I can’t believe we’re finally here. 20 years ago it was a science-fiction dream of what the PS5 would be. Before the PS3 was announced in 2005 I remember seeing futuristic mock-ups of the system, some have circulated the net and have become iconic images, but I never imagined how ordinary the PS5 would be. Let’s face it. As of the last generation cycle, consoles are just lower-end PCs. With the change to 64-bit architecture and no more custom chips, these systems are just that. What has changed is a more seamless UI, a revolutionary new controller, and a funky physical design.
One factor that has played a huge part in this console cycle that we have never faced before is a worldwide pandemic. Every person on the planet has been affected, and every gamer knows why it’s so hard to get a new console. It took me two years of waiting to finally see one in a store. In a small town in Oregon while visiting my mother is what it took. I walked into a Target and just looked in the PlayStation case, and I saw six! I couldn’t believe it. Now, it’s common for the first year of a console launch for the system to be hard to find. Especially during the first holiday season that they are out. I struggled to find a Wii for nearly a year. However, two full years and possibly going on three is unheard of. Thanks to scalpers and the worldwide chip shortage most people still don’t have one.
With that out of the way, the unboxing experience has also been affected. Sony had to cut down on cardboard use and packaging due to the cardboard shortage, so this is the most bare-bones unboxing of a system that I have ever done. What is nice is that everything can be recycled as there is no polystyrene being used for packaging. It’s all 100% paper products. You get a manual, a power and HDMI cable, the controller, a USB-C cable, and that’s it. Pretty bog standard.
The PS5 itself is a really interesting physical design. It was made fun of during its announcement for looking like a router. It kind of does. It’s the first PlayStation console to be designed to sit upright vertically. It has large fins on the side with a rounded middle part that’s all black. I personally think it looks awesome and different. While not a sleek box like previous systems, but also does not have a George Foreman grill look like the PS3. I’m sorry, but I never liked the PS3 design. Size-wise, it’s a far cry from the Slim PS2. Sony’s smallest home console which is the size of a DVD case. This thing is massive. About as big as a small form-factor PC tower. It’s also hard to find room for this thing. You need a big shelf as it will take up a lot of space. The system comes with a stand for the first time ever, and this allows you to orient the system vertically or horizontally and keep the system flat. The stand even has a neat design that holds the screw inside.
I have the newest 1200 series model that came out in August 2022. This version is half a pound lighter due to the shrinkage of the heatsink. It also runs 10c cooler and uses 10% less power. When it comes to fan noise the system is quite loud, but that’s not surprising. This thing is packing an equivalent of an AMD RX 5700 XT, however, in terms of raw performance, it’s closer to an Nvidia RTX 2070. The PS5 has a custom AMD Oberon GPU and uses an APU architecture to keep the form factor down. While the RTX 2070 isn’t the most powerful in the line of the 2xxx GPUs it’s miles better than the PS4 and even the PS4 Pro. To compare the base PS4 is equivalent to an AMD Radeon 7850 or Nvidia GTX 750ti. The PS4 Pro is equivalent to an AMD RX 580 or an Nvidia GTX 1060. While it’s not the performance boost I was hoping for, we are far beyond the point of the generational leaps we were getting with older consoles. We’ve hit kind of a plateau at this point and people won’t be as impressed. If you’ve played a high-end PC in the last five years you know what to expect already. I do miss that magic of the graphical leaps that consoles used to have back in the day. For example, the biggest leap was into HD gaming. The difference between the PS2 and PS3 is insane, but that kind of gap has shortened a lot since then.
Now, one thing consoles do is push current hardware to its limits. Developers have a way of doing this that makes these games look better than anything a PC can do. This is due to the challenge of a single piece of hardware and the need to push it to its limits. PC games have sliders so graphical fidelity is on a scale. While the PS5’s job is to push native 4K gaming, this is still not a reality. The PS5 still runs games in checkerboard 4K or native 4K 30FPS. Games that push the system to its limits won’t hit 4K 60 ever. A new addition to the PS5 is light ray tracing, but honestly, it’s not very noticeable. It took the 3xxx-4xxx series of Nvidia GPUs for ray-tracing not to truly tank frames and that’s still with DLSS (AI scaling) enabled. The PS5 doesn’t have AI scaling to help boost frames. A few games look mighty impressive rendered at 4K, but the cost of performance just isn’t worth it. We’re still not there yet. We are also still stuck having cross-generation games. The PS5 won’t truly be impressive until PS4 support is dropped. The rare exception is a game like The Last of Us Part 1 which isn’t for PS4. This was an issue during the last console transition. PS3/PS4 games looked dated. We needed to drop PS4 support from the start, and I’m not just saying that because I have a PS5 now. I thought that even before. I wanted to have a slew of PS5 exclusives that really pushed the system when I finally got one and what we have isn’t that.
With the performance stuff out of the way, I do want to mention that the PS5 now has an M.2 SSD. It went and bypassed 2.5″ SSDs that consoles missed out on already. The PS4 shipped with a laptop platter drive. These are prone to failure, but M.2 SSDs offer performance and a small form factor but at a high cost. It’s one of the reasons why the PS5 costs so much. The PS5’s main weapon is its custom I/O speeds. It can read at 5.5Gbs/sec with uncompressed data. These speeds are insane and no SSD even matches that yet. The future proof of the PS5 is typical Sony language. They future-proof all of their systems in some way. While we don’t see any games that take advantage of these storage speeds just yet, a few games have insanely fast loading times. The PCIe 4.0 interface is barely available on the newest PC motherboards.
The PS5’s USB ports are also up-to-date. A single 10Gb/s USB-C port on the front will be used for PSVR2 as well as two 3.1 Type-A ports on the rear and a single 3.0 Type-A port on the front. Sadly there is no DisplayPort on the back, but HDMI 2.1 is present for VRR (variable refresh rate), however, this tech is only available on TVs from 2020 onward. With a USB-C port, you can bet that the new DualSense (RIP DualShock) controller uses USB-C. The overall hardware design of the PS5 is nice, and I personally think it’s fun and less sterile than the Xbox Series X.
Software-wise, it’s pretty much the PS4 but more integrated. It’s snappier and prettier with rounded edges on everything and it just feels updated. The PlayStation store is now integrated into the main home menu. It’s no longer an app. Everything feels more consolidated and minimalistic, and that’s a good thing. The Xbox still can’t figure out what kind of UI it wants, and Sony has had the best UI since the PS3 out of any system. Most of the settings from the PS4 are here, but you now get more tech. 3D audio separation, VRR, ALLM, better HDR support, but no themes! For the first time since the PS3 themes are now gone. This has a lot to do with the better integration of everything and you can see why there are no themes now. The quick menu that pops up when pressing the home button is sleeker and is customizable with more options. Everything just feels more streamlined and simpler and feels less “in the way”.
How do the games play and look you ask? Well, like higher-end PC games. Console exclusives such as Returnal, Horizon: Forbidden West, Spider-Man: Mile Morales, and God of War: Ragnorok all look insanely good. However, as previously mentioned, we’re still plagued with cross-gen graphics options. Either really pretty and slow or really fast and okay looking. 4K 30FPS or 1800p-ish and 60FPS. You also lose some graphical fidelity such as ray-tracing, draw distance, lighting effects, etc. For slower-paced games, I opt for 4K 60. Faster games should be played a 60FPS. However, games like Horizon: Forbidden West is an exception to play at 4K 30.
One of my favorite features of the PS5 is the new DualSense controller. Not only are vibrations more detailed and minute with things like being able to feel speech through the controller and various changes to footsteps, but the triggers. My god the triggers. They have tension now. Pulling a trigger to aim a weapon has resistance than using the right trigger to shoot has various states of resistance to feeling like recoil. It’s insanely cool and actually adds to the gaming experience. I actually want to play games with trigger support on PS5 over PC now just for this feature. It’s not bumper vibration like the Xbox One introduced. It’s something completely different and new direction of player interactivity. Feeling the tension in a bow, the resistance of pedals in a car. This is how you advance controls. It’s probably the biggest controller innovation since the Wii remote.
In the end, the PS5 is a fantastic new system that has faced some serious odds. With a radically new physical design, a snappy and streamlined UI, supporting all of the modern cutting-edge display technology, and a revolutionary new controller, the PS5 is the best system out there in terms of an overall worthwhile package. While the games need to move away from cross-gen support to really utilize the PS5 to its full potential, the slow sales and unavailability are preventing this. However, with patience, I think the PS5 can really be something amazing in the next few years.