Sony PS5 review: The reigning champ

Success doesn’t always come easy, and the PlayStation 5 had some major teething trouble when it was first released – not in terms of software, but in availability.


A few years later, it’s widely on sale and still pumping out top-quality exclusives, so how does it fare in today’s console market? Here are our updated thoughts.

Sony/ Pocket-lint

Sony PlayStation 5

Editor’s Choice

Console king

The PlayStation 5 is the best current-generation console available – with graphics that are basically even with the Xbox Series X but superior exclusive titles and more affordably expanded storage. It’s also a great media centre, but the games are the real star here.

Pros

  • Superb exclusives
  • Solid UI
  • Top-class performance capabilities
  • Expandable storage

Design

  • Dimensions: 390 x 104 x 260mm (excluding base and longest projection) / Weight: 4.5kg
  • Connections: HDMI 2.1, 3x USB 3.1, USB-C, Ethernet, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.1

The design of the PS5 was much commented upon when it was first unveiled, and with good reason – it’s a total departure from all of the design language that Sony had built up in the PlayStation family so far.

The white and black looks, with sweeping side plates that come up almost in points, make the PS5 pretty much unique and a polar opposite to the toned-down black of the Xbox Series X.

However, it’s fair to say that while experimentation is fun, this design isn’t a total success. For every person we talk to who likes it, there are two more who think it’s baffling and unnecessarily bulky.

PlayStation 5 hands-on pics photo 11

Pocket-lint

That latter part is key, with those side plates adding an inch of room to an already big console when it comes to fitting it on or under a TV stand.

It comes with a stand that can be swapped to hold the console vertically or horizontally, a neat touch, although many people seem to use it without one.

Older console units weighed in at fully 4.5kg, which has come down a little with some internal refinements, but this is still a monster of a device to move around if you swap between displays particularly often.

Now, years down the line, there are also far more options for new faceplates, including replacements from Sony itself or Darkplates 2.0 from dbrand, and you can now buy the PS5 in a range of colours to save yourself from the cost of extra plates.

PlayStation 5 hands-on pics photo 8

Pocket-lint

That makes it nice and customisable compared to the launch situation, although we still wish the central black section of the console wasn’t as glossy and scratch-prone.

You’ll know whether you like the PS5’s design at first glance, and not much will change that, but at least its looks aren’t totally central to its function.

DualSense controller

  • Haptic feedback and adaptive triggers
  • Built-in microphone, speaker, motion sensors
  • Battery: 1,560mAh, USB-C charging

One unqualified success has been the DualSense controller that comes with the PS5, which is required for all PS5 games. It’s a stunning gamepad, already cemented as one of the best ever.

It refines the comfort and ergonomics of the DualShock 4 with more carefully aligned curves and holds, but the technical changes are really impressive.

PlayStation 5 hands-on pics photo 17
Pocket-lint

Pocket-lint

All-new haptic feedback is a massive upgrade over old-school rumble, capable of wildly accurate sensations if developers take the time to tune it right (which mostly happens in PS5 exclusives).

This extends to the adaptive triggers, which can give active resistance and shudder as you squeeze, making for incredibly diverse feelings as you pull them.

With motion sensing, a built-in speaker and a microphone added to these options, you have a controller that can be a really immersive tool if used right by developers like Insomniac.

PlayStation 5 hands-on pics photo 12
Pocket-lint

Pocket-lint

That said, the DualSense’s battery life isn’t that stunning; it typically offers 5-7 hours depending on haptics and is likely compromised slightly by these technical advancements.

Hardware

  • CPU: Octa-core Zen 2 CPU / GPU: 10.3 TFLOPS
  • Memory: 16GB of GDDR6 RAM
  • Storage: 825GB SSD (667GB available to the user, expandable by SSD)

The hardware under the hood in the PS5 is super impressive, even if its raw power is eclipsed slightly by the Xbox Series X – it’s a super-fast and super powerful console.

The key seems to be its SSD, too, which Sony has made pains to boast about for years now. It’s incredibly rapid and unlocks crazy loading times and world-switches in games like Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart.

The major downside to this is that storage that on paper looks close to 1TB in size is actually closer to half that, thanks to the program files already on there.

Best internal SSD for PS5 2021: The top M.2 drives for your PlayStation 5 photo 12

Pocket-lint

That means you’re fairly limited in how many games you can install since so many are now absolutely huge in size.

Thankfully, you can solve this quite affordably since the PS5 has a slot under one of its outer plates that lets you install an M.2 SSD drive of your own to add up to 4TB of extra space.

We’ve listed our favourite SSDs for the PS5 right here and can guide you through the installation here, but it’s genuinely easy and allows any compatible third-party drive.

This gives it a massive price advantage compared to the Xbox Series X where expansion is concerned – that console is limited to officially licensed expansion cards.

User experience

  • Backwards compatible with thousands of PS4 games

The PS5 user interface has been changed and tweaked a lot since it was first released to add new features and make it easier to access others.

A home page hosts a scrolling bar full of your games in the order that you last played them, with more to be found in your Library if you need an older title.

You can easily swap between tabs of this menu to access your settings or the PlayStation Store, and there’s also a dedicated page for the benefits you get from PlayStation Plus.

PS5 software screens photo 3
Sony Interactive Entertainment

Rift Apart/ Pocket-lint

It’s all super quick and responsive, and loading into a game takes seconds. Once you’re in a game, pressing the PS button on your controller will bring up a quick menu that lets you access settings like social parties, volume control and power options.

This can also get you to your home menu and is a really useful quick menu that we find can get us where we want to go the vast majority of the time.

Parties are relatively easy to set up and invite friends to, and voice quality is noticeably solid – better than in 90% of games’ own call quality, making it a go-to for social play.

Performance

  • 2160p 60fps, up to 120fps possible; 8K support for future use
  • Ray tracing and HDR10 support
  • Tempest 3D AudioTech

Performance is a complicated question for a console since it varies so much game-to-game and depending on the developer, but the PlayStation 5 is capable of astonishing stuff when it’s tuned right.

Even launch games like Demon’s Souls look unbelievable, but since then, we’ve had high points like God of War Ragnarok, Final Fantasy 16, Dead Space and many more.

Demon's Souls review: A pitch-perfect remake photo 5

Bluepoint Games/ Pocket-lint

Some of these are cross-platform, but all look brilliant on this hardware. There was much talk of 4K as standard before this generation kicked off, though, and that’s more complicated.

Resolution and frame rate still tend to be a choice – most games on PS5 ship with performance or quality modes to choose between, with one generally shooting for 30FPS at a native 4K and the other opting for a 60FPS target with a more variable resolution.

In practice, having both options is nice since it depends on taste, which you’ll prefer, but that does mean that the promises of the new console generation have proven a little over-stated.

8K is certainly a bit of a pipe dream for games of real fidelity, but 120Hz displays are more tangible – 120FPS modes are present in a range of titles like Call of Duty: Warzone to accept a resolution drop but gain a hugely smooth response.

Spider-Man Miles Morales photo 8
Marvel

Insomniac Games/ Pocket-lint

Every so often, a developer absolutely nails it, though, and Insomniac’s work in updating Spider-Man: Miles Morales stands as an example of just how good things can be. It can work with a variable refresh-rate display to give smooth frame rates with astounding ray-traced lighting enabled.

  • 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player

There are two versions of the PlayStation 5 – the slimmer Digital Edition doesn’t have a disc drive, but the more widely available standard version very much does.

This means that 4K Blu-rays are playable and easy to use, which is ideal for anyone with a physical collection of discs to playback.

The console also has access to a wide range of apps for the major media streaming platforms you might think of, including titans like Netflix and Prime Video, along with regional options like Discovery+ and BBC iPlayer.

Media screens photo 4

Pocket-lint

All of these work really nicely and responsively in our testing, with 4K HDR video available and a variety of sound options configurable in the PS5’s settings menu.

A recent update added Dolby Atmos sound, a huge upgrade that makes the PS5 a way more versatile media hub and a perfect pick if you have an Atmos-capable surround sound system.

Games

The list of great games on PS5 started off strong, given that it already plays almost every possible PS4 title through backwards compatibility – some of them with upgraded performance if they’ve been patched.

Right from the start, though, games like Demon’s Souls made for stunning exclusives, and there have been plenty more since – Horizon: Forbidden West, God of War: Ragnarok, Returnal, Final Fantasy 16 and many more are all completely exclusive on console.

Sony is increasingly bringing its games to PC some months after launching on PS5, which is worth considering if you already have a gaming PC, but there’s always a pretty decent gap.

Final Fantasy 16 review Cid

Square Equinx/ Pocket-lint

Cross-platform games are all present and correct, too, of course, with Call of Duty, FC 24 and Ubisoft games like Assassin’s Creed Mirage all playing perfectly on PS5 as they do on Xbox Series X.

In the vast majority of cases, these cross-platform games perform almost identically between the PS5 and Microsoft’s console, so it’s a safe choice if you want these big franchises.

Microsoft’s nearly completed purchase of Activision Blizzard does mean that franchises like Diablo might eventually stop appearing on PlayStation, but for Call of Duty, at least we know that we’ll get at least another decade of releases on the platform.

Warzone Ranked

Activision/ Pocket-lint

Sadly, the PlayStation Plus collection, a gang of games that you got for free just for buying a PS5, has now been discontinued, so that you won’t get a nice welcome bonus anymore.

At least you do get Astro’s Playroom, though, a wonderful, brief little adventure designed to showcase the new haptics and triggers on the DualSense controller. It’s a great little treat.

Verdict

The PlayStation 5 is the best console you can buy right now if you’re looking for modern graphics and the latest games. Families should consider the Nintendo Switch, of course, but that console ticks different boxes, and the PS5 is the clear winner compared to the Xbox Series X for our money.

It has the better exclusives by a margin and feels a little snappier and more responsive to use in menus and settings – and expandable storage that you can actually afford is a winning feature. Its controller is stunningly impressive, and its graphical capabilities are jaw-dropping at times, so if you’re in any doubt, you should make a beeline to pick one up.

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