Fast solid-state storage
Wonderful 4K, HDR gameplay
Excellent new controller
Bigger than previous consoles
No major exclusive games yet
As always, there are plenty of questions left to be answered: Should you get the PlayStation 5 or the new Xbox Series X or S? Is it worth replacing a perfectly good PS4? Should you go with the version that plays discs or the cheaper all-digital version?
Chances are, most of these questions can only be answered by your personal preference. But the PS5 is a worthy upgrade for people that are excited to play PlayStation games with faster load times, cutting edge graphics, 4K, HDR, and all the bells and whistles a next-generation console should offer.
About This Review
This review was conducted after spending approximately a week with the Playstation 5 ahead of launch, playing two PS5 titles (Astro’s Playroom and Spider-Man: Miles Morales) as well as approximately 20 backward-compatible PS4 games.
The console we tested was loaned to us by Sony for this review, though fully in accordance with our strict ethics policy.
Since the review was conducted under an embargo, there are elements of the experience that were not yet final and are not part of our review, including the use of streaming apps such as Netflix, Disney+, etc. We plan to add to this review as time goes on and we have time to evaluate this part of the experience in full.
About the PS5
Here are the specs on the Playstation 5, as provided by Sony:
- CPU: x86-64-AMD Ryzen Zen 8 Cores / 16 Threads at 3.5GHz (variable frequency)
- GPU: Ray Tracing Acceleration, up to 2.23 GHz (10.3 TFLOPS)
- GPU Architecture: AMD Radeon RDNA 2-based graphics engine
- Memory/Interface: 16GB GDDR6/256-bit (448GB/s)
- Internal Storage: Custom 825GB SSD, Expandable
- Audio: Tempest 3D AudioTech
- Video Out: HDMI 2.1 Out port, 4K/120Hz, VRR
- Dimensions: PS5 - 15.35 in x 4.09 in x 10.24 in (width x height x depth)
- Weight 9.92lbs
- Power: 350W
- Input / Output: USB Type-A port (Hi-Speed USB), USB Type-A port (Super Speed USB 10Gbps) x2, USB Type-C port (Super Speed USB 10Gbps)
- Networking: Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax, Bluetooth 5.1
There are two editions of the Playstation, one with a disc drive for $499.99 and one without for $399.99. The two consoles are otherwise identical, as far as we can tell, so you’re saving $100 but will lose the ability to play any games off discs.
Our advice is to opt for the Disc Edition, because you can easily make up the $100 by purchasing a few used games or renting games that you will only play for a short time. I frequently rent single-player games from my local library, and I’ve saved roughly $150 this year alone versus buying them brand-new.
What We Like
Games are fast, with gorgeous graphics—including PS4 games
As with most new consoles, the PlayStation 5’s launch lineup is a bit thin, at least on the surface. There are only a handful of true PS5 games, and all of them were designed to work across both your PS4 and PS5.
In my limited time with the console ahead of this review, I was able to play only a couple true PS5 games. The most impressive of which was the new Spider Man: Miles Morales game, which I found to be everything I want in a next-gen title: it was fast, it looked amazing on a 4K/HDR OLED TV, and it was free of the usual graphical hitches that PS4 games often come with.
I spent significantly more time playing through PS4 titles, both from my own library and from the new PlayStation Plus Collection (more on that in a minute). In nearly every case, games played more smoothly and with better graphics on the PS5 than on my PS4. Not every game has been updated yet, but the console’s powerful guts and extremely fast storage made a difference either way, with reduced loading times and fewer issues along the way.
The biggest difference that most games will benefit from is increased frame rate. Even the upgraded Playstation 4 Pro often struggled to play games at a consistent 60 frames per second, which most gamers agree provides a smoother experience. The Playstation 5 managed that pretty easily, exceeding the performance on most titles I tested compared to the PS4 Pro.
Load times are remarkably short, giving you more time
Sony has equipped the PS5 with an extremely fast, innovative solid-state drive. The upshot is immediate: the console does everything faster than the PS4, including installing and loading games, switching between titles, and booting up.
The solid-state drive also removes probably the biggest bottleneck holding back the Playstation 4. Even though you could replace the PS4’s drive with a solid-state one if you chose, games had to be designed assuming you were using the original spinning disk. The drives were slow enough that some titles have key information—music, sounds, player models–stored in several places just to make it quicker for the system to go and get it. That’s just a waste of space, like putting faucets in every room because you get thirsty a lot.
As game worlds have gotten bigger and more complex, they’ve also had to be diced up to deal with the slower drives being used. Often when you move from one area to another, there needs to be some kind of interruption so the next part can load. This can be a loading screen, or a fake mini-game, or a cut-scene, but games are constantly dropping the curtain for the audience while the system runs around in the back re-arranging the set.
Since all the games I was able to play are also available on PS4, they still have these sections built into their design. But there are already improvements in how fast you can move from section to section; what took two minutes on the PS4 can be done in seconds on the PS5.
Remote Play is way faster, and a real game-changer
Remote Play is one of the best things about modern consoles, and it doesn’t get discussed nearly enough. It lets you connect to your PS4 or PS5 over the internet with a host of devices—a laptop, a mobile phone, or a handheld like the Sony PS Vita—and play everything, well, remotely. You could even play games entirely over the internet, meaning I could play Destiny on my lunch break at work, even though my console was 30 miles away.
On the PS5, everything works similarly, but it’s much faster. Latency feels nonexistent when I’m on the same wireless network with a strong connection, meaning I can use my phone as an alternate controller in the same room. It also works really well when bandwidth is limited, including in spots in my house where the connection broke up or was totally nonfunctional on the PS4.
Again, this is just another way the PS5 can more easily fit into your life. We only have one large TV at my house, and if it’s being used my best bet is to play a game on my phone. With the PS4, I was limited to just a handful of games that didn’t require split-second button presses. On the PS5, I was able to play games like Street Fighter V without any issues—though the far reaches of my network still caused the picture to break up after a few minutes.
The PlayStation Plus Collection is a great library of titles you can enjoy right away
The PS5 launch lineup is a little thin when it comes to brand-new games, but it’s significantly bolstered by the Playstation Plus Collection. Available for Playstation Plus subscribers—the same subscription you need to play most games online—the PS Plus Collection is a group of 20 games you can download right away at no extra cost, including some of the best PS4 games like God of War, Fallout 4, Uncharted 4, The Last of Us Remastered, Monster Hunter World, Bloodborne, and more.
Those are some of the very best PS4 games available, and they’ve all been slated for immediate updates to make the most of the PS5. All should run with improved graphics, more stable frame rates, and decreased load times.
Frankly, I hadn’t gotten a chance to play half of these games yet, so getting them as part of the Playstation Plus I already pay for is a great benefit. Playstation Plus isn’t free—it’s $9.99 per month or $59.99 for a year, though you can get discounted annual passes—but you get free games every month that, like the rest of the collection, you can download and keep as long as your subscription is active.
The new controller is much, much nicer to use
Though it's not universally beloved, Microsoft's Xbox controller has been considered the gold standard since the Xbox 360 days. Sony's design is iconic, but there are a lot of people that found the DualShock-style design too cramped.
With the PS5, Sony is revamping things a bit with a new controller called the DualSense. It's very similar to the DualShock 4 that debuted with the PS4, though PS4 controllers are only compatible when playing backward-compatible PS4 games, not newer PS5 games. Despite the similarity, there are improvements across the board: better battery life, faster USB-C charging, a more rounded design, and slightly more heft.
It fixes all of the biggest complaints about the PS4 controller—especially battery life—while keeping a layout that immediately feels comfortable and familiar. Sony has also made a big deal about the controller's new haptic triggers on the back, which are in the exact same spots as the PS4's triggers, but have more dynamic, subtle vibrations and resistance to make for more immersive games.
In truth, I didn't find it to be that immersive. In Spider-Man: Miles Morales the triggers provide a little extra feedback when slinging around on webs, or riding a subway car that is rumbling to a halt. It's cool, though I don't think I've seen enough to justify Sony's decision to make PS5 games incompatible with PS4 controllers. Especially with most PS5 games also being released on PS4 for now, it wouldn't require any extra work for game developers to just make those functional when playing the PS5 version with a PS4 controller.
Overall, the controller is great, and it's the part about the PS5 I'm most excited for. The PS4 controller felt like it was constantly running out of battery life to me, and even without all the other improvements that would be a great addition.
What We Don’t Like
Some games are getting more expensive
Other than the free-to-play titles that often rope you in with premium add-ons and microtransactions, the price of new games has held fairly steady at $59.99 for years now. That’s looking like it may change with the PS5, with some launch games going for as much as $69.99. Most games are still $60 or less, but you can expect some games to creep up as time goes on.
One of the easiest ways to keep this cost down is to rent games from a service or your local library (which I do all the time, it’s great!) or to buy used games. To do any of that you’re going to want to opt for the more expensive PlayStation 5 Disc Edition. It’s $500, or about $100 more than the “Digital” edition, but the disc drive should easily save you $100 in the long run.
There’s no PS5-exclusive game you must play right away
Up through the PS5, a new console generation often meant transformative experiences that rewrote the rules of what you could do in a video game. The difference between Mario on the NES, Super NES, and Nintendo 64 is stark because the technology developed so rapidly.
There are no new dimensions for game designers to conquer, but that means the PS5 hasn’t yet unlocked some new kind of experience you can’t get on the PS4. The games will look better, load faster, and play more smoothly, but they’re largely the same games.
The economics of game design also mean that there is unlikely to be a game that is only on the Playstation 5 and not the Playstation 4 for quite awhile. That’s good if you own a PS4, but it does mean the PS5 is missing the gotta-have-it experience that used to accompany a brand new console generation.
We'll certainly get there, but it's probably going to be late 2021 at the earliest before there is a major game that only can be played on PS5 and not PS4.
It's big—though not absurdly so
The internet being the internet, there have been a flood of memes about how gigantic the Playstation 5 is. It's the biggest home console ever, as far as I'm aware. You can see it compared to the PS4 and PS3 Slim above, so it looks quite big, though both of those designs are very compact. It is very close to the original PS3 design, but it's smaller and lighter than even an average-sized PC. I didn't have any trouble fitting it into every entertainment center I tried it in, including two fairly skinny Ikea units.
You can also set it up vertically—it ships with a plastic stand that you also need to use when it's horizontal because the white shell is curved on both sides for... reasons? The design of the air vents does mean that you can feel comfortable putting it into a tight space horizontally, as long as it's open on the front or back for that hot air to escape.
Xbox vs Playstation 5
We’ve reviewed both the new Playstation 5 and the Xbox Series X ahead of their launch, and choosing between them is a tricky task. We’re not here to settle scores or decide any online arguments; these are both excellent consoles that do nearly all the same things.
Both consoles put a focus on improved graphics, taking advantage of the capabilities of new 4K/HDR TVs. They both will run games (new and old) much more smoothly, and both have opted for advanced solid-state storage that will mean decreased load times and game designs with fewer load screens and less waiting.
Much has been made about which console is more powerful, and on paper it appears that the Microsoft Xbox Series X is slightly faster, though this really doesn’t make much of a difference in the games we've played. It’s possible that some titles will look better on the Series X than the Playstation 5, but there doesn’t appear to be the kind of significant gap that would give us pause in recommending one console over another.
The main difference between the two consoles, as with the last generation, will be exclusive games. Microsoft and Sony both have scooped up a raft of developers and set them to developer games that will run primarily—if not exclusively—on their consoles first.
Independent, third-party publishers are likely to release games on both platforms at the same time. There will be some timed exclusives—Squaresoft’s Final Fantasy XVI appears to be one—but for the most part games will show up on both consoles eventually.
The exceptions there would be first-party titles. For Sony that includes backward-compatible PS4 megahits like God of War, The Last of Us II, Spider-Man, and Uncharted 4 and upcoming sequels to several of these franchises.
On Microsoft’s side, most games will come out for both Xbox and Windows PCs—part of Microsoft’s hardware-agnostic strategy. If you’re just comparing console-to-console then Xbox will be the only place to play the new Halo: Infinite, Forza Motorsport, and Fable. On both sides, it’s likely that these titles will show up on older consoles as well, so if you have an Xbox One or PS4 you will likely get to play the new exclusives for quite some time, even if you switch sides for this next generation.
Should You Buy It?
Yes—it’s a true next-generation console that offers convenience and stunning performance
Let’s not mince words: the Sony PlayStation 5 is absolutely worth the price if you own a high-end 4K/HDR TV. It drastically improves the performance of existing PS4 games—increasing resolution, frame rate, graphical fidelity, and dramatically reduced load times—while promising a brighter future for PS5 games free of the design constraints that hold back current consoles.
Of course, the current consoles—Playstation 4 and Xbox One—aren’t going away. There are millions of perfectly functional boxes sitting under people’s TVs that will continue to get new games for years to come. That is likely to keep the PS5 and Xbox Series X from reaching their true potential for some time.
As video game consoles have become more like mini living room computers, games have become designed to scale across a range of systems, from PCs to consoles and even mobile phones and handhelds like the Nintendo Switch. That requires compromise, and even if the PS5 and Xbox Series X allow for a dramatic reshaping of game design, the reality is that games will have to work well for older systems for at least a little while longer.
That isn’t to say the PS5 doesn’t provide an immediate benefit; it absolutely does. The console is more powerful and quieter than the PS4, and the extremely fast storage will make literally every single game more convenient to play. As impressive as the PS5 is technically, it’s a bigger upgrade practically. If I have a spare hour right now, I don’t bother turning on my PS4. It’s loud, it’s hot, and chances are in a given hour I’m going to spend at least 10 minutes on loading screens. The PS5 gives me that time back, and that alone makes it worth upgrading for me—and my TV sucks.
Is it better than the Xbox Series X? No, not really. They offer nearly identical features and Microsoft and Sony are nearly in lock-step when it comes to their design goals. Both consoles are designed to provide more power and more convenience to gamers and developers alike, better integration with cloud gaming, and better quality graphics across the board. Though we can argue about the technical merits of each design, they both get the job done well and if you prefer first-party Xbox or Sony games then there’s no reason to switch platforms.
If you’re expecting a Mario 64-style leap in the way video games are designed and played, you may find yourself a bit disappointed. This isn’t the Wizard of Oz—your world isn’t going to suddenly burst into color—but the PS5 absolutely exceeded my expectations. Along with the Xbox Series X, Microsoft and Sony have set the stage for the future of gaming, and it’s a bright one.
Meet the tester
TJ is the Executive Editor of Reviewed.com. He is a Massachusetts native and has covered electronics, cameras, TVs, smartphones, parenting, and more for Reviewed. He is from the self-styled "Cranberry Capitol of the World," which is, in fact, a real thing.
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