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Review in progress: The PS5 is a technical marvel, but is it enough?

The world may be on fire but at least the PS5 is finally here to distract you.

Sony is launching its most ambitious console to date on Nov. 12, 2020 with the PS5. The company dominated last generation with the PS4 and silenced naysayers who said that console gaming was dead. After selling upwards of 112 million units over the last seven years, Sony hopes to replicate its success with the PlayStation 5, which has already shattered pre-sales of its predecessor in a fraction of the time. If you're looking to buy a PS5, just be aware that the demand is immense right now, and it could be a while before you're able to find one in stock.

Because I have only had a week with the PS5 and there are certain areas that I'm not allowed to talk about until launch — the media section, entertainment apps, the integrated PlayStation Store, and the PS Plus section — this review will be more of a review in-progress that I update with my thoughts along the way. The aforementioned sections are still being worked on and have yet to be finalized, which is why I'm holding off on scoring the console just yet.

Despite having so little time with the PS5, I already see it being my main system going forward, and this is a huge change for me. Ever since I was a kid I've had an Xbox. My Xbox One X is my primary console right now, previously sitting next to my PlayStation 4 Pro. Believe it or not, I've only been gaming on PlayStation for about two years, effectively since I was hired for this job. I'm well acquainted with what Microsoft has to offer.

However, the strength of the PS5 as a console, plus the revolutionary and welcome changes Sony made to the DualSense controller, will put it over the edge as my favorite console. That just shows how good a job Sony has done to win me over.

While I only had access to a standard PS5 and a DualSense controller for this review, Sony is also releasing the PS5 Digital Edition that people may also want to check out. It's the exact same console as its counterpart, specs and all, minus the disc drive.

At a glance

PS5

Bottom line: Sony took everything that made the PS4 great and doubled down to create a truly impressive console. The focus on immersion is immediately apparent with the DualSense controller, which is a standout accessory for the machine. From lightning-fast loading and seamless transitions thanks to its SSD to new features like Game Help, Sony has raised the bar once again.

The Good

  • Lightning-fast SSD
  • New Control Center and Activity cards
  • Solid launch lineup
  • Efficient cooling and whisper quiet fan
  • DualSense is phenomenal

The Bad

  • Only 825GB of storage
  • A difficult to use base
  • Dimensions are quite large

$499 at Amazon

PS5 review: Design and performance

Category PlayStation 5
Processor 8x Cores @ 3.5GHz Custom Zen 2 CPU
Graphics 10.28 TFLOPS, 36 CUs @ 2.23 GHz Custom RDNA 2
Memory 16 GB GDDR6, 256-bit
Memory Bandwidth 448GB/s
Internal Storage 825GB Custom NVMe SSD
I/O Throughput 5.5GB/s (Raw), 8-9GB/s (Compressed)
Expandable Storage NVMe SSD slot
External Storage USB external HDD support
Resolution Target 4K, up to 8K
Frame rate Target 60FPS, up to 120FPS
Ray tracing Yes
Backward compatibility Yes (PS4)
Optical Drive 4K UHD Blu-Ray drive
Dimensions 15.3in x 4.1in x 10.2in
Weight 9.9 lb
Price $499

When Sony unveiled the design of the PS5, it was contentious among fans. It was a far cry from the giant rectangle that's the Xbox Series X and the traditional PlayStation lineup. The two-toned console sports a more futuristic look, with an inner black portion surrounded by two white shells encompassing either side, almost like a reverse Oreo. The PS5 is also hiding some neat little touches on the hardware that you may miss if you don't look carefully. On the inside of the white faceplates you can see the Square, Triangle, Circle, and X symbols that create a textured pattern. This also appears on the DualSense controller. It's a neat little touch that marries form and function, though I'm worried about how easily dirt and grime will collect over periods of heavy use.

It's way larger than some people expected (maybe even too large for a some entertainment systems), but it's packing some impressive hardware that needs a powerful and efficient cooling system to keep it running.

The back features two high speed USB Type-A ports, an HDMI port, a LAN connection, and the power supply. The front sports another high speed USB Type-A port along with a USB-C port. Sony ships the console with an HDMI 2.1 cable in the box so it can support up to 120Hz. What it lacks is a dedicated SSD expansion slot like the Xbox Series X. Instead you'll need to open up the console to add a compatible NVMe SSD card internally. Given that the PS5 only comes with a 825GB SSD, 667.2GB of which was usable in my case, you'll need an additional card sooner rather than later.

I'll need to do a more thorough and proper speed test compared to the PS4 Pro, but suffice to say the PS5 is fast. From the start screen to actual gameplay, Spider-Man: Miles Morales loads in just two seconds. In fact, the game is devoid of any loading screens at all. While some of the backward compatible games I played still took a decent chunk of time to load, particularly Assassin's Creed Odyssey, the load times were noticeably reduced.

Spider-Man: Miles Morales loads in just two seconds.

Unfortunately, it looks like the PS5 does not have Quick Resume between multiple games the way the Xbox Series X does. People speculated that the Switcher function in the Control Center would act as Quick Resume, but it ends up fully closing your previous game instead of suspending it, meaning you can't hop between games seamlessly and pick up right where you left off.

A powerful SSD like this brings a lot of heat, so it was important for Sony to nail its cooling system. The PS4 Pro earned itself a reputation for sounding like a jet engine, and many worried that the PS5 would follow suit. For what it's worth, my PS5 fan was whisper quiet — quieter than even my Verizon FiOS cable box. Even after hours of use, I never heard the fan pick up speed. The back of the console does get hot like you'd expect, but the fan does a good job at keeping most of the system cool. As long as it's doing its job and it's quiet, most people will be satisfied.

I won't go so far as to call it a design flaw, but needing a separate base for the PS5 (included in the box), no matter which orientation you set it in, is less than ideal. It's easy enough to clip on when you want to place the console horizontally, but it needs a screw and flathead screwdriver to secure it if you want to stand it up vertically. The screw is hidden within the base and I wish I were joking, but the directions tell you to "use a coin or similarly shaped object" to tighten it. Regardless of whether or not you find this process annoying, it's silly nonetheless.

Once the base it attached, I found it surprisingly sturdy. I stood it up and pushed the console several times to see where the tipping threshold was, and it doesn't look like it'll fall over because of an accidental bump. You'd need to give it a pretty forceful shove for it to topple over.

PS5 review: Games and software

There's been some talk of diminishing returns for years in regards to how advanced games can be. The more advanced technology gets in regards to games visuals, the less we'll be aware of any noticeable differences. There comes a time when, visually, these "improvements" are imperceptible from what came before — or, at the very least, not stark enough to matter. Looking at a side-by-side of Spider-Man: Miles Morales on PS4 Pro and PS5, you can see the differences, though I'm not sure they're so stark that it warrants an entirely new console. The game running on PS4 Pro still looks damn good.

This is one of the problems with next-gen. You need to showcase what all that extra power can do. In terms of resolution, I don't see that in Spider-Man: Miles Morales. It looks better, for sure, but it isn't such a drastic, jaw-dropping difference.

On launch day, the PS5 will release with exclusives like Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Astro's Playroom, Demon's Souls, and Sackboy: A Big Adventure. Compared to the list of Xbox exclusives at launch, which lost Halo: Infinite, it's a strong list, if a little sparse.

With PS5 backward compatibility, you're able to play almost every PS4 game you own. The system in place isn't as good as Microsoft's solution for backward compatibility, but I'm satisfied with how it runs. I tested out Assassin's Creed Odyssey, The Outer Worlds, and Control, to name just a few games, and they all ran spectacularly. As I said earlier, I still need to do a proper speed test to see how they hold up.

Once I've had more time with some PS5 games, I'll discuss my experiences along with the PlayStation Store and media sections, which I need to hold off on until launch.

PS5 review: DualSense controller and its features

The DualSense is every bit as revolutionary Sony claimed it would be. I've been outspoken about how much I hated the DualShock lineup of controllers, so to get me to praise the DualSense was a tall order. Ergonomics make or break a game controller, and the DualShock 4 lacked any basic sense of good design in that category. The DualSense, by comparison, is nearly perfect.

Haptic feedback and adaptive triggers enable a level of immersion otherwise impossible to obtain. Haptic feedback adds granular changes to the way the vibration motors in the DualSense function so they're more precise. Adaptive feedback adds tension and resistance to the triggers depending on what you are doing, a common example given is being able to feel the triggers resist your press as you draw a bowstring. These features can be adjusted, or completely turned off, in the console's system settings.

The DualSense is every bit as revolutionary as Sony claimed.

Sony's engineers worked magic to make the the DualSense's haptic feedback and adaptive triggers as incredible as they are, in a way that's hard to convey over words alone. It's something you just need to feel. Walking through the rain in Astro's Playroom (which was designed as a DualSense showcase, to be fair) felt like my controller was actually being pelted by rain, drop by drop, due to its haptics. This sensation was aided by its built-in microphone echoing the sound of rain pattering against a window, only adding to the level of immersion. When the rain changed to hail, I could feel subtle differences in the way my controller vibrated.

Likewise, the tension and resistance you can get from the triggers is equally impressive. There's a section in Astro's Playroom where Astro hops into the suit of a robotic monkey and starts to effectively rock climb. I could feel the trigger resisting in a way that mimicked the force I'd need to pull myself up.

Sony's engineers worked magic to make the the DualSense's haptic feedback and adaptive triggers as incredible as they are.

In Spider-Man: Miles Morales, there's a little jolt that happens when you thwip your web and are swinging through the air. The varying levels of tension are subtle, almost imperceptible in this case, but are definitely there. Even if just first-party Sony games take full advantage of these features, it'll be worth it.

Iconic face button pattern on the DualSense shell.

I haven't been able to properly test out its battery yet, but at 1,500mAh, it certainly outlasts the DualShock 4. After using the DualSense for roughly 15 hours, it had one bar left, according to the battery indicator on the PS5 Control Panel. No doubt this is due to its larger battery size and the design of the lightbar, which now wraps around the touchpad an a less obtrusive way. You can even adjust the brightness of the lightbar in the PS5's settings, but it cannot be turned off completely.

PS5 review: User interface and OS

The PS5 user interface is similar to the one found on the PS4, focusing on providing a clean look and seamless experience. There a dedicated section for the fully integrated PlayStation Store (which I can't talk about just yet) along with sections for Games and Media. Foregoing themes at launch, the background of your dashboard will instead change depending on which game you currently have pulled up.

What ends up being a shining star is the new and improved Control Center, pulled up with just a quick press of the PS button on your controller. This grants you quick and easy access to some of the most important and widely used features on the PS5 like the power, sound, notifications, friends list, and more.

When pulling up the Control Center, you'll also notice new Activities cards depending on the game you're in. These cards show everything from official news, newly created screenshots or videos, and progress indicators for individual levels. By selecting a particular card, you can jump directly into that level of a game. In these Activities cards, if you have PS Plus, you'll also notice official Game Help.

Game Help on PS5 allows PlayStation Plus members to access official game guides and view hints to help them in certain games, which can then be pulled up in picture-in-picture modes or pinned to the side. Demon's Souls, for example, will launch with over 180 Game Help videos. It's an amazing accessibility feature that, counter to what it should be, isn't accessible for everyone. I understand that Sony wants to sell PlayStation Plus subscriptions, but locking this feature behind a paid subscription is a bad move.

PS5 review What does the future hold?

Now for the elephant in the room. Sony just doesn't have the same type of ecosystem that Microsoft has cultivated with Xbox. Services like Xbox Game Pass blow PlayStation Now out of the water. It doesn't seem like there are plans to try and compete either. CEO Jim Ryan has stated that the company will not put $100 million games on subscription services, referring to how all Xbox exclusives launch into Xbox Game Pass the day they release at retail. This includes games like Gears 5 and Halo: Infinite, along with eventually Bethesda's Starfield and The Elder Scrolls VI (which could also very well be an Xbox exclusive).

Sony just doesn't have the same type of ecosystem that Microsoft has cultivated with Xbox.

It also doesn't have a competitor for Project xCloud streaming via Game Pass. There's Remote Play, letting you stream your games to PC or mobile devices, but you need to own those games in your library. Until Sony figures out what it wants from PlayStation Now, it'll be stuck in the shadow of Xbox Game Pass.

Sony seems to be banking heavily on its exclusives. The second God of War is coming in 2021, Final Fantasy 16 appears to be a PS5 console exclusive, at least at launch, and we're getting Horizon Forbidden West next year as well. Those all come from beloved franchises — some of which are highly regarded as being the best in the business. We'll have to see though if exclusives are enough to help the PS5 coast through this generation.

PS5 Final thoughts

From just spending one week with the PS5, I can't go back to my PS4 Pro. It's earned a permanent place on my entertainment stand for the foreseeable future, and it's something that I think PlayStation fans will love. My few complaints are easy to overlook when I've been having a blast the last seven days.

I'll have more thoughts over the coming week as I spend more time with the PS5, so stay tuned.

Next-gen awaits

PS5

$499 at Amazon

A phenomenal console with outstanding features

Sony took everything that made the PS4 great and doubled down to create a truly impressive console. The focus on immersion is immediately apparent with the DualSense controller, which is a standout accessory for the machine. From lightning-fast loading and seamless transitions thanks to its SSD to new features like Game Help, Sony has raised the bar once again.

All-digital

PS5 Digital Edition

$399 at Amazon

Leave physical games behind

The PS5 Digital Edition packs in every bit of greatness the standard PS5 does, and does it for just $399. It might not have a disc drive, but the future is heading towards a more digital age every day.


Source: androidcentral

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