PS5 review: Xbox rival has better games and the BEST joypad – but it’s no looker


GRAB your pens and start writing Dear Santa, because you’ll want to add a PlayStation 5 to your Christmas list.

I’ve been testing out Sony’s next-gen PS5 games console, and it’s nothing short of a work-of-art – at least on the inside…

Sony’s mammoth PlayStation 4 stands at well over a foot tall

What is the PS5?

The PS4 came out way back in 2013, so a sequel is long overdue.

Sony’s PlayStation 5 marks a new generation of gaming consoles – with stunningly detailed 4K and 8K graphics.

The console has a space-age design and extremely powerful hardware, which is why you’ll pay £449/$499 for the luxury of owning one.

It’s not without rival either: Microsoft’s Xbox Series X is out soon and is similarly impressive.

The console is massive whichever way you place it

There’s a cheaper version of the PS5 with no disc tray that shaves £100/$100 off the price. Consider buying it if you’re not bothered by downloading all your games, and losing the ability to resell them after use.

PS5 design

When it comes to design, the PS5 is seriously out there.

For a start, it’s absolutely enormous – I’d wager two times the total surface area of the Xbox Series X.

It stands well over a foot tall (about 40cm), and is over 4 inches thick even on its side.

I managed to move a shelf on my Ikea TV cabinet to fit it in longways – but I had nowhere to put it vertically, except on the floor.

I’d argue that it’s prohibitively big, especially given how much smaller its main rival is.

But it does look pretty cool: the console has a black core with a curved white cut-off shell.

This mismatched colour makes the console look smaller than it is, which was probably deliberate.

There’s a blue glow that emanates from the centre of the machine, with a disc tray slot visible on the front.

I don’t adore the design: it’s definitely fancy, but I think maybe a little too garish for many living rooms.

However, I’ve seen outpourings of delight about it online, so it’s probably a Marmite situation – you’ll love it or hate it.

The next-gen DualSense controller is magical

It’s certainly more eye-catching than the Xbox Series X, which may work to Sony’s benefit.

The new DualSense controller is similarly chunky, with a borrowed white-and-black colour scheme.

It’s definitely a departure from the old DualShock 4, but a welcome one.

I’ll go into more detail about the controller later in this review, because it’s a masterpiece.

PS5 specs and performance

There’s no denying it: the PS5 is an absolute monster.

It’s got an AMD Zen 2 processor with eight cores, clocked to 3.5GHz.

And the GPU can handle a staggering 10.28 teraflops – that’s 10.28 trillion operations a second.

You get 16GB of GDDR6 RAM, which is par for the course for a decent gaming PC these days.

In terms of storage, you’ve got a 825GB custom SSD – that’s important.

Unlike hard-disk drives of your, SSDs are flash memory, and the PlayStation’s is extremely fast.

It means load times are reduced significantly, and in some cases negated altogether.

The big showcase for the PS5 is Spider-Man: Miles Morales.

The PlayStation 5 doesn’t even struggle with Spider-Man’s sweeping New York cityscape

Lighting, particle effects and textures in Miles Morales are fantastic

It’s a follow-on from the 2018 title, and follows a second Spider-Man through crime-stopping adventures in New York.

Only this time it’s Christmas, and the Big Apple has been transformed into a Winter Wonderland (which is a wonderful respite from the horrors of actual 2020).

This game is beautiful.

The draw-distances are huge, allowing you to see right across Manhattan in stunning 4K.

And detailed textures, realistic weather effects like falling snow, and moving objects like people are cars are all rendered brilliantly.

But it also gives the PS5 a chance to show off one of its neatest tricks: ray tracing.

This next-gen gaming technology (also available on Xbox) maps the path of light and shadow.

It means the game can accurately render proper reflections, lighting effects and more.

You can see it in the windows of skyscrapers, which have traded blurry glows for proper reflections.

Look into one window and you’ll see a moving aircraft mapped properly in the reflection, visible in the game world behind you.

People, cars and Spidey himself are all reflected properly, which is great.

You’ll also notice ray-tracing in puddles, your shadow as you move around the city, and on water surfaces.

Ray-traced reflections, lighting and shadow are incredible

It’s also worth noting that even in 4K, the game’s frame-rate appeared stable – I didn’t notice any drops.

What’s doubly exciting is that Spider-Man: Miles Morales is a launch game, and only represents the cusp of PS5 gaming.

Game makers will learn to make the most out of the PS5’s hardware in the years to come, and we’ll see significant leaps in how good a game can look.

PS5 DualSense

The DualSense controller is so impressive it deserves its own section for review.

Sony has really knocked it out of the park with this one.

The idea behind DualSense is haptic feedback, which effectively means letting you “feel” the game.

This is ultimately to make games more immersive, and requires efforts on the part of developers to support the controller.

For instance, the vibrations in the joypad are zonal, so you can feel different levels of rumble in different areas.

One demo sees objects dropped into the controller on-screen, prompting you to tilt the real-world joypad around.

Astro’s Playroom lets you experience the best DualSense has to offer

I did it, and it genuinely felt as though there were objects inside the controller rolling around.

It also creates a sort of vibration surround sound effect, whereby you can “feel” vibrations (say from an explosion) directionally.

There’s also a built-in speaker in the controller for actual audio too, which helps.

One of the best new features for DualSense is the adaptive triggers.

The L2 and R2 buttons have adjustable tension – and can be modified depending on what’s happening.

If the console is off, the buttons press down smoothly.

But game makers can add in the tension of drawing an arrow across a bowstring, or the stretching sensation of pulling an elastic cable.

One of the games that ships with the console is Astro’s Playroom, designed specifically to show off the DualSense controller.

It’s good fun and feels Mario-esque, and really helps you get to grips with all of the DualSense tricks.

Xbox simply can’t match this level of controller immersion yet, so it’s a big win for PlayStation.

And the exciting part is that game makers are only now starting to use this tech, so expect big things in the future.

The console divides with looks – but is a gaming powerhouse however you look at it

PS5 games

PlayStation is the big-hitter when it comes to games for the next-generation, at least for now

The console has some extremely tasty titles, even beyond the exclusive Spider-Man: Miles Morales.

There’s a new Resident Evil game in the works called The Village, with an eerie trailer that you should check out as soon as possible.

And the beloved Horizon: Zero Dawn is getting a long-awaited sequel called Horizon:Forbidden West that looks like it’ll be even better.

Other treats in the pipeline include Gran Turismo 7, Sackboy: A Big Adventure and a graphically stunning remake of Demon’s Souls.

Sony’s PlayStation 5 has fantastic exclusives

You’ll still be able to play recent PS4 classics like Ghosts of Tsushima and The Last of Us Part 2.

And the new Call of Duty Cold War game has a mode called Zombies Onslaught that will be a PlayStation exclusive for the next year.

Fortnite is getting a big graphical upgrade too, so your old games haven’t been forgotten.

It’s fair to say the new Xbox has a far less exciting line-up of games, though the upcoming Halo Infinite may tempt you to Microsoft’s console.

PS5 review verdict – should you buy it?

The PS5 is a wonderful but tricky beast for me.

On the one hand, I think it’s too big and bold – especially for something taking pride-of-place in your living room.

The Xbox Series X has it beat on design, honestly.

But the PS5 is so incredible in so many ways, not least its hefty graphical output.

The roster of launch games, exclusives and titles to come are brilliant, and very hard to beat.

Sony’s DualSense controller is an absolute delight and makes the new Xbox joypad look like a total bore.

And it’s extremely powerful – you’d struggle to build a similarly proficient gaming PC for the price.

There’s the looming question of how much life consoles have left in them: games are moving to the cloud and can be streamed to even budget devices.

PC gaming, too, offers better performance and a wider array of titles to enjoy.

But even if this is a last hurrah from consoles, it’s a bloody brilliant one.

You might balk at the £449/$499 price tag, but it’s a miracle it’s that cheap, all things considered.

HOAR says: Look past its gargantuan form and you’ll find the PS5 is a console masterpiece – with stunning graphics, a truly next-gen controller and loads of must-have games on offer. 4.5/5

  • PS5 at Game for £449 – buy here
  • PS5 at Best Buy for $499 – buy here

The PlayStation 5 is out on November 12 in the US and November 19 in the UK. All prices in this article were correct at the time of writing, but may have since changed. Always do your own research before making any purchase.

In other news, HOAR’s favourite alternative to a games console is the Oculus Quest 2 VR headset.

Grab a VR headset and you’ll be able to play the legendary Beat Saber – like Guitar Hero, but with lightsabers.

And Dell’s Alienware R10 Ryzen Edition is a gaming PC powerhouse that crushes both the new consoles.