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Hands-on review: The Sony PlayStation 5 console

12 Nov 2020

2020 hasn’t been the best year ever; however, November has been eventful for gaming. This is because Microsoft has released the Xbox Series X and S, while Sony is due to release its much anticipated PlayStation 5 console. 

We already reviewed the Xbox Series X last week and we liked what we saw. While the Xbox Series X is a powerful console, the only thing it lacks right now is many new AAA exclusive video games. Most of its launch lineup is made up of third-party developers and publishers. 

Things are different with the PlayStation 5 as four exclusives games will be available for the system. Three of them are available in stores, while one is bundled with the system itself. With that being said, let’s talk more about the PS5 with our full review. 

Price

Probably the most important factor when it comes to buying a new video games console is the price. I remember my brother waiting a year or more to buy the PlayStation 3 console. When the console launched in New Zealand, the price for it was an insane $1200. My family didn’t get a PS3 at launch as that price was way too high. 

Thankfully, the PS5 won’t be expensive than the PS3 at launch. The disc version of the PS5 will retail for $819.95. This is around $20 more expensive than the Xbox Series X which is $799. 

The all-digital version of the PS5 is also available. This is pretty much the same as a normal PS5, but it comes without a disc drive. You can only download games you have purchased on the PlayStation Store. The digital version costs $649.95 at launch. This is actually the same price the PS4 launched back in 2013. 

The Xbox Series S console is $549.95, although this is a much less powerful machine. If you don’t mind buying your games digitally, the digital PS5 is good if you want to save some extra money. 

Size and design

Previously, the launch PS3 console was not only the most expensive, but it was also the biggest PlayStation console Sony released at the time. I remember the launch PS3 weighing close to 5kgs and it was quite heavy to move around the house. 

Well, the PS5 is longer and taller than the launch PS3. It is by far the biggest console Sony has released to date and it dwarves the newly released Xbox Series X. The reason the PS5 is so large is because Sony had added two big fans to it. These fans are important in order for the console to not overheat. 

While the fans are large, you’ll be happy to know that the PS5 runs whisper quiet. It’s much quieter than the PS4 Pro which is kind of loud depending on the type of game you’re playing. 

Buyers will also be happy to know that a stand comes with every PS5 console purchased. It can either lie on its side, or you can position it vertically. Due to how I setup my living room, it was best for me to lay my PS5 in the horizontal position. 

The PS5 weighs in at around 4.5kg and its dimensions are 39cm high, 10.4cm wide and 26cm deep. You may need to adjust your TV setup just in case your PS5 doesn’t fit properly!

UI and features

The PS5 has a super-fast SSD with 825GB. The SSD allows the console to load games really fast compared to the hard drive that’s included with the PS4. 667GB of space is available to the user, although external hard drive support for PS5 games is not accessible at launch. You can, however, attach an external hard drive to play PS4 games via backwards compatibility. 

Since many games are around 50GB to 100GB in size, you’ll be using up the SSD space really quickly. Hopefully, Sony will add external hard drive support in the future as I’m sure people will be running out of space in no time. 

That being said, you will see the benefits of the SSD really quickly. I played Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales and the game loaded up in mere seconds. It’s the fastest loading open-world video game I have ever played. Not to mention PS4 games load faster compared to a PS4 Pro. 

As for the UI, the PS5’s interface looks slightly different compared to the PS4. The UI is faster and more responsive than ever before. The main menu is also divided up into games or media. This allows you to easily distinguish if you want to play a game, or you want to watch a movie or TV show. 

The PlayStation Store is more streamlined and faster than its PS4 counterpart. I found it much easier to navigate through the menus. Another new feature is that the PS5 tracks how long you have played PS4 and PS5 games. I was shocked to know I’ve spent over 200 hours playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 already!

Even though the interface looks slightly different, most of the functions are still in the same positions as they were in the PS4 UI. You can also tap the PlayStation button on the Dualsense in order to always go back to the home menu. 

Sadly, custom wallpapers aren’t available for the PS5 at launch. The PS4 also didn’t have custom wallpapers at launch, but it was then added to the console via a system update. Hopefully custom wallpapers appear on PS5 in the near future as I’m sure people will want it back. 

Graphics  

Whenever a new console generation enters, many people expect the graphics to improve. Well, I’m glad to say that the PS5 is a powerhouse as the visuals are very stunning. Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales looked absolutely gorgeous running in 4K with ray tracing support. The reflections and details in New York City are awesome to look at. If you prefer 60fps, the game runs smoothly at this higher frame rate too. 

Some other games are able to support 120fps, although my current 4K television doesn’t support that. In the near future, Sony is also updating the PS5 to run games at 8K too! Again, you’ll need an 8K compatible TV in order to run games at an 8K resolution. Currently, 8K gaming is not available at launch but it’s supposed to be coming soon.  

NBA 2K21 is another game you should buy for the PS5 at launch. This game has some of the most realistic character models I have ever seen in a video game to date. The visuals are a big step up to NBA 2K21 on either the PS4 Pro or Xbox One X. 

If you own a lot of PS4 games, you’ll be happy to know a number of Sony exclusives are being updated so you can play those games in 60fps on PS5. Most of these games were 30fps on PS4, so seeing them in 60fps will be a smoother experience. 

I didn’t have time to see other PS5 games running on the system, but I’m sure games will look even better as we head into 2021. It usually takes a bit of time before developers are able to improve graphics in games when a new console generation enters. 

Games

Unlike the Xbox Series X, the PS5 will be launching with several AAA exclusive titles. Some of the games you can get on launch day include the likes of Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Sackboy: A Big Adventure and the beautiful looking Demon’s Souls remake. Not to mention you can also play the fun platform game called Astro’s Playroom which comes free with the system itself. 

If these first-party games don’t interest you, you can wait for many popular franchises heading to the system in 2021. Some of the 2021 first party games are Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, Gran Turismo 7, Returnal and even Horizon: Forbidden West just to name a few 

In terms of third party games, there are still a ton of them launching with the PS5 console this November. Ubisoft is bringing out Assassin’s Creed Vahalla as well as Watch Dogs: Legion. Activision on the other hand is releasing Call of Duty: Cold War this Friday. 

As for PS4 games, Sony estimates at least 99% of the PS4 library will work on PS5 via backwards compatibility. You can either play PS4 games by downloading them through your library, or just use the disc if you have a physical copy. 

Only PS4 games are backwards compatible on the PS5 though. You won’t be able to play your old PSOne, PS2 or PS3 games on your new PS5 console. 

Equipment

The PS5 console is bundled with all the necessities you need in order to connect it with a modern TV. You don’t need a 4KTV to use the console, but the visuals will be better on a newer TV. See below for the items you get from a retail PS5 box. 

  • 1 x PS5 console
  • 1x  DualSense controller
  • Power plug
  • HDMI 2.1 cable
  • USB charging cable 
  • A stand for vertical or horizontal positions
  • The DualSense controller

Probably the biggest and best feature of the PS5 is its new DualSense controller. While an Xbox One and Xbox Series X controller shares lots of similarities, the DualSense is a pretty big improvement over the DualShock 4 controller. 

One of the biggest new features is the ‘Haptic Feedback’. The vibrations are much more immersive than ever before and the controller rumbles in different ways depending on the game that you are playing. If you own a Nintendo Switch, the Haptic Feedback is similar to the HD rumble feature on the Joycons. 

The aforementioned Astro’s Playroom is the perfect game to test out the Haptic Feedback to its fullest effect. It’s kind of difficult to describe how it actually feels, because you need to touch the controller yourself to fully understand what I mean about the new vibrations. 

Another new feature of the DualSense controller is the ‘Adaptive Triggers’. The L2 and R2 buttons will feel stiffer to press depending on what gameplay mechanic is presented to you on screen. For example, the R2 button may feel harder to press if you’re in a car driving on top of tough terrain. 

I felt the Adaptive Triggers slightly when I was swinging around New York City as Miles Morales. I have to admit, some people may not like this new feature, but I’m sure it will be a welcomed feature when more games implement it in the near future.

The DualSense also comes with a built-in microphone so you can talk to your friends online chat or troll your friends online. The best part of the built-in microphone is that you don’t need to have a headset to chat with others. 

I also like the fact that the battery is rechargeable. All you have to do is charge the controller via the USB cable that comes with the console. It’s better to have a rechargeable battery than dealing with the AA batteries that Microsoft seems to always use on its consoles.  

Some of the functions of the DualShock 4 return in the DualSense. Returning features include a built-in gyroscope so you can do motion based controls. The touchpad in the middle of the controller is also back as well as the share button so you can take screenshots and videos. 

The only thing I did not like about the DualSense is the lack of colours on the face buttons. I know this is only a cosmetic change, but the white colours aren’t as fun to look at.

Verdict

The PS5 is a great new generation console that improves the graphics of games, and also offers faster loading times. It’s also worth mentioning that the DualSense controller is innovative and will provide new experiences for the player. If you own a 4KTV, PS5 games are going to play smooth and look great.

The only real downsides to the console is the fact that storage space is still very small, and some people may find the console to be too large. Other than that, the PS5 has a pretty decent launch lineup with lots of exclusives, and more games are to come out in 2021. The PS5 releases in New Zealand on November 12th, 2020.