Sony PlayStation 5 review: Next generation console gaming is here!
It may have seen its share of hiccups with severely delayed launch dates in India and an ongoing shortage of retail units that simply can’t keep up with the insane demand, but the PlayStation 5 has been well worth the wait. Like the Xbox Series X that I looked at earlier, the PS5 truly feels like a generational leap for console gaming, a future of console gaming from which it’s hard to go back.
It starts from the ridiculously futuristic design, which is as far a cry from the staid PS4 (or the unobtrusive Series X) design as it gets. This is a statement console, one that demands to be displayed in your entertainment setup (and not just because the truly massive dimensions don’t allow for it to fit in cramped spaces!) At 15.4 x 10.2 x 4.1-inches, it dwarfs other gaming systems, both current and past, and the added space allows some serious performance benefits without thermal challenges (more on that later). Make what you will of the somewhat polarizing aesthetic, but you cannot deny the sheer attention to detail, right down to the tiny, nearly hidden PlayStation controller icons within the inner panels that are only visible if you go in really close. Bear in mind, this is a console where placement will have to be considered beforehand due to its ‘extra’ dimensions - seat it down horizontally or vertically based on the available space, plug in the power and included HDMI cable and you’re ready to go! A quick note on ports, of which you get a standard array – two USB-A ports, an Ethernet port, an HDMI 2.1 port on the rear, and one USB-A and a Type-C port on the front for connecting accessories and external storage.
Inside the spaceship exterior are all the elements that enable the PlayStation 5’s flagship capabilities - a custom 8-core Zen 2 chip and RDNA 2 graphics unit from AMD that enables 4K gameplay and frame rates of up to 120 frames per second (fps), plus a fast SSD that makes short work of load times and fast switching between games. You’ll clearly want to pair this console with a newer 4K TV to take advantage of this, but I highly enjoyed pairing the PS5 with the glorious 120-inch screen projected by the Optoma CinemaX P2 4K HDR projector which (spoiler alert!) is a supremely good experience for insanely large amounts of cash!
The sense of fluidity pervades across the console, from the soothing startup screen to the redesigned home screen with the horizontal grid of games and apps and the games themselves. Scroll to the game you want to play, and the menu shows you progress and trophies and levels and in-game activities you can directly jump into. Aside from the games, the PS5 has aspirations as a home media entertainment center, evinced by the separate Media section on the home screen. Finally, there’s a built-in 4K Blu-ray player that Sony had held out against adding in the PS4 generation but skips support for widely accepted Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos standards for video and audio in favor of the HDR10 and 3D Audio standards. Something to keep in mind if you were planning on making the PS5 the centerpiece of your entertainment setup.
Most games run at 4K 30fps, but you can bump up to 60fps in two optional Performance modes, one of which goes all out with ray tracing thrown in for good measure. Playing Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales, you can immediately notice the difference the buttery smooth 60fps frame rate makes in gameplay, and the fast loading added to the overall zippy and responsive feel to the console. As with the latest Xbox, most PS5 games get you from the home screen to inside the game and to in-game locations in a jiffy, but there’s no secret sauce “Quick Resume” that I loved on the Series X, a feature which lets you pick up right where you left off, even if you’re booting up the console after a full shutdown. Older PS4 game titles also benefit from the faster loading and graphics upgrades, but I didn’t have any at hand to test this claim out.
Yet, where the whole experience converges for me was the overhauled DualSense controller. It retains the touchpad, light bar and speaker from the PS4 controller, and adds haptic feedback (for in-game rumble and jolts) and adaptive triggers resistance (for varying resistance when you pull on them), both of which transform the gaming experience significantly. There’s no better showcase for the controller than the pre-installed 3D platformer Astro’s Playroom, which takes you down a journey of PlayStation nostalgia that beautifully disguises how it shows off the controller’s features at each turn. Be it mini games that make you move the controller from side to side or blow on the touchpad or even gently squeeze the triggers to hold stuff without crushing the item, the game delights with past PlayStation references and modern controller capabilities in equal measure. Elsewhere, in Miles Morales, the controller experience is still vastly improved over the previous generation, but I cant wait for a new breed of games that better utilize all that the DualSense controller has to offer.
Which brings me to the games, many of which are yet to see PlayStation 5 upgrades, while others are yet to launch titles exclusive to the platform – granted, it’s still early days in the console’s potentially 5–10-year lifespan, but one would have expected a lot more given the already delayed launch in India. You can play your old PS4 games or games from a PlayStation Plus subscription, if you have either, but in terms of sheer value, the Xbox Game Pass subscription has a lot more on offer.
In the midst of the Rs. 50,000 expenditure on the console and up to 5,000 for newer games (plus current retail shortages), it’s easy to lose sight of the many factors that make the PlayStation the home for the best gaming franchises around. There’s a lot to look forward to in the year ahead, with many franchises rolling out remastered or newer titles for the PS5, and the new console leans confidently into the excitement, both from inside and from the bold looking exterior. This is a console that doesn’t want to shy away from the sheer overall experience of playing the game, and celebrates the time, commitment and money we pour into the games.
Sony PlayStation 5
Pros: Exceptional DualSense controller, power-packed hardware, bold new design, 4K/120fps gameplay with 8K/60 support, redesigned UI, fast loading times
Cons: Lack of exclusives at launch, limited backward compatibility to PS4 games, no support for Dolby Vision/Dolby Atmos, awkward size
Price: Rs. 49,990
Tushar Kanwar is a tech columnist and commentator, and tweets @2shar