REVIEW: PlayStation 5 - True Next Gen Gaming
2020 has been quite a year and we’re not even done yet. Ignoring all of the major global events that have taken place or are still happening around us, for gamers anyway, 2020 is actually an important one. With the imminent launch of their brand new console, The PS5 and PS5 Digital Edition, Sony are looking to not only continue the massive success story of the PS4, which has sold over 113 million consoles to date, but also persuade potential gamers to go for their latest and greatest creation over what Microsoft is offering in their new Xbox Series X and Series S next gen consoles. Is it up for it? Read on to find out.
The PlayStation 5 is massive. Like the biggest home console ever. Coming in at 15.4″ tall and 10.2″ deep, it’s significantly larger than any other console that’s come before it. That said, its futuristic curved styling and dual-tone finish actually makes it a appear smaller, if only by a little, than it actually is.
Thankfully, if its monstrous height is too much for your TV stand, Sony has included an adjustable stand that you can use for both vertical and horizontal mounting. Unlike previous PlayStation consoles though, due to its curved sides, you won’t be able to stack anything on the PS5 when on its side so it really is going to take over whatever shelf you place it on.
We’ve been sent the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray disk drive variant of the PS5 with the Digital Version PS5 obviously leaving this out and, we must admit, we prefer the more symmetrical design of the latter. Still, it’s nice to have the disc drive option there for when we do pick up physical game disks and 4K Blu-ray films. Up front, you’ll also see the discrete power and eject buttons along with a full sized USB Type A and a USB Type C port which comes in handy when first pairing and then charging the DualSense controller (more on this later.)
Around the back you’ll find the usual I/O port options with the HDMI, Ethernet, power and two USB-Type A ports. The console still uses the similar orange ‘rest mode’ lighting at the top corner of the device when mounted vertically which turns blue to white when booting up, just like the PS4 and PS4 Pro.
PS5 Thermals & Fan Noise
Given its massive size, you probably aren’t surprised to hear, or shouldn’t be anyway, that the PS5 is whisper quiet. Gone are the days of the PS4 Pro being likened to a jet engine and now, with its large airvents and even larger fan, the PS5 has no issue keeping things quiet whilst also keeping the console nice and cool. Not content with this impressive feat of engineering, Sony has actually come out to say that they will optimise the fan via online updates to help keep it working at peak performance whilst keeping fan noise to a minimum.
“Various games will be released in the future, and data on the APU’s behavior in each game will be collected,” said Yasuhiro Ootori, Sony Interactive Entertainment’s VP of mechanical design, in an interview with 4Gamer.net (via Eurogamer). “We have a plan to optimize the fan control based on this data.”
This is quite a clever way of ensuring the fan is optimally used and doesn’t become another punchline for when it kicks in too often and too loudly.
PS5 DualSense Controller
For me, the DualSense controller is the best part of the whole PS5 experience. Right away, you’ll notice just how much of a departure it is from previous PlayStation controllers.
The colour palette directly lines up with that of the console and even includes the really nice touch of the PlayStation-symbol themed micro-texture which they’ve also incorporated on the console as well.
All of its buttons are responsive and well balanced with a reassuring feel to each of them. The L1 and R1 buttons are nice and clicky also but it’s the L2 and R2 triggers that really make this DualSense controller stand out. If you’ve been keeping track of the changes Sony have brought to their new controller, you’ll know that these particular buttons are now referred to as ‘adaptive triggers’ meaning they can have their tension changed and tweaked in real-time, depending on the task you need to complete in the game. This new tech is really shown off to great effect in Astro’s Playroom and we cover it in more detail in our review below.
The controller also has a microphone built in, along with a dedicated mute button, and the DualShock 4’s trackpad makes a return at the center top of the controller. Also making a return is the PS3’s SIXAXIS controller tech which allows you to use the controller to interact with objects by simply rotating the controller itself. Thankfully, the overall experience is much more refined since the PS3 days.
Astro’s Playroom Mini Review
You might already know this but every single PS5 console will come with a copy of Astro’s Playroom pre-installed. You also might recognise Astro from his fantastic PS VR outing in ASTRO BOT Rescue Mission. Astro’s Playroom can be seen as a ‘tech demo’ of sorts (although it’s so much more than that) that helps showcase the new controller, its adaptive triggers and also its incredibly refined ‘haptic feedback.’ It’s also a loving homage to the PlayStation legacy.
The title is broken into four main levels or zones, each one cleverly focusing on a part of the actual innards of the PlayStation 5 console, be it its SSD or cooling fans. One particular area, called ‘Cooling Springs’ (get it?) has you cannonball off a large slide onto a pristine beach inhabited by enemy robots. Walking around through the sand and the water and attacking each of these enemy characters results in a different type of haptic feedback sensation in the controller along with little accompanying sounds from its built in speaker.
The haptic hardware built into this controller alone would be the stand-out piece of tech from the entire next gen line up if it wasn’t for the new ‘Adaptive Triggers’ which are the L2 and R2 buttons at the top of the device. These are, hands down, the coolest thing about the whole ‘next gen’ experience so far, across all of the consoles.
In this particular Cooling Springs zone, Astro finds himself jumping into a robot suit, which you have to zip up yourself by swiping up on the controller’s trackpad. Once in, the adaptive triggers kick in and now you must press much harder on each of them to build tension in your new robot’s spring to get around the level.
This movement is paired with the controller’s own motion control feature which you have to tilt and sway in the direction you want to jump whilst pressing and holding the now tensioned trigger to build up energy in your spring.
This all happens while the haptics rumble in unison to the strength of the tension along with a coinciding sound coming from the controller. All of these sensory tricks come together to create a truly immersive and engaging gameplay experience and one I think shows off the true power of the next generational tech inside the DualSense controller. I really hope developers utilise this to its full potential to create an even greater level of immersion in their PS5 titles.
Now, before we start, we must state that we can only talk about certain features of the UI and software of the PlayStation 5 ahead of its phased global rollout on November 12th (and November 19th for Irish consumers.) That means we can’t go into detail on the new PS Store, although the official PlayStation 5 UI walkthrough video shows how it’s accessible and navigable directly from the system itself, without having the launch it separately, like on the PS4.
We also can’t touch too much on the new dedicated ‘Media’ section of the UI which will house all your streaming and online video apps such as Netflix and Disney+ with Apple’s own Apple TV app confirmed to be launching on the PS5 and PS4 on November 12th.
When it comes to the overall UI design, unlike Microsoft, who have been slowly upgrading their Xbox One console UI to be in-line with what launches on the Series X and Series S consoles, Sony has developed a brand new UI experience for users to get used to. That’s no necessarily a bad thing and some of the features are truly next gen but it definitely takes some getting used to.
When flicking through your installed titles on the ‘Games’ section, each one has its own hub integrated directly below with access to relevant videos clips, stories about the game and more. Sony has also claimed that some PS4 titles will benefit from these features too but we haven’t seen this working for any PS4 titles we’ve tested just yet.
There’s also an Explore section that brings stories and news from PlayStation and select games together in one place but this particular feature is being tested in the US to start so not everyone will have this feature on day one.
Pressing the PlayStation button on the DualSense controller brings up the new ‘Control Centre’ which gives you quick access to things without leaving whatever game you’re playing. With this section, you’ll be able to quickly see which are your friend’s are online, checking the status of a download, managing your controller, powering the console off and more. You can also see game specific ‘Cards’ which let you interact with supported games in a number of ways.
These cards will show things like recent screenshots or gameplay clips you’ve taken with the new ‘Create’ button on the DualSense controller along with ‘Activities’ that let you jump into specific sections of a game and complete bite-sized challenges depending on how much time you have.
We must admit, this whole area was a little confusing at first and we’re still getting used to it but it does feel like something that would come in handy for those of you just looking to jump back into a game for a few minutes and want to be recommended something you can actually complete in the short time you have to play.
Some of these in-game activity cards even offer official game help so you can watch short videos that show you how to complete a certain task or find a specific item, for example. This came in really handy on titles like Astro’s Playroom when I needed help locating certain items and didn’t have a way to research it on YouTube for example. You can even leave a mini video player on the screen as you control the game to try and replicate what’s going on in the video.
Keeping in touch with your PS friends is also pretty seamless with much more interactive voice chat and party mode options built in to the control centre. Now that the DualSense controller has a microphone built in, you can talk with your friends without the need to connect a headset. With the newly launched PlayStation App, for iOS and Android, you can start voice chat from your phone as well, even if your friends are playing on their PS5 or PS4 consoles.
With Parties, people can share their screen with a group which you can then launch in a little pop out window on your TV while you continue to play whatever game your in. Finally, the control centre will allow you to instantly join your friends in any open multiplayer game their playing and you also own.
With its brand new ultra-fast SSD storage, the PS5 also has significantly reduced load times with Insomniac Games’ Marvel’ Spider-Man: Miles Morales launching pretty much instantaneously from the main game menu. This is a huge leap forward when it comes to loading times and should make dying in-game that less painful. We found it a Godsend when fighting our way through hoards of enemies in Spider-Man: Miles Morales and will make the more difficult titles, like Demon’s Souls, a bit more tolerable.
Now, this an area of contention at the moment after it was revealed that a number of Ubisoft titles have been announced as incompatible with the new PS5 console. Ubisoft has since pulled the article but given that Sony had previously come out with a list of just 10 PS4 titles that were not supported, this news from Ubisoft has put the cat amongst the pigeons.
Seeing as we’re just shy of 2 weeks away from the official Irish launch, things are still being ironed out in the backend so we weren’t able to fully test backwards compatibility across a wide selection of games but titles such as Ghost of Tsushima, which we always expected to work, plays no problem on the device. We’re still waiting for the PS5 specific patch to allow ‘up to 60FPS’ in gameplay which is sure to make things look even better overall.
Sony has officially come out stating that, in general, PS4 titles will play better on PlayStation 5 and that select PS4 titles will see increased loading speeds on the new the console along with also being able to leverage Game Boost, which offers improved or more stable frame rates. Some titles with unlocked frame rates or dynamic resolution up to 4K might also see higher visual fidelity but, again, we’re waiting for greater confirmation on what titles in particular are capable of this.
I must admit, Microsoft has been much clearer when it comes to how backwards compatibility works, well before the launch of their upcoming next gen consoles and while Sony has tried to answer some of the questions people have, there’s still a lot left to be answered.
In the end, we imagine pretty much every title you have on PS4 to work fine on the PS5 (bar the aforementioned lists above) but just be wary of more obscure titles and if you’re looking to hook up your PSVR to the device. This, in itself, is a whole other area that you’ll need to research and, given that the PS5 doesn’t actually have the correct port for the PSVR camera, (the new PS5 HD camera isn’t compatible) you’ll need to apply for a free cable adaptor to hook set your PSVR up properly.
Built in Storage & Expandability Options
Both PlayStation 5 models come with 825GB of built-in custom SSD storage that, unfortunately, once the UI and other system files are accounted for, leaves just 664GB of usable storage. This can be expanded though via 3 different methods: 1. by installing a Sony-certified NVMe SSD (Sony’s official PS5 teardown video shows exactly where an extra drive will fit), an external HDD or SSD attached via USB.
Sony has yet to confirm which NVMe SSDs will work with PS5, but we know that the PS5’s internal drive uses a PCIe Gen 4 M.2 NVMe SSD, capable 5.5 GB/s bandwidth. It’s important that any drive you buy matches or beats these specifications, then, but you’re best waiting until Sony confirms exactly which drives will work on PS5.
It’s been 7 years since the PlayStation 4 launched and now, Sony latest console creation is here. The PlayStation 5 is the culmination of years of R&D, testing and refining and you can really see where Sony has focused its strengths. The console is whisper quiet whilst still offering cutting edge graphical options, the DualSense controller is truly revolutionary (if utilised to its full potential by developers) and the launch line up of Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Demon’s Souls, Sackboy: A Big Adventure and the built-in Astro’s Playroom, to name but a few, really get Sony’s next generation ambitions off to a great start.
Pricing & Availability
The PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 5 Digital Edition are available for €499 and €399 respectively and, unfortunately, launch day availability appears to be quite limited outside those of you who have successfully pre-ordered either model. Be sure to keep an eye on the social media channels for GameStop, Smyths, Argos and Harvey Norman to see if they have any additional stock arriving ahead of the November 19th launch date and some of these outlets will even let you sign up to an email alert system that tells you when new stock is available.