The newest game console generation is here, and to say that Sony's PlayStation 5 has been highly anticipated would be a dramatic understatement. The PS5 is big, fast, and powerful, with a 4K/HDR-capable GPU and an SSD that loads games at lightning speed. For $499.99, it offers gaming performance that well exceeds the PS4 Pro and the Xbox One X, an Ultra HD Blu-ray player (which the PS4 curiously lacked), and a new DualSense gamepad loaded with cool haptic features. The PlayStation 5 is a must-have for PlayStation devotees, and is worthy of sharing our Editors' Choice award alongside the Xbox Series X.
Big Tower, Big Power
We should start by noting that the PS5 is available in its standard form, or as the $399.99 PS5 Digital Edition that lacks an optical drive. The PS5 Digital Edition is effectively identical to the PS5, with all of the same processing power as the disc-drive-equipped version. This isn’t the case with the $299.99 Xbox Series S, a scaled-back Series X that features significantly less power than the larger system, along with half as much storage space. We don't recommend the Series X to Xbox fans, but if you want a PS5 and don't need a disc drive, the PS5 Digital Edition is solid way to save $100.
The PlayStation 5 is a massive beast of a game console. It stands 16 by 4 by 10 inches (HWD), eclipsing even the big, blocky Xbox Series X (6 by 6 by 12 inches) in height, if not quite volume. It's large enough that you might have a hard time finding a comfortable place for it in your media center. A circular, two-way stand screws into the console's narrow bottom edge to let the system stand upright. You can also clip the stand to the PS5's side edge to let it rest on its side. The system is a bit wobbly without the stand.
Visually, the PS5 is striking to the point of being odd. Its big side panels are curved, white plastic framing a glossy, black plastic “core” that runs along the system's length. It evokes the look of a white shirt with a popped collar over a black undershirt. A set of colored LEDs sit hidden behind the points of the “collar,” glowing amber when the system is asleep and blue when it’s turned on.
The slot-loading optical drive is located in a prominent “hump” on the right/bottom white panel (this hump is absent on the digital-only version of the PS5). The front of the system has USB-A and USB-C ports, along with tiny power and eject buttons. The back holds two more USB-A ports, an HDMI output, an Ethernet port, and a power cable connector.
Meet the Revolutionary DualSense Controller
The new DualSense controller is a significant upgrade from the DualShock 4, particularly in size and density. This black-and-white gamepad is heftier than the PS4’s controller, with a profile that looks more like an exaggerated Xbox Wireless Controller than any DualShock gamepad. It has prominent grips that are long and almost fang-shaped. The controller's top surface features smooth, white plastic, while the bottom side is textured for a better grip (a texture that, if you look very closely, consists of tiny PlayStation X, square, circle, and triangle shapes).
The layout is identical to the DualShock 4 and other PlayStation controllers. There are two analog sticks sitting parallel below a direction pad on the left and face buttons on the right. Like the DualShock 4, a touchpad sits between the direction pad and face buttons, with tiny Menu and Share buttons flanking it. A PlayStation button sits between the analog sticks, with a small speaker above it and a microphone button below it (with a pinhole microphone just below that).
The gamepad's top holds two sets of bumpers and triggers. This is where one of the DualSense's big upgrades is found: adaptive triggers. The L2 and R2 triggers don’t just have a vibration response, but also variable resistance that alters the pull's length and feel. Depending on the game, the triggers can feel short and clicky for responsive shooting, or long and smooth with variable vibration for accurate racing game acceleration. Many high-end gamepads house triggers with adjustable locks to change the pull length, and some have adjustable sensitivity, but this variable resistance is a first we’ve seen in any controller.
The variable resistance and vibration contribute to the DualSense's precise, accurate haptic feedback. The controller produces vibrations of varying strengths across the gamepad's surface, creating specific sensations for different situations. A demo included with the PS5 shows the gamepad being assembled out of cubes from the bottom to the top, and each cube shaking the controller just a bit to give the feeling that it really is being assembled in your hands. It’s a similar effect to the HD Rumble found in the Nintendo Switch’s Joy-Cons, but further enhanced by the triggers.
The DualSense's top edge also holds a USB-C connector for charging the gamepad. Hopefully the DualSense’s internal battery can last longer with less battery life drop-off over time than the DualShock 4 did.
Powerful Hardware Under the Hood
The PlayStation 5 runs an AMD Zen 2 CPU with eight cores clocked at up to 3.5GHz, and an RDNA 2 GPU clocked at up to 2.23GHz for 10.3 teraflops (billion floating point operations per second). The system supports raytracing, too. Combined with 16GB of GDDR6 RAM, this puts the PS5 on similar footing as the Xbox Series X (also a Zen 2 CPU and RDNA 2 GPU, capable of 12 teraflops).
The PS5 also features an 825GB solid-state drive (SSD). This is one of the system's main features, in addition to the extra processing power. The SSD loads games with lightning speed, compared with the PS4's lengthy hard drive-based load times. The PS5 also has an Ultra HD Blu-ray optical drive, the first UHD Blu-ray drive seen on a Sony system (the PS4 has a standard Blu-ray drive, which can’t play discs with 4K video content). The PS5 Digital Edition lacks the optical drive, but features otherwise identical specs, for $100 less.
Cool User Interface
The PS5’s user interface is a fairly simple menu built around a row of icons that represent the most recent games and apps you’ve loaded. This row is divided into two tabs: Games, for your games, and Media, for any video or other content. In the Games tab, pressing down while highlighting any game showcases additional information, such as news and trophy lists.
Pressing the Home button, whether in a game or out of one, launches a quick-access menu at the screen's bottom. This lets you switch between games, check notifications, play music, adjust audio and controller settings, access your profile, and turn off or reset the PS5. It isn’t quite as robust as the Xbox Series S/X's Guide menu, which provides quick access to any captured screenshots or video clips for sharing. Still, it's very handy.
For capturing and sharing screenshots and gameplay videos, just press the DualSense's Share button. This brings up a capture menu that lets you take a screenshot, record a video, broadcast on PSN, or adjust capture settings. Here’s a tip: Set Video Clip File Type to "Most Compatible" and HDR (High Dynamic Range) to "Off" to have the easiest-to-work-with video clips.
Disappointing Backward Compatibility
The PlayStation 5 is fully backward compatible with PlayStation 4 games. I had no issue loading and playing Gundam Breaker 3. Unfortunately, the PS5 doesn't let you play PS3, PS2, or original PlayStation games. The Xbox Series S/X may have limited backward compatibility, but it can play titles dating back to the original Xbox. You can stream some older PlayStation games via PlayStation Now if you subscribe to that service, though. PlayStation Plus members with PS5 systems also get access to the PS Plus Collection, a library of 20 excellent PS4 games, including Crash Bandicoot: The N-Sane Trilogy, God of War (2018), Monster Hunter World, and Resident Evil VII: Biohazard.
The PS5 comes with a pre-installed game: Astro’s Playroom. It’s a simple, short platformer that showcases the DualSense’s capabilities, such as haptic feedback, adaptive triggers, and motion sensing. It’s a fun diversion that introduces you to the new game console and controller, and it’s loaded with Easter eggs and collectibles that will appeal to long-time PlayStation fans. You can get through it in two or three hours, or perhaps a little longer if you really try to find everything.
PS5-specific games were limited before launch, but I spent a good amount of time playing Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales. It shows off some of the system’s impressive power and fast load times. The game has two graphical modes: Fidelity and Performance. Fidelity renders the game in 4K resolution, unleashes all available visual effects, and maintains a consistent 30-frames-per-second pace. Performance, however, renders the game at a slightly lower resolution and with fewer visual effects. The upside? A consistent 60fps pace. There’s no mode to run at 60fps with all the graphical trimmings, but Fidelity still impresses at 30fps.
Spider-Man: Miles Morales has a breathtaking Manhattan setting. The borough is crisper and more detailed than in the PS4 Spider-Man game, while keeping a consistent frame rate. Effects like snow and scattering debris look realistic, and you can see clearly to Harlem and the Battery from the top of the Empire State Building. Spider-Man’s New York City was already impressive on the PS4, but Mile Morales' New York City on the PS5 looks even better, with even smoother action.
The PS5’s SSD means blazing fast game loading times, too. I can jump from the system's home screen to Spider-Man: Miles Morales in under 20 seconds, and fast traveling between any point in the city is so quick that the game doesn’t display a loading screen. After a second or two, Miles simply walks up from the subway. In the PS4's Spider-Man game, loads are twice as long, and fast travel involves several seconds Peter Parker riding in a subway car to pass the time.
This enhanced performance requires games to be built with the PS5 in mind; PS4 games won’t see graphical benefits or lighting-fast load times. For example, the PS4's Bloodborne clearly renders at 1080p, upconverting from a lower resolution and producing less crisp visuals than if it rendered natively at 4K. Its load times are also much slower than Spider-Man: Miles Morales', with fast travel and respawning taking between six and twelve seconds.
Clockwise, from left: Xbox Series S, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X
Welcome to the Next Generation of Gaming
The PlayStation 5 is a massive game console, but its size holds incredible processing power and a blazing-fast solid-state drive. The system has impressive performance, and its new DualSense controller takes several clever leaps forward in terms of gamepad functionality. It's capable of fantastic graphics, which comes through in Spider-Man: Miles Morales and its gorgeous Manhattan reproduction.
With excellent, PS4-focused backward compatibility and an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc drive, the PS5 can fully replace your PS4 or PS4 Pro and make you ready for the newest console games. Its only disappointing aspects are the ridiculous chassis design and lack of backward compatibility for pre-PS4 PlayStation games. Still, with several exclusive games available—and more on the way—the PS5 is an excellent console that earns our Editors' Choice award alongside the Xbox Series X.
As always, the big question you should ask is which console has games you want to play on it. If you're a Sony fan, there's a lot to like here. The PS5 offers a cool, feature-rich controller and platform exclusives, such as Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Sackboy: A Big Adventure, to appeal to diehards. If playing Microsoft's currently cross-generational releases in the highest possible fidelity on console is more important, you'll want the Xbox Series X. Either way, console gaming has definitely leveled up this year.Cons
You still won't see 4K/60fps in every game
Odd chassis design may make it hard to place in your media center
PS4-only backward compatibility, with no real graphical improvementsThe Bottom Line
With incredibly fast load times, a revolutionary DualSense controller, and excellent exclusives, the PS5 is a must-have for PlayStation fans.Lab Report to get the latest reviews and top product advice delivered right to your inbox.","first_published_at":null,"published_at":null,"last_published_at":null,"created_at":null,"updated_at":null})" x-show="showEmailSignUp()" class="rounded bg-gray-lightest text-center md:px-32 md:py-8 p-4 font-brand mt-8 container-xs">Like What You're Reading?
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