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PS5 vs. Nintendo Switch: Which should you buy?

Ps5 Vs Nintendo Switch
Ps5 Vs Nintendo Switch (Image credit: iMore)

You might be wondering which gaming system is the right choice for your home. The PS5 is a powerful unit with several highly-anticipated games in its lineup. It has incredibly fast load times, offers amazing graphics, and is backwards compatible with PS4 games. Meanwhile, the Nintendo Switch is also a very appealing option, evidenced by the fact that it has sold over 70 million consoles worldwide since March 2017. This is partly thanks to Animal Crossing: New Horizons' phenomenal success in 2020, plus the rich number of Nintendo exclusives that have come out in the past few years.

PS5 vs. Nintendo Switch: What's the difference?

Ps5 Vs Nintendo Switch Vs

Ps5 Vs Nintendo Switch Vs (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / iMore)

Comparing the PS5 to the Nintendo Switch is like comparing chocolate to fries. They're both good, but entirely different and suit different tastes. But compare them we must. To start things off, here are the cold, hard specs:

PS5Nintendo Switch
Price$499$299
GPU10.28 TFLOPS, 36 CUs @ 2.23 GHz Custom RDNA 2NVIDIA Custom Tegra processor
CPU8x Cores @ 3.5GHz Custom Zen 2NVIDIA Custom Tegra processor
Memory16GB GDDR64 GB LPDDR4 SDRAM @ 1600 MHz
Storage825GB SSD32GB Internal + MicroSD
ResolutionUp to 4K at 120Hz / 8K at 60Hz720p (Undocked) / 1080p (Docked)
USBUSB 3.0 (unknown), USB-C1 x USB-C (Console), 3 x USB 2.0 (Dock)
ControllerDualSenseJoy-Cons / Pro Controller
Backward compatibilityYesNo
Game formatDiscs / digital downloadsCartridges / digital downloads
Weight9.9 lb0.66 lb (Console) / 0.72 lb (Dock)
Dimensions15.3 in x 4.1 in x 10.2 in4 in x 9.4 in x 0.55 in (Console) / 4.1 in x 6.8 in x 2.12 in (Dock)

What these differences mean for you

Alright, so those are the specs, but how does this information apply to you? I'll dive into what this means, one aspect at a time.

How you play: TV vs. handheld

Nintendo Switch Console on blue background

Nintendo Switch Console on blue background (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / iMore)

The PS5 is a traditional media center console. It displays its gorgeous, high-resolution visuals on your TV and can support up to 4K resolution for crisp imagery. This is the kind of console that invites you to put surround sound in your living room, along with other permanent accessories, to amplify your playing experience. As you can see from the dimensions, this is a chonky device that will take up a lot of room on your TV stand. In fact, many people have difficulty finding a good place for it.

The Nintendo Switch, on the other hand, is a small hybrid system that can be played both while docked to a TV or anywhere you go, thanks to its handheld mode. Suppose you want to play a multiplayer game while out and about; just pull out the kickstand on the back to steady it, remove the Joy-Cons and toss one to a friend. Its hybrid nature makes it an ideal traveling companion for both your regular commute or when you're on a trip. Set it up in the car on your next vacation, and your kids can keep themselves entertained for hours. Just make sure to grab a carrying case for easier transport.

Processing power: Performance vs. Unique playing experience

Horizon Forbidden West

Horizon Forbidden West (Image credit: Sony (screenshot))

Sony's console is, without a doubt, the more powerful of the two. However, since these devices offer very different playing experiences, you shouldn't determine which one to get based on power, but rather by what you want to do with your gaming console.

The PS5's super-fast loading speeds and high processing power allow it to support more graphics-intensive titles and run online multiplayer more smoothly. It loads 2GB of data in a quarter of a second, making it an incredibly fast console, indeed. If you hate sitting through load times, love looking at high-end graphics, or like playing competitive titles online, then processing power will be essential for you, and you would be happier with the PS5.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe with four players on Nintendo Switch.

Instead of relying on high-end performance, the Nintendo Switch focuses on the playing experience. In fact, it doesn't even support 4K. When docked to a TV, the Switch can reach up to 1080p, but when in handheld mode, it only reaches 720p. This won't really affect you since the screen is so small, though.

The Switch features two removable Joy-Cons, which, when turned sideways, become their own controllers. This makes it easy to pass one to a friend for on-the-go or at-home multiplayer fun. On that note, many multiplayer games these days require every player to have their own console and their own copy of the game. However, Nintendo tends to offer more couch co-op multiplayer games than any other gaming company. So you can invite friends over or have a family game night where everyone focuses on the same screen and plays together. Many multiplayer Switch games support up to four players, but some like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate even support up to eight players.

Storage: Internal and external memory

Ps5 Hero With Dualsense (Image credit: Jennifer Locke / iMore)

The PS5 is definitely the better console when it comes to internal memory. Many AAA PS5 games will be about 8 GB - 15 GB of RAM and require 46+ GB of space to play. Sony's console holds several games before running out of space thanks to the 825 GB of storage, and if you hit a wall, you can always connect an external hard drive to get more memory.

The Nintendo Switch and Switch Lite's abysmal 32 GB of internal storage is seriously lacking. The Switch OLED has double the amount of internal storage, but 64GB still isn't a lot. Considering that AAA Nintendo titles tend to require between 10 GB and 15 GB, you can easily run out of room after adding as little as three games to your Switch. This being the case, you will want to invest in a microSD card for Nintendo Switch as soon as possible. Fortunately, Nintendo's console can theoretically take up to 2 TB memory cards. Though, you likely won't need that much space.

Controllers: Sony DualSense vs. Nintendo Joy-Cons

Ps5 Dualsense Bottom Half (Image credit: Jennifer Locke / iMore)

How to fix controller drift Nintendo Switch (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / iMore)

Source: Jennifer Locke / iMore and Rebecca Spear / iMoreDualSense controller on the left, Joy-Cons on the right.

The PS5 DualSense controller has adaptive triggers which add a layer of immersion to gameplay. For instance, a game that takes advantage of this tech might make it so you can feel the tension of a drawn bow as you aim an arrow or feel the falling rain. The DualSense also features textured grips, a touchpad, a microphone, a mute button, and a share button. These DualSense features are more than just a gimmick; they really do add to the gaming experience.

Nintendo Joy-Cons feature motion controls and allow you to scan amiibo, small Nintendo figurines with NPC chips inside. These features allow for a very different type of gameplay that's often featured in party games. For instance, motion controls let you tilt your Joy-Con to steer while playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, or you can unlock special items by scanning a Zelda amiibo in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

The thing is, Switch owners have very mixed responses to Joy-Cons because they are rather small, have an untraditional design, and many users have reported rampant cases of Joy-Con drift. In fact, many Nintendo fans opt to buy the Pro Controller, which features a more conventional build and doesn't have drift issues.

Online offerings: PlayStation Plus vs. Nintendo Switch Online

Playstation Plus Collection (Image credit: Sony (screenshot))

Nintendo Switch Online (Image credit: Nintendo)

Source: Sony (screenshot) and Nintendo

To play online, PS5 and Nintendo Switch owners will need to purchase a special membership. The PlayStation Plus Collection subscription service is necessary for online play. It makes it so PS5 owners can access a select number of previous-gen games, including God of War, Batman Arkham, Uncharted 4, Ratchet & Clank, Until Dawn, and more. The membership fee costs $10 for a month, $25 for three months, or $60 for a year.

Sony also offers PlayStation Now, a game subscription service for $10 a month or $60 a year that gives players access to hundreds of PS4, PS3, and PS2 games. In fact, you can even stream 800 of them on your PC without having to download anything.

Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack Nintendo 64 Sega Genesis Controllers (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / iMore)

Nintendo Switch Online gives players access to online play, lets them jump into a library of NES and SNES titles, and allows them to save their game data to the cloud. You choose from a $35 Family Membership covering 12 months or an Individual Membership that spans one month for $4, three months for $8, or $20 for 12 months.

There's also the new Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack which brings select N64 and Sega Genesis games to the hybrid console. This includes big games like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Mario Kart 64. Not to mention, additional N64 games are coming in the future including Banjo-Kazooie and F-Zero. However, some players haven't been happy about some of the controls and mechanics in the N64 emulator.

Console exclusives: PS5 vs. Nintendo Switch

Sony and Nintendo both have their share of special characters and franchises that only ever appear on their own consoles. Here's a small list of titles for either company to help give you an idea of what games can be experienced where.

Marvels Spider Man Miles Morales Hero

Marvels Spider Man Miles Morales Hero (Image credit: Sony)

PlayStation 5

It should be noted that some of these games are on PS4 as well as PS5.

  • Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales
  • Horizon Forbidden West
  • God of War Ragnarök
  • Gran Turismo 7
  • Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart
  • Demon's Souls
  • Sackboy: A Big Adventure
  • Final Fantasy XVI
  • Deathloop
  • Ghostwire: Tokyo
  • Dying Light 2
  • Elden Ring
  • Saints Row

Zelda Breath Of The Wild Guardian

Zelda Breath Of The Wild Guardian (Image credit: Nintendo)

Nintendo Switch

These are some of the best Nintendo Switch games.

  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons
  • Pokémon Sword / Pokémon Shield
  • Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
  • Metroid Dread
  • Ring Fit Adventure
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
  • Super Mario Odyssey
  • Pokémon Brilliant Diamond / Shining Pearl
  • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
  • Luigi's Mansion 3
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses
  • Pokémon Legends: Arceus
  • Mario Party Superstars

Cheaper console alternatives: PS5 Digital Edition vs. Nintendo Switch Lite

There are less expensive versions of both the PS5 and the Nintendo Switch. PS5 Digital Edition costs $100 less than the PS5 and is mostly the same except for the fact that it doesn't have a disc drive. Similarly, the Nintendo Switch Lite is also $100 less than the Nintendo Switch, but it cannot dock to a TV, nor does it have removable Joy-Cons, motions controls, or rumble. In our opinion, the larger Switch is better than the Switch Lite, though.

What about price and release date?

Ps

Ps (Image credit: Sony)

The Nintendo Switch released in March 2017, sells for $300, and already has an impressive list of hits behind it. In comparison, Sony's PS5 released on November 12, 2020 and sells for $400 (if you can find it in stock). Several highly anticipated PS5 games are coming in 2022. If you want to save some money, get a console for everyone in your family to share, or simply want to experience Nintendo's exclusives, then you might want to go with the Switch. However, if you're willing to pay for a high-powered piece of tech and all of the next-gen experiences that come with it, you should go for the PS5.

PS5 vs. Nintendo Switch: Bottom Line

The PS5 is definitely the more powerful console between the two. However, that doesn't necessarily mean it is the right option for you. If you like the idea of keeping up-to-date with the latest gaming tech, playing online multiplayer, and are interested in Sony's upcoming titles, then by all means, go with the larger console.

However, if you like the thought of hosting large game nights from one TV screen, want the gaming system to be shared with the whole family. Like the idea of playing your favorite games wherever you go, then you should definitely consider the Nintendo Switch.

Note: It's been tough to find either of these consoles in stock this year. If you see one is available from a trusted seller, you'll want to jump on the purchase right away.