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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.

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
MicrophoneYesNo
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
PriceUnknownUnknown

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 is 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.

46 Comments
  • Nobody knows until they hold the PS5 controller in their hands
  • When I do, my hands will cramp up from the left analog stick being in the wrong place. Ha. Seriously though I cannot stand the analog stick placement. On top of that I don't know what they're thinking with the material they used and then the dome in the middle of the stick, it's like they don't want me to be able to grip the thing properly. The PlayStation controllers before DualShock 4 were okay in my book even if I didn't like The analog stick placement, at least my thumbs stayed on them correctly. The dualshock 4 is so uncomfortable, it's like I'm constantly fighting to keep my hands on it.
  • I thought it was concave.
  • It's convex in the middle, but with a lip around the edge.
  • I don't understand this argument, are your hands noticably assymetrical? If the right stick is fine then the left stick should be fine.
  • For me, I hold it asymmetrical, probably as I am used to it. I also use my middle finger for trigger and bumper. I think most use two fingers. Got the muscle memory, and can't change. That, and a shed load of digital games. Perhaps Sony wanted it to be like an Xbox controller for more than just ergonomics, perhaps it is a way of enticing those, like me, that are used to the xbox feel, and this makes it easier to switch.
  • You don't always leave it on the right stick though. And you usually need faster "moves" yet precise or timed right on the abxy buttons in most games. So it's more logical to put them there for confort and the right stick being usually needing a slower moving thumb for precision... But the natural position of the thumb is definitely more in-line with the rest of the hand than at angle.. Playing sports games or race games is tireing on the PS4 seems that won't change on PS5... And then you have the overall ergonomics.. Sure the PS5 design looks sexy but I feel the pall rest of the pad won't be as confortable and fitting the shape of the hand as the Xbox does... And that further amplifies the strain on the left thumb... And the triggers look better than on the DS4 they still don't seem to match the ergonomic positioning confort for very different types of hands...
    Then again most PS player I know and have seen tend to play with the d pad... So it makes sens to keep that way for their public maybe....
    Anyway I'm curious about the happtic innovation from Sony... I feel it'll be gimmicky or just really enjoyable with VR... If not that'll be awesome though... Then again it also depends how it works with game development and 8f devs actually take the time to map things properly... This is intriguing me big time... Probably the most curious I have been about Playstation in years 🤣
  • Ah, see I tend to play 3rd/1st person titles, twin stick shooters, etc so most of the time I have my right thumb on the analog and its less often that I utilise the face buttons, so for me, if my right hand can do it for extended periods of time, my left can too (which is evidenced by the fact that I have no issues playing on Playstation). One thing I do know is when I hold a PS4 controller I angle it differently, I tilt it more forward to cater to the stick position, whereas the Xbox One (and other similar controllers) I hold more upright (fun fact, because of this hand position, it's really , really easy for me to have fingers resting on both triggers/buttons with the PS variant, whereas on Xbox One I tend to use one finger on each side). So I will be interested to see how this will feel with the sticks in the standard PS position, but a controller that looks like it is designed to be held like an Xbox controller. Ultimately, I would love to train myself to use claw grip, but that's effort I don't feel like putting into gaming.
  • I think Sony going Xbox like with the controller is a good thing. I don't like how it looks but if it works it works so I really don't care.
  • Putting a mic on the controller. Because having an always listening mic on a console has never been tried before...
  • there's a button to turn it on/off, and presumably a light to indicate when it's active.
  • Considering the ps controller needed alot of upgrades anyways and xbox is already industry standard and didn't need much upgrading, I'd say xbox did just fine.
    Built in mic is nice, but not a necessity when headsets are a dime a dozen and offer better quality. Also see lots of those mics left on during games just pouring in background sound but not being use as intended.
  • The mic on the controller isn't really a plus when we got headsets.
  • I think it's a good upgrade for when you don't want to be using a headset, but still want occasional voice features.
  • I'd say that it's a nice-to-have but not the game-changer that some might immediately assume. I'd not be surprised to hear that some people tried the onboard mic and ended up going back to a headset. Time will tell but I'd expect an onboard mic to pick up more background noise.
  • Don't you think it is too early for this article?
  • So Xbox is the only controller still uses battery.
    I'm glad there's at least one official battery-free version of Xbox One controller (elite 2). I have no issue with any of my battery-free controllers in recent generations and I hate any controller still uses battery.
    (Don't say something like use rechargeable battery or battery-pack, first the additional weight, second they can't get recharged just by USB-C cable, problem not solved at all).
  • They can get recharged by USB C. Had my play and charge kit for many years, still going strong since launch. Battery is really long lasting, and my Xbox gets used by 4 family members, so many hours per day. Nice having the rechargable and detachable battery, as if my son (upstairs) needs a battery, he can just take mine out and slam it in his. Had a controller pass away once, used the battery in the replacement, perfect. My controller and play and charge kit was around £50. Bargain.
  • Battery pack is rechargeable through the cable plugged on the controller. Only con I see here is the added price. You have weight on what you call battery-less controller (which has an internal battery after all). If weight is a problem you can get rid of the battery on Xbox and use the controller plugged in.
  • You make no sense. There is no such thing as a "battery-free" version, unless you mean a permanently wired one. Whether there is an internal battery or a removable battery, you will have the same weight, as the battery capacity is determined by mass. And you can charge a rechargeable battery pack in the controller over USB, just like you always have been able to.
  • I use the original Elite controller with a Play & Charge kit and the rechargeable battery stays in the controller permanently and is charged via the micro-USB port on the controller. If they battery was not removeable then the weight would be basically the same because the battery itself and not the plastic housing is the majority of the weight. Your argument just doesn't really work. A setup like that provides the most flexibility and so works for the largest number of people. The way I use it, it works just like an inbuilt battery but someone else could use regular AAs or rechargeable AAs that they keep charged in an external charger. The advantage of the latter is that, if you do go flat, you can change the batteries and keep going whereas I would have to connect the controller to a cable.
  • If only Sony went with asymmetrical sticks...
  • I was just having this discussion with someone at work. They prefer the symmetrical design because that person has large hands and feels like the sticks are in a more natural position to them. I disagree, and think that the fact that Sega, Nintendo and Microsoft all went with the asymmetric design tells where most people think. Sony only went with the symmetric design because the original Playstation did not have analog sticks and they somehow felt like they could not depart from the legacy of that controller design.
  • I have big hands. I'm 6 foot 5. And I can tell you big hands are worse on the PS controller. When your strafing right and looking left at the same time my thumbs always touch together. Every single time. And it's annoying as hell. Also if you watch someone play say GT Sport on a PS4 watch their left thumb. When they try and turn full left of full right they never once actually reach full lock. Because their thumb naturally pulls the stick left and up. Or down and right for turning right. Because to turn full left or right is more a push and pull for PS. Whereas the position for the Xbox controller left stick the natural movement for your left and right turns are rock or lean your thumb left and right. As opposed to a diagonal push and pull on PS. Film him on your phone playing. And I guarantee he will be surprised.
  • I don't like the new Xbox D-Pad. On my Elite, I quickly removed that version and replaced it with the traditional + design. Much better ergonomics. Guess I will have to wait for an Elite Series 3, or just use my original Elite on the Series X and give up the share button.
  • I like the mic on the PlayStation controller. I think the Xbox one is no different from current. I know a lot of people are excited for the share button, but I don't think I'd ever use it outside of accidental presses.
  • Let's just hope they improve Upload Studio.
  • There can be improvements with every new controller of course but it doesn't need to drastically change if there's nothing significantly wrong with it.
  • Series X is USB-C too? What for????????
  • Also, the new Xbox controller is supposed to have improved connection with Series X.
  • I am of two minds about the light, I freaking hate the battery drain it put on the PS4 controller, but my God, the design of the PS5 controller is sexy with the thin strips of colour. It's still going to an annoying battery drain, but it looks good doing it. Also the two tone looks really nice (and should mean that all colour schemes should follow a two tone trend, it's nice to move past flat mono colour reskins) and, as many people have already said, the shape should be more comfortable, like Xbox and Switch.
  • Personally, I think that the way they have used colour on the PS5 controller makes it look a bit bulbous, even though it isn't really based on the shape. Not a big deal and, for those who feel the same, many will get used to it.
  • So, mostly Sony is trying to close the gap on ergonomics & feedback (but still not on asymmetrical sticks)
    MS chases Sony about the button renaming.
    And the integrated microphone (hoping it won't be too bad, and won't bring too many troll wannabe that never bothered to buy a headset)
  • Xbox, hands down. That PS5 controller looks really sexy, but so long as they insist on uncomfortable symmetrical thumb sticks, I’ll choose Xbox every time.
  • All I want is a option to dim the X logo on the controller, so its 1/10th the normal glow
    when watching streaming media (youtube Netflix, films and tv etc) or just in general
    that would make the X controller whole for me
  • Yeah I'm pretty sure this can only be done with Elite controllers.
  • Having no removable battery again is a disappointment. I went through 5 PS3 controllers in its life due to the battery barely charging anymore. And the PS4 controller lasts 5 mins on a full charge. I'm also not sure the benefit of the microphone. It adds cost to the device. Xbox gamers have had mic arrays since Kinect released in 2010. And while it was a neat feature to use vocie controls. It ended up not really being used by the public in the majority. I feel it's an unneeded added to cost. Is it worth it if the controller is £20 more expensive than what the PS4 Controller already is? Apart from that, I quite like its design. It actually has a much more Xbox type shape now. So it should be more comfortable. It kinda feels like Sony is now going after multimedia services and MS after gaming.
  • I like how the PS5 controller is obviously new. Like you would never look at it and think, PS4 controller, but the new Xbox controller looks like it could be a Xbox One controller if you weren't paying attention to the extra button. Actually, it almost looks like Sony has done more with their new controller than Xbox has unless there is more done inside it than aesthetically.
  • The shape of Dual Sense looks alot more like Xbox Controller now. I think MS made there's slightly bigger if I remember what DF said. And they seem to have worked more on input latency on Xbox side. Between the console and controller input latency. And on thr console hardware inside for controller latency as well. Whereas Sony seem to have worked on a Microphone and pressure triggers. Xbox users have had a multi array microphone via Kinect for 10 years now. And that didn't seem to be of any concern to Playstation gamers or Xbox gamers for that matter for 10 years. The Haptic triggers are a nice addition. But then Noone seemed to really care when MS introduced Haptic triggers on Xbox One back in 2013. So I'm not to sure whether this stuff gets used much. We only have to look at the touch pad on PS4 to see how little if anyone really utilized it in games. I think I'd rather thr microphone and touch pad be removed. Cause this controller is going to be expensive. I'm predicting £100 for thr controller and £300+, for the first external SSD for PS5 when companies actually bring them out. And it will have to be from a very small select Sony list that will work. It's going to be a very expensive console with features people just won't really use as we have seen on Xbox with multi array microphones and Haptic feedback. I think I'd have preferred that money was spent improving the Ray tracing and general power of PS5. I feel like thr money is being spent in the wrong areas. Just including a controller with the PS5 is going to push entry price up. I'm thinking no way PS5 comes out for less than £449/$499. With this controller it's almost guaranteed to push the price up.
  • Why it says "Yes" at Haptic Feedback and Triggers on Xbox?
  • Because Xbox has had Haptic feedback on triggers since 2013. It was a new addition to Xbox controllers at the launch of Xbox One. Sony is just adding it now.
  • Ohh, I see. But Sony's PS5 controller has a more advanced one?
  • We can't really know for now
  • You would assume so given that it's seven years newer, but we won't know until we hold the controller and use it for ourselves.
  • We also have no idea whether Xbox improved theirs or just reused 2013 tech. Who knows. I'd wager MS have upgraded it. Especially considering everything else is upgraded. Such as latency, dpad and materials used.
  • For me it's the Xbox controller. It has already proven to be one of the best controllers ever made. I'm not a fan of the PS5 controllers looks and the built in mic is a huge deal breaker. No thanks. I value my privacy. Xbox wins for me hands down.