I am not lying to you when I say “thank goodness this is done” because the past month has been a complete whirlwind. Three consoles and so many games all arriving at the same time. However, throughout it all, the PlayStation 5 has been the one I have wanted the most. I am a PlayStation fan. Have always been one. It is my primary platform and I take it very seriously. With that being said, going into review the Sony console was exciting but also a little daunting. It is new and not just “new” but this console feels like a new generation of gaming. I have not felt the same sense of discovery since I picked up a Nintendo Switch on launch day back in 2017. The whole point of a new generational leap is to wow gamers with new experiences and PlayStation 5 hits the nail on the head in every single department. Sure, there are some shortfalls but they all remain software-based and I hope they are fixable.
PlayStation 5 Design
The PS5 is quite a beastly machine. If it was 2001 and someone asked you to draw what you thought a video game console out of the future would look like, it would be the PS5. Often I look at it and wonder why Sony went down this road. It is so “out there” but I kinda dig it. The PS5 sits at 15.4 inches tall, is 10.24 inches deep and 4 inches thick. (38.8 x 8 x 26cm (H x W x D). It requires the stand for all its standing positions and is not the most versatile console to place in your TV stand. So much so that I had to shift my entire 65-inch TV up to the end of my stand in order to fit both the Xbox Series X and PS5 on the one half of the unit. If you think you’re just going to unbox this and place it down, think again.
It may be big but the PS5 turns heads. Its white-collar design and misshaped faceplates are a step away from anything Sony had done in the past. However, hating or loving the design is all up to you. Some people who have seen it love it while others think it is nasty. Space-age is the theme here and the overall design aesthetic spans across all the PS5 accessories too.
On the front, there’s a power and eject button (not touch thank the heavens), and a USB-A and USB-C port. The front is coated in a reflective sheen which scratches super fast. Even one wipe with a soft cloth left small scratches on the surface of my console. Thankfully, the back where you will fiddle with wires trying to put them into slots is matte. This may help avoid future scuffs while trying to plug in a USB. Speaking of, the back houses an HDMI 2.1 slot, two USB-A ports, ethernet and the figure-8 power port. You won’t find any ports here for tech your don’t already own as the PS5 uses an internal expandable SSD which is not available yet. More on that later.
Sony has doubled up with the iconic lights strips on the PS5 by adding two of them. This strip of light shoots up the top and wraps around the curve. It looks fantastic in every way possible. The lights are quite bright. Bright enough to light up the side faceplates showing off the “Sony” logo. They look great. Even at night when the console was in rest mode, they softly filled the console with an orange glow. Sony did not cheap out on the style here by any means.
Of course, by now you know that the PS5 cannot stand up or lay down without the stand and using it is quite a mission at first. Every console comes with a stand in the box and there’s a short procedure that you need to follow to install it. The stand either clips on the back when laying it down or screws into the base when standing it up. This position requires the removal of a little black plastic knob which is replaced with the screw found inside the stand. Sony has made sure that everything you need in order to stand the console up is there for you. You just need a screwdriver but you could get away with turning it with your hand too. It may not be tight but it is enough to support the console.
Overall, I loved the design of the PS5. Both standing positions provide great airflow. Not that I ever heard the fan anyway. I am glad Sony added enough USB ports to the console now and the USB-C port is also a welcome addition. Not to forget the smaller details such as the laser cutout logo and the PlayStation symbols which texture the inside of the console. Sony has also made it easy to remove the faceplates which means I can clean the fan and vacuum out dust when the time comes. The PS5 definitely feels like the console with all the hidden features you will discover as you use it.
Set up and UI
When it comes to specs, the PS5 is a powerful console. It packs Sony’s custom SSD and controller unit which is where most of the wow factor comes from. There’s a custom RDNA 2 GPU that can push 4K at up to 120Hz, and an octa-core AMD Zen-2 based CPU with the clock speed of 3.5GHz. It packs 16GB of GDDR6 RAM and the Sony SSD is 825GB. This translates to 667GB with Astro’s Playroom and the OS installed.
Setting up the PS5 was a breeze. I plugged it in and signed into my PSN account after doing the console update. You can also use the new PS App to transfer your account and details to save time. I then had to transfer my PS4 content across to the console. I was only worried about my saves really and I had DOOM Eternal and Watch Dogs: Legion. All my other games were on my external SSD. The transfer process was fast. I plugged a LAN cable into both my PS4 and PS5 and the PlayStation 5 read the hard drive and displayed the content I could move across. Everything but captures can be moved to the PS5.
It took about 15 minutes to move the two games and hundreds of saves I had. I then unplugged the external SSD from the PS4 and put it into the PS5. After a minute, all my PS4 games appeared in the Game Hub, the new place to see your purchases and installed content. I was impressed by how fast the move was. I never thought it would take 15 minutes before I would never plug my PS4 in again (sad face).
This is most likely thanks to the snappy SSD inside the PS5. It makes everything easier and faster. Be it moving around the UI, launching games or even moving content from the console to an external device.
The PS5 UI is confusing. So much has changed and so much is missing that I am still not happy with it. However, I got my “new experience” I was longing for so I need to be grateful. The home screen is now one entity that shows the recent games and the PlayStation Store which is built into the home screen. I already have issues with the home screen. There is no way to display more games or limit how many are listed. I also currently have a bug where DOOM Eternal, which I deleted on the day the console arrived, shows an empty icon and I can’t remove it hide it. No matter what I try, the icon does not shift down at all. Please fix this, Sony.
Understanding how it works took a few days. The PS button on the DualSense controller now brings up all the important things such as downloads, power, sound and Game Base. Holding down the button took me to the home screen where I could close the game I was playing. The PS5 does not indicate which game is running which is another issue. There’s also no fast way to close a game. I either had to go into the switcher and press options on the icon or hold down the power button, find the game, press options and close it.
If you have used a PS4 before, the PS5 OS will drive you crazy. Not only are things so drastically different but there’s so much missing that I used to make use of. For example, making a chat party is a chore. I had to create a Game Base chat first, add friends to it and then join the voice chat. This also meant that anyone I added to this group could join the party at any time even if I did not want to hear their voice because they are annoying. I should have the option to just make a party and when the last person leaves, it is gone.
It is even more work now because custom friends lists are gone. So creating a party means going down a massive list of friends to find the people to add to the group. There’s also no way to remove someone from the group I created to chat. If I wanted someone gone, which I am sure you will too, then you have to create a whole new party with a whole new group of friends by going down a long list of names. It is painful.
Then we have bugs. The PS5 UI is buggy and often I had to come to drastic measure to fix issues I faced. For example, I downloaded Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War and two days later the game said “PS4” in the title. If this happens, it is a PS4 game. So I deleted it thinking perhaps the PS4 game downloaded while in rest mode or I missed it somehow. It was actually the PS5 version. 300GB of downloading later, I then had the PS5 version which still showed PS4 in the title.
Another issue happened when Godfall had a game update. I could not launch the game but instead, I was stuck on a”preparing to download’ screen. After 20 minutes, the download did not start so I had to delete the entire game so it would redownload with the update installed.
Of course, there’s a lack of game transfers. By now you know that PS5 games cannot be moved to an external HDD or SSD to make space for more. At the time of writing, I have 7GB free on the SSD with only PS5 games installed. I cannot add any more. Thankfully, I have an external SSD for PS4 game else I would be royally screwed. However, not everyone has an external so, until Sony patches in the feature to backup PS5 games, this is going to be a big problem.
Don’t get me wrong, the PS5 UI is great and it looks superb with its always-on HDR but it needs lots of work and lots of things need to be added. The PS4 UI, while slow, had everything you needed so it is a shame to see the next-gen console take a step backwards in this regards.
There’s is a lot to love about it and this comes into play when playing games (the most important thing). Going to a Game Hub which is found on the home screen, I could glimpse at all the things the game offered. Sackboy, for example, listed all the levels I could jump into and how long they would take to complete. This meant I did not have to launch the game. Just press square on the card and it would take me into the level.
This feature is even better thanks to the SSD which took 7 seconds to load the level for me. Then there’s the Game Help which is available on supported games and with an active PS+ subscription. Clicking on a card that had a PS+ logo showed me all the available hints for that level. I could then watch a short video which showed me where the orb’s location that I was missing. For a game like Sackboy: A Big Adventure which is all about collecting things, this is a fantastic feature. The feature spans all first-party games I tested during the review including Demon’s Souls which instantly whisked me away to the area I chose on the PS5 home screen. Here, the cards told me where I could find items and locate the next boss.
Of course, the PS5 UI will evolve as time goes by. Sony will add new features, fix the bugs and add the lack of game backups. This will make it easier to work with. I also await the day where I can upgrade the internal SSD which is also not available at launch. Are these dealbreakers? It depends on your gaming ecosystem. If you don’t have an external HDD to keep PS4 games on, it may be a hassle. However, you could always pick up one cheap or invest in an SSD which helps load times and will be helpful for when Sony enabled the backup of PS5 games. The SSD means you can copy the games to and from the console super fast and eliminate waiting times.
I have already mentioned that the PS5 SSD is fast and I just want to say it again. It is FAST! Things just don’t load any more and I cannot even go onto Twitter while I wait for a level to load in Sackboy. I have now resorted to loading a level, which takes a few seconds, and then pausing the game to browse social media. It is the only way.
The SSD is one aspect of the console that helps deliver these games like never before. The raw power inside the PS5 means everything looks better and runs faster. This is from PS4 games which boost performance modes in specific games to capped 60FPS, to PS5 games which now offer various graphics options to choose from. Be it a 120Hz mode in DiRT 5 or a high-quality ray tracing mode in Devil May Cry 5 Special Edition. It all looks phenomenal and gives you a reason to go back and replay older games.
Sony has delivered a fairly decent range of titles to experience at launch. Each of them includes their own unique modes. Demon’s Souls, for example, has a 60FPS or 30FPS cinematic mode with higher visual fidelity. Miles Morales is either 60FPS or 30FPS with ray tracing. I love how most of these games offer different ways to experience them and you can choose whatever you want. Performance across the board is stable and I can’t say I had screen tearing or any nonsense when it came to drops in frames.
Have we hit the 60FPS era? I don’t know yet. Yes, some games have the options but it comes at a cost of some downgrades. However, some games such as Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla run beautifully on the console at 60FPS. It may be dynamic 4K but who cares when it looks fantastic and runs buttery smooth? I can confidently say that every game I played which was a specific PS5 version looked great. I even spent some time on Valhalla after reviewing the game on PS4 Pro. The difference was night and day and you have to know this. The PS5 is indeed the next generation of gaming and not just a machine that runs games at a higher resolution and frame rate. Games are more detailed and things look so much better.
Playing games rely on a controller and Sony did not just release a DualShock 4 with a textured grip and call it a DualShock 5. The DualSense is everything we have been waiting for in a controller. It is to Sony as the Wii Remote was to Nintendo and changes everything. The controller features a new design which is larger and heavier than the DualShock 4. Gone is the massive lightbar and instead we now have thin strips of light that shoot up on both sides of the newly-shaped touchpad that resemble the PS5 console light strip. It has a PlayStation symbol textured grip and gone are the colourful buttons. Overall, the design is pretty impressive and feels great to hold.
The real magic of the DualSense controller is on the inside. For the first week, I kept discovering new things about it which left me in awe. The adaptive triggers provide a different experience in every game. In Black Ops Cold War, they feel like a gun trigger with every weapon having a different tension and resistance. In Sackboy, when I grabbed an item I could feel it on the trigger. Astro’s Playroom makes use of it in dozens of ways including grabbing, vibrating across chains and so much more. It is what I will remember this generation for, because I cannot wait to see how games make use of it.
Then there’s the haptic feedback which is a fancy way to vibrate the controller. Instead of the one-tone buzz, the motors can make precise movements in a range of strengths. This means you feel so much more in a game. Be it the footsteps of Astro as he walks across the sand or the roar of the dragon as it flies over you in Demon’s Souls. We have seen the Joy-Cons makes great use of its haptic motors and the DualSense holds so much potential too.
Apart from those two killer features, I was also wowed by the built-in microphone. It is like tech out of the future and makes use of an array to isolate my voice while reducing background sounds. I joined a chat party without a headset and used the controller’s mic to speak. I turned my TV up quite loud and my friends could not even hear it in the background. Instead, they heard only my voice and it was clean. I moved the controller away to an arm’s length and it still provided the same quality. For people who hate wearing headsets but enjoy chatting with their friends, this is one of the best features of the controller. There’s also a mute button which comes in handy if using the mic.
There’s No Shortage of Innovation Here
There’s so much to love here about the PS5 that it made me forget about the storage issues and the locked expandable SSD slot. I do have issues with the UI and the lack of quality of life features. However, I know Sony will get to it and they have not disappointed in the past. The PS5 is full of innovation and this is seen across all its elements including the DualSense and even the 3D Pulse headset. The console feels like something new and that is why we buy next-gen consoles, right? We want that “wow” factor and often it is not always about power and teraflops.
Sony made a console for their fans and brought new things to experience. The DualSense will carry us through those long gaming hours and feel great while doing so. The PS5 will take up way too much space on our TV stand but it will turn heads when visitors come over. Yes, you can get all the launch games, besides Demon’s Souls on PS4, but why would you want to play them there when the console offers a new controller to use, no loading times and little perks like Game Cards that help you out when you’re stuck. This is not just a PS4 with more power, it is a whole new adventure which you need to be ready for.