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PS5 buyer's guide: All you need to know about Sony's PlayStation 5
The PlayStation 5 — or just PS5 for short — is the ninth-generation Sony console. It was officially released on November 12, 2020, and it has some pretty big shoes to fill.
Its predecessor, the PlayStation 4, is one of the most popular gaming consoles of all time, selling over 116 million units as of July 2021, according to Statista. The legendary PlayStation 2 is the only home gaming console to surpass those numbers.
So, does the PS5 pack enough punch to woo gamers worldwide as the PS4 did? Here’s everything you need to know about the PlayStation 5.
At a glance: What is the Sony PS5?
The PS5 is the next-gen gaming console from Sony. The system is formally called the Sony PlayStation 5, or PS5 for short. Every prior iteration has adopted the same naming scheme so that part didn’t come as a surprise.
The Sony PlayStation 5 is a massive jump forward from its predecessor, offering more powerful specs and a space-age design. Its main competitors are the Xbox Series X and Series S and, to a lesser extent, the Nintendo Switch. The latter home-handheld-hybrid console was released in 2017 and while it is a great system in its own right, it isn’t necessarily a direct competitor due to its unique form factor and significantly reduced specs.
At launch, there were two PS5 models: the regular PlayStation 5 and the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition. The two shared identical specs, but the Digital Edition only played digitally downloaded games — it doesn’t have a disc drive. In November 2023, Sony will launch the PS5 Slim, which has the same specs but a slightly smaller footprint, alongside a removable Blu-Ray disc reader.
Like previous consoles, the PS5 can also serve as a media center. It supports many streaming apps, readily available as buttons on the PS5 Media Remote that you can buy separately. However, it doesn’t support multimedia CDs so you’ll have to rely on streaming services like Spotify.
Is the PS5 worth it?
Whether upgrading from a PS4 or just starting with the latest console, buying a PS5 will cost you a pretty penny. Consoles generally build value over time as more games are released, so before you spend your hard-earned money you should ask yourself: is the PS5 worth it?
Now that the console has been around for over a year, the answer is a hearty yes. Countless next-gen titles let you take full advantage of the powerful DualSense controller, and after a worldwide shortage during the pandemic, it’s getting much easier to acquire the console itself. You’re also getting improved performance on games you already have rather than a truly game-changing experience on day one. Better graphics and faster load times are great, but they’re not transformative.
The Xbox Series X provides stiff competition.
If you don’t currently have a console, it might be worth picking up a PS5. However, it faces some stiff competition from the Xbox Series X. Unless you’re looking for PlayStation exclusives (of which there are plenty,) Xbox Game Pass provides incredible value with access to tons of first-party games.
One area where the Xbox Series X can’t compete is (surprisingly) the controller. Sony has knocked it out of the park with the new PlayStation 5 DualSense. Improved ergonomics, adaptive triggers, and incredible haptic feedback make a huge difference while playing games. Android Authority’s own C. Scott Brown was completely blown away by the experience, stating that it’s changed his entire outlook on console gaming.
Even if you’re impatiently waiting for a major title that’s still on the horizon, buying a PlayStation 5 console today prepares you for what’s to come. We’re just now seeing the first few deals on the console, such as this bundle offer, but you’re unlikely to make huge savings on it for a while yet unless you buy refurbished.
What the experts are saying about the PS5
In Android Authority’s PS5 review, our reviewer Sarah Chaney was overall very positive about the console. Upgrades to the internals and the controller make it a worthy successor to the PS4. The ability to choose between enhanced graphics with real-time ray tracing and higher framerates offers an experience closer to PC than previous consoles.
Sarah also stressed how great the PS5 is for those new to console gaming. Combined with a subscription to PlayStation Now and PlayStation Plus, you’ll instantly have a small collection of some of the best games from the PS4 era, along with a PS5 game each month.
Things are a bit more complicated for current PS4 owners. The improved loading times and (occasionally) upgraded graphics are great but not really worth the upgrade. Aside from ASTRO’s Playroom, which is more of a tech demo than a game, there were only three exclusive titles available at launch. Two of those were also available on the PS4.
But as of March 2023, we’ve seen plenty more high-profile exclusive titles hit the system. Blockbuster hits that make the most of the PS5’s power, such as Elden Ring and God of War Ragnorok, have changed the game, literally.
One more thing to consider before buying is the console’s physical size. Sarah noted that you might have trouble fitting it into your entertainment center unless you have large vertical or horizontal spaces. Also, the all-white design might clash with black furniture. Dbrand has a solution for this problem, and Sony has announced their own as well. Read on for details about both.
Around the web
A number of other publications around the web have also chimed in with their thoughts on the PS5 over the years. Here’s a quick roundup:
- TechRadar’s Nick Pino and Adam Vjestica called it “a superb console that offers a compelling next-gen gaming experience” in their review shortly after launch. Great graphics and high framerates were among the expected positives, with an extra shoutout to the new UI. They were critical of the console’s physical size, as well as the somewhat limited capacity of the included SSD.
- Wired’s Jess Grey was also positive overall in a pre-launch review. She stated that the 120Hz capabilities were “objectively marvelous, but buying a brand-new console and an expensive new TV is a bit much in the midst of a global pandemic.” Grey was also impressed by the improved battery life, haptics, and adaptive triggers of the new DualSense controller.
- IGN’s Luke Reilly was critical of the PS5’s “flamboyant” design but otherwise positive. He thinks that “what the PlayStation 5 lacks in subtlety it more than makes up for in potential, thanks in part to its amazingly fast SSD but mostly to its truly remarkable new controller.” However, he wasn’t convinced that the console lives up to that potential yet due to a launch lineup that was largely available on the PS4 at the time, plus the limited storage.
- Michael Andronico from Tom’s Guide wrote in his PS5 review that the console is “a huge generational leap — even if you don’t need one yet.” Like others, he praised the new controller but did state that it “may feel too big for some.” Although critical of the lack of true next-gen launch titles at that point, he wrote that the increased speeds create “almost zero friction between you and the games you want to play.”
- Cnet’s Dan Ackerman was “extremely impressed with the entire PS5 package” in his new console review. He mostly repeated the comments above, with the notable exception of recommending the Digital Edition over the standard one. “If you can find one, save $100 and get the all-digital version. Classic game disc collectors, used game shoppers, and Blu-Ray hoarders will disagree, but it both costs less and gets rid of one of the most trouble-prone mechanical parts in any game console.”
What our readers think
Prior to the launch, our readers seemed very eager to get their hands on the PS5.
In an Android Authority poll conducted ahead of the release, we asked if folks were more interested in the PS5, Xbox Series X, or happy with another platform such as Switch or PC. An overwhelming 61.9% voted for the PS5 out of nearly 15,000 votes.
Sony PlayStation 5 design
The Sony PS5 console — as seen above — stands vertically (but can be laid horizontally) and sports a black and white design that matches the all-new DualSense controller. It’s also worth noting that there are two versions of the console — the standard console and the slimmer Digital Edition. Both have the same basic design, with the latter missing an optical drive.
Both consoles are also massive. They’re the largest home consoles ever released and are more on par with a PC tower when it comes to space requirements. Keep this in mind before purchase or it might have to live on the floor in front of your TV.
Both consoles are also massive.
While the console ships with a futuristic black and white color scheme, the side panels are easy to remove. Sony has nixed the idea of custom panels a couple of times, but Dbrand, one of the companies that Sony slapped with a lawsuit, started selling an alternate version immediately that has evaded further litigation so far. Why you may ask, would Sony do that? Well, to sell their own, of course. There are official console covers available from the manufacturer.
Another benefit of the new removable panels is that it’s much easier to clean dust from the fans. This should help the console run cool and quiet, especially over time. In our PS5 review, we noted that the console runs quietly, but as dust builds up over time that might change.
In August 2022, the Australia-based gaming site Press Start reported Sony had quietly released new versions of the PS5 Disk and PS5 Digital Edition consoles. While the design is the same for both consoles, the new Disk version now weighs 8.6 pounds, compared to 9.2 pounds for the 2021 version and 9.9 pounds for the launch version of the console. The new PS5 Digital Edition also got its weight reduced to just 7.5 pounds, compared to the original version, which weighed 8.6 pounds. There’s no word how Sony managed to cut the weight down so much for both consoles.
PlayStation 5 controller
The PlayStation 5 controller, the DualSense, is the largest design departure from any PlayStation controller to date. It features a new futuristic black and white design that largely matches the console itself.
The controller touts haptic feedback, adaptive triggers, and a built-in microphone array. It also comes with a USB-C charging port, and Sony is replacing the Share button with a brand new Create button. The DualSense controller comes bundled with the console, though you can buy additional gamepads separately for $69.99.
Without having the controller in your hands, it’s difficult to understand just how much of an upgrade it is over the last-gen model. The adaptive triggers provide more or less resistance depending on what you do or what is happening in the game. This level of tactile control simply isn’t available on anything other than high-end racing wheels.
The haptic feedback makes a huge difference.
The haptic feedback also makes a huge difference in how you experience every moment of a game. From the pitter-patter of light rainfall to the thundering footsteps of a powerful boss monster, you can truly feel the game in a way that wasn’t possible in the past. Every new PS5 owner should boot up ASTRO’s Playroom right away and experience it for themselves. Sony also releases regular updates to the PS5 controller, making sure your experience stays top-notch in the future, too.
It’s worth noting, of course, that not every game supports these two features. It’s highly likely that the plethora of first-party studios like Naughty Dog and Insomniac Games will add support, but hopefully, Sony can convince other developers to enable these features in their titles too.
Sony upgraded the PS5’s interface with a focus on creating new UX elements that will better serve users. Like the PS4, the PS5’s user experience still revolves around the PlayStation button on the DualSense. You tap it on boot to access the user screen. But that’s largely where the similarities end.
Tapping the PS button in-game now opens the Control Center. It’s a side-scrolling but detailed bottom menu system that gives users immediate access to audio controls, friends lists, and more.
The Activities section is the standout addition to the new menu. It’s a set of cards that can shortcut users to particular levels or adventures within a game. These cards also display progress, while some also provide gamers with tips, tricks, and tutorials to help find collectibles or beat tough challenges. These cards can also be viewed via a picture-in-picture mode.
The Control Center itself lists recent screenshots, news from PlayStation, and friends’ activities. Speaking of the latter, gamers can also join voice chats, view other users’ streams, or join their game directly.
The new home screen is where users will land when first booting the console. It now features dedicated Media and Games pages, which should serve to separate your binging and playing habits. The PlayStation Store is now also integrated into the latter, and it’s no longer a slow-loading app. Each game also gets its own hub too. If you need to request a refund from the PS store, check out our guide.
PS5 vs PS5 Digital Edition
As mentioned above, there are two versions of the Sony PlayStation 5, with one coming in quite a bit cheaper. The two are more similar than Microsoft’s two new Xbox consoles, but choosing can still be difficult when making the purchase.
So, what is the difference between the PS5 and the PS5 Digital Edition? It all comes down to the missing optical drive and the price tag. The designs are also a little different because of the said disc drive. If we’re honest, the PS5 Digital Version looks a little better, as the bulge added by the drive throws off the device’s symmetry.
Apart from that, the internals are identical. You’re still getting the same great load speeds and performance, unlike the cheaper Xbox Series S from Microsoft. However, it’s also $100 more expensive than the Series S.
So, should you get the PS5 Digital Edition over the standard model? If you honestly agree with the following statements, then yes:
- I plan to buy my games digitally.
- I don’t already have a large library of game discs.
- Borrowing games from a friend, Redbox, or a service such as GameFly is not something I intend to do.
- I already have or don’t need a Blu-Ray player.
If you will never use the drive, you might as well save some cash. We’ve got even more of an in-depth comparison between the two models if you’re interested.
Starting in November 2023, the base model of the PS5 will be replaced with a slimmer model, which fans have dubbed the PS5 Slim. For what it’s worth, Sony does not use this nomenclature, referring to it simply as the “new PS5.”
According to a leak from dataminer billbil-kun, the new model of the PS5 will launch on November 10, 2023. The PS5 Slim with Spider-Man 2 bundle, however, will launch on November 8.
This new model has the exact same specs as the original model, with a smaller footprint and a removable Blu-Ray disc reader, which will now be sold separately. To be clear, both current models will be replaced with the new model, with the only difference being that the digital version does not include the disc reader in the box. It can be purchased separately for $80.
There are a few other minor differences, starting with the aesthetics. There are now four panels on the sides, which helps facilitate the addition of the disc reader module. The internal SSD is now a full 1TB, rather than the 825GB of the launch model.
The PS5 touts some serious improvements over the PS4 as far as raw hardware is concerned. Here’s a complete overview of the PS5’s specs list compared to the PS4:
8x Zen 2 Cores at 3.5GHz with SMT (variable frequency)
8x Jaguar Cores at 1.6GHz
10.28 TFLOPs, 36 CUs at 2.23GHz (Custom RDNA 2 architecture)
1.84 TFLOPs, 18 CUs at 800MHz (Custom GCN architecture)
Custom 1TB SSD
NVMe SSD slot
Replaceable internal HDD
USB HDD support
USB HDD support
5.5GB/s (Raw), Typical 8-9GB/s (Compressed)
Approx 50-100MB/s (dependent on data location on HDD)
4K UHD Blu-Ray Drive
The PS5 features an upgraded CPU in the form of the AMD Zen 2, which sports eight cores clocked at 3.5GHz. This should provide significant performance gains over the PS4’s eight-core Jaguar 1.6GHz CPU. The PS5’s custom AMD RDNA 2 GPU is also a solid upgrade over last gen’s custom GCN GPU.
This CPU and GPU combination will allow the PS5 to utilize ray tracing acceleration. Ray tracing is advanced lighting tech that can take in-game graphics to a whole new level by more realistically mimicking the way light behaves in an environment.
The launch version of the PlayStation 5 also sports a proprietary 825GB SSD (667GB useable), with the new slimmer PS5 upgrading that to a full 1TB. Both support off-the-shelf NVMe SSD expandability. Not only does that mean users are able to easily expand their PS5’s storage, but it also offers faster load speeds. This allows for bigger maps, as well as better system memory management.
Experience high-quality 3D in-game audio.
The PS5’s April 2021 update did bring the ability to store your PS5 and PS4 games on an external hard drive attached via USB. You can’t play PS5 games on USB storage, but you can do this with PS4 titles.
Additionally, the console has a new custom AMD compute unit-based Tempest Engine. Using custom Head-related Transfer Function (HRTF) maps, this new tech allows gamers to experience high-quality 3D in-game audio with even the most basic headphones or speakers. In a deep dive prior to launch, the PS5’s lead architect Mark Cerny admitted the Tempest Engine is still in the early stages and that it may take years for it to fully develop.
PS5 users will be able to select from one of five custom HRTF maps that best fit their sound profile. Cerny hinted at how Sony could expand on this tech in the future:
“Maybe you’ll be sending us a photo of your ear, and we’ll choose a neural network to pick the closest HRTF in our library,” said Cerny. “Maybe you’ll be sending us a video of your ears and your head, and we’ll make a 3D model of them and synthesize the HRTF [or] you’ll play an audio game to tune your HRTF. We’ll be subtly changing it as you play and home in on the HRTF [that] matches you the best.”
What makes any console better than the next? The games!
The PS5 is backwards compatible with nearly every single game in the PS4’s library. At first, the company claimed that it would work with nearly all of the top 100 titles from the previous generation console. However, it later clarified that “99%” of PS4 games can be played on the PS5.
Sony says most PS4 titles will benefit from higher, more stable frame rates and/or higher resolutions on the PS5. It can’t guarantee every game will work, but it has already tested thousands of titles. And the aforementioned 99% figure means that there’s a great chance your desired title works. Early testing has shown some impressive results.
The PlayStation 5 is backward compatible with nearly every PlayStation 4 title at launch.
Unfortunately, those of you who want backward compatibility to go even further will likely be disappointed. You won’t be able to play PS3, PS2, or PS1 games on the PS5 unless those games were previously ported to the PS4 or are available via the PlayStation Now streaming service. The good news is that gameshare is a thing, making it easier to access games that you didn’t buy at a store.
Below, you can check out the most notable PS5 games as of October 2023:
- Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla
- Astro’s Playroom
- Baldur’s Gate 3
- Borderlands 3
- Dead Space
- Death Stranding
- Demon’s Souls
- Destruction AllStars
- Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition
- Destiny 2: Beyond Light
- Diablo 4
- Dirt 5
- Elden Ring
- Final Fantasy 7 Remake
- Final Fantasy XVI
- Ghostrunner 2
- God of War: Ragnarok
- Horizon Forbidden West
- Just Dance 2023
- No Man’s Sky
- Overcooked: All you can eat
- Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales
- NBA 2K23
- No Man’s Sky
- Planet Coaster: Console Edition
- Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
- Resident Evil 4
- Sackboy: A Big Adventure
- Spider Man 2
- The Last of Us: Part I
- The Pathless
- Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2
- Warhammer: Chaosbane — Slayer Edition
- Watch Dogs Legion
PS5 price and where to buy
The Sony PlayStation 5 release date was November 12, 2020, in the US and a few other select markets. It arrived just a week later (November 19) in several other major markets, such as the UK.
The PS5 price is set at $499 for the regular edition or $399 for the Digital Edition. While the former is the same as the Xbox Series X, the all-digital Series S is actually cheaper than the PS5 Digital by $100. The PS5 Digital is more powerful than the Xbox Series S, but it is worth noting that the barrier of entry for next-gen gaming is cheaper if you opt for Microsoft’s ecosystem.
Here are the official prices for the PS5 and PS5 Digital Edition around the globe:
- Europe: €550 and €450
- Japan: 67,000 and 60,000
- United Kingdom: £480 and £390
- United States: $550 and $450
The newer, slimmer PS5 will launch in November 2023, and it will replace all existing models once existing stocks are sold.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you should know that the PS5 isn’t the only console that launched in 2020. Its longtime rival Xbox released the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, both of which are solid upgrades over the Xbox One lineup.
The Series X is the true next-gen machine, offering performance that matches or exceeds that of the PS5. Both feature improved graphics and ray tracing, as well as speedy load times and great backward compatibility (although Xbox takes the win in that category).
The cheaper Series S, however, is a bigger departure than the PS5 Digital Edition, with less power packed into a smaller package. It’s the cheapest of all the new next-gen consoles at just $300. Nevertheless, it won’t deliver high framerates at high resolutions. There’s also no optical drive, so your existing physical library won’t make the jump.
Microsoft’s strategy also differs from that of Sony. It’s continuing to push services like Xbox Game Pass, which is a fantastic deal for gamers. It’s essentially a Netflix-for-games subscription that includes all first-party games, which can be played on your Xbox, PC, or even in the cloud (with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate).
While it’s not exactly next-gen, the Nintendo Switch is also a great PS5 alternative. It continues to sell extremely well years after release. Like the PS5, it has a great library of first-party games that you can’t play anywhere else. It’s also small and portable, so you can game both on the big screen at home and the small screen in bed or on the bus.
However, Switch hardware was not built for power. You won’t see high framerates or 4K resolution on any games. The focus is more on interesting experiences rather than graphics, which the Switch delivers in spades.
The PlayStation 5 might come with everything you need in the box, but there are some great accessories to make the experience even better.
If you want to play online, one of the first things you’ll need is a good headset. Sony has an excellent first-party option in the Pulse 3D wireless headset, which matches the console’s black and white aesthetic. It supports the new 3D audio thanks to Tempest 3D AudioTech, with up to 12 hours of battery life. Nevertheless, it can be very difficult to track down, so if you can’t find it, the SteelSeries Arctis 7P is a great alternative. It offers even better battery life and will work with your phone or PC, too.
Another essential accessory is a second DualSense controller. This will allow you to play local co-op with friends and family or just have a spare one charged. Sony also makes a handy DualSense charging station to keep both controllers topped off when not in use.
The PS5 features more storage than its predecessor, but you’ll still eventually need to invest in more storage. You can opt for a super-fast SSD that matches the one built-in like the Seagate FireCuda, but if your PS4 library exceeds that of your PS5, the WD Black P10 external hard drive is a better buy. It has tons of space for games, and you can swap them to your main SSD for the speed bump when necessary. Just keep in mind that you can only play PS4 games from USB storage right now, while PS5 games need to be copied back to the internal SSD if you want to play them.
Apart from those, you might also want a PlayStation 5 media remote for streaming, a PlayStation VR for a new way to game, or a PS5 HD camera to stream yourself playing games online. Once the new slimmer PS5 drops, you’ll want to consider getting the separate Blu-Ray disc reader
The PS5 release date was November 12, 2020, in the US, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea. The system launched on November 19 in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, South Africa, and South America.
The digital PS5 doesn’t support discs of any kind, but the standard PS5 supports the playback of DVDs, Blu-Ray discs, and 4K Blu-Ray discs. The newer PS5 Slim models will support a separate Blu-Ray disc module.
At first, most games cost the same as new PS4 titles — around $59.99. However, many of the latest titles are now $69.99, or more in some cases.
The PS5 Digital Edition starts at $450, while the standard PS5 model (which includes a disc drive) costs $550.