The next generation of consoles is officially here! Both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S are out in the wild and ready to kickstart the next 5-10 years of gaming. And while the promise of true 4K HDR, consistent 30/60 fps, ray tracing, zero load times, and (obviously) new games is incredibly enticing — is it enough to make purchasing a new console worth it right now?
To help answer that question, we got our hands on the disk-drive version of the PlayStation 5. And after a few days with it, we have a pretty good idea if it’s truly the next-gen hardware jump we’ve been hoping for.
Zoom In: Specs
- In the Box: PS5, HDMI 2.1 Cable, AC Power Cable, USB-A to USB-C Cable, PS5 Console Stand, DualSense Wireless Controller
- CPU: AMD Zen 2-based CPU 8 cores at 3.5GHz
- GPU: 10.28 TFLOPs, 36 CUs at 2.23GHz w/ Custom RDNA 2
- Memory: 16GB GDDR6 / 256-bit Interface & 448GB/s Bandwidth
- Internal Storage: Custom 825GB SSD
- Usable Storage: 667.2GB
- IO throughput: 5.5GB/s (raw), typical 8-9GB/s (compressed)
- Expandable Storage: NVMe SSD slot
- External Storage: USB HDD support (PS4 games only)
- Optical Drive: 4K UHD Blu-ray drive (not available on the $399 all-digital version)
Unboxing: Larger Than Life
You know all the jokes and memes that were floating around regarding the size of the PS5? Funnily enough, they were an understatement. Pulling it out of the box and seeing how big this console really is was both shocking and hilarious. No joke, it’s almost as tall as my 6-month old!
And while the sleek, Apple-white futuristic look may be a turn-off for some, I really enjoy it. It stands out as a modern console and makes a statement. And when it’s on or in rest mode, the elegant blue or orange glow inside the upper manifold looks next-gen.
Everything else about it is minimalistic. The number of ports, eject and power buttons, and even the disk drive are all placed to allow the console shape to run the show. So let’s boot it up.
UI So Beautiful to Me
Unlike Microsoft, the PlayStation team decided to rebuild the console UI from the ground up. It was the right decision. The new interface is much cleaner, easier to navigate, and prioritizes your games. Unfortunately, this does mean that themes, folders, and a handful of other fan favorites from the PS4 are not included, at least for now.
While these are frustrating omissions, the actual functionality of the UI more than makes up for it — especially when you try out the minimal control center for the first time. It’s a simple card system that throws in newly implemented game guides, trophy/game progress, party controls, and everything else you’ll ever need in a quick-use menu.
I can say I rarely ever found myself back on the homepage except when switching games. It’s that useful.
The Best Controller Ever?
Up until now, Xbox has had a firm grasp on the trophy for “best controller.” The DualSense changes all that. Really, out of everything included with the PS5, it’s what truly feels like a step into the future. The updated grips and controller size alone feel so right, and that’s not even the best part. It’s the haptics where this controller truly shines.
Jumping into the pack-in title, Astro’s Playroom, gave an extraordinary glimpse into the potential of this controller. The adaptive triggers provided tight, tactile feedback that strained and stretched when pulling back the string on a bow. The pitter-patter of Astro’s feet on sand echoed through the controller’s face while a strong gust of wind and the impact of a beach ball hit my hand simultaneously.
They never interfered with one another, and the in-controller speakers only amplified these physical cues. In games like Spider-Man Miles Morales and Demon’s Souls, the use of haptics was much less obvious but still felt equally powerful. Whether it was Mile’s bioelectricity cascading across the grips or the tangible impact of sword on shield, it made me feel more present within each game.
But How Does it Look?
Keep in mind that you’ll need a 4K HDR-enabled TV to get the most out of your PS5, which can be a hefty investment on top of a new console. I will say that it makes a significant difference visually. This rings especially true in Fidelity Mode, where the dynamic lighting effects, ray tracing, and refined animations have the chance to shine. And for the gameplay-oriented, the 60 fps in Performance Mode is so incredibly smooth, you’ll likely have a hard time wanting to look at anything else.
The most frustrating thing about the visuals is that you have to decide between performance or top-tier effects. Hopefully, in an update, or for specific games, they’ll eventually be able to marry the two modes together.
For now, they are both reliable options that elevate gameplay like I’ve never experienced before.
So Much to Play, So Little Time
Consoles are useless without games to play. Luckily, the PS5 has one of the strongest launch lineups in recent memory thanks to:
- Astro’s Playroom
- Spider-Man Miles Morales
- Demon’s Souls
- Sackboy’s Big Adventure
And that comes alongside a number of excellent third-party titles like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Black Ops Cold War, and even an up-rezzed version of Fortnite. Add in that the likes of Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart, Destruction Allstars, Deathloop, and several other titles set to be released in just a few months, and there is plenty to play.
But PlayStation didn’t stop there. No, they decided to overhaul PS+ to include a library of the best of the best from the last generation. Meaning that if you skipped out on the PS4 or want to revisit some of your favorite first and third-party titles, there are plenty to choose from.
Verdict: Should You Buy the PS5?
There’s a lot to love about the PS5, yes. But at the same time, it does feel like a work in progress. The performance features, enhanced UI, launch titles, and especially the DualSense all feel like a giant step in the right direction. At the same time, the transition to the next generation is murkier than ever, and any no-holds-barred next-generation titles are likely still a few years out.
There are still plenty of performance tweaks I’d like to see, and PlayStation shows signs of making adjustments fast and often. So for those that want to jump right into the next big thing in gaming, the PS5 is worth getting your hands on. But for those on the fence, you can likely wait a bit and still get a lot of juice out of your current console.
Zoom Out: Verdict
The PlayStation 5 is an impressive piece of hardware with enough performance upgrades to warrant the $500 price tag. The impressive DualSense Controller, updated UI, diverse launch lineup, and overhaul of PlayStation Plus provides plenty to enjoy and needs to be experienced first hand. However, there is still plenty missing, and with Sony’s continued support of the PS4, you can probably wait to switch over. That is, unless you simply can’t wait to jump on the next-gen hype train.
- 4K/120 gameplay and 8K/60 support
- Incredibly fast load times and game startup
- DualSense Controller haptics allows for truly immersive gameplay
- Excellent ground-up rework of the UI, PlayStation Store, and PlayStation App
- Lacks a quickstart feature to manage multiple games
- Impressive UI, but it lacks useful functionality from the PS4
- Enormous console size that may not fit in some entertainment systems
- 825GB SSD fills up quickly, and there are no external drives currently available.