Hands-on with the PlayStation 5

Gaming Age was very fortunate to get our hands on a PlayStation 5 review unit prior to the much-anticipated November 12th, 2020 launch, and after a few solid days with the powerful/unique looking console, we definitely have some thoughts regarding the PS5 hardware, DualSense Wireless Controller and game experiences offered.

The impressions are pretty high level at this point, due to some coverage restrictions, but fear not, more in-depth hands-on with the console, UI and next-generation PlayStation experience is in the queue. Apparently Play Has No Limits, though at this point we have a few in regards to what we can discuss.

PlayStation 5 Review Unit lenticular sleeve, DualSense Wireless Controller retail packaging

The Packaging

First up, the unboxing, un-packing and that new console smell. Within the attractive-yet-straightforward box and environmentally conscious packaging, there’s not all that much going on that’s particularly exotic (in that Apple sort of way at least).  The packaging is well organized and supportive enough to protect and secure the eye-catching and still slightly alien-looking console and included contents.

PlayStation 5 retail box with DualSense Wireless Controller retail box

We were able to get our hands on a standard PS5 unit equipped with a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray drive, though other than inverting the white box background with a black box background, there’s seemingly not much difference as compared to the Digital Edition box and packaging. Other than the $100 pricing differential for the disc SKU (unless you have data caps or inadequate internet options) that’s likely just personal preference these days.  I’ve personally migrated to nearly all digital gaming in this past generation, though movies on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray are worthy of extra attention since quality-wise they are still superior to 4K streaming on most services. But I digress.

Anyway, take a look at some of the retail unboxing below, including the outer sleeve, inner box and packaging.

Now onto the good stuff, the documentation and warranty paperwork and cables! And the console itself and controller too of course.

Retail box contents including console, DualSense controller, HDMI 2.1 cable, USB-C cable, power cable, docs

Sony made sure to point out that “PS5 packaging conforms to high environmental standards given our corporate focus on sustainability.” and as such it’s all pretty lightweight and seemingly mostly recyclable.

The PS5 Console

And here it is, the PS5 all unpacked and laid out, including that nifty, transforming stand that is required for either horizontal and vertical console placement.  You can tell the Sony engineering team put a lot of thought and effort into the design language of the PS5 product line and I’ve always been a big fan of the white/black/blue combo in consumer products, so out of the box it’s right up my alley.

The PS5’s removeable, microtextured matte white shell contrasts nicely with the quite glossy center unit and stylistically lines up perfectly with the DualSense controller as seen below.

The console itself (you’ve heard this one before) is pretty large and heavy, and it was obvious I would need to organize one of my electronics cabinets to accommodate for it — especially with plans to situate an Xbox Series X beside it somewhere if possible.  So with about 17″ of height available in that space, the 16″ tall console in vertical orientation (with stand) fits quite well with plenty of potential air flow around the side, front, back and top.

See the picture below for it’s current home.

The PS5 console fits quite well here, but you’ll need at least 16″ of vertical height

The DualSense Wireless Controller

So back to the DualSense Wireless Controller.  To spite all the attention on the unexpected console design, it’s a console’s controller that’s arguably way more important in the grand scheme of things.  I’ve owned and used every PlayStation controller ever made, back from the pre-Dual Analog original PS1 days to present times, and there are very few controllers that I’ve preferred over Sony’s designs overall.  The Sega Genesis 6-button fighting controller was pretty great though, which pre-dates the PS1 by a generation or so.   The DualSense for the PS5 is obviously an evolution of everything that came before it… the Dual Analog, Sixaxis, DualShock 2, 3 and 4.  It’s bulkier and heavier in the right way, nicely balanced and feels better in quality than the launch versions of the PS4 DualShock and the Xbox One controller.

DualSense Wireless Controller up close

Quality is definitely the prime adjective to describe the DualSense Wireless Controller and there’s no better way to experience all the built-in bells and whistles than by playing the way-too-charming Astro’s Playroom, which is pre-installed on the console and also available to download for free. (in case you delete it maybe?)

The Pack-in Game

Astro is quickly becoming one of my favorite PlayStation launch mascots, and SIE Japan/ASOBI Team has crafted a great PS5 pack-in that shows off the console’s capabilities, and especially the diverse DualSense functionality to great effect.  We can’t get too in depth on the game itself (it’s certainly more platformer than a tech demo), but we can definitely say how impressed we are with the controller experience within the game.  I wholly underestimated how impressed I’d be with the combination of haptic feedback, adaptive triggers and the high quality integrated speaker, and it’s really unique, next level stuff when used appropriately.

For example, in Astro’s Playroom’s Cooling Springs stage, even without looking at the screen at all, feeling/hearing/sensing nimble little Astro walking on and through different surfaces such as sand, water, wind, concrete, wood and metal was quite remarkable and recognizable.  I had to immediately drop the controller into all of my family member’s hands and asked them to play around for a few minutes and they were similarly impressed at the three-dimensionality of the sensation.  Overall, the DualSense’s buttons, triggers, digital pad, touch pad and analog sticks feel like they have a better build than later generation DualShock 4 wireless controllers — meaning no creakiness or extra play in either of the two controllers tested.  In Astro’s Playroom they even found a reason to use the integrated microphone in a way that actually makes sense from a gameplay perspective.  As for the adaptive triggers, the levels of resistance that can applied to them was also unexpected — in a good way. Programmatically altering the feeling of triggers on a game controller was not something I thought we needed, but I’m glad is an actual thing.  As with all unique features on a game console and controller, it’s up to the developer to utilize them and in the case of Astro’s Playroom hopefully that’s the standard other studios strive to live up to.

The Conclusion

But wait, there’s more… coming soon. We will have additional thoughts and impressions of a number of other PlayStation 5 next-generation features, software, UI and the general experience soon. So make sure to check back in the near future for those, but for now, here’s a few additional shots of the console alongside it’s PS4 Pro sibling.

PS5 with it’s comparatively svelte PS4 Pro sibling