PlayStation 5 DualSense vs. Xbox Series X controller: Which next-gen gamepad is best?

PlayStation 5 DualSense Controller
PlayStation 5 DualSense Controller (Image credit: Sony)

While Sony remains tight on PlayStation 5 details, including the first look at the console itself, its newly-unveiled DualSense controller serves as one fundamental component of that vision. The latest out-the-box controller serves as the most significant departure from predecessors, transcending DualShock branding while adopting a new design philosophy. The controller is now positioned as fundamental to various advancements beyond sheer console horsepower, aiming to improve player immersion and social experiences.

The spotlight of Xbox Series X falls on the console itself, though Microsoft brings some subtle changes to its controller for the next generation. It's a less radical upgrade in contrast to PlayStation DualSense, yet Microsoft piles additional enhancements upon proven ergonomics, streamlining the controller for everyday usage.

How Sony and Microsoft change designs with next-gen

Playstation 5 DualSense Controller Side

Source: Sony (Image credit: Source: Sony)

The PlayStation DualSense embraces a bulkier design over past controllers, adopting a broader overall footprint shaped around new features and ergonomic proposals. It pitches a silhouette straddling the previous DualShock and Xbox controllers, with adjustments to grips and trigger angles. The resulting controller looks to weigh less in-hand than looks, without comprising its signature feel.

Most of the DualShock 4 also moves forward, Sony's previous controller design that shipped alongside the PlayStation 4 over half a decade ago. The symmetrical thumbstick and button placements from past Sony controllers stay, beside a familiar flat forehead home to the touchpad and two buttons. It's still distinctly a PlayStation controller, but now with additional "chonk" and features to match.

The Xbox Series X also ships alongside a revised controller, closer to its Xbox One equivalent. Despite mostly unchanged ergonomics, it stars a circular-shaped D-pad with five defined square surfaces and texturing on the triggers, both inspired by the Xbox Elite Series 2 Wireless Controller. Speaking with Xbox leadership, GameSpot also reports an "ever-so-slightly smaller" controller shape planned for Xbox Series X, adapting its fit across a more extensive range of players.

PlayStation 5 DualSense adds a ton more over Xbox Series X's controller

Playstation 5 DualSense Controller

Source: Sony (Image credit: Source: Sony)

Among the flagship advancements with DualSense comes haptic feedback, with what Sony frames as the "sense of touch within gameplay," improving over the traditional rumble motors. The gamepad saw its redesign around the inclusion of precise haptics, presenting highly programmable voice-coil actuators in either grip. It couples with adaptive triggers, allowing games to provide physical feedback and change resistance based on gameplay, simulating the tension of arrow drawstring or firearm classes. While Xbox One experimented with comparable features in 2013, also extending to Xbox Series X, Sony pushes the concept further with PlayStation 5.

The DualSense also includes a built-in microphone array, which Sony pitches as a natural way to jump into voice chat, without the requirement of a headset. Although far from ideal compared to dedicated gaming cans, it reduces the barrier to the PlayStation Network social features, increased ubiquity of the controller.

We also see the "departure" of the Share button, replaced with what Sony rebrands as the Create button. It serves a similar social function, likely providing fast access to screenshots and video, alongside further creative features. Sony hasn't specified what those features are, but more detail is promised for "closer to launch."

The touchpad and light bar return, too, although now merged together, creating a blue haze around the front panel.

Xbox Series X Controller Hero

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

Microsoft approaches Xbox Series X's controller as a refinement upon the Xbox One design, generally perceived among the leaders of ergonomics. That results in a design mostly unchanged, adopting small tweaks in response to user demand.

The signature addition is a new dedicated "Share" button, mimicking the feature popularized by the PlayStation 4's DualShock and the Nintendo Switch. The key enables fast video and screenshot capture and sharing, building upon the Game DVR from Xbox One. The previously-mentioned changes to the D-Pad and grips also improve in-hand usage for added comfort for longer gaming sessions. The proprietary Xbox Wireless protocol also returns, extending efforts to reduce input latency.

The new Xbox Series X controller admittedly plays it safe, lacking many of the stand-out additions seen with PlayStation DualSense. It's a shame that Microsoft skips out on an integrated microphone, ideal for its deeper integration with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 PlayStation 5 DualSense ControllerXbox Wireless Controller
ButtonsPS button, CREATE, OPTIONS, directional buttons, action buttons, shoulder buttons, triggers, analog stick click buttons, touchpad click buttonXbox button, Menu, View, Share button, D-Pad buttons, ABXY buttons, bumper buttons, triggers, stick click buttons, touchpad click button
Haptic Feedback and TriggersYesYes
BatteryInternal battery2x AA batteries, rechargeable battery (sold separately)
ConnectivityUSB-C, Bluetooth assumedUSB-C, Bluetooth
Confirmed PortsUSB-C, UnknownUSB-C, Expansion Port, 3.5mm Audio Jack
CompatibilityUnknownXbox Series X, Xbox One, Windows PCs, other Bluetooth devices
ColorWhite, BlackBlack

Expect additional specifications for the PlayStation 5 DualSense and new Xbox Wireless controller over the weeks ahead.

PlayStation 5 DualSense and Xbox Series X controller release date

Microsoft and Sony both remain quiet on availability for next-generation consoles, with no precise details on release dates, pricing, and preorders. While both slated for a holiday 2020, given current world events and the rapidly-shifting market, expect further clarification in the coming months.

Do you prefer the Xbox Series X controller or Sony's new DualSense for the PlayStation 5? Let us know in the comments section.

Matt Brown

Matt Brown was formerly a Windows Central's Senior Editor, Xbox & PC, at Future. Following over seven years of professional consumer technology and gaming coverage, he’s focused on the world of Microsoft's gaming efforts. You can follow him on Twitter @mattjbrown.