Console gaming's golden era, specifications & more
- Manufacturer: Sony
- Release Date: November 12, 2020
- Price: $499 (Physical), $399 (Digital-only)
The PlayStation 5 is a marvel of console engineering. After a month with the PS5, I can honestly say console gaming will never be the same again. Uncompromising next-gen gaming is now possible, and the shackles of outdated CPUs, GPUs, and storage have been shattered.
Greatness is finally here.
Quite frankly, the PS5 ushers in a new golden era of console gaming. The union of potent hardware and software has created one of the most industry-defining systems ever made. The PS5 is a gateway to a new fresh start for console gaming, one that's free of limitations and bottlenecks that have plagued game development for decades.
Here's a short list of what makes the PS5 so great:
- New SSD loads games very quickly
- GPU and CPU upgrades allow 1080p 60FPS, 1080p 120FPS, 4K 30FPS, 4K 60FPS, 4K 120FPS, and even 8K resolution gaming
- RAM has been doubled to 16GB, uses improved GDDR6 memory
- Ray tracing makes games look great
- New UI is fast and is very beneficial
- DualSense controller is a game-changer
- Silent and cool
The future of PlayStation is brighter than it's ever been, and it's all thanks to the PS5's higher-end horsepower. The PS5's potency is more than just raw power, though. Synergy is at the core of the PS5--a synergy between powerful components, efficient software APIs and dev environments, and console generations.
Before we delve into the PS5's features, let's talk about the specs. There will be a lot of technical jargon here, so fair warning.
The PlayStation 5 was built from the ground up with synergized hardware. Everything in the PS5 was specifically designed to complement and supercharge one another.
The PS5 uses a custom 7nm SoC outfitted with a Navi RDNA 2.0 GPU with 36 Compute Units clocked at a sizable 2.3GHz.
AMD's custom 7nm SoC synergizes harmoniously with 16GB of unified GDDR6 RAM and a custom 12-channel PCIe 4.0 SSD to blast data faster than ever before on consoles. The 10.3 TFLOP RDNA 2 Navi GPU delivers PC-grade rendering (the PS5's GPU can hit around RTX 2080-levels of performance) and enables native 4K 60FPS as well as ray tracing, widespread variable refresh rates up to 120Hz, and a bevy of new atmospheric effects and graphical capabilities.
The 8-core, 16-thread 3.5GHz Zen 2 CPU allows for much greater worlds replete with immersive environments, effects, and tons more NPCs.
This kind of power arms developers with a lot more versatility and dramatically expands the scope of what's possible. Devs are no longer hamstrung by the PS4's limited RAM and lower-end Jaguar SoC, or the PS4 Pro's Polaris architecture. The PS5's beefy 16GB memory pool frees developers and allows games to utilize much more demanding data loads, which are then fed into the 5.5GB/sec PCIe 4.0 SSD and blasted to the Zen 2 CPU for processing and Navi GPU for rendering.
We've seen this in Spider-Man Miles Morales, which significantly optimizes memory usage by reducing redundant textures and models. The PS5's SSD has no seek times, and assets no longer have to be duplicated. This frees up the RAM to efficiently load assets from the storage as they're needed. The new hardware essentially cleans up the data flow that acts like the life's blood of the machine (kind of like oil for an engine).
"There's no need to have loads of data parked in the system memory waiting to potentially be used. The other way of saying that is most of the RAM is working on the game's behalf," Mark Cerny said in a presentation from earlier this year.
The SSD can also change how next-gen exclusive games are made. Devs won't have to use tricks like elevators and passageways/corridors as transition points to load data. In fact, loading is almost a thing of the past.
Games still have loading sequences on the PS5, but they're so fast that you don't really notice. The game is just there, alive and ready for you to jump in. CGI story scenes are practically the only interruptions.
The PS5 is performing this technical wizardry behind the scenes when you play games. The result is a spellbinding session that expands the horizons of console gaming; whether it's instant loads or respawns, native 4K 60FPS graphics, or the innovative UI that lets you jump right into specific sections of the game, the PS5 feels like the result of some high-tech sorcery.
Not every game will be utterly transformed on the PS5. It's important to manage your expectations. Some PS4 games are getting minor PS5 optimizations, and some PS4 games aren't getting them at all.
The radical change in gaming performance depends on the developer. PS5 exclusives and PS5 optimized titles aren't super widespread yet, but developers are starting to catch on. To get the full benefit, though, the game needs to be built from the ground up for the PS5's SSD...and those kinds of games aren't commonplace right now.
Spider-Man Miles Morales is a spectacle on the PS5 and showcases its new graphical capabilities, including higher-end shadows, reflections, and lighting effects.
The PS5 is a powerful and capable machine, but developers have free choice in how they use it. Not every game will hit 4K 60FPS, offer ray tracing, or hit 120FPS. Devs will utilize the hardware in creative ways and do what they want. There are no set guidelines.
Some games may simply ignore some of the PS5's best tricks.
For example, Watch Dogs Legion supports ray tracing, but Assassin's Creed Valhalla doesn't. Miles Morales has great activity card support, but Assassin's Creed Valhalla doesn't.
There's no standardization and there's lots of variability with how the PS5's power will be used. Not every game will even utilize the DualSense controller (Valhalla doesn't make great use of it), or the new Activity cards that let you jump right into a mission or a boss battle with the press of a button.
Sony's first-party games have done a great job in making use of the full PS5 feature set, but that's to be expected.
Spider-Man Miles Morales makes great use of the PS5's new ray tracing capabilities.
Spider-Man Miles Morales has nuanced tactile feedback with the DualSense and the pop-up Activity cards are extremely beneficial to slicing up the game into easily accessible, digestible chunks.
The result of this leads to remarkable gaming experiences right out of the gate. Developers are already flexing the PS5's horsepower with major first-party exclusives and third-party hits.
We've seen amazing ray-traced reflections in Spider-Man Miles Morales at 4K 30FPS, or the breathtaking vistas and environments of Assassin's Creed Valhalla. Draw distances are farther than ever before, fog rolls on the ground, real-time weather effects and lighting effects bathe worlds in sunlight and shadows, and cities are illuminated in ways only previously available on PC.
Games like Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War completely redefine shooter immersion with the DualSense's adaptive triggers, which simulate the actual visceral and nuanced feel of pulling an actual gun trigger.
Gunfights are explosive, action-based affairs that pull you into the life-or-death battles. You're no longer playing a game, but experiencing it.
Some PS5 gaming moments go beyond your expectations and mirror PC-level visual quality.
Every PS5 game becomes an experience now. Access is served up by the ultra-fast SSD, worlds are bigger and more dynamic than ever before, and games look and play better than any previous console generation.
Like the start of any new generation, there's still some rough edges and the PlayStation 5 will go through some growing pains.
The PS5 is not perfect and does have issues. Sometimes your PS4 saves will disappear in backward compatible games. Sometimes there's syncing issues, hardware crashes, or glitches.
Sometimes your DualSense controller decides to start drifting, forcing you to buy a new one.
Despite its flaws, the PS5 still transforms PlayStation gaming and is a new beginning for consoles.
The PlayStation 5 is built around three main principles: power, speed, and compatibility.
To really understand these principles, we'll be going over a few main parts, including graphical power, SSD loading times, cooling and noise, and touching upon the PS5's extensive backwards compatibility and what it means for the console's future (and the future of the PS4).
Full PlayStation 5 specifications compared to other Gen 9 consoles:
SSD - The heart of the PS5's power
- Interface - PCIe 4.0
- Capacity - 825GB (667GB usable)
- Speed - 5.5GB/sec uncompressed data transfers, 9GB/sec compressed
- Flash - Kioxia/Toshiba Memory TH58LJT0T24BA4M 96-layer TLC 3D BiCS flash memory (unconfirmed)
- Memory Controller - Custom 12-channel memory controller, possibly from Phison
Have you ever wondered how much time you waste waiting for a game to load? The PS5 doesn't just want to reduce loading--it wants to eliminate it. And it almost does.
The PS5's SSD is the most important part of the console. It's the heart of the system and connects every other component together, delivering critical streams of data to RAM, CPU, and GPU, complete with compression and hardware-based decompression block to reduce CPU overhead.
Without the SSD, the system could never achieve higher-end performance.
The SSD delivers the most obvious, consumer-facing upgrade that the PS5 has to offer: Speed.
According to PS5 architect Mark Cerny, Sony designed the PS5's SSD around these main points:
- Boots in a second
- No load screens
- Ultra high-speed streaming
- De-duplicate game data
- No long patch installs
The PS5's solid state drive is able to push uncompressed data at 5.5GB/sec speeds, and compressed data at 8GB/sec. This means whole scenes of a game can be loaded in a second's time, a speed that's roughly 100x faster than the PS4's slower HDD.
"Our goal with the PS5 isn't just that the SSD would be 100x faster. It's that game loads and streaming would be 100x faster as well. So every single potential bottleneck needed to be addressed. And there are a lot of them," PS5 architect Mark Cerny said in a March 2020 presentation.
Instant access is a big part of the PS5's ethos. Sony designed the console around saving you time and putting you right into the games you love. The idea is to remove one of the most restrictive barriers in gaming using premium storage.
The PS5's SSD uses a custom 12-channel memory controller to significantly boost data throughput. Most consumer SSDs use 6-channel controllers.
Every game is faster on the PS5's SSD. PS4 games boot more quickly on the PS5's SSD, sometimes as much as 80% faster. PS5 games like Miles Morales load in less than 10 seconds (check below in our Load Times section for a side-by-side comparison of PS4 vs PS5 save loading times).
Whether its loading during startup, opening a save file, fast travel, or respawning after death, the PS5's SSD dramatically reduces how long you wait. Call of Duty respawns are nearly instantaneous. Fast travel in Assassin's Creed Valhalla is up in seconds. Spider-Man is so fast that you never see any tips on the screen any more.
Despite the revolution in speeds, the PS5 is still plagued by limited storage space.
The SSD is simultaneously the PS5's Excalibur and the system's Achille's heel. Instant access is marred by restricted and limited access--because having both ample storage and ultra-fast speeds would skyrocket the console's price tag.
The SSD is advertised at 825GB, but it only has 667GB of useable space (that's if you delete the pre-installed Astro's Playroom game).
What's worse is that the more games that you install, the more reserved space gets allocated on the system storage. The PS5's internal storage has an "Other" section in its SSD section that compounds as you install more games. The Other section features cached data and other storage reserved for unspecific game functions.
At one point I had over 73GB of data reserved in my Other section.
This quickly becomes an issue thanks to huge games like Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War, which clocks in at over 148GB, and Cyberpunk 2077 (101GB) and Red Dead Redemption 2 (100GB+).
There's a strong desire to install all your games onto the SSD. The load times are so much better. But you can't--the system simply fills up too fast. I only had about 8 games on my console before it was full (granted they were huge chunky games like the ones mentioned above).
PS5 owners simply have to rotate their games in and out on a steady basis. The age-old mini-game of storage management is prevalent on the PS5. Sadly, I wasn't saving all that much time because I was constantly wrangling storage and dealing with cross-gen save issues. I highly recommend using an external HDD in tandem with the PS5's SSD.
Speaking of external HDDs, moving data to and from a USB 3.0 HDD wasn't too bad on the PS5. Moving Cyberpunk 2077 (101GB) from my PS5's internal memory to a 2TB external HDD took little over 16 minutes.
Graphics and visuals - Ray-tracing changes everything
The PS5 is a beastly console. Playing games at 4K 60FPS is a game-changer, or even at 4K 30FPS with ray tracing with impressive lighting effects.
PS5 optimized games like Spider-Man Miles Morales, Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War, and Assassin's Creed Valhalla look tremendously better than their PS4 counterparts. Sometimes the differences are hard to spot; other times they are as clear as day.
The most dramatic changes I've seen involve ray-tracing and lighting effects. Miles Morales is an entirely different game on the PS5 with ray tracing turned on.
It's like a permanent on-screen filter that makes the game more immersive; reflections are captured in real-time, complete with AI movement and real-time shadows; light is diffused and even bounces off of surfaces in ways it never has, water shines and reflects in realistic ways.
Every single windowpane on buildings perfectly capture and reflect actual environments, complete with NPC movements, action sequences, physics effects, and even changes in sunlight and shadow. There are no more blurry reflections; the city feels alive and much, much more real thanks to these effects.
After playing with ray tracing in an open world game, there's really no going back. Spider-Man Miles Morales has spoiled me.
Assassin's Creed Valhalla makes great use of the PS5's CPU and GPU with its huge draw distances that highlight miles of landscapes. Climbing to a high precipice in the game reveals fog-kissed fields and mountains that reflect the sunlight, and the smoke-filled skies after a brutal raid are a sight to behold.
Ubisoft has created one of the most enchanting video game worlds of our time, and it's made possible thanks to the PS5's might.
Ambient fog and smoke effects in Assassin's Creed Valhalla are quite impressive, ditto for the light diffusion.
What's also great is the PS5 can natively boost performance of PS4 games, especially those with next-gen optimization patches. Most of Sony's first-party PS4 games have been touched up in one way or another, complete with higher FPS or more in-game environmental/graphical effects.
Console games are starting to push into 4K 120FPS territory for the first time, and we're getting lots of graphical adjustments like FOV sliders in games like Destiny 2. The line between consoles and PCs are blurring even more (unless, of course, you have a newer RTX 3000 series card).
Cooling, temperature, and noise
Apart from gameplay performance and load times, the other remarkable feat about the PlayStation 5 is its cooling solution.
The system is an achievement for console thermal design, and rightly so, considering the RDNA 2.0 GPU is clocked at a higher 2.23GHz, making cooling extremely important.
In fact, the console's strange shape is dictated by cooling; the curved side plates are specifically designed to direct air pulled into the system by the powerful 120mm centrifugal fan.
Inside the heart of the box, the liquid metal TIM cools the SoC 86% better than traditional thermal paste to ensure the 7nm Zen 2 CPU and Navi 2 GPU stay cool under demanding rendering and processing loads.
It's a great setup that works wonders so far.
The PS5's case design is strange but optimized for air intake/flow as well as proper ventilation. The result is a cool, quiet machine.
The PS5's internal cooling system is made up of three main components:
- 120mm, 45mm-thick double-sided intake fan
- Copper heat-pipe heat sink with vapor chamber cooler
- Liquid metal cooling compound to conduct heat between SoC and heat sink
"Like the PS3 and PS4, it uses a heat pipe. However, the shape and airflow have made it possible to achieve the same performance as a vapor chamber," Sony engineer Masayasu Ito said in the teardown video.
The PS5's 120mm fan pulls cool air from the front and sides of the console via specially-designed vents. The PS5's curvy design isn't just for looks, but for practical direction of airflow.
Air is pulled in and passed through the SoC and heat sink to move the hot air conducted from the heat sink out of the console via exhaust vents. The entire rear side of the PlayStation 5 is made up of exhaust vents.
All of the major components are connected to the copper heat sink: SoC, RAM, and SSD. The NAND SSD, memory controller, and RAM all use thermal compound to pass heat to the heat sink. The SoC, however, uses liquid metal compound, a solution that can increase thermal conductivity by 86%. As you play, heat is generated from the chips and is conducted into the heat sink, which uses a heat pipe to move the heat. The heat is moved across the fins and pushed out the back forcibly by directional airflow from the fan.
My experiences with the PS5's noise and temperatures have been immensely positive. The day after I got the console, I used it for roughly 15 hours straight without turning it off. The PS5 never got hot, and never made any real noise. It stayed cool and quiet the whole time.
Even when playing Assassin's Creed Valhalla at 4K 60FPS, the PS5 didn't make any real noise. The massive dual-sided 120mm fan and thermal compound-coated SoC actually work--they work so well that you forget the console is on.
We don't have access to temperature-reading technology so we can't give you any real-time temps, but as someone who's worked with computers and consoles their whole life, the PS5 is the coolest, quietest piece of console gaming hardware I've ever owned.
The PS5 makes less noise than my PC when playing at 1440p, and it certainly makes less noise than any PS4 I've ever owned. If the PS4 Pro is an obnoxiously loud fighter jet, then the PS5 is a stealth bomber. You don't hear it and you kind of forget the console is there (unless you look at it. The thing is massive).
DualSense controller - Arcade gaming in the palm of your hand
DualSense PS5 controller features:
- USB Type-C charging
- Adaptive triggers with improve actuators/haptic feedback
- Built-in Mic lets you chat without a headset
- New Create button
- Lightbars on the sides of the touchpad
- Improved battery
- Built-in speaker
The DualSense is a very innovative peripheral. It adds a new layer of immersion that bridges the sensory gap between gaming sessions and gaming experiences. The PS5's graphics and visuals pull you into the game, but the DualSense keeps you there.
The PS5's controller reminds me a lot of those gimmicky games in old-school arcades--the fighter jet games or even that crazy machine gun game Revolution X (you know, the one with Aerosmith). Playing games like Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War really brings back those old arcade memories of frenetic and fun chaos.
The DualSense's haptic feedback goes way above anything on the console market today.
The triggers now have nuanced vibration to deliver haptic feedback that ranges from subtle sensations like pulling a bow string or shooting a web to the crazy recoil of a heavy machine gun.
The spectrum of vibrations is impressive and helps breathe a new kind of life into gaming that you simply accept and adapt to with a kind of seamless integration. The game can now telegraph key moments in a more direct way. Games communicate with players with sensory input; the DualSense will vibrate to warn you of an incoming enemy attack, deliver small vibrations when your health is low, and send rumbles when you get hit by a lethal blow.
The DualSense's adaptive trigger mechanism is quite complex and can adjust pressure on-the-fly
(Photo credit: Tronix Fix).
The adaptive triggers are game-changing. The SSD might be the most important new feature of the console hardware, but the DualSense is most important for actual play.
The triggers also have a spectrum of tactile feedback to match the variable vibration feedback. The triggers are adaptive and adjust pressure in real-time, reacting to what's on the screen. The mechanism can make the DualSense's triggers harder to pull depending on the situation.
For example, in Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War, the triggers become tighter to pull, almost like a real gun. The DualShock 4's triggers feel like a cheap toy in comparison. Add in nuanced and varying force feedback vibrations and you have a recipe for a gritty and extremely immersive gaming session.
Like most of the PS5's features, the controller is revolutionary. When it works, that is.
The DualSense has its fair share of issues.
First off, the controller isn't always reliable. It feels much more sensitive. Our DualSense controller started drifting just 3 weeks after use, which isn't surprising given the DualSense uses the same drift-prone analog sticks as the DualShock 4.
The drift is so severe that we had to buy a new controller for $70. That's the price of a new next-gen game.
The DualSense has a built-in mic, but it's always on. You can turn it off by pressing the button underneath the PS Button.
Secondly, the DualSense's analog sticks feel somewhat floaty, even before the drift. It's hard to describe, but they feel less...snappy than the DualShock 4's. I know the controller is technically higher quality than the DS4, but the DS4 still feels...more solid. The DualSense feels somewhat cheap and the face buttons don't pop up as much. The D-Pad also pops up more on the DualShock 4.
I've been playing with the DualShock 4 for years now, and going from the DS4 to the DualSense isn't a straightforward transition.
The DualSense does fit your hands like an Xbox controller, though. The grips are elongated in a fang-like shape, and the bottoms are flattened so the controller confirms to the base of your palm much more easily.
Another issue I have with the DualSense is the microphone is always on by default. I like that a mic is included right in the controller, and it actually records audio quite well, but I'm also worried about privacy.
You can turn this off manually by pressing the new mic button at the bottom or with a global console setting in the Settings menu.
Thanks to the new built-in mic, Sony is now collecting voice recordings alongside system-use data. What you say, who you say it to, what you play, etc. can all be collected by Sony.
The DualSense isn't a bad controller, but it's certainly different. Its haptics and as you play, the analog sticks feel much more sensitive despite using the same internal sticks as the DualSense
UI - Fast, clean, and empowering
The PlayStation 5's UI is streamlined and to the point. It's fast, flexible, and doesn't interrupt your gameplay sessions.
There's no clutter or nonsense with the PS5's UI. Well...sort of.
The UI is jarring at first. The console quickly makes you re-learn a few old tricks. Instead of taking you to the main menu like on PS4, pressing the PS button on the DualSense now brings up a Control Center toolbar at the bottom of the screen. Think of this as your PS5's equivalent of a Windows 10 PC's taskbar.
Here you can access various points like sound, party chat, notifications, downloads, accessories, etc. without leaving a game. You can adjust your music playlist, check a message from a friend, or even check the status of a download without leaving your session.
The new activity cards are the biggest new feature of the PS5's UI and like most of the console's new additions, these cards can change how you access (and play) games.
The cards pop up when you press the PS Button, and let you instantly access key portions of the game. In Spider-Man Miles Morales, for example, you can jump right into a specific mission that's across the entire map. The sequences are loaded instantly like little save states.
Not every game will use activity cards. Assassin's Creed Valhalla, for example, doesn't use them.
The new UX design also has built-in strategy guides made by developers. The PS5's new Game Help feature is exclusive to PlayStation Plus subscribers and gives you real-time in-game hints on the screen as you play. You can pin these hints to the side of the screen Snap Mode-style and watch clips/read text tips as you play a game.
This is transformative and gives gamers direct access to guides and content without having to leave the game. The PS5 is designed to keep you playing by means of instant access, wowing you with powerful performance and graphics, and strong immersion via haptic feedback.
Backward compatibility - Full PS4 game support and cross-gen saves
The PS5's GPU has three profiles, two of which emulate the PS4 and PS4 Pro for backwards compatibility support:
- Native Mode - Fully unlocks the Navi GPU at 2.23GHz for next-gen games
- PS4 Pro Legacy Mode - Downscales the GPU to 911MHz, 218GB/sec bandwidth, and 64 ROPs to emulate the PS4 Pro
- PS4 Legacy Mode - Drops the GPU to 800MHz with 176GB/sec bandwidth and 32 ROPs to emulate the base PS4
Earlier this year I said that backwards compatibility is critical for the PS5's future. Sony can't afford to displace 113 million PS4 owners, especially when PS5 stock is so low. Sony will instead do a slow transition from PS4 to PS5 that lasts three years, and that plan involves extensive backwards compatibility and releasing first-party games simultaneously on PS4 and PS5.
A quick history lesson on BC: Sony built the PS5 from the ground up with backward compatibility in mind. The plan was never to completely separate from the PS4 era, but instead fold it into the new generation and use it as a springboard for the PS5. That way the PS5 would have a huge library of games available at launch. The PS5 emulates the PS4 on a logic level, not on a hardware level, thanks to fluidity of the x86 and software/system architectural designs.
Luckily the PS5 plays nearly every PS4 game in existence. Thousands of PS4 games are playable natively on PS5 via disc or download, and many of them don't require any updates. Practically all of the 4,000 PlayStation 4 games can be played on the PS5 with a few exceptions.
These are the PS4 games that aren't playable on the PS5:
- Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma Volume One
- Hitman Go: Definitive Edition
- Joe's Diner
- Just Deal With It!
- Robinson: The Journey
- TT Isle of Man - Ride on the Edge 2
- We Sing
Some get updated for the PS4 and benefit from developer-issued patches with boosted frame rates and resolution. Most games play better on the PS5 thanks to the new built-in native boost mode, which can increase performance, tighten frame rates in dynamic resolution-driven games, and reduce jaggies.
PlayStation 5's backwards compatibility support isn't perfect. A few PS4 games will have "unexpected behavior" when running on the PS5, Sony says, which could lead to performance drops, glitches, and game/system crashes.
Backward compatibility has worked great for me and I didn't experience any errors, glitches, or crashes.
The games I tested range from launch titles like Killzone Shadow Fall to newer hits like Red Dead Redemption 2. Here's a quick list of the PS4 games I tested on the PS5, but most of them were launched via an external HDD and not installed onto the PS5's SSD. These weren't expansive tests, mostly just startups and quick plays to see if any issues arose.
PS4 BC games tested on PS5
- Killzone Shadow Fall
- Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag
- Watch Dogs
- Fallout 4
- No Man's Sky
- Tekken 7
- Final Fantasy XV
- Final Fantasy 7 Remake
- Watch Dogs 2
- Assassin's Creed Origins
- Assassin's Creed Odyssey
- The Outer Worlds
- Dragon Age Inquisition
- Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
- Red Dead Redemption 2
- Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War
- Destiny 2
- Spider-Man Miles Morales
- Cyberpunk 2077
- Assassin's Creed Valhalla
What hasn't worked great is cross-gen saves.
Unlike Xbox, which uses Smart Delivery to automatically download next-gen assets and transform a base Xbox One game into an Xbox Series X optimized title, the PS5 lets you download two versions of games and install them both on the SSD: a PS4 version and a next-gen PS5 version.
Each version of the game also has two different saves. This is where things get messy.
Having two different saves led to incompatibility issues, save corruption, and game saves outright disappearing. Some games, like Spider-Man Miles Morales and Black Ops Cold War, don't recognize PS5 versions of saves on PS4. These games are one-way avenues which is disappointing.
What's the point of having a free next-gen upgrade if you can't switch back over to the PS4 at some point and keep your saves?
Others, like Assassin's Creed Valhalla, support cross-gen saves but rely on cloud syncing to access them. I would switch from the PS4 to PS5 version for testing purposes, and the game was auto uploading my saves to the cloud. So my PS4 saves would sometimes overwrite my PS5 saves, and vice-versa. This syncing caused lots of frustrations. I spent a lot of time in the Storage menu trying to figure things out, but ultimately had to manually sync my data with PS Plus.
Also there's some issues with downloading individual PS4 and PS5 versions of games. At launch, we suffered from the Black Ops Cold War bug that didn't let you download the PS5 version. Only the PS4 version was available. A quick fix from Sony alleviated the issue, but it was still present and kept paying consumers from jumping in.
Nifty PS5 tricks
The PS5 can do some interesting things, some of which aren't really known about.
One of my favorite things is being able to view, edit, and share screenshots and video without leaving a game. Sure the editing features are very limited--screenshot editing is limited to cropping and adding text, and video editing just lets you trim footage--but it's great you can do this without going back to the main menu.
Another nifty trick is watching YouTube as you play games.
The PS5 has a built-in browser, but it's not accessible via an app like it is on the PS4. You have to do some workarounds to access it. To launch the browser, just put a link in a message to a friend and click on it. The browser will open. Sadly, you can't manually change the URL, and the only way to go to a different page is to click on a link in the open page.
Once the browser is open, you can pin it to the side of your screen. Most video websites won't work--Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon don't work--but YouTube works.
You can even open two browsers at the same time.
The PlayStation 5 natively supports mice and keyboards, just like the PS4. Hooking up a keyboard lets you navigate menus, and you can even press the Print Screen button to take screenshots in-game. Sadly, the PS5's UI doesn't natively support mice.
Games like Assassin's Creed Valhalla and even Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War both support mice and keyboard, so be sure to hook up your high DPI mouse up to it for some PC-simulated console play.
One thing I also like is how the PS5 supports higher-end USB microphones.
I hooked up my Blue Yeti mic up to the PS5 just to test it out, and it actually worked. The mic's amplifier projected audio, and I could record voice overs and chat with the Yeti microphone.
My HyperX Cloud II USB headset also worked with the PS5, along with the headset's built-in Surround Sound 7.1 amp. If you have a good PC headset be sure to plug it into the PS5 and avoid buying any expensive new peripherals.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the PS5's expansive Share Factory app.
This app is a fully-fledged video editing suite that you can download on the PS5. I was actually very surprised with its functionalities; you can add voice-overs, load-in custom music tracks, make transition effects, add text overlays--the works.
Using Share Factory you can literally create your own custom clips all within the PS5 and upload them straight to YouTube. Using the PS4's Share Factory was slow and wonky; on PS5, the app is very streamlined and efficient.
In many ways, the PS5 feels like a PC...and this editing software is a part of that.
PS4 - Down, but not out
The PS5 is so transformative that it almost renders the PS4 obsolete. Almost.
With ultra-fast loading, pristine 4K graphics, cool and quiet operation, and extensive backward compatibility, the PlayStation 5 creates in a new era of gaming possibilities. If the PS4 is VHS, then the PS5 is Blu-ray. The differences between the two consoles is large enough to mirror the leap between analog and digital.
However, there are trade-offs. The PS5 isn't perfect, and the PS4 family isn't totally useless. There's still reasons to buy or keep a PS4 Pro.
For instance, the PlayStation 5 isn't very repairable because it is a more specialized device. Once it's damaged or destroyed it can't be easily fixed by consumers.
It's the first mass-produced consumer device to use liquid metal thermal compound. This allows the PS5 to run significantly cooler than the PS4, especially under demanding loads such as 4K 60FPS (or 4K 120FPS). It also means the liquid compound can't ever be re-applied to the SoC without specialized tools. Gamers and consumers won't be able to fix any thermal-based processor issues.
Liquid metal compound is also volatile to electronics, so if it ever leaks, it can destroy any component it touches.
The PS5's SSD is also soldered to the motherboard. You can't replace or repair the PS5's internal storage. Once it's broken, it's broken, and you have to send it into Sony.
The PS4, on the other hand, is cheaper, more durable, and more easily repaired. For instance, consumers can crack open their PS4s and replace the hard drive and change the thermal paste. The trade-off is that the PS4 is slower, less powerful, significantly louder, and generates more heat than the PS5.
There's also the case the base PS4 is an outdated machine that should be avoided, lest you want low-end performance from the latest games (Cyberpunk 2077, for example, runs at 720p 15FPS on the PS4).
Our main argument is that the PS5 won't instantly replace the PS4 Pro. The base PS4 should pretty much be avoided right now unless you only want to play older games--newer games don't run all that well on the machine. First-party games are typically the exception, though.
There's a lot more differences between the PS4 and PS5 generations than these. Many of them, like the ultra-fast loading, are extremely positive. Others are not so good. Here is a breakdown of what we've found.
PS4 vs PS5 - Storage
- PS5 - 825GB advertised, 667GB of usable storage (after Astro's Playroom is uninstalled). Custom PCIe 4.0 SSD with 5.5GB/sec transfers. Incredibly fast game loading sequences, even for PS4 games.
- PS4 - 1TB advertised, 861.4GB of usable storage. Slower mechanical 5400RPM HDD.
- Conclusion - PS4's HDD has 184.4 GB more space, but is up to 100 times slower.
PS4 vs PS5 - Loading Times
- PS4 - Games can take up to 2 minutes to load sometimes, including fast travel and save load sequences. Mechanical HDDs are to blame.
- PS5 - The PS5 almost eliminates loading screens in some games. Miles Morales loads 92% faster on the PS5's SSD when compared to the HDD.
- Conclusion - The PS5 absolutely destroys the PS4 when it comes to loading. The PCIe 4.0 SSD is revolutionary and is the best new feature the console offers. Games pre-installed on the PS5's SSD load faster (some more than others), but the storage space is extremely limited so choose what you install wisely.
PS4 vs PS5 - Size
- PS5 - 390mm x 104mm x 260mm (this thing really is huge and won't fit in your entertainment center easily)
- PS4 Pro - 327 x 295 x 55 mm
- Conclusion - The PS5 is massive. Be prepared to have it stand tall next to your TV because it won't fit in most cubbies. It's by far bigger than any other PlayStation console ever made, and even rivals the VHS-sized Xbox One.
PS4 vs PS5 - Graphics and visuals
- PS4 - Caps out at 4K 30FPS native, usually with dynamic resolution scaling. Ambient light/fog/shadows and texture quality is limited due to the outdated Jaguar-based SoC and AMD GCN 2.0 GPU on PS4, and the 16nm Polaris/Vega SoC on the PS4 Pro.
- PS5 - This is PlayStation gaming unleashed. High-end perf targets like 4K 60FPS, 1080p 60FPS, 4K 120FPS are all possible thanks to the 7nm Navi GPU and Zen 2 CPU combo, The result is ray-traced visuals that breathe new life into console gaming, alongside higher-end shadow and lighting effects and native 4K textures.
- Conclusion - PS5 completely destroys the previous generation in visual performance. Some differences are subtle, but others, like the ray-traced reflections in Spider-Man Miles Morales, are absolutely incredible.
PS4 vs PS5 - User interface
- PS4 - Very slow, takes multiple seconds to access key settings. Home screen is the nexus for most features and cannot be accessed without leaving the game. Some features like friends/party, shut down options, and more can pop up with an overlay.
- PS5 - Nearly all of the console's functions are accessible while in-game via the new pop-up overlay. You can check/edit/share screenshots and video while playing a game, but specific settings aren't available in-game. Major new features include the activity cards (quick-launch right into specific parts of the game), the Game Help section (custom on-screen tips and videos), picture-in-picture streaming windows, and even the ability to pin web pages to the side of your session.
- Conclusion - The PS5's UI is clean, fast, and to the point. It's also very functional. You can watch/edit captured videos, view websites, watch friend streams, and check out news all without leaving your game. It's a paradigm shift in content delivery and UX management. Most of everything you need is right at your fingertips. Everything is quick and designed to get you where you need to be without extra clutter.
Final Thoughts: Pros and Cons
The PS5 is the beginning of a new milestone for console gaming. The features we've outlined here make an appealing argument for a PS5 purchase, whether it's the fast loading, 4K 60FPS graphics with ray-traced visuals, or new-and-improved UI features, the PS5 matches powerful hardware and software for the first time ever. It's a union that will usher in a new golden age of consoles.
Should you buy the PS5? It depends. The system is a must-have for enthusiast console gamers, but PS4 Pro owners aren't in a huge rush to upgrade. Sony will support the PS4 family until at least 2023 with dual simultaneously releases (PS5 exclusives will also arrive, too). The PS5's price tag is somewhat steep at $534 after tax, and it's impossible to get a console right now (the PS5 could be sold out until 2021).
Buying a PS5 is contingent on a few things, so ask yourself these questions before you buy:
- Do you own a 4K TV?
- Are you okay with limited SSD storage?
- Do you have an external HDD?
- Do you already own a bunch of PS4 games?
- Are you okay with buying next-gen games for $69.99?
- Are you upgrading from a PS4?
Right now, the big reason to buy a PS5 is to play all PS4 games better in some fashion, as well as grab first-party exclusives like Spider-Man Miles Morales and Demon's Souls. There's a handful of really good third-party games on PS5 like Black Ops Cold War and Assassin's Creed Valhalla.
After my time with the PlayStation 5, I would say upgrading from the PS4 to the PS5 is worth it. Even if you didn't answer yes to everything on the list above, it's still worth buying a PS5 for one simple reason: Speed.
The PS5's SSD is simply a godsend for console gamers. PC gamers already know the benefits of a PCIe 4.0 SSD. Console gamers, on the other hand, have been using 5400 RPM drives for 7 years so the PS5's SSD is a remarkable new gift. By substantially improving speed of access to gameplay, the custom 12-channel solid state drive removes one of the most frictional barriers in console gaming.
If you're new to the PlayStation ecosystem, then you might want to wait a bit so the next-gen games can start filling out.
Then again, a lot of games are getting free upgrades--Ubisoft, EA, and Capcom are all embracing free upgrades of key titles. You can also get access to 18 PS4 games with the new PlayStation Plus Collection, which is available on the PS5 to every PS Plus subscriber. This way you have a bunch of great games to play right out of the gate.
The PS5 does have its fair share of problems--no 1440p support is frustrating, as is the limited storage space, various glitches and crashes, and lack of PS5 save backups--but the system is a profound achievement in hardware and software design.
If you can afford and find a PS5, you should buy it. The console is a worthwhile investment to any current PS4 gamer.
+ Ultra-fast Loading - Load screens are virtually eliminated in some games, whether it's fast travel, save loads, startups--or anything else in a game that makes you wait. This is the most revolutionary feature by far, enabled by the powerful 5.5GB/sec PCIe 4.0 SSD with its custom 12-channel memory controller. You spend more time playing, less time waiting. It's the single most important new innovation the PS5 offers.
+ Amazing graphics and in-game performance - The PS5 can deliver consistent 4K 60FPS gaming without major compromises. The graphics, lighting effects, and visuals are immersive, with native 4K textures, ray traced lighting effects, and next-gen optimizations like fog, shadows, and ambient light.
+ Plays nearly every PS4 game ever made - Almost all of the PS4's massive 4,000 games library is natively playable on the PS5. This includes both discs and digital versions. Some games need download patches and some just work natively. Loading PS4 games from an SSD makes you wish every single PS4 game was released on PS5. It's really that powerful.
+ Every PS4 game plays better on PS5 - Some games look and play tremendously better on the PS5 thanks to the native built-in boost mode. Earlier this year, Mark Cerny said the PS5's boost mode is significantly more powerful than the PS4 Pro's. This is true. PS4 games load a lot faster when launched from the PS5's SSD, and frame rates are tightened up.
+ Clean user interface - The PS5's UI is kind of awkward at first, but it has lots of layered functions. The UI is clean, concise, and simple. It has robust features that are somewhat hidden, and games and media are separated into specific categories.
+ New control center is innovative - Pressing the PS Button now brings up a quick-launch UI for basic functions. This Control Center pops up and has icons for downloads/uploads, friends/chats, and the Switcher, which lets you seamlessly launch recent games without having to go to the main hub.
+ PS5's activity cards change how you play games, saves you lots of time - Some PS5 games support activity cards, which let you instantly launch specific sections of the game with a button press. These activities usually include direct access to missions, boss battles, and other objectives. You can jump right into this activities section by pressing the PS Plus button. There are other cards like recent game news, recent screenshots, and more.
+ Viewing captured screenshots and video while in-game - A major feature of the PS5 is its layered PC-like UI. Major features and functions now pop up in an overlay on top of the game with a seamless and quick UI. After you take a screenshot, you can instantly view it in a pop up You can even edit video while you're still playing the game.
+ PS5-to-PS4 Remote Play - You can play PS5-quality games right on the PS4 via Remote Play. The PS5's ultra-fast loading, 4K gaming performance, and other features are directly streamed to the PS4. If you have used Remote Play with the Vita, the concept is exactly the same. Any screenshots you take in Remote Play match the PS5's connected display. My PS4 is hooked up to a 1080p TV, but the PS5 is connected to a 4K display, and the screenshots were 3840 x 2160.
+ Cool under pressure - The PlayStation 5 really is a feat of engineering. The system maintains optimum temperatures even when pushing games at native 4K 60FPS. The liquid-metal thermal compound, massive fan, hybrid heat sink, and variable frequency SoC work together to make a sleek console that stays nice and chilly. The system is also quiet and gone are the days of the screaming PS4 Pro's jet engines. Sometimes you forget the console is there. If of course you can ignore its towering shape.
+ PlayStation Plus Collection gives you tons of PS4 games to try - If you subscribe to PS Plus, you can get the PS Plus Collection free on PS5. This is a collection of 18 top-rated PS4 games that're natively playable on the next-gen console, including first-party games like God of War, Days Gone, Bloodborne, and Uncharted 4. Many of these games have upgrades on the PS5 (not next-gen versions, but optimizations that're available on PS5).
- Only 667GB of usable storage - The PS5's SSD is remarkably fast, but it's also limited. Sony advertises 825GB SSD storage capacity, but after formatting it shrinks to 667GB. That's
- PS5 doesn't support expandable SSD storage (yet) - There's no way to get more SSD storage space on the PS5 right now. The console has an expandable M.2 slot for PC-grade SSDs, but the console doesn't support them yet. Sony will roll out a firmware patch to switch on PCIe 4.0 SSD support, but for now the expandable slot is inert.
- Cross-gen game saves are messy - Games like Assassin's Creed Valhalla support cross-gen saves. This can be messy. You can import/export saves to and from the PS4 and PS5. Some games only support PS4 to PS6 migrations. This transition isn't seamless, and we've had our data disappear and get corrupted. There were lots of PS Plus uploads/downloads and USB transfers (for PS4 games, since PS5 games don't support this).
- No native 1440p output on WQHD monitors -The PS5 can't natively output 1440p video signals. I own a 1440p 144Hz Acer monitor with adaptive sync and hooking my PS5 up to it produced 1080p video signals and screenshots during testing. Sony says 1440p support could come with a later patch.
- Too easy to accidentally launch a new game - The PS5 doesn't warn you when you start a new game when another game is running. The PS4, on the other hand, asks you if you want to close the current game before you start a new one. The PS5 doesn't support Quick Resume, so once a game is closed you lose session data.
- DualSense stick drift - Our DualSense controller started drifting with less than 3 weeks of play. The DualSense uses the same analog sticks as the PS4's Dualshock 4 so it's susceptible to drift. If your controller drifts, there's not much you can do other than buy a new one or send it in for repairs.
- No way to backup PS5 game saves without PS Plus - You can't export PS5 game save data via USB, whether it's a USB stick or an external HDD. The only way to back up PS5 game saves is uploading them to PS Plus cloud storage.
- No PlayStation Vita Remote Play with PS5 games - The definition of vita of life. But for Sony, the vita is dead.
- UI is confusing at first -The PS5's UI is functionally layered but it takes some time to get used to. Once you do, it flows like a well-oiled machine.
- Glitches when using external HDDs - We experienced various crashes in games like Miles Morales when running it from an HDD.
Cooling and Noise
The Bottom Line
The PS5 is a marvel of console engineering that ushers in a new golden age of access, immersion, and 4K 60FPS gaming.