Sony PlayStation 5 review: showing the potential of the next generation
“Sony’s PlayStation 5 is the next generation console to buy this holiday season.”
Excellent loading times
Several enticing next generation titles
New controller with improved feel
Limited storage space on all models
Console is very big
The expectations of Sony for the coming console cycle are absurdly high. The PlayStation 4 was a tremendous success, and gamers believe the company will open up new, unimagined possibilities with its next generation system.
The PlayStation 5 not only meets these expectations, but also makes them appear conservative. With lightning-fast loading speeds and innovative (and fascinating) changes to the DualShock controller, the PS5 sets the bar for the next generation of games.
That’s impressive every year, but doubles in 2020. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Sony has put together a strong system that backs its hardware with a strong range of starting titles to challenge Microsoft’s rival Xbox Series X.
Digital Trends tested the PlayStation 5 within just under two weeks. This review focuses on the larger Blu-ray drive version of the console for $ 499. However, according to Sony, that’s the only difference between this model and its $ 399 smaller brother, called the Digital Edition. Both will go on sale on November 12th. Several PS5-optimized games – including Demon’s Souls, Sackboy: A Big Adventure, and top third-party titles – were not made available prior to the review embargo. The PlayStation Plus collection with 20 classic PS4 titles has been made available.
The hardware: it’s fast and huge
Sony has said from the start that the PS5 is about speed. But until you experience it, it’s hard to convey just how great the speed can be.
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales loads in seconds – and once you’re in the game you’ll never experience a loading screen, even while riding the subway. Do you want tips and tricks for the game? You have to find them elsewhere.
This optimization can also be seen in other titles produced by Sony. It adds tremendously to the immersion factor of games and has a positive effect on the flow of the story in narrative titles. It’s just as satisfying to quickly jump into games.
It’s interesting to note that this perceived performance difference is more due to software than hardware. Tech-wise, Microsoft’s Xbox Series X is the more powerful console, although the PlayStation 5 offers an edge in terms of storage performance. The Xbox lacks a launch title, however, and relatively few last-gen games take full advantage of the new console’s capabilities. This gives the PlayStation 5 a huge advantage at startup.
The physical design of the PlayStation 5 can be an issue. It’s a honking big piece of hardware, and if you place it horizontally, the stand (which is needed to correct the curved sides of the system) won’t snap into place on the back panels. As a result, you have to worry about slippage when adjusting the cables. You won’t want to put anything on it either. If you choose vertical positioning, there will be a mini skyscraper near your TV which, depending on the room layout, can be a nuisance.
Microsoft’s Xbox Series X is a smaller squatter console that isn’t quite as imposing, but its box-like shape will still cause problems for the average A / V cabinet. Gamers with limited console space can instead consider the Xbox Series S, which is much smaller than the PlayStation 5 or Series X and has a more traditional slate-like shape.
Storage: there is not enough
The PS5’s Achilles heel is storage space. Due to the proprietary solid-state drive and the size of the operating system, players only have 667 GB of the 825 GB hard drive available for gaming. That’s a paltry amount that will result in the same headache that the PS4 faces. You have to choose which songs to save on your system and which to delete (although in most cases you can download them again).
The latest PlayStation 4 owners have no doubt bought the PS4 Pro, which came with 1TB of storage. Taking into account the storage reserved by the system, a PS4 Pro 1 TB offered around 862 GB of available storage. The PlayStation 5 is way behind despite the ever-growing size of AAA games.
Owners can expand this amount by purchasing and installing an NVMe PCIe 4.0 SSD. The console has an open SSD slot for this purpose. However, Sony has yet to confirm which off-the-shelf NVMe SSDs will work with PS5. These are the only hard drives that allow you to take advantage of the PS5’s loading speeds. A typical NVMe PCIe 4.0 SSD costs around $ 200, which isn’t cheap. On the plus side, it’s a little less than the $ 220 memory cards used by Microsoft’s Xbox Series X and S consoles.
You can also connect an external hard drive or SSD, but you won’t see the system’s speed advantages with games stored there. PS5 games saved there cannot be played until you transfer them to the internal drive. Therefore, external drives are only useful for older games.
The controller: It’s a win
If load times are the PS5’s main weapon, the new DualSense controller is the secondary weapon. And it’s impressive.
Slightly larger than the DualShock 4, it refines the haptic feedback by incorporating a precise sense of touch into the video game experience that force feedback has never given before. This could get hokey (and in fairness for years to come), but right now it adds another layer to the games and increases player immersion.
Having trouble opening a heavy door or pulling an arch? The manual releases can convey this tension. Did you have a rough landing while driving over a hill or a slog through a muddy area? You will know This new haptic feedback is a subtle thing that, like the lack of loading screens, you’ll soon take for granted. You won’t notice how quickly you get used to it until it’s not there.
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A new built-in microphone is less useful in most games, but it does allow you to have a quick chat with friends without a headset.
The cost of this new functionality is the battery life. The DualSense has a rechargeable battery (compared to X Series AA batteries), but we’ve found that charge drains quickly. Charging through the PS5’s USB port rarely resulted in a full charge, whether in standby mode or at full power. A separate Sony charging stand has fully charged the controller.
PlayStation 4 controllers work with the PlayStation 5, but only with PS4 games that are played through backward compatibility. Microsoft offers controller cross compatibility that will allow old Xbox One controllers to work with the new Xbox.
Games and software: the star of the show
Microsoft has found it difficult to come up with a new console without a first-party launch title, but Sony is in an enviable position.
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales is great fun that shows off many if not all of the features of the PS5. The story is on the short side, but there are plenty of side missions to add to things. The included Astro’s Playground is a hidden platformer gem loaded with Easter eggs reminiscent of a stripped-down Super Mario Bros., yet acts as a gateway through the new features of the PS5 controller.
Demon’s Souls and Sackboy: A Big Adventure were not made available for early review, nor were BugSnax, which PlayStation Plus members get for free when the system launches. However, the games from the PlayStation Plus collection loaded smoothly and quickly using the PS5’s Game Boost feature.
The PS5 may be the system to beat at the launch of this new generation of consoles, but while previous cycles have had a clear path forward, this one is much cloudier. Cloud gaming in particular is a delivery method that is gaining traction among publishers, just like digital delivery in the early 2010s.
Microsoft has already defined a path for this delivery method. Sony has PlayStation Now, but despite buying two innovators in the market (OnLive and Gaikai) long ago, the company hasn’t done much to strengthen its base and build that business. This opened the door to Google’s Stadia, xCloud, and Amazon Luna.
Will cloud gaming make console performance less relevant in the years to come? It’s difficult to say. Gamers are skeptical of the technology and fear delays, but the proliferation of 5G and high-speed internet could allay those concerns. And if cloud gaming really does become a major delivery method, Sony could be behind the pack.
However, that is the future. Right now Sony has delivered a great next generation console that includes at least one must-play game that the system sells. It has succeeded in building on the PS4’s momentum, innovating without going too far, and giving players a glimmer of hope in a year when this has been blotchy at best.
The PlayStation 5 is everything gamers wanted – and more. While storage space is a real concern and Sony’s long-term view of industry shifts is questionable, there is no denying that this is a real next-generation machine. It makes existing games more fun and has several strong starting titles.
Is there a better alternative?
No. At least for the 2020 vacation, the PS5 clearly beats the competition and makes the PS4 appear almost archaic.
How long it will take?
Expect a long service life from this system. The biggest hurdle is moving to cloud-based gaming. If this happens faster than industry insiders anticipate, Sony may have a hard time keeping up.
Should you buy one?
Yes absolutely. The PlayStation 5 is a gaming system that lives up to the next generation label. If you’re looking to buy one, check out the best Black Friday PlayStation deals so you can take advantage of Black Friday discounts.