Thanks to its slick new design, rapid speeds, and the excellent new controller, the PS5 feels like a massive leap over its predecessor.
We’ve made it, at long last, to the next generation. Or, I suppose now, the current generation. The PlayStation 5 is out now and into the hands of many, ourselves included, and we’re excited to give you our full review of Sony’s latest console. Coming into this, I’m sure many were wondering which version of Sony we would get this go around – the cocky and brash version we saw with the PlayStation 3, or the much more user focused version we saw with the PlayStation 4 that was an unequivocal success. Thankfully it’s the latter because at the end of the day, this is a fantastic console and a near home run for Sony. It’s not without faults, and has some areas for improvement, but if you are looking to dive into the next generation of gaming, then look no further.
When looking into the PlayStation 5, I’ll be diving into the consoles aesthetics including the controller, the new UI, the DualSense’s capabilities, the overall performance and backwards compatibility, the PS5 library that I’ve had hands on time with and the storage limitations. The TL;DR of it all is, again, that I don’t think you’ll be disappointed here- but enough setup. Let’s dive into the specifics.
SIZE DOESN’T MATTER
"This is a fantastic console and a near home run for Sony."
The first thing you’ll notice when unboxing your newest console is the sheer size. We all knew it was going to be big based on all of the pre-release coverage, but actually having it in front of you really does drive home how large this is. It’s not a deal breaker, but it does become limiting in how you can place it within your home. Thankfully, I have enough space to place it horizontally in my entertainment center, though your mileage may vary here. As far as orientation goes, Sony includes a stand for both vertical and horizontal orientation. It’s subjective which one you’ll prefer, I prefer the vertical, however it just won’t work with my space, so I make do with horizontal. Using the stand is… okay. I will admit it is a bit cumbersome to have to get out a screw, align everything, and attach, but theoretically you’re only doing this a couple of times in the entire life of your console. Could there be a more elegant solution? Well, I’m no product designer, but I’d sure think so- either way, this is what we’ve got.
This generation Sony certainly went for a polarizing visual for the PlayStation 5. Whichever side of the fence you land on, one thing is undeniable. It’s unique and definitely eye-catching. The matte white finish to the exterior however is, to my eye, very nice looking in combination with the glossy black of the center. This juxtaposition is a bold choice but one that pays off well. The new DualSense controller matches this aesthetic well and further drives home the separation of generations that Sony is very boldly drawing a line in the sand with.
The front of the PlayStation 5 boasts an Ultra HD Blu-ray optical drive, power and eject buttons, a high-speed USB Type-A port and a super-speed USB Type-C port. The inclusion of a USB Type-C port is exciting, and a nice step forward for this generation of consoles. The backside features a standard power connection, HDMI 2.1 which is very exciting, an ethernet port and two super-speed USB Type-A ports. Basically, the PlayStation 5 has all the necessities, minus, for some users, the optical audio port as it seems this is the generation to push the HDMI features further.
FRESH COAT OF PAINT
"The PS5 UI is familiar enough to dive into without much trouble, and finding what you need is easy, but it’s also fresh enough to, again, feel new and exciting."
When you boot up the PS5 for the first time you’re greeted with a completely new user interface. Again, this is Sony drawing a clear line in the sand about console generations, and I won’t lie, there is an excitement about experiencing something revolutionary each generation over something iterative. Of course, the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality has massive benefits of its own. The PS5 UI is familiar enough to dive into without much trouble, and finding what you need is easy, but it’s also fresh enough to, again, feel new and exciting.
The new home screen, thankfully, is presented in crisp 4K display and the overall look is fairly minimal compared to past generations. Icons for games are in the top left of the screen and presented much smaller and closer together than that of the PS4. When hovering over a game selection its hub is expanded, showcasing large splash screen visuals and access to information about the game such as trophy progress, activities, news and broadcasts. Games and media are separated into two tabs at the top in an effort to keep the home screen less cluttered.
The most significant change to the UI is the addition of what Sony is calling Cards or Activity Cards. These are containers that hold various bits of information about the games you are playing, from articles, screenshots and more. Some of the features are more exciting than others however, like the ability to see an estimated time you need to complete a task or a level, or the ability to get in-game hints without needing to pull out any other device. Some Activity Cards can also utilize the new picture-in-picture functionality, letting you pin objectives to the side of the screen while remaining in-game. It really feels like Sony is doing everything they can to keep you in the PS5 experience, and it works.
Another really unique feature to the cards is the ability to jump to a particular level or challenge immediately. This is thanks to the new SSD in the PlayStation 5, more details on that shortly. Even though the PS5 doesn’t have a Quick Resume feature, this is as close as it gets. It certainly makes finishing challenges in Astro’s Playroom easier than ever and is a consistent time-saver.
One major adjustment from previous generations is the functionality of the PlayStation Store. For one, you no longer need to open it as its own separate app. It’s now fully integrated into the UI of the console, making it faster and easier to access. The organization is clean and intuitive, but again, it’s the integration and speed of access that is the real selling point here. The Store, or in the PlayStation Plus section on the home bar, is where you’ll want to go to access the new PlayStation Plus Collection if you can, and I’d certainly recommend it as a great way to immediately bolster your gaming collection day one.
Ease of use and convenience seems to be a key focus for Sony as there are some quality of life updates and accessibility features. You can now change system-wide settings that apply to all games by default, such as enabling subtitles, selecting difficulty, camera control and more. So, if you’re an inverted camera type of gamer, this is the generation you’ve been waiting for. When diving into the settings further you can adjust things like color display, text size, contrast, chat transcription, etc. It’s great that Sony has clearly put a significant amount of emphasis on features like this, only expanding the accessibility and reach of their newest console. I expect these features to only expand in the coming years.
THAT NEXT-GEN FEELING
"Surprisingly enough, one of the items that feels truly “next-gen” is the new PlayStation 5 controller, the DualSense."
Surprisingly enough, one of the items that feels truly “next-gen” is the new PlayStation 5 controller, the DualSense. It’s slightly heavier and larger than the DualShock 4 with updates throughout, like it’s ergonomics, texture for better grip and various other updates that make it a joy to hold onto. The love and fandom put into it is awesome because if you look closely at your controller, the grip is actually the Sacred Symbols! Like the UI, it feels familiar enough to not be jarring, but new enough to feel truly exciting. The reason why I say this controller truly feels “next-gen” is because of the new haptic feedback and the adaptive triggers which come to life when playing. I’ll focus on Astro’s Playroom and Spider-Man: Miles Morales and how the controller functions within these two games.
Astro’s Playroom is a truly impressive game and its use of the DualSense only adds to that. It makes sense then that Sony would bundle each PS5 with Astro’s Playroom so you can really get a feel for what this controller is and what the future of PlayStation can be. Think of this as a tech demo of sorts, but really it’s so much more than that, honestly this is the most “Nintendo” game experience Sony has ever made, in my opinion. It’s packed with charm, platforming goodness and tons of easter eggs for the PlayStation fan. In this game you play as Astro, and as you do something as simple as walking in this game, the DualSense gives you different feedback that makes you feel like you are walking on different material. Wood and sand feels completely different from ice, and ice is different from metal and so on. It’s near impossible to describe to someone without experiencing it, but the controller is able to provide a wide range of vibrations, from barely noticeable to significant rumble all enhancing your immersion.
Beyond that, when you interact in the game by using weapons like a bow and arrow, the new adaptive triggers actually add a feeling of tension or movement that really make you feel like you’re in that game world. Speaking of feeling like you’re in a game world, Spider-Man: Miles Morales uses the DualSenses capabilities in much less obvious ways than Astro’s Playroom.
"Astro’s Playroom is a truly impressive game and its use of the DualSense only adds to that."
Insomniac Games have opted to give you subtle cues that make you feel more immersed, like the tension of the web swinging across New York or the rumble of the subway. It’s small, but adds up to create a big impact in this feeling of a generational leap of consoles. Of course, should you find any of this uncomfortable or painful due to injuries or just do not enjoy this new experience, you can simply turn them off, or even reduce the experience through the system menus.
Ultimately this will fall to developers to put these new features to use so they don’t end up being a gimmick. Based on the experiences from just these two games alone, I have high hopes that developers will find reason to implement them. Quick side-note, even though the DualSense boasts all of these new features, I haven’t noticed a significant drop in battery life. I’m able to play games throughout the day without fear of having to swap controllers in the middle of a session, it’s no Switch Pro Controller battery, but it’ll treat you well. Time will tell if this will hold true or not, but for now, I don’t see any worries.
A NEED FOR SPEED
"The performance of the PS5 is impressive, clearly, but the real star of the show here is the new SSD."
Let’s talk performance, shall we? The PlayStation 5 features significantly more powerful hardware than its predecessor. The PS5 is complete with a custom eight-core AMD Zen 2 CPU clocked at 3.5GHz (variable frequency) and a custom GPU based on AMD’s RDNA 2 architecture at just over 10 teraflops and 36 compute units clocked at 2.23GHz (also variable frequency). It has 16GB of GDDR6 RAM and a custom 825GB SSD. So, what does this mean to you, the gamer? Well, it means finally we get uncompromised, or significantly less compromised, visuals.
Games now have the power to run at 4K 60FPS more regularly with room to hit 120FPS in some instances. Certain games, like Spider-Man: Miles Morales, still offer you the option of a performance mode, or a fidelity mode. In Spider-Man: Miles Morales with fidelity mode turned on, the game runs at 4K and 30FPS with ray tracing enabled. In this mode, the game truly shines, with wonderful reflections from windows along with the sun peeking out behind the skyscrapers of New York. It’s simply gorgeous. In performance mode the game runs at 4K and 60FPS at the sacrifice of ray tracing. Swinging through New York in this mode is exhilarating and smooth, although I will be honest and say that I did find myself missing the impressive lighting. Either option is great depending on your preferences, though I’ll probably opt for fidelity mode for the time being.
The performance of the PS5 is impressive, clearly, but the real star of the show here is the new SSD. Although it is also the biggest concern, I’ll get to that in a moment. To continue to reference Spider-Man: Miles Morales, thanks to the SSD, when booting into the game from the homepage it takes about 8 seconds or so. Beyond that, fast travel within games actually feels like fast traveling. If you want to move anywhere within the world of Mile Morales, it only takes a few seconds and you’re there, significantly increasing your play time and reducing your wait time. The loading within the game is also improved, and you can basically say goodbye to stuttering or pop-in while swinging in New York. This experience, combined with the previously mentioned DualSense immersion means you are always engaged in the world of the game.
"You’re left with only 667GB of free storage after any updates and system data, and frankly, that’s not a lot. In the future this could be resolved with external or internal SSD expansions, but that’s not a viable solution just yet because of the speed requirements set by Sony."
That downside I referenced earlier? Well, it’s the size of the new SSD, coming in at 825GB of storage. At the end of the day, it’s not the worst, but it’s far from the best. You’re left with only 667GB of free storage after any updates and system data, and frankly, that’s not a lot. In the future this could be resolved with external or internal SSD expansions, but that’s not a viable solution just yet because of the speed requirements set by Sony. You can use an external drive to store backwards compatible PS4 games which is nice and should be taken advantage of. But the downside is right now you can’t place PS5 games on external hard drives, not even to use as storage. It makes sense that you can’t play the games that way, but it would be nice to use it as a storage system to swap back and forth rather than doing a fresh install each time. Hopefully that can be resolved with an update in the near future. All of this is not a deal-breaker by any means, but something to keep an eye out for.
The console is also so much quieter than the PS4 and PS4 Pro, though that’s not saying much. When running games for hours I’ve not noticed significant sound coming from the system, and the heat has not been an issue for me either. I haven’t ran a heat gun past it or anything (don’t have one), but my hand was just fine touching the PS5 during a long gaming session. I will note however that when watching a 4K UHD Blu-ray disc, at one point you could hear the disc spinning up quite significantly about an hour or so into the movie. It quit after a few seconds and never came back. Hopefully that will not be a trend, because otherwise it’s a silent console.
WHAT’S OLD IS NEW
"I have not been able to test an overwhelming amount of PS4 games on the PS5, but the handful I’ve been able to throw at it, I’ve seen marked improvements."
I have not been able to test an overwhelming amount of PS4 games on the PS5, but the handful I’ve been able to throw at it, I’ve seen marked improvements. Load times are probably the most immediate increase you’ll notice, sometimes cutting the time in half from what you’d expect. The one thing worth noting is that if games have a locked framerate, that will be locked on your PlayStation 5 as well and you will not gain any improvements outside of stability there. For games with unlocked frame rates, do expect to hit 60FPS consistently.
It’s also easier than ever to transfer your game saves from the cloud to your PlayStation 5 and pick up where you left off on your last gen games. At the end of the day, playing PS4 games on your PS5 allows you to really appreciate these games even more. Being able to experience them in 4K and their max frame rate is delightful. This means you’ll have little reason to still have your PlayStation 4 out, and honestly you might need the physical space to make room for this behemoth. Seriously, it’s big. It’s great, but it’s big.
"Somehow, Sony have done it again."
Somehow, Sony have done it again, managing to release a follow-up console to the immensely popular PlayStation 4 that is not a disappointment, but instead a home run. From the increased fidelity and impressive performance of the SSD, to the truly next gen experiences of the DualSense controller, and the wonderful first-party games like Astro’s Playroom or the latest from Insomniac in Spider-Man: Miles Morales, you’ve got every reason to be excited.
The PS5 is not without faults, and there are concerns about the storage space of the SSD in the long term, making sure developers take advantage of the DualSense features or the activity cards, and trying to fit the darn thing into your entertainment space, but by and large Sony’s promise of next gen gaming truly delivers.
Impressive accessibility features; DualSense truly feels “next-gen”; Impressive graphical capabilities and SSD speed; Astro’s Playroom is a must-play.
The sheer size; SSD storage space.
The next entry into the PlayStation family knocks it out of the park with its impressive graphical capabilities, truly next-gen speeds with the SSD and a wonderful pack-in game with Astro’s Playroom that serves as an impressive demo for the DualSense's capabilities. While it may be difficult to fit in your entertainment center, and storage space will become an issue in the long term, the PS5 lays the groundwork for an impressive next generation experience.