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PS5 hardware review

The biggest console launch ever. Make room.

The PlayStation 5 is finally in India. Long after most of the world, and in bits and pieces (no Digital Edition yet), but still, it is finally here. It’s the latest extension to the PlayStation legacy that has spanned over 25 years, and the newest addition to what has undoubtedly been the dominant console gaming brand in India. But unlike the previous generation, where the PS4 steamrolled the Xbox One, things are a lot more interesting this time around. Microsoft’s Xbox Series X is a serious contender with its powerful hardware and enticing Xbox Game Pass service. Does the PS5 have enough to keep Sony ahead?

PS5

Before proceeding with this review, I’d like to specify that this is purely a review based on hardware, usability and value proposition – I won’t be going into game performance.

Design and form factor

The design of the PS5 is one of its most divisive features. The first thing that jumps out at you once you unbox it is its sheer size. The PS5 is massive and you don’t fully realise how big it really is until you place it within your familiar home setup. The Xbox Series X – a blocky black chunk in its own right – looks tiny in comparison.

The PS5’s unconventional design is sure to divide opinion as well. A few days into using it and I still don’t know where I stand on it. What’s certain is that its definitely a console that will catch the eye of anyone that walks into the room. The glossy black spine and fin-like vents sandwiched between two matte white panels make this a console unlike any other before it. The inclusion of the Blu-ray drive in this edition of the PS5 also makes the design strangely asymmetric.

The glossy black spine is an instant dust magnet, while the vents that run all along are large enough to make dust collection over time a guarantee. Keep that PS5 teardown video bookmarked, because you’re definitely going to need to clean up the PS5 every few months. The white panels, while matte, still do tend to collect dust and stains. It’s nothing a damp cloth won’t take care of, but it this certainly isn’t a console designed with Indian climates in mind.

The white colour itself is a bit different than the whites used on most gadgets. There’s a hint of blueish-grey in the white that’s unique to the PS5 and the Dualsense controller.

Setup

First order of business was setting up the PS5 on its included stand. The same stand can be used to keep the PS5 either horizontally or vertically. While I tried both, and the stand did its job, the PS5’s large footprint meant that vertical was the way to go. The console can stand vertically even without the stand, but it does feel a bit more sturdy with the stand on – even if it does add a further inch to the behemoth’s height.

The supplied HDMI cable is appreciated, but it’s quite short, so if you have concealed cabling running up to a wall-mounted TV like I do, you’re going to need to buy a longer HDMI cable. Once plugged in, the PS5 was a breeze to set up, from syncing up the Dualsense controller, to getting connected to my Wi-Fi network. Like the PS4 and PS4 Pro, the PS5 offers the option to completely shut down the console or put it into rest/stand by mode. The latter allows you to boot up almost instantly and resume games where you left off. It also enables the console to download updates and charge the controller while you’re not using it. The rest mode was a great addition in the PS4 due to the console’s longer boot times from a complete shut down state. The PS5, however, boots up significantly faster, so there’s less incentive this time around to keep the console in rest mode. You do lose out on automatic updates though.

One feature I was happy to see – even though it should be the norm these days – was the ability to save multiple Wi-Fi access points and switch between them easily. This is missing in the Xbox Series X, which forces you to forget and register each new access point and only allows one at a time. Also missing in the Xbox and present here is support for Wi-Fi 6. It’s not too popular just yet but it’s great to see Sony supporting the latest standard, which will likely come into the mainstream later in this console life cycle.

PS4 owners will be able transfer their games and game saves over to the PS5. While this is great for saves, it’s also a bit redundant since PlayStation Plus allows cloud saves. The game transfer option is less useful because the transfer speed is atrocious even though its over the local network. I found it much quicker to just download the game afresh on PS5.

Usability

For long time PS4 users, the PS5’s overhauled user interface will take some getting used to. A large part of the screen is now reserved for ‘activity cards’. These are informational tiles tied to certain games or the PlayStation Store that give you personalised information, like new Trophies, current progress through a level, hints, and more. This means that the game and app icons now reside on the top of the screen. Tapping the PlayStation button on the controller now brings up a host of icons at the bottom of the screen, including notifications, friends, downloads, mic settings, sharing, power off, and more.

The UI itself is snappy as you might expect and unlike the PS4 Pro it is rendered in HDR. Thanks to the SSD in the new consoles, booting up games is a breeze. Quick load times are simply the norm now, and even several PS4 games I played through backwards compatibility offer improved load times.

Launch titles are never an accurate representation of what a new console is capable of, but two of the games I played really stood out. The first was Demon’s Souls. Even though it’s not the sort of game I can continue playing for too long, it is absolutely gorgeous and a great way to show off the PS5. Its crisp visuals and piercing contrast are a joy to behold, while the action itself is at a flawless 60 fps. Equally impressive is Hitman 3. Despite being cross-gen, IO Interactive’s latest looks stunning on PS5, again at a rock-solid 60 fps. Even though the game doesn’t run at native 4K, each of its varied levels looks better than the last in action.

Sony left PS3 games out to dry with the launch of PS4, but its great to see that it has made PS4 games compatible with the PS5. I tried a handful of PS4 games, and while all games showed improvements in load times, some also ran at improved frame rates. And all the games were able to use the game saves from PS4 to allow me to continue where I had left off.

I’m also happy to report that the jet engine fan sounds from the PS4 Pro are completely absent here. Even after several hours of gaming non-stop, the PS5 remains silent and there isn’t a whole lot of heat felt coming out of the vents around the console either. This may well change over time as dust collects in the console and games start pushing the hardware more, but the early signs are positive.

Dualsense controller

Many good things have been said about the PS5’s Dualsense controller, and rightly so. New consoles rarely innovate when it comes to the controller, and Sony has definitely attempted to shake things up this time. The Dualsense features haptic feedback, which is a far more nuanced form of rumble. The vibrational feedback can now feel different based on the situation, and overall it feels like an improvement from the Dualshock 4, but it isn’t a game-changer by any means.

Far more interesting to me are the adaptive triggers, which can behave differently based on the action you’re performing. The triggers will throw up different degrees of resistance based on situations. For example, the trigger will get increasingly harder to pull as you continue to draw a bow and arrow to reflect the tension in the bow.

There are many cool ways in which both the haptic feedback and adaptive triggers can be used to make gameplay more immersive – there’s also an integrated mic this time around that’s been used as a gameplay tool in Astro’s Playroom – but a lot will depend on how developers implement them.

The design of the controller itself is hit or miss. I’m not particularly fond of the dual tone design, and the plastic finish that covers the front doesn’t feel textured enough. The controller has slipped out of my hand a couple of times, and even though the bottom of the controller is textured, it doesn’t feel as reassuring as I’d like.

The buttons, however, are an improvement over the Dualshock 4. The D-pad is softer without feeling flimsy, while the face buttons have more travel than the flatter buttons on the DS4. The bumpers and triggers haven’t seen too much of a change in design, neither have the right and left sticks. The controller now sports a USB Type-C connector for charging. In my time with the console, I found the controller’s battery life to be an improvement over the Dualshock 4, but not significantly so.

Value

At Rs 49,990, the PS5 is priced the same as its rival, the Xbox Series X. But this time around, Sony has upped the prices of its first-party games as well as its key accessories. PS5 games are now priced at Rs 4,999, as opposed to Rs 3,999 for PS4 first-party games. Similarly, the Dualsense is priced at Rs 5,990, versus the Dualshock 4’s MRP of Rs 5,050. Then there’s the PlayStation Plus subscription (Rs 2,999 for 12 months), which enables multiplayer gaming, in addition to offering free games each month and a collection of popular PS4 games playable on PS5. While some of the PS Plus freebies offset game costs, the PS5 is overall a more expensive proposition than the PS4.

Conclusion

We tend to hold on to our consoles for several years, so factors like the PS5’s hardware reliability and game performance can only be judged over time. But the early signs are promising. Opinions will vary about the PS5’s design and appearance, but Sony has taken positive strides in several areas, including the intuitive new user interface, the inclusion of backwards compatibility for PS4 games, and innovative new features in the Dualsense controller. Above all, the PS5 keeps gaming at the centre of the console experience, ready for when Sony’s unrivalled line-up of first-party studios starts belting PS5 exclusives for years to come.

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