Xbox Series X/S features the same menu as updated current-gen hardware, while PS5 goes for bolder, brighter changes to the PlayStation UI.
The next-generation is here – it’s time to compare the UI menus of PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S. Sony and Microsoft are offering two new visions of the the future of gaming. While messaging from both companies has centered on more marketable improvements, like the impressive ray tracing and load speeds of their new machines, subtler but still important changes are being made to user interface. Just how next-gen are menus on next-gen hardware?
Sony and Microsoft tend to say a lot about their design approaches through their consoles’ UI. Xbox One and PS4 menus were strikingly different, especially at launch. Last generation, Microsoft tried to make Xbox One an all-in-one entertainment platform which prioritized streaming services and apps. This design was poorly received by gamers who prefer their video game console UI to focus on video games and not displaying football stats widgets. Meanwhile, Sony played it safe. The PS4 menu was simply an upgrade of the PS3’s iconic horizontal menu, largely the same but with more images and app integration. Over time, Microsoft reversed course and overhauled its menu to have similar priorities and displays.
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Like the last console generation transition, Sony is not fixing what isn’t broken. Once again, Sony has revived their classic horizontal PlayStation menu and stuffed it with even more images and apps. The startup menu, as usual, features a short symphonic piece. But in the main menu, when a user hovers over a game in their library, the menu’s ambient track and theme are replaced by a background and song from that title. This experience is not unlike browsing through Netflix and having trailers play automatically while scrolling over films, which, admittedly, can be a little jarring.
How PS5 & Xbox Menus Changed (& Didn’t)
However, some things about PS4 were broken. The heavily criticized PlayStation Store loads much faster on PS5. This is because the store is directly integrated into the system’s UI, meaning there is no need to open an app. It should be pointed out that one minor change is frustrating PS4 owners; tapping the PlayStation now brings up the main menu and holding it down brings up the new iteration of the Quick Menu, which is the exact opposite of the input commands of PS4. In all, Sony is going for a slightly “busier” aesthetic than last generation, but the menu itself is undeniably more responsive than PS3.
In contrast, Microsoft has made no bold revisions to their UI this generation. This is because the various editions of Xbox One have already received substantial overhauls to their menus. That choice is in keeping with the overall experience of Xbox Series X/S which many reviewers consider a smooth transition from from last-gen hardware. Additionally, importing old games is incredibly simple, especially when compared to PS5’s surprisingly slow, complicated process of connecting to a PS4. Altogether, Microsoft’s simple, gimmick-free UI represents their renewed focus on making Xbox a gaming console first and foremost.
Of course, this isn’t the most exciting approach. Some long-time Xbox fans have voiced disappointment that Xbox Series X/S has a nearly identical presentation to updated Xbox One consoles. But for those already happy with Xbox’s clean UI as well as those who do not own an Xbox One, the newest version of the Xbox dashboard will get the job done without fuss.
So, to sum it all up, how do Sony and Microsoft’s new UI compare? Both companies have opted for different versions of continuity. For Sony, that means doubling down on their approach last console transition of updating their horizontal menu with bells and whistles. For Microsoft, that means literally translating their latest Xbox dashboard directly to their new hardware. If players are looking for flashy, go with PS5, and if they’re looking for clean, go with Xbox Series X/S – like many video game choices, it all boils down to player preference.
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