internal components, not to mention having shown off final console and controller designs, and a number of core features of the new system software.
This is, as far as I can recall, a genuinely unprecedented level of openness for a system that's not set to launch until this winter. Aside from the crucial price point information, there's remarkably little about the Xbox Series X we don't know already.
Sony, by contrast, is playing a more traditional game. We know more about PS5 after Mark Cerny's presentation this week -- we know a lot more detail about its hardware performance and functionality -- but we have yet to see much of the consumer-relevant stuff about the console. We don't know about its price, of course -- muttered rumours about trouble with keeping down the manufacturing costs aside -- but we also don't know about the system software, the launch exclusives, or crucially, the physical design of the hardware.