PS5 first impressions: Next-gen. graphics and a game-changing controller are just the start

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Sony’s next-generation console is finally here at long last and we’re taking a hands-on look to see how the PS5 stacks up and if it deserves all the hype. With improved graphics and an impressive new controller, there’s plenty to leave a good first impression here. Head below for a closer look at the PS5 as we review all of our thoughts on Sony’s latest console.

PS5 first impressions- the unboxing

While there’s plenty of fanfare around the launch of PS5, Sony is saving all of the excitement for the console itself. The packaging this time around is about what you’d expect, with an outer sleeve that covers the box the new PlayStation comes in. Included alongside the console itself is the power cord as well as both HDMI and USB-C cables. There’s also the optional stand that lets you swap between positioning the PS5 upright or on its side.

As for the console itself, by now you’ve probably already seen just how big the PS5 is. And in person, it’s even more of a behemoth. It easily dwarfs the PS4 that preceded it and will certainly take up a lot of space in your home theater or entertainment center. It’s not exactly a thick console, but has gains in the height department. Setting overall size aside, the PS5’s design is even more futuristic looking in-person. The two-tone black and white design departs from what we’ve seen in the past and definitely grows on you. Plus, Sony has covered the console in a pattern of squares, triangles, x’s, and circles, which is a nice touch.

When it comes to I/O, many of the ports are on the rear of the console, with HDMI, power, and Ethernet being joined by a pair of USB charging plugs. There’s also this vented grill that travels all the way down the back before being joined by a smooth facade on the top of the PS5. On the front, you’ll get a third USB slot as well as a USB-C port and access to the power and disk eject buttons, that is, if you didn’t go with the diskless model.

A closer look at the DualSense controller 

Sony’s changes don’t stop at just a new console design, as you’ll find an entirely refreshed gamepad form-factor, too. The new DualSense controller takes on a bulkier design that’s actually much more comfortable to hold during longer gaming sessions. It now more closely resembles that of the Xbox Series X game pad and even Nintendo’s Switch Pro Controller, but with plenty of under the hood improvements to stand out.

Much like the PS5 itself, the textured grip on the DualSense controller uses the same PlayStation pattern. There’s way more than looks here that Sony has changed this time around, but we’ll get back to that in just a moment.

Improvements to the overall PS5 experience 

Just like the console’s actual design and even the controller form-factor, the PS5’s changes carry over into the actual interface. Everything in the UI has received a facelift to feel much more modern, and as a result, quicker to interact with. Coming from the interface on the PS4, it’s a serious upgrade for Sony to take a more simplistic design choice, but it definitely paid off for what looks and feels like a more intuitive way to interact with the console.

Some of the biggest changes come to just how much faster everything is on the PS5. Forget playing games for a second, but actually downloading titles is incredibly fast compared to what you’d find with the PS4. One of my first takeaways preparing for this review was how much of a night and day comparison getting things set up on the PS5 is. Loading up the console with your existing collection of games doesn’t take much time at all, as it only took a few minutes to download a 50GB file like Overwatch and just a tad longer for Spider-Man: Miles Morales.

Aside from just the visual changes you’re sure to notice, one of the big takeaways is that loading screens are a thing of the past. Diving into the world of Spider-Man: Miles Morales showcases that even with a massive open-world to explore, there’s very little in the way of waiting for the game catch up to the action. 

PS5 first impressions – Sony delivers on the graphics

One of the biggest selling points of the next-generation consoles is higher resolutions, snappier frame rates, and all-around better performance. The PS5 definitely delivers on these compared to what PS4 owners are used to, but just how drastic of a difference you’re looking at varies. You’ll need a TV that supports variable refresh rates and 4K HDR content to really take advantage of the graphics that the PS5 can spit out.

But even on a more mid-tier television, content is looking better than ever. In-game textures seem way more natural than with previous-generation graphics and particle effects are pure eye candy. We’re not quite yet at life-like virtual worlds, but the PS5 surely delivers a large leap in the right direction.

DualSense Controller levels up the experience 

Now as great as the improvements are on the graphics and performance front, the new DualSense controller is hands down the most futuristic-feeling aspect of the PS5. The new design feels great and the textured coating adds plenty of grip. But the real defining factor is the introduction of what Sony called Adapter Triggers, as well as improved haptic feedback.

Adapter Triggers is one of those things that you really have to experience in person to get the feel for, but effectively allows games to change how much force you need to apply in order to press the trigger. It’s a massive departure from what practically every console gamer is used to and from my short experience, is nothing short of groundbreaking.

Combined with the improved haptic feedback, the DualSense controller manages to provide a much more interactive gaming experience than we’ve ever had before from Sony. I wouldn’t say it’s exactly more immersive, but it definitely brings you into the game in an entirely unique way. Astro’s Playroom was made essentially to showcase the combination of new technology that is the DualSense controller and does a wondrous job at proving this is the way of the future.

It’s clear that the experience is going to vary from game to game, but it’s crazy how much of a difference it makes towards throwing you into all of the action. Other titles like Spider-Man: Miles Morales have a more subtle approach to bring the DualSense tech into its gameplay while still elevating the experience well beyond what I’ve come to expect from the PS4. Even this early in the PS5 lifecycle, it’s clear that the new controller is going to be one of, if not the most defining aspect of the next-generation console war. It’s not even something that PC gaming can match.

The one downside from my testing so far is that the microphone built into the DualSense controller is pretty bad, even compared to the earpiece mic that Sony included with the PS4. So if you play a lot of online titles, it’s definitely worth investing in a third-party option. Or just waiting for the Pulse 3D headset to come back in stock.

Backwards compatibility is a huge plus

While games designed entirely for the PS5 are clear upgrades over the last generation, you’ll still be able to play nearly all of the PS4’s catalog of titles. Cross-play is supported out of the box for most games, which means you’ll still be able to boot up a round of Overwatch with friends who haven’t picked up the PS5 just yet.

Is it really worth upgrading for?

In a word, absolutely. I got into the PS4 game later into the console’s lifespan even though I never even touched most of the first-party lineup of titles. This time around, there’s all of the under the hood improvements to enjoy right now, as well as a pretty highly-anticipated roster of games due out in 2021. If you’ve got plenty of mileage out of your PS4, or don’t own one at all, the PS5 brings so much to the table and makes a great first impression.

Better graphics, responsiveness, an enhanced controller experience, and all of the other improvements might not be massive in their own right. But together they form a clear picture of what the next-generation console experience will look like. And I have to say, I’m impressed.

9to5Toys’ Take:

At the end of the day, the PS5 absolutely lives up to a lot of the hype. But the graphics and other improvements on the console itself aren’t even the most exciting parts. Sure they’re staples of the next-generation console wars, but Sony proves that it has a trick up its sleeve to take on Microsoft with a much more immersive experience. The DualSense controller is the real killer feature and makes this feel more like a modern console than anything else Sony has been able to pack in. But of course, all of the PS5 enhancements noted in this review go a long way to justifying the $499 price tag

The bigger question than is the PS5 worth it in its own right is whether its a more compelling console than the Xbox Series X. Just from spending a night with the PS5 to review, I’m here to say that Sony is winning the next-generation console race thanks to those new technologies that the PS5 incorporates. Until Microsoft can come up with its own DualSense competitor, there’s a clear winner. 

Buy the PS5 featured in this review at Amazon, Walmart, or Best Buy (when in-stock)

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