DualSense PS5 Controller Review: the controller of the PlayStation 5 causes a sensation and buries the DualShock
PlayStation 5 DualSense Wireless Controller
Built around sensory experiences, the DualSense PS5 Controller is quite distinct from the DualShock of the previous PlayStation. A sensational controller in so many ways.
Revealed by Sony even before the design of the PlayStation 5 for which it was designed, the DualSense PS5 Controller created a surprise with its haptic technologies and innovative adaptive triggers, but also because of a design that marks a real evolution compared to DualShock. Enough to improve the grip to highlight as best as possible the new sensory effects of DualSense.
Included with the PlayStation 5, the DualSense PS5 Controller is also sold separately at the official price of $ 85, or $ 12 more than the DualShock 4 of the PlayStation 4. On the other hand, it is not compatible with the PS4 but can run on PCs, smartphones and tablets (Android and iOS), and even Nvidia Shield.
Construction and ergonomics
Sony had already significantly modernized its DualShock on the occasion of the release of the PlayStation 4, for the better since it gained in particular in comfort thanks to extended handles and more welcoming analog sticks. We could then guess the path towards which the Japanese manufacturer was heading because the lever was already tending to smooth its volumes to make room for more harmonious curves. With its DualSense PS5 Controller, Sony continues in this direction and completely erases the aesthetic peculiarities of the DualShock, while retaining its essential ergonomic features.
A curvaceous design that respects the fundamentals
This is how the two disc-shaped trays disappear, housing the directional cross and the four emblematic buttons of the PlayStation (triangle, round, cross, and square). These now follow the curve of the handles, in the manner of what is done at Microsoft with the Xbox controller. The same goes for the two cylinders which accommodate the analog sticks, even more, embedded in the hull. A curvaceous controller, therefore, takes volume in the process and seems more imposing in the hand than the DualShock 4.
However, its more generous shapes do not disturb the grip, Sony having taken care to keep the fundamentals of its DualShock, not changing the layout of the main controls of its controller or the distances that separate them from each other. This revolution in design, therefore, remains entirely reasoned and everything is done not to upset the habits of PlayStation players. The upheaval seems to us in any case less marked than during the transition from the DualShock 3 to the DualShock 4.
You can appreciate the gain in comfort provided by this new design from the first minutes of play. The grips fit perfectly in the palm of the hands and they have raised back coating – made of a tiny triangle, round, cross, and square logos in the back The spirit of what is seen inside the facades of the PlayStation 5, as can be seen in the photo below – offers the right amount of grip to limit slippage.
Not to spoil anything, the quality of manufacture progresses of a notch. The lever is very rigid, the assemblies are perfect, without any visible screws. The DualSense PS5 Controller is worthy of high-end “pro” controllers, despite its price twice lower.
A few grams more for the benefit of autonomy
If the DualSense PS5 Controller has gained in volume compared to the DualShock 4, it is not only to improve the comfort of the grip. It is also about integrating more components, including adaptive triggers which take up more space, but also a larger battery. The capacity of the latter thus increases by 57.5%, to 1260 mAh against 800 mAh only for that of the DualShock 4.
A very clear gain, necessary to supply the new triggers and the haptic technology which increase energy consumption. The autonomy, therefore, does not progress in the same proportions but is established at a dozen hours of play with the parameters of the intensity of vibrations by default (80%).
On the flip side, the DualSense PS5 Controller is gaining weight, posting 282 g on the scale, 64 g more than the DualShock 4. It’s still 14 g less than an Xbox Series X / S controller with its two batteries, but the remarkable lightness of the DualShock is no more. Charging takes about 1 h 15 min and is done via the USB-C port on the controller or via the specific connectors located on its lower edge if you use the optional dual charger sold by Sony.
It is also on this section that we find the mini-jack port used to connect a headset if you do not have a wireless model compatible with the PlayStation 5. Enough to enjoy the 3D sound of the console with any wired headset.
Small refinements that are important
Although it preferred to keep controls of the same size as those of the DualShock 4 (diameters of 10 mm for the buttons and 17.5 mm for the sticks, the center distance of 50 mm for the latter), Sony did not fail to improve them. The four main buttons and the directional cross are thus quieter and a little more flexible.
As for the analog sticks, they benefit from a fine relief on their edges, further improving grip.
We can also note a better response to the Create share buttons and the Option context menu (Share and Options on the DualShock 4) placed on either side of the touchpad. The PlayStation button, for its part, takes the form of the brand’s logo and is now used to bring up a quick menu bar. We will therefore use it quite often and we can be happy to note that it responds just as well as that of the DualShock 4.
Unfortunately, the L1 and R1 button triggers do not benefit from such good treatment. They are certainly larger, but still less responsive than their equivalents on the Xbox Series controller.
Otherwise, we note the absence of a light bar on the upper edge of the controller, initially introduced on the DualShock 4 to allow the controllers to be identified during multiplayer games in the same room and for detection in space during the game. use in virtual reality with the PlayStation VR.
This light bar is replaced by a thin translucent strip that goes around the DualSense PS5 Controller’s touchpad. The effect is thus much more discreet and no longer disturbs when playing in the dark or at the same level as our television (in which case the light could be reflected on the screen).
Innovative adaptive triggers
The most important changes are in the L2 and R2 triggers. Like the L1 and R1 button triggers, these gain in width and offer a similar feel to those of the DualShock. However, all the magic is indeed inside, without one being able to perceive at first sight any difference during their manipulation.
These two triggers, therefore, become “adaptive”, that is to say, able to oppose resistance to the sinking more or less strong according to the events occurring in the games which exploit their capacities.
The best illustration of the possible uses of this technology is given in the game Astro’s Playroom, included with the PlayStation 5. This is how we observe the trigger gradually stiffen when we stretch the string of a bow, before feeling a sudden release when we release the arrow when we can precisely measure the gases of the left and right engines of our spaceship.
Or when we compress with more or less force a figure mounted on a spring to make him jump with the desired vigor. Examples among others that reveal a real playful and especially immersive potential, as well as an ability to serve the gameplay, which the touchpad introduced with the DualShock 4 had never really managed to do.
Haptic technology to go beyond simple vibrations
Another great novelty of this DualSense PS5 Controller is the introduction of a so-called “haptic” technology to replace the still very basic vibrations of traditional controllers. Technology is finally quite close to what Nintendo offers with the HD vibrations of its Joy-Con. Sony thus uses more precise and responsive electronics and motors.
Capable of making us feel even the changes of materials on which our character evolves in games. Here too, it is Astro’s Playroom which gives us the most beautiful demonstration, and this from the very first seconds of the game, when we free our little robot character from its case which is none other than the DualSense PS5 Controller itself.
The precision of the vibrations is such that it becomes possible to give the sensation that something is moving in the controller. And this is only a foretaste of the possibilities of this haptic technology, which is then illustrated in different ways, as surprising as they are varied: feeling the materials (glass, metal, wood, sand, mud, etc.) on which work our character, blowing wind and even raindrops crashing into an umbrella, the effects are striking and make you want to see all games use this technology.
If so, of course, that we appreciate the tactile sensations. However, before we can say whether we like this technology or not, we must at least have tried the experience during a few levels of the game Astro’s Playroom., since it is very difficult to realize the gains obtained without having tried the experience yourself.
For this haptic technology as for that of adaptive triggers, the main question obviously lies in the interest that third-party editors will bring them. With good use, in combination with the gyro sensors and even the much more precise microphones that this DualSense PS5 Controller has, the developers of Astro’s Playroom have shown that there is no shortage of potential.
On the other hand, an under-exploitation to be satisfied overall with improved vibrations would be generally disappointing. This is also what we can already see with the launch games of the PlayStation 5, which use with more or less finesse if at all, these new features (see our report in the box). It’s up to the games from Sony studios to show the way.
Precision and responsiveness
Like the DualShock 4, the DualSense PS5 Controller uses a Bluetooth-based connection, but with a proprietary protocol to communicate with the PlayStation 5. And like the DualShock 4, this one is surprisingly fast! Latency is virtually imperceptible, which is far from the case with all Bluetooth controllers.
A very low reaction time combined with good button responsiveness, which makes this DualSense PS5 Controller a very good base that it will be difficult to surpass. We could have hoped for the arrival of mechanical switches in place of the rubber domes now used for several generations of controllers, but this would have been to the detriment of the silence of operation and the habits of millions of players who have learned to play with these controllers. characteristic sensations.
More limited use outside of PS5, but possible
Although Sony does not allow the use of its DualSense PS5 Controller on PlayStation 4, it has not locked its controller either. We, therefore, appreciate being able to use it both in USB and Bluetooth on a PC, even if it is necessary to do without the refinements of haptic technology and adaptive triggers, due to the lack of games that can use them outside the PS5. We also like to see it supported directly in Steam.
The DualSense PS5 Controller is also able to operate on Android smartphones and tablets as well as iOS in Bluetooth, which allows you to take advantage of it if you use the PlayStation Now cloud gaming service, for example, but also in any other game. mobile. Finally, let’s mention the arrival of compatibility with the Nvidia Shield, which completes the good compatibility of the DualSense.
What about in games?
Haptics and adaptive triggers are good, but games still need to exploit them. At the launch of the PlayStation 5, we feel that all the developers did not necessarily take the time to adapt their games, like those of Team Asobi (SIE Japan Studio) were able to do with Astro’s Playroom, which itself positions as a true technological demonstration. However, we can already get a taste with some launch titles of what we will get in the future.
In Spider-Man Remastered and its Spider-Man: Miles Morales sequel, the trigger travel is thus reduced by default to flit between buildings, making physical locking by latch unnecessary, as can be seen on some “pro” controllers. You can also feel certain effects directly via the triggers, such as the crackling of Miles’ electrical powers.
With NBA 2K21, adaptive triggers are linked to the basketball player fatigue and energy management system. You can feel the trigger harden in proportion to the increase in fatigue during a player’s sprint, for example. In situations of opposition, the triggers also become more or less hard to better reflect the physical relationship between the players.
In terms of haptic technology, a whole palette of more subtle effects is offered to us, ultimately helping to improve immersion and to better feel what is happening on the ground. No revolution, but no gadget effect either. We can simply regret that some effects are a little lacking in naturalness.
On the side of Demon’s Souls, the use of resistance effects of adaptive triggers is unfortunately much more limited. Just will we perceive some tension when using the arc. Nothing for the shield or even the heavy attacks of some larger weapons, which could have been transcribed.
The developers probably did not want to take the risk of upsetting the gameplay of such a game based on timing and precision during combat. On the other hand, we can appreciate the good use of vibrations, precisely dosed to enhance immersion and serve the gameplay without disturbing the action.
A little less subtle, but quite technical, the gameplay of Devil May Cry 5 is not revolutionized by haptic technology, but we gain interesting sensations that reinforce the action observed on the screen. The use of adaptive triggers is limited, however, boiling down to the roar of Nero’s sword motor when twisting its hilt. Friendly, but not necessarily essential.
Let’s finish with a little racing with DiRT 5 in which we obviously expected the use of adaptive triggers to reproduce the effects of braking and acceleration. This is indeed what the game offers, the L2 trigger opposing resistance to braking (with however the questionable choice to stop all resistance when the wheels lock), while the R2 trigger starts to vibrate during acceleration. if the wheels are spinning.
Once all these effects have been reviewed, we realize that the developers are still looking for a little. It is to be hoped that they will continue to experiment with DualSense PS5 Controller technologies to surprise us and use them to improve the gameplay of their titles as soon as the opportunity arises.
Strong Points of DualSense PS5 Controller
- Comfortable handling.
- Sensations provided by haptic technology.
- Adaptive triggers.
- Manufacturing quality.
- Good responsiveness of the wireless link and controls.
Weak Points of DualSense PS5 Controller
- The lightness of the DualShock is no longer (but remains very correct).
- Autonomy correct, but not fantastic (12 h max).
Technical Sheet / Characteristics
- Weight: NC
- Dimensions: NC
- Buttons: 8
- Triggers: 4
- Customization: 4
- Configuration software: 4
Noticeably different from the DualShock 4 in terms of design, the DualSense PS5 Controller has the good taste of retaining the fundamentals of its predecessor so as not to disturb players on PlayStation too much. It nevertheless brings many convincing improvements, which certainly come at the expense of the record lightness of previous Sony controllers, but act as real technological advances. The mention of “haptic” technology is thus not usurped and the adaptive triggers surprise as much as they convince. In short, success across the board.