When the PlayStation 4 released in 2013, the PlayStation 3 felt practically ancient. Sony had run an impressive rescue campaign, salvaging a humbling launch period with some outstanding software. However, following a lifecycle that seemed to drag on for an eternity, there was no denying that both fans and the manufacturer were itching to move on come November of that year.
With the PlayStation 5, the platform holder has to convince consumers that its new console is worth the upgrade. While we do feel ready for a fresh generation, the circumstances are dramatically different: the introduction of the PS4 Pro in 2016 has prevented the company’s current-gen console from aging as poorly as its predecessor, while a steady stream of jaw-dropping software in 2020 has kept the system well-supplied with ground-breaking experiences.
It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that the PS5 feels like more of a refinement than a wholescale overhaul. This is a smartly designed system that seeks to stamp out the irritations of its predecessor, streamlining the experience with its blazingly fast SSD so that there are fewer barriers between you and the game, while simultaneously improving the overall immersion courtesy of key new technologies like the innovative DualSense controller, 3D audio, and hardware-accelerated raytracing. It also, of course, plays practically every PS4 game from a bulging back catalogue, meaning that the previous platform has not been left behind.
In this PS5 review, we’re going to discuss the key areas that make Sony’s next-gen console a meaningful upgrade, and why its overall improvements to the PS4 experience stretch beyond sexier visuals. Please note that this will be an evolving article, and we’ll be adding further thoughts, opinions, and analysis throughout the launch window. If you require further information, then check out our PS5 guide. Also, we should stress that this review is based entirely on the standard PS5 model and not the PS5 Digital Edition. To learn more about the differences between the two SKUs, click the following link: PS5 Digital Edition vs PS5: What's the Difference?
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PS5 Review: Hardware
You’re going to be spending the vast majority of your time staring at your television screen, and not the physical PS5 hardware. Nevertheless, the actual object that you’ll be installing into your home media centre is an important point of consideration. For starters, this is the console that will be powering your interactive entertainment for the next five years at least, so you’re going to want to know more about its technical specifications, physical appearance, assembly, and more.
In this part of our PS5 review, we’ll be looking at the overall PS5 hardware, and the physical items that you’ll be unboxing come launch.
Contents in the Box
The PS5 comes packaged in an undeniably large box, with a wraparound sleeve including branding and legal information. Inside is a sturdy white box which contains the following items:
- PS5 Console
- DualSense Controller
- Display Stand
- HDMI 2.1 Cable
- USB Charging Cable
- AC Power Cable
While the unboxing experience is somewhat uneventful, with the presentation of the next-gen console underwhelming compared to similarly premium products like the iPhone, we found the device to be robustly packaged. It’s important to add that most of the cardboard and materials used can be widely recycled.
There are two interesting points to note here: Sony has decided not to sell the PS5’s display stand separately, as it’s mandatory when displaying the system in both vertical and horizontal positions. This does mean that there’s a small amount of assembly required before powering up the platform, but it’s relatively minor. The included HDMI 2.1 cable also means that those with compatible displays will be able to play games in up to 8K resolution at 120 frames-per-second, where the software supports it. You can find out more about that through here: All PS5 Games Running at 120 Frames-Per-Second.
As you’d expect, the PS5 tech specs mean that it’s the most powerful PlayStation console Sony’s ever created. The hardware’s design hinges on its lightning fast SSD, which helps contribute to an I/O Throughput of 8-9GB per second, a dizzying increase compared to the existing PlayStation 4’s 50-100MB per second. What does this mean in practice? You can expect loading times of around two seconds in milestone launch games like Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales.
It’s not the only meaningful improvement, however, as it’s also powered by a 10.28 teraflop custom RDNA2 GPU and a CPU with 8x Zen 2 Cores clocked at 3.5GHz. All of this, combined with 16GB GDDR6 RAM, means that games will look and perform better than ever before. New hardware technologies, like hardware-accelerated raytracing, mean that select software will be able to display better reflections and shadows, while the Tempest Audio Engine is capable of processing the placement of many different audio sources at once, enhancing the overall scope of soundscapes – especially with headphones.
We should add that, in the case of the standard PS5 model, you’ll also get a 4K UHD Blu-ray drive to play physical Ultra HD movies with, although this feature is absent from the PS5 Digital Edition model. You can find out more about the differences between the two SKUs through the following link: PS5 Digital Edition vs PS5: What's the Difference?
Below is a table outlining all of the PS5 tech specs compared to the PS4. For more information and comparisons, refer to the following guides: PS5 vs Xbox Series X vs Xbox Series S: Full Tech Specs Comparison and PS5 vs PS4: Full Tech Specs Comparison.
|CPU||8x Zen 2 Cores at 3.5GHz (Variable Frequency)||2.1GHz 8-Core AMD Jaguar||1.6GHz 8-Core AMD Jaguar|
|GPU||10.28 TFLOPs, 36 CUs at 2.23GHz (Variable Frequency)||4.2 TFLOPs, 36 CUs at 911MHz||1.84 TFLOPs, 18 CUs at 800MHz|
|GPU Architecture||Custom RDNA 2||AMD Radeon||AMD Radeon|
|Memory||16GB GDDR6/256-bit||8GB GDDR5 plus 1GB DDR3||8GB GDDR5|
|Internal Storage||Custom 825GB SSD||1TB HDD||500GB HDD|
|I/O Throughput||5.5GB/s (Raw), Typical 8-9GB/s (Compressed)||~50-100MB/s||~50-100MB/s|
|Expandable Storage||NVMe SSD Slot||Internal HDD Slot||Internal HDD Slot|
|External Storage||USB HDD Support||USB HDD Support||USB HDD Support|
|Optical Drive||4K UHD Blu-ray Drive||Blu-ray Drive||Blu-ray Drive|
Sony’s no stranger to monolithic machines. The launch PlayStation 3 – with its glossy black plastic and silver trim – was a heaving heap of hardware, and yet it looks infantile next to the PS5. With a bulging catalogue of iconic consoles to its name, the popped collar of its latest and greatest is the Japanese giant’s boldest design to date.
Make no mistake: the PS5 is big. Bookended by two removable white panels, the remainder of the system consists of glossy black plastic and exhausts. The company’s taken cooling particularly seriously, and thus everything about its design appears to have that in mind. There’s an enormous heat sink inside, while the entire rear – ignoring the obligatory HDMI, power, and USB ports – is used for ventilation.
You can display the system horizontally or vertically with a stand, although it does take some getting used to in either configuration. When you lay the console flat, the wavy shape of the white panels means that it can look a little lopsided – even if it’s sitting perfectly flat. Meanwhile, the inclusion of the disc drive gives it a “bloated belly” look when you stand the console up – although the Digital Edition obviously doesn’t have this problem.
As we mentioned previously, the box is big – it’s the biggest PlayStation ever made, in fact. Here’s how its dimensions compare to previous platforms, when placed in a vertical position:
Despite its unorthodox aesthetics and overall enormity, we’ve actually grown to appreciate the look of the PS5. There’s no doubt it’s going to appear more at home in a contemporary, whitewashed apartment, with mood lighting and a sleek television cabinet. However, we enjoy how bold it is; this is a console that wants to be noticed, and with its unusual curves and shape, it’s successful.
However, we do understand that many will have concerns over whether it will fit into their entertainment space. Fortunately, we’ve been pretty lucky: the console actually slots into our television cabinet better than the PS4 Pro, due to its shallower depth when in its horizontal configuration. Much like all of Sony’s past consoles, we’re expecting a much more petite revision in the years to come, but the PS5 will definitely go down as one of PlayStation’s most daring designs.
Assembly and Setup
One curious quirk of the PS5 is that it actually requires a few minutes of assembly before you can pop it in your entertainment centre and play. Whether you choose to place your console horizontally or vertically, Sony mandates that you use the included display stand. While it’s not the most complicated process in the world, we did actually find ourselves referring to the instruction manual – something we rarely do.
In order to display the console vertically, you need to remove a stopper from the bottom of the system, and then screw it into place. The display stand alone is actually a feat of engineering in itself, as it has a twist storage compartment that holds all of the necessary materials you need. If you’re installing the system horizontally, then you simply need to slot the stand into place: there is a line of PlayStation symbols towards the back of the device, below its cable ports, which indicate where you need to snap it.
Overall, it’ll take you a maximum of five minutes to assemble the console, but we did find this process a little bit cumbersome initially, and we did have to take a moment to stop and properly refer to the manual before hooking everything up correctly. Of course, once you’ve got your console in place you’re unlikely to move it around too much, so for most people this will be a one-and-done process, and thus it’s not the end of the world.
Once you’ve got your console plugged in and powered up, there’s a guided tutorial that will help you create a user account, connect to the Internet, and set your privacy configurations. This is all very straightforward and very slickly executed. There’s not much of an onboarding process beyond that – we’ve had to figure out many of the user interface elements ourselves – but we’re running an early version of the system’s firmware for our review, so this may change later.
PS5’s fan noise has been a major concern of next-gen early adopters prior to the release of Sony’s new system. There’s no doubt that the PS4 was often a loud console, particularly when strained by later first-party releases such as The Last of Us: Part II, God of War, and Dreams. Ageing thermal paste and warm temperatures could prompt the platform to emit unsatisfactory levels of sound; the PS4 Pro was especially notorious for this, with many complaining about it.
While the Internet did tend to exaggerate the volume of the Japanese giant’s previous platform, there’s no denying that it was loud. This was particularly problematic when playing with speakers, as there were times when the console would drown out the game audio as its fans kicked into life. There were also rare instances when we could hear our PS4 Pro even while wearing over-ear headphones, which is clearly not good enough.
The good news is that the PS5 is a massive improvement. Sony has invested enormously in the console’s cooling solution, and it shows. Upon booting the device, you’ll hear little more than a gentle whir; you may even question whether it’s actually powering up or not. Operation volume remains relatively low when you’re in-game. It’s not silent; there’s a gentle white noise-like hum. However, we’ve been straining to hear it – even with our headphones removed and television sound off.
The volume does get a little louder when you install a Blu-ray disc, and the drive is clearly audible while the data is being copied from the disc to the SSD or an external storage device. Once the install is complete, the volume returns to a gentle hum again. The disc drive is a little louder during the short period when you load a disc-based game, but again it quickly settles down to a low whir. It’s worth noting that the sound may increase as the hardware ages, but this is our experience thus far.
We’d also like to add that there’s no audible change to the operation volume even during long sessions. We purposefully kept Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales on for a full eight hours, and we still had to strain to hear the whir of the format’s fans. Fascinatingly, we did notice a small increase in sound when playing backwards compatible games like Ghost of Tsushima, but it’s still subtle. For transparency, we’ve been playing in a cool, dry environment with our console well ventilated and in the horizontal position.
PS5’s storage space has been a big concern in the build-up to release, and if you’re reading this review from beginning to end, we’re going to put a pretty big spoiler here: it’s by far the console’s largest weakness. While we’re very happy with the rest of the experience – as we’re going to explain throughout the rest of this review – there’s nowhere near enough included storage space to deal with the demands of modern games.
While Sony has advertised 825GB on the console’s box, once you’ve correctly converted the file structure, you’re left with about 667.2GB – although your mileage may vary slightly. We’ve got 10 games installed on our system at the time of writing, which takes up a whopping 490.1GB in total – virtually all of our available space.
Worryingly, over 90GB of our assigned space is reserved for a nebulous category named Other. Upon clicking this, the console explains that it is “reserved for system data needed for games and apps to work properly”. It adds: “The amount of space reserved depends on how your console is being used.”
We thought this may be because of how we were using the Create button, but despite changing our settings there we’ve been unable to clear this allocation out. We think it pertains to backwards compatibility, as moving all of our PS4 games to an external HDD reduced this number to just 12GB. Hopefully the platform holder will find ways to optimise the system in the future.
As mentioned, though, Sony has provided options to boost your storage space. As above, you can connect an external HDD, but you can’t boot PS5 software from this as it doesn’t possess the required speed to run next-gen titles properly. The alternative is to install an additional NVMe SSD into the base of the console by removing its bottom panel and slotting it in. You can find out more about that through here: Which SSD Drives Will Be Compatible with PS5?
Unfortunately, at the time of writing the platform holder has failed to whitelist any of the available third-party drives as compatible with the PS5, meaning the functionality is currently unavailable. To make matters worse, these are likely to be expensive when they do hit the market, with current price expectations set at over $200 for 1TB. The hope is that, because Sony has selected a non-proprietary standard, competition will drive the prices down over the coming years. For more information on all of this, refer to the following: PS5 SSD: How Much Storage Space Does It Have?
If you’re planning to play a lot of PS4 games on your PS5, then ultimately, you’re probably going to want to purchase an external HDD. If you already own one of these, then you can just connect it to your next-gen console and, as long as you’re using the same PSN account that you originally purchased the software with, you should be able to continue playing your games immediately.
We hooked up a brand new 2TB licensed PS4 Game Drive from Seagate, and were prompted that it was incompatible initially. However, browsing to the Extended Storage category of the PS5 Settings menu provided us with the option to format the drive, and it was recognised immediately. We were able to move just under 400GB of game data from the SSD to our new external HDD in approximately 30 minutes or so, which seemed like a reasonable time to us.
However, we should stress that only PS4 games will play off an external HDD; you’ll need to use the PS5’s SSD for next-gen games, as they’re designed around its read/write speed. We’d also like to add that, at the time of writing, it’s impossible to copy PS5 games across to an external HDD for storage purposes, meaning that you’ll have to either re-download or re-install any next-gen titles that you delete.
Once you’ve successfully formatted your external HDD, you can enable an option that will force all PS4 games to install on Extended Storage, which is a nice time-saving feature. Any games that are installed to an external HDD will be listed separately in the Game Library app, but your Recently Played titles will appear on your main game ribbon as well.
Obviously, load times are slower when you’re using an external HDD, but you’ll still benefit from backwards compatibility improvements, like 60 frames-per-second performance in Days Gone. More on that later in the review, though.
PS5 Review: Games
PS5 games are likely the primary reason you’re planning to purchase Sony’s next-gen console. Fortunately, we’ve been impressed by what we’ve played so far. The system improves on its predecessor by reducing overall load times and deepening the immersion using the DualSense controller and 3D audio technology. While a fresh format is never defined by its launch day selection of games, the PlayStation maker has assembled its strongest release slate ever, with future projects including Horizon Forbidden West, God of War Ragnarok, and Gran Turismo 7.
For the next part of our PS5 review, we’ll be sharing a little more about our experience actually playing PS5 games thus far, and why we think you should be excited for the future.
Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales is a standalone spin-off building on the events of Insomniac Games’ open world superhero romp, Marvel’s Spider-Man. Weighing in at around 12 hours, it’s actually a substantial single player experience, and there’s plenty of side-content to keep you playing for a fair deal longer once you’re done.
In terms of presentation, it’s perhaps the best-looking PS5 game that we’ve tested thus far. Despite also releasing on the PS4, the developer’s really testing Sony’s new hardware here, pairing crisp 4K presentation with wildly detailed assets and textures to create stunning attention to detail. The two graphics permutations are also genuinely difficult to settle on.
|Cold Boot to Main Menu||9.12 seconds
|Loading Saved Game||2.12 seconds|
|Fast Travel Across the Map||2.28 seconds|
The main option showcases one of the PS5’s primary new features: raytracing. Here you’ll see New York City’s skyline reflected in puddles and glass, adding extraordinary depth to each scene. The alternative is to disable the raytracing and play at 60 frames-per-second, which trades some of the visual verve for outstandingly responsive action.
The loading times also impress. As showcased in the table above, it takes about two seconds to load a saved game, and roughly the same again to fast travel around the map. Interestingly, you can utilise Activities from the Control Centre on the console’s interface to jump directly into side-quests and missions, which is a surprisingly nice quality of life improvement.
For more information on this game, refer to our Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales PS5 review through the link.
As a free pack-in, Astro’s Playroom has no right to be as impressive as it is. Doubling as a DualSense technology demo, this innovative platformer serves as a love-letter to PlayStation’s past, packing practically every frame of its three to four hour running time with some kind of reference to games and hardware from Sony’s history.
But this is more than just a gimmick: it’s a genuinely jaw-dropping experience from start-to-finish. Its use of the haptic feedback in the PS5’s pad means that you can physically feel the difference between sand and snow as you trot over it; the gloopy nature of quicksand is communicated through the controller, and it feels completely different to the rough textures of rocks.
|Cold Boot to Main Menu||8.60 seconds|
|Loading Saved Game||3.26 seconds|
|CPU Plaza to Bot Beach||5.46 seconds|
The title doesn’t stop there, either, using the DualSense controller’s adaptive triggers to convey the sensation of springs. One sequence sees you assume a suit with a coil on its base, and in addition to being able to feel the distribution of weight as you tilt the pad in your hand, you can also feel the tension in your fingers as you charge up a jump.
The presentation is cute and colourful, running at 60 frames-per-second in 4K, with some raytracing features enabled on reflective surfaces. It also loads alarmingly fast, meaning that you can fast-travel between levels in a matter of seconds. It may be “just” a freebie that comes with your console, but it’s the definition of a must-play.
For more information on this game, refer to our Astro’s Playroom PS5 review through the link.
Sony has spent the best part of the year bleating on about the next-gen technology that it believes will make the PS5 better and more immersive than anything we’ve experienced before. But do these features live up to the hype? While putting together this PS5 review, we’ve been paying particular attention to innovations like raytracing and 3D audio, and while it’s still early days for the Japanese giant’s new system, we’ve definitely been impressed and can’t wait to see how the console matures over the coming years.
Here’s a breakdown of our observations on the PS5’s headline features thus far:
- In theory, raytracing is actually quite a simple effect, simulating the path of light as it bounces off surfaces. However, it’s an extremely expensive rendering technique that, up until recently, was mostly reserved for monster PC gaming rigs. The implementation on the PS5 that we’ve seen so far is staggering, particularly in Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales where it takes centre stage. New York’s entire skyline comes to life, with the glass exteriors of the city’s skyscrapers reflecting each other as you swing by them. The technology is so demanding that you have to play the superhero spin-off at 30 frames-per-second to experience it, but the trade-off is worth it for the outrageous eye-candy on display.
- We’re unlikely to experience the true impact of the PS5’s super-fast SSD hard drive until games are designed specifically with it in mind, however the early results are promising. Next-gen titles take seconds to load on the whole, while you can fast travel from the top to bottom of New York City in around two seconds in Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales. The convenience is going to make returning to old consoles challenging, as Sony has effectively matched the immediacy of old cartridge-based systems here.
- 3D audio has been the most challenging thing for us to pick up on so far, as the sound design in games like The Last of Us: Part II was already very impressive. However, there’s a definite increase in the overall quality of the audio in the titles we’ve played, with more sources coming from different directions and general sense of busyness to the soundscapes that we’ve never really experienced before. Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales is a particularly good example of this, as when walking through the bustling streets of Harlem you can hear the distant sound of chatter and cars all around you. It’s pretty immersive stuff.
No console is ever maxed out on launch day, and we’ve no doubt there’s a lot more to come from technologies like raytracing and 3D audio. Even at this early stage, however, the initial signs are incredibly positive, and that’s left us extremely optimistic about what the future will hold.
A significant portion of the next-gen build-up has centred on PS5 backwards compatibility. In fact, so aggressive has the emphasis on old games been that there have been times when the organisation has appeared eager to drive the discussion back to its brand-new software. The bottom line is that Sony’s next-gen console can play almost the entirety of the PS4’s catalogue, although there are admittedly some minor caveats.
To begin, there are ten or so titles that currently don’t play on the PS5 at all, and you can find a full list of those through the following link: All PS4 Games That Don't Work on PS5. There are a further 100 or so games that the platform holder warns may “exhibit errors”. Again, you can find a full list through here: All PS4 Games That May Exhibit Errors on PS5. Based on our experience testing out Assassin’s Creed Syndicate – one of the titles on this list – the game is fully playable, but it has a pretty devastating graphical glitch, which causes shadows to pop in and out during daylight. It’s certainly not ideal.
The rest of the console’s catalogue – at least from the dozen or so titles we’ve tried so far – play nicely on the next-gen system. There are a couple of games, like Days Gone and Ghost of Tsushima, which have been updated specifically to take advantage of Sony’s new hardware, and they deliver by far the best results. Both run at 60 frames-per-second in dynamic 4K resolution, and hold up well next to true PS5 titles like Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales. You can find a full list of PS4 titles specifically updated to take advantage of the company’s latest console through here: PS5 Game Boost: All Major PS4 Game Improvements.
Other high-profile exclusives, like The Last of Us: Part II, turn in slightly more disappointing results. Because of the design of the game – it was capped at 1440p and 30 frames-per-second on the PS4 Pro – there are no real upgrades to speak of here. In fact, the title looks and performs almost identically, save for some very minor framerate fluctuations which have been cleaned up by the next-gen hardware. It’s disappointing because, as outlined above, those games that have been updated have been given a new lease of life.
Unsurprisingly, with Sony’s reluctance to update its fastest-selling title of all time, cult classics like Bloodborne have also been left untouched. The title certainly runs smoothly on the PS5, but without ever receiving a PS4 Pro patch, you’re effectively getting a 1080p experience at 30 frames-per-second here, which was fine in 2015, but it feels very dated now. Given the popularity of the title, we can’t help but feel that it deserves better.
And then there are the loading times. We tested a variety of titles, booting them cold from the dashboard to see how quickly they loaded. While many boast a string of logos and disclaimers, thus slowing the whole process down considerably, the results aren’t quite as stark as we’d expected. Make no mistake, the PS5’s SSD is considerably faster than the PS4 Pro’s stock HDD, but backwards compatibility doesn’t leverage this to the extent that native PS5 releases do – or even as well as some of the Xbox Series S|X results already being shared online.
Check out the table below, for an overview of cold boot comparisons, comparing the PS5 to the PS4 Pro:
|Bloodborne||25.72 seconds||48.51 seconds|
|Days Gone||42.11 seconds||182.6 seconds|
|Ghost of Tsushima||43.56 seconds||44.19 seconds|
|God of War||29.56 seconds||45.34 seconds|
|Grand Theft Auto V||50.41 seconds||174.66 seconds|
|The Last of Us: Part II||37.32 seconds||82.70 seconds|
Ultimately, this does feel like a no-frills solution to backwards compatibility. Sony has, on the whole, delivered on its promise of making PS4 games playable on the PS5 – and there’s no denying that it’s nice having your entire game library in a single location. However, it does feel like it’s done the bare minimum here, and when you see the upgrades to titles like Days Gone and Ghost of Tsushima, it’s difficult not to want more. Of course, if you'd still like to read more about our backwards compatibility tests so far, you can find out a lot more through the following link: PS5 Backwards Compatibility - The Good, the Not Bad, and the Ugly.
PS5 Review: DualSense Controller
PS5’s controller, officially named the DualSense, is one of its headline features. Rather than settle with the tried-and-tested DualShock 4, the platform holder has reinvented its pad, adding innovative new features like haptic feedback and adaptive triggers. Based on our experience thus far, these are impressive additions that add unprecedented levels of immersion when implemented correctly.
For the next part of our PS5 review, we’re going to share our impressions on the DualSense controller, and why we think it’s a genuine game-changer in terms of features and functionality.
Comfort and Features
The DualSense controller is slightly larger and heavier than the DualShock 4, due to its wider handles which give it a bit more bulk. Its front panel utilises a soft, matte plastic which feels good under the skin, while its rear has a textured grip made up of the brand’s iconic face button symbols. The symmetrical sticks feel similar in tightness to the PS4’s pad, while its buttons are dampened slightly to provide a satisfying feel when pushed.
The touchpad remains on the front of the controller, although aesthetically Sony has made some alterations, integrating the controversial light bar from the DualShock 4 into the area around the touchpad. We actually like this change: it reminds us of Philips’ Ambilight television range, giving a bit of pop to the pad without blinding you. Additionally, the Options and Create buttons now project from the surface of the controller, making them easier to press.
There’s a new button beneath the PlayStation button which allows you to mute the controller’s onboard microphone, while the speaker from the DualShock 4 has been included once again, adding an extra dimension to any game audio. The d-pad is largely unchanged, pivoting on a single axis despite it being made up of four separate pieces in appearance.
The controller feels really good in the hands; we find its overall size and weight changes to be particularly pleasing, and the DualShock 4 feels flimsy in comparison. However, the alterations are minor, so those already satisfied with the layout of the PS4 pad will take no time at all to adjust. You can still connect a pair of earbuds to the bottom of the controller if you want to, while there’s a USB charging cable included with the console to power it.
In terms of features and functionality, the DualSense controller plays host to a range of innovative new technologies, as detailed below:
- Haptic feedback is the DualSense’s next-gen rumble solution. Unlike the motors found in the DualShock 4, this is able to convey texture, meaning that you can feel the difference between surfaces like sand and snow in games like Astro’s Playroom. Developers have much more control over how certain actions feel, meaning they’re able to convey the distribution of weight from left-to-right in your hands or create the sensation of raindrops falling in your hands.
- Adaptive triggers add force feedback to the DualSense controller. This means that the pad is able to create tension against your finger when you push it, meaning it rattles when you fire a machine gun or tightens as you build-up power. This can also be used in more subtle ways, such as when you’re climbing in Astro’s Playroom, you can actually feel a point of resistance in the controller. Push past it and you’ll slip, adding an interesting gameplay mechanic.
- The gyroscope or motion controls feel much better in the DualSense controller than they did in the DualShock 4. While the PS4’s pad was prone to drifting, we actually left it upside down for five minutes in Astro’s Playroom to see if it would break the calibration once we returned. Even under these strenuous circumstances, the controller appeared to maintain its original tracking point, which is impressive.
- The microphone is a new feature included with the DualSense controller, and it’s surprisingly high quality. Sony’s thinking here is that those without a dedicated headset will easily be able to communicate with teammates using the pad, but it’s also worth remembering that the PS5 has a bunch of voice recognition features, including speech-to-text, meaning this feature helps with accessibility as well. You can mute it at any time by pushing the button beneath the PlayStation button.
- The touchpad is not a new feature, but it returns in the DualSense controller. We were already pretty happy with the operation of this in the DualShock 4, and it appears to be mostly unchanged here. In Astro’s Playroom, one level sees you using the input to roll a ball around a stage, and it feels very accurate to us. It also obviously doubles as a really large button, which is what most developers will likely use it for.
- The speaker quality is similar to the DualShock 4 controller as well, and you can set the volume in the user interface. We like this feature in concept, but as we primarily play with headphones on, we’ve always turned it off. It’s a bit of a gimmick really, isn’t it?
A lot of the new technologies will live or die by developer support, and while Astro’s Playroom is unquestionably an extraordinary example of what’s possible so far, other titles like Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition use the features sparingly. We’re really interested to see what developers do in the future, because if other studios can achieve similar things to Team Asobi, then this will be a game-changer for the industry that will create a new standard for controllers moving forwards.
DualSense’s battery life is longer than the DualShock 4, owing to the inclusion of a larger internal battery. While the PS4 pad had a 1,000 mAh capacity, the DualSense packs 1,560 mAh battery pack. That results in the battery life averaging around six to seven hours on a full charge, which is a couple of hours longer than the DualShock 4’s average of around four to five hours.
This does depend on the games you’re playing, however. Astro’s Playroom, with its heavy use of haptic feedback and adaptive triggers, cuts into the controller’s battery life a bit. You’ll get much more life out of your pad when playing games like Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, which utilise slightly less overall power.
Personally, we’re pretty happy with the battery life. Charging can take a little while, but you can do this while playing if you connect the controller to the included USB cable. Based on our normal playing habits of about two to three hours per day, we’ve found that a single charge lasts us about three days, which we’re pretty satisfied with.
PS5 Review: User Experience
PS5’s user experience is a complete revamp of the PS4, although it shares many similarities with Sony’s previous console. In addition to being lightning fast, the interface incorporates one key new concept: Control Centre. This can be accessed by pushing the PlayStation button at any time, and it will overlay whichever game or app you have loaded. From here, you can access Activity cards, which developers can design specifically for their games, providing progress tracking or quick access to gameplay features or modes.
For this part of our PS5 review, we’ll be sharing our thoughts and opinions on the overall user experience thus far. It’s worth noting that we have been playing on an early version of the console’s firmware, so certain features and details may be subject to change.
The PS5’s main menu is similar in concept to the PS4’s, with a ribbon showing all of your installed software. There are currently no folders or additional organisation options, so you’re limited to seeing your nine most recently loaded apps. The wallpaper changes to key art of the game, depending on what you’ve got selected. There’s also information about your Trophy progress, and a short description about the game. Currently, there are no ways to customise the user interface with Themes.
If you scroll down, then you’ll see a row of Activity cards, which allow you to jump directly into specific parts of the game. In the case of Astro’s Playroom, these represent progress trackers for various collectibles in the title, while Marvel’s Spider-Man allows you to jump directly into side-quests. It’s quite incredible seeing how the game automatically transitions you to the very beginning of the mission once you select one of them, bypassing various menu screens and other obstructions.
Each game also includes a list of news updates, and while we’re yet to see how this will be fully utilised by developers, it’s safe to assume that you can expect any DLC trailers or new content to be promoted here. Considering the way games are designed these days, this is a smart addition, as many titles evolve long after launch, and so this strikes us as a nice way for developers to provide updates on how their releases are changing and evolving on the hardware itself.
The PS5's Game Library is always the last icon on the main menu’s ribbon, and it shows all of your PS5 and PS4 games. You can filter this based on platform, purchase date, and name – and you can also sort by source, so you can choose to just display PlayStation Plus or PlayStation Now games, for example. You can also see what games you’ve currently got installed on your console, and again you can organise by install date and even file size.
Our main criticism of the Game Library is that it’s currently quite difficult to organise. The default view when opening the application is to show your entire collection, which means you may have to scroll right to the Installed tab if you’re simply looking to boot a game that you’ve downloaded to your console but isn’t currently shown on the main menu. While this is unlikely to hinder you by more than a few seconds, there has to be a more immediate solution here.
One thing we do like is how Search functionality is a part of the console itself, meaning you can quickly and easily browse your entire library on the fly – and even look for new content in the PlayStation Store without having to boot it separately. There’s even a voice recognition option that allows you to tell the console what you’re looking for, although apparently it currently struggles with our accent because our attempts to find Uncharted 2: Among Thieves initially fell flat.
Whether you’re 100 per cent focused on games or not, there’s no doubt that millions of people will be using the PS5 for media purposes as well. While the PS4 Pro was a decent multimedia console, with a solid Blu-ray player and lots of apps, it struggled to present some of these features articulately. The TV and Video section, for example, was roundly criticised for the way it was implemented; Sony wanted to recommend content to you, but it just ended up getting in the way.
PS5 feels much better designed around these features. Games and Media are now two separate tabs, and you can toggle between them by pushing the L1 and R1 buttons. As you’d expect, all of your games are kept in one part of the system, and your media in the other. This is a great change because it allows you to toggle between the two different categories depending on what you want to do, and it keeps everything segregated so there’s no overlap between the two. The only real crossover occurs with Spotify, which you can continue to use while playing games.
At launch, Sony’s included most of the apps you’d expect, although there are a few noteworthy absentees which we’re sure will be added in due time. The full list, at the time of writing, includes:
- Amazon Prime Video
- Apple TV
- BT Sport
- Disney +
- Now TV
- PlayStation Video
- Pluto TV
- WWE Network
It’s worth noting that the PS5 also doubles as a 4K UHD Blu-ray player, which is a first for a PlayStation console. We’ve yet to test this feature out, but we’ll be adding some impressions to our review imminently, so stay tuned for more on that.
Arguably one of the most important elements of the console experience these days is the storefront, and in the case of the PS5 that means the PS Store. Ever since the tail of the PS3’s lifecycle, Sony has contained its storefront within a separate application, meaning you’d have to load into it. With the PS5, it’s built the PS Store into the system software itself, so there’s no segregation between the user interface and the storefront.
This means that the entire shopping experience is integrated into the console. For example, if you use the search utility, it’ll bring up recommendations of products you can buy from the PS Store. Similarly, you’ll be recommended DLC for any games you own, and – despite being a controversial topic – when purchasing microtransactions, you won’t be forced to load up a slow, laggy app because the shopping experience remains part of the system software.
The design, at the moment, is relatively minimalistic, with large banner advertisements for promoted content. It’s fairly easy to see what games are new and which titles are on sale. There’s also a new editorialised tab called Collections, which will include recommendations from the platform holder. This seems like a good form of content curation, and it’ll allow the company to spotlight lesser-known titles – although could easily end up being an avenue for marketers to essentially buy ad space.
The product pages are big, with lots of information and media, and it all loads very quickly. In terms of functionality, you can now follow games to get updates on new content and features, while the Wishlist is finally integrated into the system itself. We’ll need to use this more before coming to any conclusions about how well it works, but we’re hoping this will notify us of any discounts or promotions taking place around titles on our radar.
We should add that subscriptions are much better handled on PS5 as well. Both PS Plus and PS Now get their own standalone apps, which show you the latest games that have been added, as well as any offers and promotions related to the memberships. Similarly, any titles included with EA Play are denoted as such, and the whole system just feels better built around subscriptions now, which is important considering the direction the industry is moving in.
The Control Centre is one of the PS5’s primary features. You can bring it up at any time, whatever you’re doing on the console, by pushing the PlayStation button once. It’ll overlay gameplay, cut-scenes, menus – it really doesn’t matter what you’re doing, as we’ve yet to see an instance where it’s blocked.
When you’re in-game, the Control Centre has a secondary layer that shows Activities you can perform. These are personalised depending on the game, and it’s up to the developer to implement them. Here in Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition, for example, there are quick access links to various parts of the release. Pulling up Secret Missions, for example, informs us that we’ll be taken directly to a “secret mission that you haven’t cleared yet”. If that’s what you want to do then you push the button and you’ll be taken directly to that part of the package. Based on our experience thus far, some games handle this better than others.
Meanwhile, the Control Centre is divided up into the following categories:
- Home takes you back to the main menu, as you’d expect. Alternatively, you can simply hold the PlayStation button down to achieve the same results.
- Switcher shows your most recently played games. It's important to note that this is not an alternative to Quick Resume and your games will reboot when you select them. However, in the case of titles like Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Astro’s Playroom, it takes approximately nine seconds to reach the main menu screen from a cold boot.
- Notifications shows any recent activities that have occurred on your console, depending on your notification settings. For example, this will show Trophy unlocks, Party information, and game updates. You can toggle on a Do Not Disturb option if you just want to temporarily hide all of these if you want a bit of peace and quiet.
- Game Base is effectively your Friends List and Parties. Sony has controversially pivoted to a Discord-style system, whereby messaging and Parties are unified. There are pros and cons to this: it strips the previous PS4 system of its simplicity in favour of creating communication hubs for people you play with regularly. The platform holder has hinted that it may make changes to the way this works based on the robust feedback it’s received thus far.
- Music allows you to pull in soundtracks and playlists from Spotify, and control playback by pausing and skipping songs.
- Sound controls your primary audio output, controller speaker, voice chat balance, and multimedia volume. Based on our experience thus far, everything is fairly well automated – audio automatically switches from our television to our Pulse Elite headset when we turn it on – but it’s nice to have quick access to these controls should you need them.
- Microphone allows you to quickly set your microphone levels as well as mute any microphones you may have connected. It’s worth noting that if you’re using the microphone on the DualSense controller, you can just push the button beneath the PlayStation button to mute as well.
- Accessories list any accessories you may have connected to your PS5, like your DualSense controller or headset. It includes a battery gauge so you know how much power you have left, and you can also turn all of your peripherals off from this menu.
- Profile allows you to set your Online Status, access your PSN Profile, view your Trophies, and Switch User. You can also log out of the PS5 from here as well.
- Power is pretty self-explanatory: you can turn the console off entire or put it into Rest Mode similarly to the PS4. In the settings you can toggle what the console does during Rest Mode, with some power saving options disabling USB charging and background downloading if you don’t want to take advantage of those.
You can Customise the Control Centre at any time, removing some of the aforementioned options if you don’t have a use for them. There are also shortcuts available for: Broadcasting, Accessibility, Network Settings, and PSVR. It’s worth noting that if you’re downloading a game or a patch, you’ll also see a panel that allows you to take control of that.
Sony has consistently boasted about the speed of its next-gen console, and to be fair to the platform holder, it is blazingly fast. Booting the console from a full power down takes around 18 seconds to reach the user login screen, while Rest Mode brings this down to under five seconds. This includes when you have a game suspended.
|Cold Boot to User Login||18.19 seconds|
|Rest Mode to User Login||4.52 seconds|
|User Login to Main Menu and Suspended Game||2.87 seconds|
Transitioning from the user login screen to either the console’s main menu or your suspended game takes under three seconds, meaning that you can effectively go from Rest Mode to gameplay in under 10 seconds. It’s worth adding that, at least in this launch period, all of the user interface elements load lighting quick – and there’s no stuttering or delays while you wait for menu items to appear.
Despite the new name, Sony’s made few changes to the overall functionality of the PS4’s Share button with PS5's Create button. Shortcut options remain familiar: we like the Easy Screenshots option, which allows you to take a screenshot instantly with a tap of the button, while holding it pulls up more options.
You can now store up to an hour of gameplay at any time, which is a nice addition – although you’re obviously going to eat into your relatively slender storage space should you decide to take this path. You can also record video in 4K if you want to, although this is restricted to the WebM format which may restrict your playback options.
One neat touch is that, when enabled, the console will automatically record videos of any Trophies you unlock, showing a little bit of build-up to you earning it. While you’re probably going to want to disable this feature, again to save storage space, it’s a neat little novelty that will make you smile the first time you see it. Impressively, the console also has spoiler protection technology, so any screenshots or videos sent to you by friends that have been taken beyond the point you've progressed will come with a warning.
The new Media Gallery, which allows you to manage your images and video files, does include some minor editing features. For example, you can crop your screenshots, and even add text overlays if you want to, which you can customise by changing the colour, position, font, and scale. It’s all relatively straight-forward stuff, but it does give you some more personalisation than you had on the PS4.
PS5’s User Profiles are much more powerful than they were on the PS4, thanks to some key new features. To begin with, Trophies have been given a facelift, implementing the new tier-based levelling system that the manufacturer introduced earlier in the year. Some games have progress tracking, meaning you can see how close you are to unlocking a particular trinket; in Astro’s Playroom, for example, you’ll see a completion meter for how many collectibles you’ve currently acquired on a particular level.
To be frank, we’re not a fan of the horizontal layout of Trophies in the main menu, but we suspect this has been incorporated in order to be consistent aesthetically with the Activities cards mentioned earlier in the review. One thing we do like is that PS Plus members can quickly and easily pull up a feature called Game Help, which gives you hints on how to find certain collectibles or unlock specific items. In the case of Astro’s Playroom, you get a small video which you can overlay over the game, showing a hint at the location of any collectibles you may be missing. It's worth mentioning that this will only be available in supported games, likely first-party releases.
Another neat feature is the new Accolades system, which allows you to assign badges to players you meet on the PlayStation Network, and is designed to encourage a positive community experience. You can display these awards on your User Profile, and they’re divided into the following categories: Helpful, Welcoming, and Good Sport. There are limitations to these – you can only assign one per match, for example, and you can’t give them to your friends – but it’s all part of Sony’s push to make PSN a more inclusive environment. We’re yet to see how this works in practice, but we certainly like the idea in principle.
And finally, your games now include a playtime tracker. This includes historic play data for PS4 as well as the PS5, and generally appears to be accurate based on what we’ve seen so far. There does appear to be a bug on our console which has pinned Fat Princess Adventures and Galak-Z to the top of our most recently played list, but we’re using pre-release firmware so there’s a strong possibility this will be fixed.
Sony’s made a point of making accessibility a big part of some of its major game releases of late, and the system-wide accessibility settings of the PS5 go further than any of its predecessors. Some of the options you have immediate access to include: the ability to Invert Colours, to Colour Correct, to Bold Text, to increase Text Size, and to enable High Contrast.
Dig deeper into the accessibility settings, however, and you can also turn on a Screen Reader which reads out any on-screen text, as well as enable Chat Transcription for voice chat. You can also completely reassign all of the buttons on the DualSense controller, and the intensity of the pad’s haptic feedback and adaptive triggers.
Fascinatingly, while it’s not technically accessibility, a new Game Presets function allows you to automatically apply settings at a system level in supported games. This means, if you, for example, always play first-person shooters with inverted controls, you can toggle this option on and releases will default to it. The same is true of subtitles or even things like difficulty.
We did test this in Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales and found that it didn’t override our settings, so its usefulness will likely depend on how many games actually take advantage of it. In theory it’s a neat idea, though, and we’d like to see more of these kind of universal settings taken advantage of in the future.
PS5 Review: Conclusion
In many ways, the PS5 is a refinement of the PS4 experience in all the right areas, but Sony’s sprinkled some next-gen innovations into the mix. On the evidence of Astro’s Playroom alone, the new DualSense controller is a revelation, potentially adding a different dimension of feedback to gameplay – pending proper developer support, of course. Meanwhile, the system’s lightning fast SSD greatly improves the overall speed of games, while new user experience additions like the Activity cards improve the console’s general quality of life.
It’s abundantly clear that the Japanese giant spent a lot of time looking at the weaknesses of its previous platform, and shaped its next-gen vision around them. New technologies, like hardware-accelerated raytracing and 3D audio, serve as the icing on the cake – and while it may be a while before we see the system worked to its full potential, early examples like Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales already provide a mind-melting glimpse of what’s possible.
Sony’s proven throughout previous generations that its software pipeline is impressive, but with a first year software lineup slated to include Ratchet & Clank, Returnal, Gran Turismo 7, God of War Ragnarok, and Horizon Forbidden West, there’s an argument that the organisation is at its best right now. Yet, while it continues to astound with new software, the PS5’s approach to backwards compatibility does feel like a no-frills solution, with very few titles leveraging the new hardware to the levels that we’d expected.
The only other major downside, after hundreds of hours of play, is that the SSD simply doesn’t have enough space available, with under 700GB on offer at launch. The company’s made installing an external HDD for PS4 software extremely straightforward, and its decision to support non-proprietary NVMe SSD drives will work to its favour in the future, but in the here and now, you’re definitely going to have to play Tetris with any software you’ve got installed, and that flies in the face of the overall convenience of the console elsewhere.
Nevertheless, we’re extremely enthusiastic about the future of this platform. The way we all play games is changing, with subscriptions gaining importance and titles retaining players longer than ever before. Yet with the PS5, Sony has created a console that feels very much prepared for the future, without forgetting what players love about PlayStation to begin with. This is the fastest, most convenient console the company’s ever created; a cunningly designed upgrade that takes the best of the PS4 and improves upon it. But it’s also got more than enough innovations beneath its popped collar to feel like something truly fresh as well.
Do you have any questions about the PS5? What features are you most looking forward to experience for yourself? Share your thoughts, queries, and concerns in the comments section below.