Xbox Series X and PS5: Looking beyond the games.



If you’re looking for your console to be an all-in-one entertainment system, though, it’s a much different story.

While both offer the major streaming services, Microsoft’s console has a much more comprehensive selection of options that continue to fulfill its long-standing mission to be the streaming hub of the living room.

That really shouldn’t come as a colossal shock. Microsoft has been using the Xbox as a not-so-subtle Trojan Horse since the Xbox 360 days — in 2009, it was the first console to incorporate Netflix streaming. That deal was an exclusive, and Sony has been playing catch-up ever since in nongaming entertainment.

The Xbox One doubled down on nongaming options and the Series X and Series S keep that momentum going. Whether you’re looking for niche streaming services, music options, or the latest video on demand, the Xbox has you covered.

Streaming on the PS5

That’s not to say the PlayStation 5 is bereft of options when you want to take a break from the game.

The system has 20 streaming partners, including Disney+, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and Spotify — the options most people are likely to use. If you’re a subscriber to NBC’s Peacock streaming service, you can access it here as well. And Apple TV is finally available on both PlayStation and Xbox for the first time with this generation.

Dig down another layer and you’ll find additional streaming services that cater to less-broad audiences – things like Pluto TV, Crunchyroll, Tubi, and Funimation. But there are some notable recent services that aren’t available. And if you’re hoping to watch something that’s more recent, you’re dependent on Vudu. Sony doesn’t have a media store of its own or any console-specific sales on recent movies.

Finding where to watch something is a painless process, though. The search bar will serve up all available options to find requested video programming, so you’ll know what service you need if the program or film you want to watch isn’t available on the services to which you subscribe.

Streaming on the Xbox Series X

Microsoft’s consoles, meanwhile, have a much wider array of options, offering virtually every service Sony does, as well as HBO Max, Pandora, Sling, MLB Network, and most pay cable channels. Even the second-tier channels, like WWE Network, Fubo, Rooster Teeth, and Cartoon Network surpass the PS5 offerings.

Notably, Microsoft also offers the ability to buy or rent video options directly, and frequently has sales on recent films. It’s a timesaving alternative for someone who doesn’t have or want a Vudu account or would rather not tie the video aspect to their Amazon account.

Microsoft has also tied nongaming entertainment into services like GamePass Ultimate. Current members, for instance, can get a free one-month trial to Disney+, rather than the standard seven-day option. They also receive a free rental of the film Warm Bodies. The film might not be for everyone, but it’s a nice offering.

A few universal notes: Whether you use your PS5 or Xbox to view programs on Netflix or Disney+ or listen to music on Spotify, you’ll see a familiar interface. The days of different UIs on different platforms are history. And both consoles offer crisp, clear streams in full 4K, where applicable.

Neither the PS5 nor the Xbox Series X/S expects anyone to buy them because they can stream a certain service, of course. Those are adjunct offerings that supplement the games. But in the past 11 years, they’ve also become a standard part of the game console experience. And for people who don’t have a smart TV or have a single (or limited number of) HDMI port(s), it’s especially important.

The console may not have turned out to be the sole focus of American living rooms as both companies were hoping it would be two generations ago, but it can still be an important part of people’s entertainment hubs. And if you’re looking for one that will span all of your streaming and on-demand needs, Xbox wins the race handily.

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