PLAYSTATION 5: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SONY’S NEWEST CONSOLES

The next generation of PlayStation is finally here with the arrival of the PS5. This generation, it seems like Sony is sticking with the approach that made the PS4 so successful: sell consoles that can play first-party games from Sony’s storied franchises, and supplement that lineup with great third-party titles, too. You should expect to see better graphics in your games, and the PS5 will also support high refresh rates, which should make games feel smoother (if you have a display that supports those refresh rates). Plus, the PS5’s custom SSD promises to offer such a leap forward in loading speeds that it could change the way games are designed.

We’ve already reviewed the PS5, and it turns out that the console is pretty good. Its new controller is amazing, games load quickly, and the console has a more streamlined user interface than the PS4. We felt that it left a great first impression — even if there aren’t a lot of actual next-generation games to play just yet.

Microsoft also has a powerful console in the Xbox Series X, which promises better graphics and faster loading times, and it’s also selling the somewhat lower-powered Xbox Series S. The company continues to make Xbox Game Pass, its Netflix-like game subscription service, one of the best deals in gaming, and it doesn’t mind whether you play its games on an Xbox or a PC. And while the PS5 will play most PS4 titles, the new Xbox consoles boast backwards compatibility with not only Xbox One but also many Xbox 360 titles and some OG Xbox games as well.

We’ll have to wait and see which console proves to be the better buy in the long run. But if you want to learn more about what the PS5 offers right now, here’s everything we know. (And for even more information, check out Sony’s extensive PS5 FAQ.)

THERE ARE ACTUALLY TWO PS5 CONSOLES, BUT THEY’RE LARGELY THE SAME

Like Microsoft, Sony is actually selling two versions of its upcoming next-generation console. For $499.99, you can buy a PS5 with a 4K Blu-ray drive. But for $100 less, at $399.99, you can buy the Digital Edition PS5 (which also looks noticeably thinner than its more expensive sibling). Unlike Microsoft, the only thing that differentiates those two versions is which console has a disc drive and how much each one costs.

The PS5 is powered by a custom eight-core AMD Zen 2 CPU and a custom AMD Radeon RDNA 2-based GPU that will provide 10.28 teraflops of raw graphical power. The console also uses variable frequencies on both the PS5’s CPU and GPU, which could theoretically push the graphics to run slightly faster than normal when the CPU isn’t running at peak. Though it sounds like the difference is minimal based on this technical presentation (skip to 35:30):

And that game-changing SSD I mentioned earlier? It has 825GB of storage and 5.5GB/s of throughput — which could be fast enough to let game developers build levels without things like elevator rides or winding corridors that actually mask levels loading in the background. Just look at how much faster PS5 games loaded than their PS4 versions in our testing:

PS5 LOAD TIMES

Game PS5 PS4
Spider-Man: Miles Morales 17 seconds 1 minute, 27 seconds
No Man’s Sky 1 minute, 34 seconds 2 minutes, 52 seconds
Final Fantasy VII Remake 35 seconds 1 minute, 29 seconds
Genshin Impact 59 seconds 2 minutes, 57 seconds
Ghost of Tsushima 1 minute, 4 seconds 1 minute, 10 seconds
Days Gone 1 minute, 18 seconds 2 minutes, 54 seconds
Death Stranding 54 seconds 1 minute, 50 seconds

You should know, though, that some of that 825GB of storage space is used up by system data, though, meaning that you actually have 667.2GB of usage space. And the ever-growing size of games means that you might fill up that usable space quickly. Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War takes up 133GB, for example, which is nearly 20 percent of the console’s available storage.

If you want to expand the PS5’s storage, you won’t be able to at launch, but at some point in the future, you’ll be able to slot in a Sony-certified M.2 SSD. We’re not exactly sure when that those SSDs might become available. Back in March, PS5 lead system architect Mark Cerny said the SSD certifications will likely happen “a bit past” the console’s launch.

The Xbox Series X will also have a custom SSD, one with 1TB of NVMe storage (of which 802GB is usable) but a lesser throughput of 2.4GB/s. That could wind up meaning the Xbox Series X has slower loading times than the PS5 in practice, but it depends on a variety of factors.

The Xbox Series X and S also have a big differentiator in Quick Resume, a feature that lets you hop between games in about 10 seconds or less. (Though it’s not available with every game.) On the PS5, you’ll probably be waiting a bit longer for things to load when jumping into a new game.

PS5 VS XBOX SERIES X VS XBOX SERIES S

Categories PS5 PS5 (digital-only) Xbox Series X Xbox Series S
CPU Eight Zen 2 Cores @ 3.5GHz with SMT (variable frequency) Eight Zen 2 Cores @ 3.5GHz with SMT (variable frequency) Eight-core AMD Zen 2 CPU @ 3.8GHz (3.6GHz with SMT enabled) Eight-core AMD Zen 2 CPU @ 3.6GHz (3.4GHz with SMT enabled)
GPU AMD RDNA 2 GPU 36 CUs @ 2.23GHz (variable frequency) AMD RDNA 2 GPU 36 CUs @ 2.23GHz (variable frequency) AMD RDNA 2 GPU 52 CUs @ 1.825GHz AMD RDNA 2 GPU 20 CUs @ 1.565GHz
GPU Power 10.28 TFLOPs 10.28 TFLOPs 12.15 TFLOPS 4 TFLOPS
RAM 16GB GDDR6 RAM 16GB GDDR6 RAM 16GB GDDR6 RAM 10GB GDDR6 RAM
Performance Target Target TBD. Up to 8K. Up to 120fps Target TBD. Up to 8K. Up to 120fps Target 4K @ 60fps. Up to 8K. Up to 120fps Target 1440p @ 60fps. Up to 120fps
Storage 825GB PCIe Gen 4 NVMe SSD (5.5GB/s uncompressed, typical 8-9GB/s compressed). Usable storage is 667.2GB 825GB PCIe Gen 4 NVMe SSD (5.5GB/s uncompressed, typical 8-9GB/s compressed). Usable storage is 667.2GB 1TB PCIe Gen 4 NVMe SSD (2.4GB/s uncompressed, 4.8GB/s compressed). Usable storage is 802GB 512GB PCIe Gen 4 NVMe SSD (2.4GB/s uncompressed, 4.8GB/s compressed). Usable storage is 364GB
Expandable Storage NVMe SSD slot NVMe SSD slot 1TB expansion card 1TB expansion card
Backward Compatibility The “overwhelming majority” of the more than 4,000 PS4 games. Some PS3 and PS2 titles playable via PlayStation Now. The “overwhelming majority” of the more than 4,000 PS4 games. Some PS3 and PS2 titles playable via PlayStation Now. “Thousands” of Xbox One, Xbox 360, original Xbox games. Xbox One accessories. “Thousands” of Xbox One, Xbox 360, original Xbox games. Xbox One accessories.
Disc Drive 4K UHD Blu-ray None 4K UHD Blu-ray None
Display Out HDMI 2.1 HDMI 2.1 HDMI 2.1 HDMI 2.1
MSRP $499 / £449 / €499 $399 / £359 / €399 $499 / £449 / €499 $299 / £249 / €299

The PS5 supports up to 8K output and promises 4K graphics at up to a 120Hz refresh rate. The console’s improved horsepower also means that you can expect to see ray tracing, which can lead to more realistic effects in game environments like reflections in windows. Check out ray tracing Spider-Man: Remastered in this video from Tom Warren:

The PS5 also supports 3D audio, which Sony said will let you “see with sound” in a commercial shared in August. We don’t know exactly how 3D audio will be utilized in games just yet, and it’s worth mentioning Sony also tried to sell it as a feature on the PS4, so we’ll have to wait to see just how much better 3D audio on the PS5 might be or if the $100 Pulse 3D wireless headset that’s “fine-tuned for 3D Audio on PS5 consoles” is more than just marketing.

The PS5 has three USB-A ports — one on the front, two on the back — and one USB-C port on the front. There’s also an Ethernet port on the back of the console and 802.11ax Wi-Fi (aka Wi-Fi 6).

All of that hardware is packed into the biggest game console in modern history. Seriously. The one with the disc drive is approximately 390mm x 104mm x 260mm (about 15.4 inches tall, 4.1 inches deep, and 10.2 inches wide). Compare that to the Xbox Series X (the larger of Microsoft’s next-generation consoles), which is 301mm x 151mm x 151mm. And both consoles are much bigger than the diminutive Xbox Series S.

And reviews have found that all three of the new consoles are remarkably cool and quiet, which is a welcome difference for next-gen.

THE DUALSENSE CONTROLLER MIGHT BE THE MOST NEXT-GEN PART OF THE PS5

The PS5’s controller is a significant departure from the DualShock line that you might be familiar with from other PlayStation consoles. But it has a number of brand-new features that might make it the most interesting aspect of the PS5.

Let’s start with the design. Sony’s DualShock controllers have generally kept a similar design from generation to generation, but the PS5’s new DualSense controller is the first PlayStation controller that doesn’t look anything like the original. And while the DualSense does have the basic layout PlayStation fans are familiar with — a directional pad and buttons on the top half, two control sticks on the bottom, and the center touch bar from the DualShock 4 — the whole shape of the controller is new, with pointier handles and broader lines, and it all has a striking two-tone design.

The DualShock 4’s “Share” button, which lets you grab screenshots, take videos, and broadcast gameplay, has been changed to the “Create” button on the DualSense, though it has similar functionality. In an improvement from the PS4, though, the PS5 automatically captures the last 60 minutes of your gameplay (up from the 15 minutes) at 1080p resolution and 60fps. The PS5 also lets you manually capture gameplay in 4K, though you’ll have to tweak a setting to do so.

Image: Sony
Image: Sony

It’s not just the look of the DualSense that’s new, though. Traditional rumble has been replaced with haptic feedback, which should give you different levels of feedback depending on what’s happening in your game. The controller also has “adaptive triggers” that can simulate different resistances, which could be used to do things like add tension when you’re pulling back a bow. And if you were curious, here’s a look at the mechanism inside the controller that enables those adaptive triggers to add resistance.

My colleagues Andrew Webster and Tom Warren have both been impressed by the DualSense. Andrew wrote an article covering how currently available PS5 games use the controller’s new features. In Fortnite, for example, you’ll feel different levels of resistance on the triggers based on what weapon you’re using. Tom also has a video demoing Astro’s Playroom, a game designed to show off the features of the DualSense that’s included with the PS5. (Andrew found that the game itself is pretty good, too.)

The DualSense also has a built-in microphone in addition to a speaker, but there’s still a 3.5mm headphone jack that you can plug headphones into if you prefer. It’s also the first Sony controller with a USB-C port.

If you want to buy more than one DualSense, additional controllers will run you $69.99 each, which is a slight increase from the $59.99 you originally paid for a DualShock 4. Sony is also selling a $29.99 charging dock that lets you charge two DualSense controllers at the same time.

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