After seeing it in photos and videos for months, we’ve finally had a chance to try out the PS5 – we’ve had extensive time playing with the new DualSense Controller and built-in game Astro’s Playroom, and can tell you what you can expect when you open the box.
We’ll also be able to talk about, for the first time, what it’s like to play games on the console… er, well, game singular, as we’ve only been able to try Astro’s Playroom. Nonetheless, it’s taught us a lot about how the console will play games.
It’s too soon to discuss what the console is truly capable of and what it’s like to navigate around the PS5’s interface, but we can finally talk about the console itself, its design and, most importantly, our first impression of Sony’s next-generation gaming hardware.
Welcome to the future of console gaming – this is our initial first look at the PS5.
PS5 unboxing: it’s not what’s on the outside that counts
The PS5’s box is fairly inconspicuous. There aren’t any screenshots of next-gen games or cool, cutting-edge visuals, but it does do its job of providing key information: for example, it reaffirms that we’re getting 825GB of storage space on the console itself instead of a full 1TB, and the PS5 box talks about the 3D Audio technology in passing detail.
While the Xbox Series X’s exterior packaging touts its Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos support, the PS5 only hits you with three key numbers on the front: 4K/120 and 8K, followed by the acronym HDR. Those details prove that it’s a powerful console, certainly, but otherwise specs-related info is mostly minimal – the back of the box mentions the console’s SSD and custom CPU.
Inside the box you get the console, a wireless controller, the base, an HDMI cable that’s almost certainly HDMI 2.1-compliant (it’s actually the same one that shipped with the PS4 Pro), plus the power cord, a USB-C-to-USB-A cable to charge the DualSense controller, and the user manual / warranty info.
You’ll also, technically, get one game inside the box – that’s Astro’s Playroom, which, as mentioned, comes pre-installed on every PlayStation 5 console.
PS5 design: welcome to the fan-cooled future of gaming
If gaming consoles had weight classes, the PS5 would be in the heavyweight division: we measured it at around 38.8 x 8 x 26cm or 15¼ x 3 x 10¼ inches (H x W x D) – though the curved surfaces make getting an exact measurement kind of difficult – and weighed it at nearly 10 pounds (4.5kg or around 9.92 pounds).
Because of its size and weight, you’ll need to put it on a sturdy base (included with the console) that can bear both the weight of the console and has enough space for the PS5. The disc tray makes the PS5 a little thicker on one side towards the base of the console – though if you’re buying the PS5 Digital Edition, your console won’t have a disc tray at all and will be even on both sides.
While it’s on the larger side, the PS5 still looks pretty sleek with its curved edges, bicolor design and eye-catching LEDs that run along the inside lip of the console. The all-white shell encloses a reflective black center that looks, to some of the TechRadar team, like a reverse Oreo cookie.
In terms of ports, the front has USB-A and USB-C ports, while the back sports two USB-A, an HDMI 2.1, Ethernet and a power port. There’s no proprietary ports at all on the console, but that actually feels like a good thing this time around. It’s almost identical to what you’d find on the Xbox Series X, but the X also has a slot for expandable storage that the PS5 doesn’t have. Sony says it’s possible to upgrade the internal storage with an NVME SSD, but we’re hopeful the PS5 will get external SSD options, too.
Our least favorite part of the PS5’s design so far is that the stand can be fairly tricky to figure out at first. Yes, it can go on either the bottom or the side of the console, but finding exactly where the console is supposed to sit on the base is a bit unclear.
We’re also not super keen on all of the vents surrounding the console on all sides, but the benefit to this design is that the PS5 is a fairly quiet console and keeps surprisingly cool.
We haven’t been able to put it through a rigorous test quite yet – we’ll likely need Spider-Man: Miles Morales or the Demon’s Souls remake for that – but so far the system has run whisper quiet and hasn’t generated a ton of heat.
PS5 DualSense Controller: the comfiest PlayStation controller ever?
To navigate this brave new world of console gaming, you’ll need a new controller – namely, the new Sony DualSense that was introduced earlier this year. The controller feels similar to the DualShock 4 that shipped with the PS4 and is incredibly comfortable to hold for extended periods of time.
Picking it up, the DualSense is fairly light and balanced, with most of the weight resting in the grips of the controller. While most of the controller features a matte white plastic finish, the bottom of the grips themselves have a slightly rougher texture that actually makes the controller easier to hold and less likely to slip out of your hands.
On the front face of the controller, you’ll see the traditional D-pad and shape buttons, now with a transparent plastic coating that matches the console’s futuristic aesthetic, as well as the options, share, PlayStation and microphone mute buttons.
The front face of the DualSense also has the two new concave control sticks with a rubber grip finish on the outer edges that feel easier to hold onto, while the touchpad that has an LED light running underneath it is similar to the one found on the DualShock 4.
Spin it around to the back and you’ll find the bumpers and triggers as well as the USB-C port that you’ll use to recharge the controller. After getting some game time with it, the bumpers themselves feel a bit mushy, but the triggers feel absolutely fantastic thanks to adaptive feedback that allows developers to program the resistance of the triggers to simulate actions more accurately, replicating sensations like pushing down the pedal of a car or pulling back a bow string. It’s a huge step forward for haptics in Sony hardware.
Last but not least there’s the 3.5mm audio jack that will allow you to plug in your own headset, should you decide you don’t want to use the controller’s built-in microphone.
PS5 gameplay first impressions: Astro’s Playroom is silly, fun… and pretty forgettable
While everyone is looking forward to playing Demon’s Souls and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales at launch, your first official PS5 game will be the one that comes pre-installed on the console: Astro’s Playroom.
We won’t mince words here: Astro’s Playroom is silly, fun… and probably not going to win Game of the Year 2020. As a fully fleshed out sequel to Astro Bot: Rescue Mission, Astro’s Playroom is a platformer game that uses exotic locales to hide artifacts from Sony’s PlayStation hardware catalogue. You’ll find a PlayStation VR Aim Controller hidden in a snowbank somewhere in one level, for example, while another level might be hiding the PlayStation Portable inside a haystack. That second one is a made up example because we can only talk about the first level, but you get the point.
The first full level of the game comprises roughly what we’d consider 25% of the game, and much of that serves as an introduction to what the new DualSense Controller can do and acts as a showcase for the console’s faster load times, smoother frame rates and adaptive triggers.
The level we got to check out was called Cooling Springs and it was very reminiscent of an ice stage in a Super Mario Galaxy or Mario Odyssey game – with little collectibles scattered everywhere and hidden secrets just off the beaten path. There’s varied enemy types, many of which you might’ve seen before if you played the previous Astro game, and you’ll also be entering other modes of transportation – like a giant spring – that help mix up the gameplay every once in a while.
What struck us most during our time in the level is just how smooth the game played on our 4K/60Hz TV with HDMI 2.1 and how fast everything loaded. No, we couldn’t get the hallowed 4K/120Hz gameplay we’ve heard Sony tout for the last few months, but even at 4K/60 the PS5’s frame rate was rock-solid and felt buttery smooth.
We likely won’t invest more time than what it takes to beat the game over the next week and will then uninstall it to reclaim the 10GB of storage space it takes up on the console, but we’re glad we were able to try Astro’s Playroom, even if it was just for that half-hour or so.
Without even turning it on, the PS5 feels futuristic. The shell of the PS5’s design is a bit unwieldy, but it’s got the look of a premium piece of hardware. Similarly, the new DualSense carries the same space age aesthetic as the console, but feels very comfortable to hold for an extended period. Added features to the controller like the microphone mute button and adaptive triggers are great additions to Sony’s controller design, and we can’t wait to see how more games implement them in the future.
Last but not least, our first sample of gameplay feels incredibly smooth on a 4K TV with HDMI 2.1. Astro’s Playroom is certainly no God of War, but it’s a fun way to learn about the new console’s capabilities while celebrating Sony PlayStation’s heritage. We can’t wait to see what else the console has in store for us.