The battle between the PS5 and Xbox Series X is underway and while things like exclusive games, high value services and console specs get a lot of attention when it comes to helping you decide which console to pick, it's important not to underestimate the significance of the controller that comes with it.
A controller can have a pretty significant effect on your experience of playing a game so it's worth paying attention to whether or not the console you're buying has one that suits you. Interestingly, Microsoft and Sony have tackled the controller problem a little differently this generation. While Microsoft has opted for refinement of its existing design, Sony has gone a little further by dropping the DualShock name and introducing new and exciting immersive features like haptic feedback and adaptive triggers.
Want to know how the two controllers stack up against one another, then? We’re putting the PS5 DualSense controller and Xbox Wireless Controller head-to-head, providing an in-depth comparison of the two latest-generation gamepads.
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PS5 DualSense controller vs Xbox Series X controller: price
While the pricing for the Xbox Series X and PS5 consoles is pretty much a match, the controllers do differ slightly. The DualSense controller for PS5 costs $69.99 / £59.99 / AU$95.85, while the Xbox Wireless Controller's standalone price is $59.99 / £54.99 / AU$74.99.
It's worth nothing, though, that you can use all your existing Xbox One accessories on Xbox Series X/S, including older controllers. The same can't be said about the PS5, which only lets you use a DualShock 4 if you're playing a PS4 game via backwards compatibility while the DualSense cannot be used with a PS4 console at all.
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PS5 DualSense controller vs Xbox Series X controller: design
Both companies took different approaches to controller designs with this generation, with Sony doing away with the traditional DualShock design and Microsoft doubling down on improving their current design in subtle but important ways.
The immediate change from the past that you’ll notice with the PS5 DualSense controller is in its white color scheme–restricted to limited edition PlayStation controllers in the past–while the central part of the controller remains black. While the analog sticks are in the same place, the face buttons are now transparent which gives the controller a more premium look.
Elsewhere the touchpad returns, and the light strip that was embedded within it since the Dualshock 4’s mid-cycle revision is now positioned around the touchpad itself, almost framing it.
The ‘Share’ button has been replaced with the ‘Create’ button, which Sony says they are using to “pioneer new ways for players to create epic gameplay content to share with the world”.
The controller is also now charged via USB-C connection as opposed to the previous micro-USB. USB-C is becoming the new standard and means you’ll be able to charge your controller via the same cable you use for many Android phones, recent iPad Pros, MacBooks, or your Nintendo Switch.
That USB-C port can also be found on the Xbox Series X controller, although Microsoft’s changes are much more conservative. For one, a new ‘Share’ button has been added to the center of the controller, hopefully meaning we’ll no longer be digging through menus in the heat of battle to grab a clip.
The D-pad has also been switched out for a hybrid dish-style input that draws inspiration from the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller to allow more control over complex inputs that you might find in a fighting game for example.
There are also new textured grips on the triggers, that help prevent players from slipping in those tense battle royale encounters, and the general outline of the controller has been minimized to help smaller hands feel more comfortable when holding it.
PS5 DualSense controller vs Xbox Series X controller: features
The Xbox Series X controller has a nifty feature under the hood that involves sending information from the controller to the console (and the TV through HDMI) more frequently to allow your actions to match up with frames on the screen.
That shaves milliseconds off of response times and is part of what the company is calling Dynamic Latency Input.
The controller works on the same Xbox Wireless Radio infrastructure of the Xbox One and continues to offer Bluetooth compatibility using Bluetooth Low Energy pairing to make switching devices instantaneous – something that is likely to be very helpful if you’re planning on streaming via Xbox Cloud Gaming to other devices you own.
Sony’s DualSense offers much more player-facing technology. While it too offers Bluetooth connectivity, the headline addition is haptic feedback and the adaptive triggers.
This technology, built into the game’s triggers and body, allows players to feel in-game actions like pulling back the string of a bow or driving through thick mud. It's extremely impressive, and can create some truly amazing sensations that help make games feel more immersive. It’ll be down to developers to implement the tech of course, but expect Sony first-party studios to adopt it regularly.
In addition, the DualSense has its own built-in microphone, and you can use this to talk with your friends online without the use of a gamepad.
One drawback to the DualSense that we have noticed is that while it has a bunch of great features, it also has a fairly mediocre battery life that isn't quite able to rival that of the Xbox Series X controller, which can use AA batteries or a 'play and charge' pack.
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