Late but still quick enough to keep us happy. The PlayStation 5 has had the rockiest launch in India and we’re not even blaming the pandemic this time. Fresh out of lawsuits over trademark disputes, the PS5 in India had a lot to deal with even before scalpers swooped in and nabbed some units during the short sale window in January.
So, the exclusivity of PS5 is not just limited to its banger titles but to ownership as well. Our review unit will leave our grip faster than a lubed up eel going down a waterslide. But before it leaves, we managed to spend a good deal of time with the PS5 (disc version) and around four months with the Xbox Series X to bring you this detailed review and some comparisons with Microsoft’s console.
The PS4 Pro sailed swiftly through the last generation of console wars. I will say that Nintendo’s Switch had its moments too, but in India, the dominating console has always been Sony’s machine. The short sale window that happened during the Jan closed up shop in less than 15 minutes. The lucky few who got their hands on the console will be enjoying it from today but the unlucky few who received cancellation requests from third-party stores are probably reading this review right now. Or you were simply unaware of the limited window. Still, it doesn’t change the fact that Sony showed up late and with very few units in India, to begin with. The Series X also had limited units for India but it had a timely launch. Restocking of both consoles will come soon but don’t expect it to fill up the store shelves. Pandemic be damned!
In my Series X review (which you can read here), I mentioned that the console is inconspicuous in its design and doesn’t grab attention from your living room’s decor. The PS5 is a stark contrast. Plonk it next to the telly and you’d be ogling at this white tower. It even manages to pull attention away from my OnePlus TV which has a motorized speaker. Even my PS4 Pro looks like a pizza box compared to the PS5. Accepting its flamboyance is completely up to your taste though. Glam comes naturally to the PS5 and I am all for that, but to my surprise, the lady who governs the rules of decor in my house was quite welcoming to the PS5 design.
This is how it is, and you’ll have to wait a while longer before you can change its white side plates with custom ones, which by the way, slides off and have conveniently placed holes beneath for vacuuming dust. It also gives you access to the storage bay where you can add an NVMe SSD for storage expansion. Sony hasn’t officially announced many compatible SSDs but rumour has it that the WD Black SN850 and Samsung 980 Pro meet the required specs for PS5 storage expansion. They’re still not certified by Sony so don’t take our word on it. It’ll only be possible through testing which we might do in the coming weeks.
The 825GB internal storage quickly drops to 667.2GB after Sony gobbles up storage for its UI and stuff so if you’re not looking to expand the storage, the disc version makes a bit more sense to pick up. It’s a bit heavier and asymmetrical. The digital version looks better in my opinion. You can even place the console sideways but there’s an entire process to do so. Not that you’ll be moving this thing around a lot but there’s a mounting bracket which can be used to place the console sideways or otherwise.
Everything feels new about the PlayStation console, right from its unusual design to its fantastic controller and even the UI. Turning on the console and getting it up and running is quite similar to how the PS4 is but there are tiny bit tweaks to the UI. For starters, the entirety of its UI is taken over by game titles and media streaming services. Both neatly segregated into sections. The menu and everything else pops up when you tap the PS button which is also known as the Home button.
I was a huge fan of the PlayStation 4’s UI simply because it didn’t try to be minimalistic. The PS5 tries to do that, and in some areas, does so at the cost of convenience. You can no longer tap L1 and R1 keys to go from one end of the screen to another. Instead, it shifts between Games and Media. No luck with L2 and R2 keys though. This is a minor jab at its UI but I understand the point though. It tries to put games at the front and centre of the PlayStation experience and at that, it outshines the Xbox UI.
The menu overlay is neatly organised below and doesn’t take much of the screen space like before. All the necessary information you need is dumped in there and everything else is cleared to make room for titles which offer recommendations about games and other related content based on the menu tab. There’s not a big learning curve here so the UI is nicer looking and easier to navigate too.
No matter how many articles you read or how many videos you watch, you can never truly understand how great the PS5 controller is until you actually hold the damn thing in your hand. It’s single-handedly the most innovative PlayStation gear I’ve ever used. Sony dropped the DualShock moniker for DualSense, calling the PS5 controller DualSense in light to its fantastic haptic feedback. The only way to truly understand the controller’s full potential is to download and play Astro’s Playroom. It’s an excellent demo for the new controller and it showcases everything the controller has to offer. A digital copy of the game is free with the PS5 too so don’t sit on this one.
The controller itself has gained weight and has a nice girth to it. And much like the Xbox controller, the PS5 controller now sits in your palm with ease and has a fuller grip this time. There are microscopic logos of the action buttons etched on the back of the controller which give it a grainy texture for better grip. Even the inside part of the PS5’s side plates has the same texture. It’s very detailed and instantly likeable.
The fascination with its controller doesn’t end there though. The haptic feedback is so precise and accurate that I was blown away by it. During my playthrough with Astro’s Playroom, the controller sent inch-perfect sensory feedback through its brilliant vibration motor. Skate on ice and the haptic feedback vibrates differently than it does when you’re walking on sand or metal or even glass. The adaptive triggers have dynamic resistance which simulates the in-game activity. For example - try to draw a bow-string and you’ll find a wee-bit of resistance from the R2 and L2 keys. Fire a ball-shooting gun and the ‘roundness’ of the balls leaving the gun nozzle can be felt through the controller. It’s magical! Of course, the sound has to do a lot with it too. There are speakers on the controller along with a mic this time. You can use the mic if you don’t have a mic on your headset and there’s even a conveniently placed mute button for the mic.
There’s no best way to describe the controller than to pick it up yourself and nose dive into Astro’s Playroom. The game itself is cute and wrestles with your emotions while you chase collectables to complete collections of the previous generation of consoles and gears. It’s the Mario game only Sony could come up with, and to that extent, it feels every bit of a crucial PS5 experience as its controller, navigating through its UI does or playing Spider-Man: Miles Morales on 4K 60hz with Ray Tracing enabled.
Games load and run with ultra-fast urgency. The new SSD is blazing for load times and boot up times. We didn’t whip out a stopwatch to check which one of the two consoles is faster but in practice, both Xbox Series X and PS5 have tons of speed and power to kick start the new generation of console wars.
The PS5 is also backwards compatible with PS4 games. So if you have PS4 titles, don’t send them to the storeroom just yet. You can sign-in with your PS account and play the old titles with ease. The DualShock 4 controller will work here as well. You just won’t get the haptic brilliance of the DualSense. Games like Spider-Man: Miles Morales and FIFA 21 have free upgrades to PS5 from the PS4 version and they take advantage of the DualSense controller’s haptics too. If your player is tired in a FIFA match, the R2 button for sprinting will get a bit stiff to press. It's a great way to know which players are fatigued and which ones have just been substituted with full stamina. Although some people might not like this while playing competitively. While shooting in Call of Duty, your fingers might need to put some extra effort to press the trigger. This can quickly get tiring and even cause fingers to hurt a bit in the long run. Thankfully you can turn the adaptive trigger feature off or reduce the level of resistance from the triggers.
PlayStation doesn’t have an answer to Xbox’s Quick Resume feature which I really like but with short loading times across both consoles, it won’t be a deal-breaker for many. Especially after using the DualSense controller, to which Xbox doesn’t have an answer.
Although, the Game Pass subscription on the Xbox is probably the best deal in gaming ever. It’s like a Netflix subscription for games and gives you access to more than 100 games, and even Xbox’s first-party titles on the day of release. Sony has only now started to pack a similar deal but it's barely a shadow of the Xbox Game Pass. The PlayStation Plus Collection gives you access to 20 PlayStation banger titles from the previous generation with your PlayStation Plus subscription. Heavy hitters like God of War, The Last of Us Remastered, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and many more are included here and you can check the entire list here.
While the Xbox Series X is carving out its own sweet road to the next generation of gaming, Sony’s idea of the next generation is quite different. Both consoles perform extremely well and with rapid speeds. The only difference is that Sony’s new DualSense controller marks a sense of occasion and propels the gaming experience further.
The PS5 controller is frankly out of this world and we’ll have to wait and see which games take full advantage of the thing in the future. Right now, with fantastic first-party titles and a system to showcase them at their best, the PS5 console is frankly the better console. Spider-Man: Miles Morales was on time to showcase the full extent of the PS5’s graphical capabilities and the upcoming God of War and Horizon Forbidden West are just two of the many titles that are coming exclusively to the PS5 this year.
If you’re a penny pincher, then Xbox’s Game Pass might lure you and it still is one of the best deals in gaming. But that said, the experience of the new generation of consoles is best had on the PS5.