PS5 unboxing and preview: design, controller and playing Astro’s Playroom

PS5



(Image credit: Future)

After months of pining over screenshots, watching videos and consuming every piece of information possible about the PS5, we’ve finally had a chance to try out Sony’s next-gen console first hand. We’ve had extensive time playing with the new DualSense Controller and built-in game Astro’s Playroom, and we can tell you what you can expect when you open the box.

We’re able, for the first time, to talk about what it’s like to play games on the console – actually, make that game, singular, as we’ve only been able to try the aforementioned Astro’s Playroom. Nonetheless, it’s given us a good feel for how the console is shaping up. 

It’s too soon to discuss what the PS5 is truly capable of, and what it’s like to navigate around the new user interface, but we can finally talk about the system itself, its design, and – most importantly – our first impressions of Sony’s next-generation gaming hardware.

Welcome to the future of console gaming – this is our first look at the PS5.

PS5 unboxing: it’s not what’s on the outside that counts 

The PS5’s box is fairly inconspicuous. There aren’t any screenshots of next-gen games or cool, cutting-edge visuals, but it does do its job of providing key information at a glance: for example, it reaffirms that we’re getting 825GB of storage space on the console itself instead of a full 1TB, and the PS5 box talks about the 3D Audio technology in passing detail. 

While the Xbox Series X’s exterior packaging touts its Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos support, the PS5 only hits you with three key numbers on the front: 4K/120 and 8K, followed by the acronym HDR. Those details prove that it’s a powerful console, certainly, but otherwise specs-related info is mostly minimal – the back of the box mentions the console’s SSD and custom CPU.

Inside the box you get the console, a wireless controller, the base, an HDMI cable that’s almost certainly HDMI 2.1-compliant (it’s actually the same one that shipped with the PS4 Pro), plus the power cord, a USB-C-to-USB-A cable to charge the DualSense controller, and the user manual / warranty info.

You’ll also, technically, get one game inside the box – that’s Astro’s Playroom, which, as mentioned, comes pre-installed on every PlayStation 5 console. 

PS5 design: welcome to the fan-cooled future of gaming 

Space invader

(Image credit: Sony)

The PS5 is a comically large console and, as such, you may need to rethink whether the system will fit inside (or on top) of your entertainment center. Honestly, it’s that big. In fact, this is the biggest console Sony has ever made, by some margin, and it utterly dwarfs the PS4 Pro in height, depth and thickness. From our early impressions, the PS5 does seem to be cool and quiet at least. 

If gaming consoles had weight classes, the PS5 would be in the heavyweight division: we measured it at around 38.8 x 8 x 26cm or 15¼ x 3 x 10¼ inches (H x W x D) – though the curved surfaces make getting an exact measurement kind of difficult – and weighed it at nearly 10 pounds (4.5kg or around 9.92 pounds). 

Because of its size and weight, you’ll need to put it on a sturdy base (included with the console) that can both bear the weight of the console and has enough space for the PS5. The disc tray makes the PS5 a little thicker on one side towards the base of the console – though if you’re buying the PS5 Digital Edition, your console won’t have a disc tray at all and will be even on both sides.

While it’s on the larger side, the PS5 still looks pretty sleek with its curved edges, bicolor design and eye-catching LEDs that run along the inside lip of the console. The all-white shell encloses a reflective black center that looks, to some of the TechRadar team, like a reverse Oreo cookie.

In terms of ports, the front has USB-A and USB-C ports, while the back sports two USB-A ports, an HDMI 2.1, Ethernet and a power port. There are no proprietary ports on the console, but that actually feels like a good thing this time around. It’s almost identical to what you’d find on the Xbox Series X, but the X also has a slot for expandable storage that the PS5 doesn’t have. Sony says it’s possible to upgrade the internal storage with an NVME SSD, but we’re hopeful the PS5 will get external SSD options, too.

Our least favorite part of the PS5’s design so far is that the stand can be fairly tricky to figure out at first. Yes, it can go on either the bottom or the side of the console, but finding exactly where the console is supposed to sit on the base is a bit unclear. 

We’re also not super-keen on the vents on all sides of the console, but the benefit to this is that the PS5 is a fairly quiet console, and keeps surprisingly cool. 

We haven’t been able to put it through a rigorous gameplay test quite yet – we’ll likely need Spider-Man: Miles Morales or the Demon’s Souls remake for that – but so far the system has run whisper-quiet and hasn’t generated too much heat.

PS5

(Image credit: Future)

PS5 DualSense Controller: the comfiest PlayStation controller ever?

A true generational leap

(Image credit: Sony)

The PS5 DualSense controller’s haptic feedback and adaptive triggers combine to create a truly transformative experience. The sensations that can be created are often remarkable, and back up Sony’s claim that the DualSense will make games feel more immersive. While we have our doubts that third-party developers will use its full suite of features, the possibilities and potential have us feeling very optimistic about how games will use it in the future. 

To navigate this brave new world of console gaming, you’ll need a new controller – namely, the new Sony DualSense that was introduced earlier this year. The controller feels similar to the DualShock 4 that shipped with the PS4, and is incredibly comfortable to hold for extended periods of time. 

Picking it up, the DualSense is fairly light and balanced, with most of the weight resting in the grips of the controller. While most of the controller features a matte white plastic finish, the bottoms of the grips themselves have a slightly rougher texture that actually makes the controller easier to hold, and less likely to slip out of your hands. 

On the front face of the controller you’ll see the traditional D-pad and shape buttons, now with a transparent plastic coating that matches the console’s futuristic aesthetic, as well as the options, share, PlayStation and microphone mute buttons. 

The front face of the DualSense also has the two new concave control sticks with a rubber grip finish on the outer edges that feel easier to hold onto, while the touchpad, which has an LED light running underneath, it is similar to the one found on the DualShock 4.

On the back and you’ll find the bumpers and triggers, as well as the USB-C port that you’ll use to recharge the controller. After getting some game time with it, the bumpers themselves feel a bit mushy, but the triggers feel absolutely fantastic, thanks to adaptive feedback that allows developers to program the resistance of the triggers to simulate actions more accurately, replicating sensations like pushing down the pedal of a car or pulling back a bow string – it’s a huge step forward for haptics in Sony hardware.

Last but not least there’s the 3.5mm audio jack that allows you to plug in your own headset, should you decide you don’t want to use the controller’s built-in microphone.

PS5

(Image credit: Future)

PS5 gameplay first impressions: Astro’s Playroom is silly, fun… and pretty forgettable  

A trojan horse

(Image credit: Sony)

If you’re looking for an incredible showcase of what the PS5 DualSense controller can do, Astro’s Playroom is it. The haptic feedback and adaptive controller are used in clever and inventive ways that will not only surprise but delight. You can genuinely feel the different materials Astro runs over or objects you interact with. While some may dismiss it as a throwaway inclusion, this will be the game that sells you on Sony’s vision for PS5. 

While everyone is looking forward to playing Demon’s Souls and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales at launch, your first official PS5 game will be the one that comes pre-installed on the console: Astro’s Playroom.

We won’t mince words here: Astro’s Playroom is silly, fun… and probably not going to win Game of the Year 2020. As a fully fleshed-out sequel to Astro Bot: Rescue Mission, Astro’s Playroom is a platformer that uses exotic locales to hide artifacts from Sony’s PlayStation hardware catalogue. You’ll find a PlayStation VR Aim Controller hidden in a snowbank somewhere in one level, for example, while another level might be hiding the PlayStation Portable inside a haystack. (That second example is a made-up one, because we can only talk about the first level, but you get the point.)

The first full level of the game comprises roughly what we’d consider 25% of the game, and much of this serves as an introduction to what the new DualSense Controller can do, and acts as a showcase for the console’s faster load times, smoother frame rates and adaptive triggers.

The level we got to check out was called Cooling Springs, and it was very reminiscent of an ice stage in a Super Mario Galaxy or Mario Odyssey game, with little collectibles scattered everywhere and hidden secrets just off the beaten path. There are varied enemy types, many of which you might have seen before if you played the previous Astro game, and you’ll also be entering other modes of transportation – like a giant spring – that help to mix up the gameplay every once in a while.

What struck us most during our time in the level is just how smoothly the game played on our 4K/60Hz TV with HDMI 2.1 and how fast everything loaded. No, we couldn’t get the hallowed 4K/120Hz gameplay we’ve heard Sony tout for the last few months, but even at 4K/60Hz the PS5’s frame rate was rock-solid and felt buttery smooth.

We likely won’t invest more time than it takes to beat the game over the next week, and will then uninstall it to reclaim the 10GB of storage space it takes up on the console, but we’re glad we were able to try Astro’s Playroom, even if it was just for that half-hour or so.  

PS5

(Image credit: Future)

Our early impressions

Before you even turn it on, the PS5 feels futuristic. The shell of the PS5’s design is a bit unwieldy, but it’s got the look of a premium piece of hardware. Similarly, the new DualSense controller carries the same space-age aesthetic as the console, but feels very comfortable to hold for extended periods; new features like the microphone mute button and adaptive triggers are great additions to Sony’s controller design, and we can’t wait to see how other games make use of them. 

Last but not least, our first sample of gameplay feels incredibly smooth on a 4K TV with HDMI 2.1. Astro’s Playroom is certainly no God of War, but it’s a fun way to learn about the new console’s capabilities while celebrating Sony PlayStation’s heritage. We can’t wait to see what else the PS5 has in store for us. 

October 30, 2020
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