PlayStation 5 Console Review: Play Has No Limits

PlayStation 5 Console Review: The top-selling game console

In a comfortable position with its very popular PS4, Sony has nevertheless spared no efforts to design a PlayStation 5 capable of competing without blushing with the Xbox Series X. Result, an extraordinary home console, which has under the hood.

Presentation

It is finally here. Seven years after the PlayStation 4, Sony’s 5th home console is given the difficult task of succeeding in what was one of the most popular and profitable consoles in the history of video games. The test will not be facilitated by competition from a Microsoft more spirited than ever, which pits the PS5 not one, but two very convincing next-generation Xboxes.

On the technical side, the bowels of the PlayStation 5 (PS5) are organized around an APU provided by AMD, combining a central processor Zen 2 with 8 cores / 16 threads and a graphics processor derived from the RDNA 2 architecture. These two central elements adopt a mode of operation a little less traditional than those of previous-generation consoles or even Xbox Series S / X: their clock frequency varies constantly depending on the needs of the game, under the constraint of a constant overall electric power budget.

On arrival, the PS5 offers on paper a “raw” computing power slightly below that of the Xbox Series X. These figures could however be offset by certain characteristics specific to the architecture of the PS5 – in particular a GPU that can achieve extremely high maximum clock frequencies. RAM for its part consists of 16 GB of GDDR6.

PlayStation 5 Console

Image Source: amazon.com

And then there is finally this famous “magic SSD”, feeding all the fantasies for months, which is not limited only to spectacularly high raw data rates (5.5 Gb / s), and also benefits from many innovations in its integration into the system (very fine control of priorities, ultra-fast compression/decompression by dedicated silicon, etc.). All of these promises not just shortened loading times but downright wiped out.

Manufacturing

We felt it coming from the very first presentations of the console, but we cannot repeat it enough: yes, the PlayStation 5 is a huge machine. Really huge. Whatever psychological preparation you have taken before unwrapping it, you cannot contain a little stupor when you see with your own eyes this monumental totem with such a unique design. Already impressive when it is positioned vertically, the machine seems strangely even more massive horizontally, with its 11 cm thick and 40 cm wide.

At least the whole thing shows exemplary finishes and a keen sense of detail – which sometimes even turns into vanity, for example when it comes to the internal texture of the white panels, actually made up of tiny cross, square, round, and round symbols. triangle.

Only a lack of taste spoils all this, and it is unfortunately not trivial: the central part dressed in shiny black plastic reminds us of bad memories of the original PS3 and PS4. If its visual effect may seem pleasant when unpacking the console, the surface is a real magnet for dust, fingerprints, and especially scratches.

The two white side panels can be removed by the user to gain access on the one hand to the slot for M.2 SSD (we will come back to this below), and on the other hand to two openings for vacuuming the accumulated dust. in the cooling system – very important attention, since it will not be necessary to disassemble the console and invalidate its warranty to maintain it properly!

Just be careful, when removing these panels, not to get carried away by your force, otherwise you could slide the tabs on the console’s internal plastic frame, and inflict large gashes on it. What do you mean, “it smacks of lived experience?”

As for the famous DualSense controller, it enjoys an irreproachable quality of manufacture. We have already told you about his famous haptic feedback, surprisingly convincing and intriguing. On the battery side, we have unfortunately not yet been able to carry out precise autonomy measurements, but we can already assure you that despite all the additional features of the DualSense, its autonomy clearly exceeds the meager 8 to 10 hours provided by the DualShock controller. 4 of the PS4. Phew! For more details, we will quickly offer you a complete test dedicated to the new controller.

Picture

As it should for a 2020 machine, the PlayStation 5 prides itself on HDMI 2.1 compatibility (including the cable supplied with the console!), Which notably allows it to ship 4K HDR video streams to 120 Hz to compatible televisions, certainly rare today, but which will become more and more common in the years to come.

However, support for the standard is not as comprehensive and rigorous as on the Xbox Series X and S side. Thus, these same 120Hz 4K HDR signals are transmitted with very slight colorimetric downsampling (YCbCr 4: 2: 2) – which, however, will only move the most zealous nitpickers, as the resulting loss of image quality is minimal.

Unlike the Xbox Series S / X, the PS5 is also strictly limited to the image definitions standardized by the HDMI consortium and therefore does not offer video output in 1440p definition. This is a shame in particular for owners of Samsung QLED televisions of 2018 and 2019: since they are not 2160p 120 Hz compatible, they will therefore have to be content with a 1080p signal to take advantage of this very high frame rate, so even they could quite have supported a 1440p 120Hz signal.

On the HDR side, Sony’s machine is obviously HDR10 compatible, but on the other hand dispenses with any support for Dolby Vision, whether for games, video streaming, or Ultra HD Blu-ray playback. Pity.

Audio

In the months leading up to the release of its new console, Sony has placed a surprisingly heavy emphasis on the 3D audio capabilities of the PlayStation 5, conferred by its famous Tempest Engine. As a reminder, the PS5 has a chip entirely dedicated to sound and its spatialization, capable of managing several hundred simultaneous audio objects, their location, and their return to the player via various virtualization techniques.

Ultimately, the manufacturer promises that this virtualization can be done with any home-cinema installation (but unfortunately not in Dolby Atmos or DTS: X formats, to which the console is completely sealed for games), soundbar, pair stereo speakers, or even just the TV’s built-in speakers.

When the console was launched, however, it was reserved for users of headphones – and by that we mean any classic stereo headset plugged either in a 3.5 mm mini-jack on the controller or in USB on the controller. console. The process is based on a binaural conversion: the machine applies treatments to sounds simulating the effects of their interaction with our head and our ear flaps, which are the elements by which our auditory system manages to determine the directionality of its sound environment.

A small subtlety far from being trivial: since we all have a head and ear morphology that is distinct from each other, said effects are different for each of us. Wishing his solution to work with the same efficiency for the vast majority of players.

The result to the ear? To be honest, it is both impressive and disappointing. On the one hand, it was probably a mistake on Sony’s part to insist so much on this 3D sound, which in no way will revolutionize our sound relationship with games. No, this treatment alone is not enough to give the impression of playing in a well-calibrated movie theater, nor does it allow us to immediately and with absolute precision detect the position of an enemy approaching behind our backs.

And yet, that doesn’t prevent it from being one of the best consumer headset virtual spatialization treatments we’ve ever tried, vastly superior to any of the virtual 7.1 treatments ubiquitous on PC gaming headsets, and significantly better than the Dolby Atmos for Headphones and DTS Headphone: X processing offered on Xbox Series S / X. It brings real depth and a lot of naturalness to the soundstage, really promoting immersion in games, and this without adding any unsightly artificial echo or reverberation effects to the sound. It is already a lot.

Best of all, this treatment is not just for PS5 games. Even on backward compatible PS4 movies or games, it then acts like a more classic virtual 7.1, but still very effective.

As for wireless audio, it will be necessary to turn to a headset with a USB transmitter/receiver, since the PS5 does not accept Bluetooth models. Like all modern consoles, the PS5, unfortunately, does not support this protocol for audio devices, probably because of its too high latency for gaming. However, it is not necessary to use a PlayStation certified headset, since the console also easily accepts any PC headset.

User Experience

New as it is, the interface of the PlayStation 5 is ultimately a continuation of that of the PS4. Regulars of the previous Sony console will feel particularly in known land when going for a walk in the settings menu, almost unchanged, or even quite simply on the home screen, built on the same principles as that of the predecessor. The latter has the merit of simplicity and efficiency, even if it lacks a bit of prioritization for our taste. The list of the latest software used happily mixes games, system apps, and multimedia apps into a lousy whole.

Regarding said multimedia applications, the manufacturer promises the presence of Netflix, Disney +, myCANAL, Apple TV, YouTube, Twitch, Spotify on its machine, in addition of course to the Ultra HD Blu-ray player. We were unable to test these apps for our test, as they are not yet finalized at the time of this writing. Added to all this is also the playback of Ultra HD Blu-ray, for the most demanding moviegoers.

But the real novelty is this new intermediate system menu, inserted between the home menu and the game. It includes some of the social features of the console, which can now be accessed without even pausing the game. It also hosts what the builder calls “activities”, through which games have the opportunity to offer the player missions and other challenges of their own, which can be accessed with a single click. Quite frankly, the potential of this system is not really evident on the few launch games that we had at our disposal for this test, the proposed activities duplicating the systems implemented within the game itself. But who knows, maybe in the future

Regarding internal storage, of the 825 GB of space announced by Sony, only 667 remain available to the user after converting to gibibytes and removing the space reserved for the operating system. It is relatively little: in the current state of things, a dozen “big” games are generally enough to saturate it.

If this is not enough for him, the user has the option of connecting an external drive on which he can install his PS4 games. PS5 titles, on the other hand, must remain confined to the internal SSD – and unlike what is offered on the Xbox side, it is not even possible to archive them to external storage. Ultimately, the manufacturer will propose as a solution to add an SSD in M.2 format in the hatch provided for this purpose, on the express condition that its performance is sufficient to replace the internal SSD.

At the time of writing, no existing model on the market has been certified as compatible by Sony, and the console outright refuses to boot if an uncertified SSD is installed in the slot. Patience is therefore required for those who would like to opt for this solution.

Side multimedia applications, Sony promises the presence in the launch window of the console of Netflix, Disney +, myCANAL, Apple TV, YouTube, Twitch, and Spotify. Added to all this is also the playback of Ultra HD Blu-ray, for the most demanding moviegoers.

Backward Compatibility

It is an understatement to say that Sony’s communication around the backward compatibility of the PS5 has been much more subdued than that of Microsoft for its Xbox Series X. What was our surprise, therefore, to find that the Japanese console yet does almost as well as its American rival on this point.

On the vast majority of the games that we were able to test, the Sony machine was able to provide loading times halved, performance clearly stabilized on games with unstable framerate, and a considerably improved frame rate on games. at the unlocked framerate. These improvements apply to games that have benefited from optimization for PS4 Pro as well as others.

Among the latter, Killzone Shadow Fall or the narrative game Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture now easily reach the 60 fps line. Among the former, the marvelous The Last Guardian, while still locked at 30 fps, is finally 100% rid of its performance drops, while God of War and Final Fantasy XV now offer “performance” modes that again never deviate from 60 fps.

The most spectacular case that we have seen is that of Infamous: Second Son: the game of Sucker Punch offering in its options both choosing a high rendering definition and unlocking performance, the title reaches on PS5 a 60 Perfect fps with a 1800p image, something the PS4 Pro wouldn’t even dare to dream of.

Audio is no exception. As stated above, all PS4 games benefit at a minimum, when running on PS5, from an excellent virtual 7.1 applied by the console when using a headset. But that’s not all. A number of games already offered on the previous generation a very basic implementation of 3D sound (including The Last of Us Part II, Uncharted 4, Days Gone, Ghost of Tsushima, or Horizon Zero Dawn), but with an asterisk: 3D spatialization was only accessible to owners of the official PlayStation Platinum headset. This limitation is no longer valid on PS5, and it is now with any stereo headset that we can fully enjoy the sonic beauties of these games.

One small curiosity spoils all this a bit: when HDR is allowed in its settings, the console makes the curious choice to keep HDR enabled on all games, including those that do not support this extended dynamic range. However, do not believe that it is because the console applies an HDR conversion to these games, as for example the Xbox Series S / X would.

It just simply packages the SDR image into an HDR stream. This is very annoying because it can be accompanied by a degradation of the image on some televisions; LCD screens in particular will generally increase the intensity of their backlighting more than usual, and therefore degrade the contrast of the image. We hope that

Consumption, Heating, and Noise

The very particular architecture of the PlayStation 5 promises a consumption that should be very little variation between games, in all modes of performance, we measure a consumption between 195 W and 200 W. At most, the appetite of the machine rose to 213 W when a Wi-Fi download occurred in the background of a game. C is a lot, significantly more than the PS4 Pro (165 W) and even above the Xbox Series X (185 W). In active-standby (downloading in progress), 43 W are drawn from the outlet, and 3 W in inactive standby.

Who says big consumption, says big heat dissipation. A toaster, the PS5? Absolutely not. The gigantic radiator on board the machine is as efficient as promised: the hot air outlets barely exceed the 50 ° C mark, far from the 58 ° C reached by the Xbox Series X – and let’s not even talk about it the 65 ° C of the original PS4 and PS4 Pro.

And yes, we can confirm it, all this is done well in silence. In full effort, we measured at worst a noise amounting to 39 dB (A) by sticking our sound level meter to the ventilation grilles of the machine. Almost comically, it was enough for him to see himself decked out with the unfortunate title of the loudest console of this generation. She has the nerve not to be as inaudible as the Series X, the scoundrel! No matter: at just one meter away, this noise already drops below 30 dB (A) and will be drowned out under the background noise of any living room.

Of course, the usual precautions must be taken: it is possible and even probable that these behaviors will change over time when the games begin to exploit more intensely the power of the machine, or even with the power of the machine. ‘contamination of the cooling system. But the initial impressions nevertheless confirm a clear trend: this generation of consoles will be that of silence, or not.

Strong Points

  • The console very well cooled.
  • 4K compatibility at 120 Hz.
  • Well-built, comfortable DualSense controller with surprising haptic feedback.
  • Excellent PS4 backward compatibility (performance gains and speed of loading).
  • The promise of shattered load times, already fulfilled with Spider-Man Miles Morales.
  • 3D audio with natural and immersive spatialization, working with any headset.
  • Play Ultra HD Blu-ray movies.

Weak Points

  • Gargantuan size.
  • Variable noise pollution between consoles.
  • High consumption.
  • The shiny black plastic, messy and very prone to scratches.
  • No Dolby Atmos or DTS: X compatibility (in games), no Dolby Vision (short).
  • Incomplete HDMI 2.1 support at launch (no ALLM, no VRR).

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