PS5 vs. Nintendo Switch

Gabe Gurwin

While the Nintendo Switch isn’t a powerhouse console like the PlayStation 4, it more than makes up for it with its portability. However, Sony is preparing to launch the PlayStation 5 this holiday season, widening the technological gap between the two companies. The PS5 certainly isn’t portable — in fact, some believe it will be one of the largest consoles ever made — but that massive footprint is backed up by some serious horsepower.

Sony has also announced that the PS5 will be sold in two varieties, with one of them lacking an optical drive and requiring digital downloads. Unfortunately, we’re still waiting to hear the specific dimensions of both consoles, as well as a definitive price.

If you’re trying to figure out which gaming console to buy in the future, these are the specifications and special features of each product. 

Specs

PlayStation 5

 

Nintendo Switch

Dimensions Unknown 10 x 4.2 x 0.5 inches
Weight Unknown 0.65 pounds
Color White and black Dark gray
CPU AMD Zen 2-based, 8 cores @ 3.5GHz Nvidia-customized Tegra, shared with GPU
GPU Radeon Navi, 10.28 TFLOPS, ray tracing supported Nvidia-customized Tegra, shared with CPU
Memory 16GB GDDR6/256-bit 4GB
Memory bandwidth 448GB/s 25.6GB/s
Storage 825GB SSD, expandable 32GB, support for external cards.
Optical drive 4K UHD Blu-ray or digital only No
Max resolution 8K 720p handheld, 1080p docked
HDR Yes No
Ports USB, USB-C (more to be announced) HDMI out, One USB-C, One USB 3.0, Two USB 2.0
Online subscription Unknown Yes, $20 per year
Price Likely $500 $300
Availability Holidays 2020
Digital Trends review Coming soon 4 out of 5 stars

Performance

The Nintendo Switch is not a powerhouse by any stretch of the imagination. It can run games originally meant for systems like the Xbox 360 or Wii U without any issue, and can even offer smoother performance over the original versions. However, the system is not capable of offering performance anywhere close to that of the Xbox One or PlayStation 4 — let alone the consoles that will soon follow.

This is especially true when playing third-party games on Nintendo Switch. Doom is perfectly playable on the system, but compared to the other consoles, its framerate is reduced and its textures are quite muddy.

The Nintendo Switch can display games in two different resolutions, depending on whether or not it is docked. If docked and displaying games to a television screen, the Switch can play games at 1080p resolution. This is the maximum resolution it is capable of producing, and certain games will not be able to reach this number. The new Nintendo Switch Lite system cannot be docked, and can only play games at the standard 720p handheld resolution.

When played with the Switch’s own screen, the resolution is capped at 720p. Given the size of the screen, it is virtually impossible to tell it has been lowered, but the numbers are what they are. The system can also hit 60 frames per second in certain games.

If Sony’s claims regarding the PS5’s potential are accurate, the console will be able to achieve performance the Nintendo Switch could only dream of. In an interview with Wired, lead system architect Mark Cerny shared that the system would be capable of 8K resolution, despite the PlayStation 4 Pro only being able to achieve true 4K resolution in a handful of games. The system will also drastically reduce loading times compared to the PS4, thanks to a solid-state drive instead of a hard drive.

The PS5 will also have support for ray tracing, which is a graphical feature typically only found in high-end PC systems. This suggests that it will be a larger leap over the PS4 than the PS4 was over the PS3.

An upgraded Switch

The standard Nintendo Switch found in stores is no longer identical to the one available at launch in 2017. It underwent an internal refreshment without becoming an official second model, with the battery life getting a major boost. This was not a result of a different battery for the system, but rather a more efficient Tegra X1 chip. Slight performance improvements have been reported in certain games, as well as a slightly different tint to the display, but the increased three or so hours of battery life is the real selling point here.

Storage

How to Install an SSD in a PlayStation 4

The Nintendo Switch comes with just 32GB of flash storage on the console itself, which is not even enough to completely install digital versions of certain games. If you purchase physical cartridges for the system, only a small portion of the game must be installed on your system, while the rest will run directly from the card itself. The Switch is the only modern game system that doesn’t make use of discs and is the only system that does not force you to install games before playing them.

If you need more storage space, the Nintendo Switch also supports microSDXC cards, which can potentially raise its capacity to 512GB or more. These aren’t cheap, however, and have to be factored into the cost of the system when purchasing.

Sony has announced that the PS5 will include an 825GB solid-state drive that will allow for faster loading speeds.

If you’re concerned about losing access to your precious game save data, a Nintendo Switch Online membership gives players access to cloud saves and game data backups, which are done automatically when the system is asleep. It should be mentioned, however, that if you decide to cancel your Nintendo Switch Online membership, you will lose access to your cloud save data until you start your membership again, and if that doesn’t happen within six months, your data will be deleted permanently. You can instead manually maintain your own backups of game save data by transferring updated copies of it to a PC but for some people, that can be tedious.

If PS5 game save data works similarly to the PlayStation 4’s, PS Plus subscribers will likely have access to cloud game saves, as well as game data backups that are performed when the system is asleep. Similar to the Nintendo Switch, if you decide to cancel your PS Plus subscription, you will lose access to your cloud saves and data until you resubscribe, and if six months lapse before that time, the data will be deleted forever. The alternative option to this is keeping all of your save data on a USB storage device, but that also has its risks.

Game selection and backward compatibility

The Nintendo Switch has amassed an impressive game library over the more than two years it has been available, with first-party exclusives as well as third-party games that released alongside other consoles or PC. Among the best first-party and second-party games available on the system are:

  • Super Mario Odyssey
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
  • Splatoon 2
  • Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
  • Yoshi’s Crafted World
  • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
  • Pokémon: Let’s Go
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Great third-party games ported from other systems or released simultaneously include:

  • Doom
  • Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
  • Katana Zero
  • Mortal Kombat 11
  • Dark Souls Remastered
  • Fortnite
  • Cuphead

The PS5 also has a robust lineup of exclusive titles that will be launching over the next few years, including:

  • Horizon Forbidden West
  • Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart
  • Demon’s Souls
  • Sackboy: A Big Adventure
  • Gran Turismo 7
  • Spider-Man: Miles Morales
  • Godfall
  • Deathloop

It will also see its fair share of third-party titles that probably won’t be landing on the Switch:

  • Resident Evil Village
  • Deathloop
  • Ghostwire: Tokyo
  • Kena: Bridge of Spirits

When it comes to backward compatibility, the PS5 looks to be the early winner. Sony said it will support backward compatibility for most PS4 games, as well as PlayStation VR titles. The system will also be compatible with the current PlayStation VR headset to play these games. A new version of the PlayStation VR headset is likely coming, as well, and could use finger-tracking controllers in place of PlayStation Move.

The Nintendo Switch doesn’t support backward compatibility with any games you purchased for other Nintendo systems. As it doesn’t have the “Virtual Console” store like the Wii U, 3DS, and Wii, you cannot play those games on the Switch. As mentioned previously, you can find ports of certain older Nintendo games on the Switch, but they are typically priced quite highly.

Online services

If there is one category we can essentially give to the PS5 before we know a thing about it, its online services — Nintendo’s online program for the Switch is that terrible.

With Nintendo Switch Online, which can be purchased annually for $20, you are given access to online multiplayer in games. The feature was previously free with the console. You are also given access to cloud game save backup, as mentioned above, and you can play games in the Nintendo Switch Online game vault. Thus far, all games included in the vault are NES and SNES titles, and it’s the only way to play many of them on the system. They have added online functionality to some of those titles, but remain largely the same games you remember.

Nintendo’s big mistake with its online services, however, is forcing players to use a separate phone app in order to use voice chat while online. Because of the hassle in doing so, hardly anyone actually talks while playing their games, and those that do have little reason to use something other than Skype, instead.

Assuming PlayStation Plus on PS5 is similar to how it works on PS4, it will be a significantly better program. Alongside access to online multiplayer, the $60 yearly fee includes access to free games each month. On PS4, two are available each month, and they are free to keep for as long as you have the service. You can also get special discounts for other digital games, and occasionally additional discounts — we were able to get two free tickets to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse ahead of its release, for example.