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Sony PS5 Review | Revolutionary performance, bold design, stunning visuals; but X factor is this

Sony PS5 Review: The next-gen gaming experience fetches a hefty price, but is it worth it?

May 26, 2021 / 04:29 PM IST
With PlayStation 5s going for upwards of Rs 90,000, you have to see the folly of paying almost double the asking price.

With PlayStation 5s going for upwards of Rs 90,000, you have to see the folly of paying almost double the asking price.

In 2020, Sony unveiled a new PlayStation console for the next generation of gaming. However, almost half a year since its unveiling and getting one is still a monumental task. But if you are still undecided, then I recommended reading on before you make a decision. I have to admit that reviewing the PlayStation 5 was one of my best experiences, and I’m a so-called ‘PC fanboy’.

I am going to start this review with a little word of warning. With PlayStation 5s going for upwards of Rs 90,000, you have to see the folly of paying almost double the asking price. As good as the PS5 is, it isn’t worth double the price. So, keeping that in mind, let's dive into the review.

The Console of the Future, Designed for the Future

First, let’s talk about the elephant in the room, which is the ‘new design’ on the PS5. The most noticeable difference between the PS5 and its predecessor is that the former has got a brand new white and black finish. The outer layer has a matte plastic finish and then there are blue LEDs and a glossy black middle area. Moreover, the new PlayStation is also significantly bigger than the PS4. As compared to the new Xbox, Sony has definitely taken a risk with this design. It is quite a daring approach to design, and kind of reminds me of the Mothership (Review), but I am glad Sony decided to think out of the box.

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I’d go as far as to say that the PlayStation 5 will be the first thing someone notices as they step into your living room. However, don’t be discouraged by a negative first impression as design is always subjective, and in the PS5’s case it is definitely bold, just the way most, gamers like it! The good part about Sony’s next-gen console is that you can use it in a horizontal or vertical orientation.

Sony has also included a stand in the box that is to be placed under the PS5 to ensure optimal airflow while using it. It is worth noting that I opted to leave the standoff when using the PS5 standing as it just looked way better, although you will notice a bit of wobble if you don’t use the stand while laying the PS5 down horizontally.

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While it does attract fingerprints, the glossy black centre of the PS5 is where all the action is. You’ve got a USB Type-C and standard USB port on the front as well as a power button and an eject button for the disc drive below the ports. If you have the digital version of the PS5 then all you’ll get is a power button. The standard PlayStation 5 also has an optical 4K Blu-ray disc drive on the side.

There’s some more action on the back, with the addition of two SuperSpeed USB-A ports, an HDMI 2.1 port, an AC adapter, and an Ethernet jack. The one disappointing thing here is the lack of an optical audio port, which will seem like a bit of a disappointment for those with high-end audio setups. However, an optical-to-HDMI splitter could be the answer.

Less-Than-Perfect Entertainer

Beyond gaming, the PS5 will also serve as an excellent addition to your entertainment setup. The console has a vast selection of streaming apps that can be downloaded and used directly on the console. Additionally, the PS5 standard edition also comes with a 4K Blu-ray disc drive. Popular media apps on the PS5 include Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and more.

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The one downfall here is that the PS5 doesn’t support Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, instead, you are limited to the standard HDR10 and Sony’s custom 3D Tempest Audio. In terms of support, Dolby Atmos enjoys support across a wide range of devices, while HDR10 offers 10-bit (A Billion Colours) colour depth as compared to 12-bit (68 Billion Colours) with Dolby Vision. Sony’s 3D Tempest Audio is available on Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Astro's Playroom.

A beautifully-simple interface

While Sony has redesigned the PlayStation 5 interface, it seems like the company has opted to streamline the UI rather than bring a design overhaul. The overall software interface looks clean for the most part. The home screen is divided into two sections – Media and Games, which seems like a move to make the console more convenient to use as a home entertainment system.

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When hovering over a game, the home screen on the PS5 switches the wallpaper to match the title. You’ll also hear a short theme song when you hover over a game icon. The other two icons on the home screen are the 'Search' icon and another 'Account' icon to access trophies, switch profiles, etc. Sony also brings the social features from the PS4, including offering easy video sharing. You can also use dictation for messages thanks to the controller’s built-in mic. Additionally, a picture-in-picture mode will let you watch a live stream of a friend’s gameplay.

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PS5 Cards is another excellent new addition to the interface. Cards let you track trophy progress, view progression of a certain level in the game, get the latest news from a developer, or jump to specific parts of a game. I found Activity Cards, which outlines in-game objectives and trophies you don’t have yet, to be the most functional of the lot. I also had access to several resources, including in-game video tutorials on how to complete challenging levels.

The PS5's X Factor

If the UI doesn’t feel like a generational upgrade over the PlayStation 4, the controller certainly does. The new PS5 DualSense controller features excellent haptic feedback, built-in speakers, and adaptive triggers to offer an immersive experience. The two big additions to the new controller are haptic feedback and trigger resistance, two features that were already present on the Xbox One controller. However, Sony seems to be taking things up a notch offering a whole new level of immersion unique to console gaming.

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If you want to fully test out the potential of the DualSense controller, head on over to Astro’s Playroom, a pre-installed title that is designed to specifically showcase the capability of the new controller. The game seems more like a demo to showcase the capability of the new controller and does a pretty good job doing so, with the gamepad replicating different in-game effects with kicks, shakes, rumbles, etc. The adaptive triggers also use resistance to mimic various in-game sensations like pushing down on the accelerator or recoil while shooting a gun.

The overall weight and feel of the controller make it quite comfortable to use, with most of the weight sitting in the grips. While a major portion of the controller is made of plastic with a matte finish, the grips on the bottom have a slightly rougher texture, which seems to be tailored to make long gaming sessions more comfortable. The new DualSense gamepad also boasts a two-tone black and white finish, with all the classic PlayStation buttons with a few new additions.

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The controller has the traditional four symbol buttons on the and an ‘Options’ button on the right. On the left, you get the standard D-pad. There’s a headphone jack on the bottom and a dedicated mic and PlayStation button over it. Additionally, the analogue sticks on the left and right are clickable acting as an L3, R3 of sorts. The one thing I didn’t find myself using a lot was the touchpad in the middle, which also has clickable buttons on both sides. The new DualSense controller also comes with an in-built microphone that can be toggled on or off.

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It feels like I can sit here and talk about this controller forever. There’s just so much to love about the design, haptics, and comfort and convenience in terms of the overall layout and build. And while all aspects of this controller feel like a step up, the haptics is revolutionary. Haptics is definitely something you will have to experience yourself, but it certainly offers an additional layer of immersiveness that I’ve never experienced on the PS4 or Xbox One. Lastly, battery life is also quite adequate on the controller, I got a little over ten hours of gaming before having to charge the controller, but it feels like more haptic-intensive games might take a higher toll on battery life.

Built to Perform

It is worth noting that the PlayStation 5 packs some pretty powerful hardware, ensuring the gaming experience here can easily keep pace with competition from Microsoft or the top-end gaming rigs. At the heart of the PS5 sits an 8-core AMD Zen 2 processor, 10.3 teraflops of graphics power, 16GB of GDDR6 memory, and an extremely fast custom 825GB SSD. The PS5 is capable of running games in up to 8K resolution. The console can also push select titles to 120fps in 4K resolution. However, Sony is aiming for 4K gaming at 60fps as the standard for PS5 gameplay, which is still a pretty impressive standard.

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Among the big highlights of Sony’s new console is graphics that support real-time ray tracing. Ray tracing improves lighting, shadows and reflections in supported games, making them look more realistic. This is very much evident in Spider-Man: Miles Morales, which showcases some of the capabilities of ray tracing, with improved lighting and near-realistic reflections. While playing the new Spider-Man title I opted for Fidelity Mode, which enabled ray-tracing and locked in frame rates to 30fps.

I’d recommend using the Fidelity Mode when in open-world titles, where better visuals can be prioritized over high frame rates. However, if you want to up the ante in titles like Call of Duty or Battlefield, it might be better to switch to Performance Mode, which boosts frame rates to 60fps at the expense of ray tracing. Performance Mode also relies on upscaling content to 4K from a lower resolution as opposed to running games on native 4K resolution. When it comes to the two modes, competitive gamers will prefer more responsiveness with higher frame rates, while Fidelity Mode is better suited for single-player titles that place emphasis on visuals.

God of War

There are three major issues of contention when it comes to gaming on the PS5: BUT:

Firstly, the PS5 doesn’t support output in Quad HD or 1440p resolution or a variable refresh rate. So, the resolution sacrifice that comes with 120fps gaming, will put you smack dab at 1080p resolution. I didn’t really find this to be an issue with my Full HD high-refresh-rate monitor, but if you are hoping to reap the benefits of high frame rates on a 1440p monitor, then you are sadly out of luck.

Secondly, the number of games that support 120fps gameplay is limited. Additionally, several PS4 titles are not yet optimized to take advantage of the PS5’s hardware and run no differently (Similar Resolution and Frame Rates) than that on the PS4. However, the keyword here is “yet”. Games like God of War 4 and Days Gone have been enhanced to run at 60fps on the PS5 and more will follow soon.

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Lastly, the PS5’s custom 825GB SSD only offers 667.2GB of free storage. I found the space to be quite inadequate and fill up within no time. Now, this will obviously depend on the size of the games you install, but it still seems insufficient compared to Microsoft’s 1TB of storage on the Xbox Series X. On the plus side, there is a slot for storage expansion, but Sony is yet to unlock this expansion port.

Since we are on the topic of storage, Sony has yet to disclose its list of certified SSDs that can keep pace with the PS5’s SSD. This is primarily down to the fact that Sony uses a custom lightning-fast SSD on the PlayStation 5 that significantly improves load times, to a point where the console makes them almost non-existent. There were times where I missed in-game tips because the screen loaded too fast.

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Considering its heavy-duty hardware, you can expect the PS5 to have a pretty intense cooling system. So how loud is the PS5 compared to the previous generation consoles (PS4 and PS4 Pro); more or less, silent. The PS5 does tend to run hot over a long gaming session, but that’s nothing more than the cooling system doing its job. I couldn’t even hear the noise from the fans over the audio from my regular TV speakers, which are pretty poor. Apart from giving out a roar while booting, the PS5 runs relatively silent for the most part.

Sony has also confirmed that it will bring support for Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) and Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) in the future through software updates, which will further enhance gameplay on the next-gen console. Whether you prefer stunning visuals or more responsiveness, the gameplay on the Sony PlayStation 5 looks revolutionary and thanks to the new DualSense controller, it feels revolutionary too.

Should you buy the PS5?

With a price tag of Rs 49,990 or Rs 39,990, if you opt for the Digital Edition, there’s no doubt that the PS5 will put a dent in your wallet. But it is also significantly cheaper than building a gaming PC that can output titles at these resolutions and frame rates. In a previous comparison, I did note that the Xbox Series X boasted a marginally better spec sheet than the PS5, but after actually using Sony’s next-gen console, it is safe to say that I have no reservations over recommending the PS5 over the Xbox Series X.

We'd suggest using the included stand for optimal heat dissipation in horizontal orientation. We'd suggest using the included stand for optimal heat dissipation in horizontal orientation.

Gameplay on the PS5 is truly worthy of being categorised as ‘next-gen’. But what’s more, is that there’s an updated controller with class-leading haptics to match those stunning visuals and allow you to experience new levels of immersion. Further enhancing gameplay is the dramatically improved load times thanks to that super-fast SSD. Additionally, Sony’s PlayStation Plus subscription also gives you access to a couple of PS5 titles and several older PS4 titles for Rs 499 a month.

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The gaming experience offered here is quite literally revolutionary, even if the overall entertainment experience can be lacking at times. That being said, I have no doubt that things are only going to get better in time. Unless you are looking to access a specific Xbox-exclusive title, I’d recommend getting your hands on a PS5 console as soon as one becomes available. Given the current chip shortage and the fact that the PS5 is set to go on pre-order today (May 17, 2021), it is easy to recommend it over the Xbox Series X/S or a new GPU upgrade, especially considering the inflated prices on the latter.
Carlsen Martin
first published: May 17, 2021 08:50 am

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