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PlayStation 5: everything you need to know about Sony’s newest consoles

Sony’s behemoth of a console promises an exciting new generation of gaming

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The PlayStation 5 console and controller
Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

The next generation of PlayStation is finally here with the arrival of the PS5. This generation, it seems like Sony is sticking with the approach that made the PS4 so successful: sell consoles that can play first-party games from Sony’s storied franchises, and supplement that lineup with great third-party titles, too. You should expect to see better graphics in your games, and the PS5 will also support high refresh rates, which should make games feel smoother (if you have a display that supports those refresh rates). Plus, the PS5’s custom SSD promises to offer such a leap forward in loading speeds that it could change the way games are designed.

We’ve already reviewed the PS5, and it turns out that the console is pretty good. Its new controller is amazing, games load quickly, and the console has a more streamlined user interface than the PS4. We felt that it left a great first impression — even if there aren’t a lot of actual next-generation games to play just yet.

Microsoft also has a powerful console in the Xbox Series X, which promises better graphics and faster loading times, and it’s also selling the somewhat lower-powered Xbox Series S. The company continues to make Xbox Game Pass, its Netflix-like game subscription service, one of the best deals in gaming, and it doesn’t mind whether you play its games on an Xbox or a PC. And while the PS5 will play most PS4 titles, the new Xbox consoles boast backwards compatibility with not only Xbox One but also many Xbox 360 titles and some OG Xbox games as well. 

We’ll have to wait and see which console proves to be the better buy in the long run. But if you want to learn more about what the PS5 offers right now, here’s everything we know. (And for even more information, check out Sony’s extensive PS5 FAQ.)

Left: the disc-based PS5. Right: the PS5 Digital Edition.
Left: the disc-based PS5. Right: the PS5 Digital Edition.
Image: Sony

There are actually two PS5 consoles, but they’re largely the same

Like Microsoft, Sony is actually selling two versions of its upcoming next-generation console. For $499.99, you can buy a PS5 with a 4K Blu-ray drive. But for $100 less, at $399.99, you can buy the Digital Edition PS5 (which also looks noticeably thinner than its more expensive sibling). Unlike Microsoft, the only thing that differentiates those two versions is which console has a disc drive and how much each one costs.

The PS5 is powered by a custom eight-core AMD Zen 2 CPU and a custom AMD Radeon RDNA 2-based GPU that will provide 10.28 teraflops of raw graphical power. The console also uses variable frequencies on both the PS5’s CPU and GPU, which could theoretically push the graphics to run slightly faster than normal when the CPU isn’t running at peak. Though it sounds like the difference is minimal based on this technical presentation (skip to 35:30):

And that game-changing SSD I mentioned earlier? It has 825GB of storage and 5.5GB/s of throughput — which could be fast enough to let game developers build levels without things like elevator rides or winding corridors that actually mask levels loading in the background. Just look at how much faster PS5 games loaded than their PS4 versions in our testing:

PS5 load times

Spider-Man: Miles Morales17 seconds1 minute, 27 seconds
No Man's Sky1 minute, 34 seconds2 minutes, 52 seconds
Final Fantasy VII Remake35 seconds1 minute, 29 seconds
Genshin Impact59 seconds2 minutes, 57 seconds
Ghost of Tsushima1 minute, 4 seconds1 minute, 10 seconds
Days Gone1 minute, 18 seconds2 minutes, 54 seconds
Death Stranding54 seconds1 minute, 50 seconds

You should know, though, that some of that 825GB of storage space is used up by system data, though, meaning that you actually have 667.2GB of usage space. And the ever-growing size of games means that you might fill up that usable space quickly. Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War takes up 133GB, for example, which is nearly 20 percent of the console’s available storage.

If you want to expand the PS5’s storage, you won’t be able to at launch, but at some point in the future, you’ll be able to slot in a Sony-certified M.2 SSD. We’re not exactly sure when that those SSDs might become available. Back in March, PS5 lead system architect Mark Cerny said the SSD certifications will likely happen “a bit past” the console’s launch.

The Xbox Series X will also have a custom SSD, one with 1TB of NVMe storage (of which 802GB is usable) but a lesser throughput of 2.4GB/s. That could wind up meaning the Xbox Series X has slower loading times than the PS5 in practice, but it depends on a variety of factors.

Fortnite, for example, loads four seconds faster on the PS5:

The Xbox Series X and S also have a big differentiator in Quick Resume, a feature that lets you hop between games in about 10 seconds or less. (Though it’s not available with every game.) On the PS5, you’ll probably be waiting a bit longer for things to load when jumping into a new game.

PS5 vs Xbox Series X vs Xbox Series S

CategoriesPS5PS5 (digital-only)Xbox Series XXbox Series S
CPUEight Zen 2 Cores @ 3.5GHz with SMT (variable frequency)Eight Zen 2 Cores @ 3.5GHz with SMT (variable frequency)Eight-core AMD Zen 2 CPU @ 3.8GHz (3.6GHz with SMT enabled)Eight-core AMD Zen 2 CPU @ 3.6GHz (3.4GHz with SMT enabled)
GPUAMD RDNA 2 GPU 36 CUs @ 2.23GHz (variable frequency)AMD RDNA 2 GPU 36 CUs @ 2.23GHz (variable frequency)AMD RDNA 2 GPU 52 CUs @ 1.825GHzAMD RDNA 2 GPU 20 CUs @ 1.565GHz
GPU Power10.28 TFLOPs10.28 TFLOPs12.15 TFLOPS4 TFLOPS
Performance TargetTarget TBD. Up to 8K. Up to 120fpsTarget TBD. Up to 8K. Up to 120fpsTarget 4K @ 60fps. Up to 8K. Up to 120fpsTarget 1440p @ 60fps. Up to 120fps
Storage825GB PCIe Gen 4 NVMe SSD (5.5GB/s uncompressed, typical 8-9GB/s compressed). Usable storage is 667.2GB825GB PCIe Gen 4 NVMe SSD (5.5GB/s uncompressed, typical 8-9GB/s compressed). Usable storage is 667.2GB1TB PCIe Gen 4 NVMe SSD (2.4GB/s uncompressed, 4.8GB/s compressed). Usable storage is 802GB512GB PCIe Gen 4 NVMe SSD (2.4GB/s uncompressed, 4.8GB/s compressed). Usable storage is 364GB
Expandable StorageNVMe SSD slotNVMe SSD slot1TB expansion card1TB expansion card
Backward CompatibilityThe "overwhelming majority" of the more than 4,000 PS4 games. Some PS3 and PS2 titles playable via PlayStation Now.The "overwhelming majority" of the more than 4,000 PS4 games. Some PS3 and PS2 titles playable via PlayStation Now."Thousands" of Xbox One, Xbox 360, original Xbox games. Xbox One accessories. "Thousands" of Xbox One, Xbox 360, original Xbox games. Xbox One accessories.
Disc Drive4K UHD Blu-rayNone4K UHD Blu-rayNone
Display OutHDMI 2.1HDMI 2.1HDMI 2.1HDMI 2.1
MSRP$499 / £449 / €499$399 / £359 / €399$499 / £449 / €499$299 / £249 / €299

The PS5 supports up to 8K output and promises 4K graphics at up to a 120Hz refresh rate. The console’s improved horsepower also means that you can expect to see ray tracing, which can lead to more realistic effects in game environments like reflections in windows. Check out ray tracing Spider-Man: Remastered in this video from Tom Warren:

The PS5 also supports 3D audio, which Sony said will let you “see with sound” in a commercial shared in August. We don’t know exactly how 3D audio will be utilized in games just yet, and it’s worth mentioning Sony also tried to sell it as a feature on the PS4, so we’ll have to wait to see just how much better 3D audio on the PS5 might be or if the $100 Pulse 3D wireless headset that’s “fine-tuned for 3D Audio on PS5 consoles” is more than just marketing.

The PS5 has three USB-A ports — one on the front, two on the back — and one USB-C port on the front. There’s also an Ethernet port on the back of the console and 802.11ax Wi-Fi (aka Wi-Fi 6).

All of that hardware is packed into the biggest game console in modern history. Seriously. The one with the disc drive is approximately 390mm x 104mm x 260mm (about 15.4 inches tall, 4.1 inches deep, and 10.2 inches wide). Compare that to the Xbox Series X (the larger of Microsoft’s next-generation consoles), which is 301mm x 151mm x 151mm. And both consoles are much bigger than the diminutive Xbox Series S.

Left to right: the Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X, and PlayStation 5 consoles standing vertically on a TV cabinet.
Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge
Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

And reviews have found that all three of the new consoles are remarkably cool and quiet, which is a welcome difference for next-gen.

The DualSense controller might be the most next-gen part of the PS5

The PS5’s controller is a significant departure from the DualShock line that you might be familiar with from other PlayStation consoles. But it has a number of brand-new features that might make it the most interesting aspect of the PS5.

Let’s start with the design. Sony’s DualShock controllers have generally kept a similar design from generation to generation, but the PS5’s new DualSense controller is the first PlayStation controller that doesn’t look anything like the original. And while the DualSense does have the basic layout PlayStation fans are familiar with — a directional pad and buttons on the top half, two control sticks on the bottom, and the center touch bar from the DualShock 4 — the whole shape of the controller is new, with pointier handles and broader lines, and it all has a striking two-tone design.

The DualShock 4’s “Share” button, which lets you grab screenshots, take videos, and broadcast gameplay, has been changed to the “Create” button on the DualSense, though it has similar functionality. In an improvement from the PS4, though, the PS5 automatically captures the last 60 minutes of your gameplay (up from the 15 minutes) at 1080p resolution and 60fps. The PS5 also lets you manually capture gameplay in 4K, though you’ll have to tweak a setting to do so.

Image: Sony
Image: Sony

It’s not just the look of the DualSense that’s new, though. Traditional rumble has been replaced with haptic feedback, which should give you different levels of feedback depending on what’s happening in your game. The controller also has “adaptive triggers” that can simulate different resistances, which could be used to do things like add tension when you’re pulling back a bow. And if you were curious, here’s a look at the mechanism inside the controller that enables those adaptive triggers to add resistance.

The mechanism in the DualSense’s adaptive triggers.
The mechanism in the DualSense’s adaptive triggers.
TronicsFix (YouTube)

My colleagues Andrew Webster and Tom Warren have both been impressed by the DualSense. Andrew wrote an article covering how currently available PS5 games use the controller’s new features. In Fortnite, for example, you’ll feel different levels of resistance on the triggers based on what weapon you’re using. Tom also has a video demoing Astro’s Playroom, a game designed to show off the features of the DualSense that’s included with the PS5. (Andrew found that the game itself is pretty good, too.)

The DualSense also has a built-in microphone in addition to a speaker, but there’s still a 3.5mm headphone jack that you can plug headphones into if you prefer. It’s also the first Sony controller with a USB-C port.

If you want to buy more than one DualSense, additional controllers will run you $69.99 each, which is a slight increase from the $59.99 you originally paid for a DualShock 4. Sony is also selling a $29.99 charging dock that lets you charge two DualSense controllers at the same time.  

You’ll have a few exclusive games to pick from at launch, and $70 is the new $60

Sony announced six first-party titles that will be available alongside the console:

  • Astro’s Playroom (Japan Studio) – pre-installed on PS5
  • Demon’s Souls (Bluepoint Games / Japan Studio) – $69.99
  • Destruction AllStars (Lucid Games / XDEV) – $69.99
  • Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales (Insomniac Games) – $49.99
  • Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales Ultimate Edition (Insomniac Games) – $69.99
  • Sackboy: A Big Adventure (Sumo Digital / XDEV) – $59.99

If you opt to keep your PS4 instead of upgrading to a PS5, though, you won’t be missing out on all of those games. Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Sackboy: A Big Adventure are available on PS4, and Sony also plans to release Horizon Forbidden West, the sequel to Horizon Zero Dawn, on the PS4.

And if you buy any of these three games for your PS4, Sony will give you a free upgrade to their PS5 versions. However, if you buy the PS4 disc version of those games, you’ll only be able to play the PS5-upgraded version on a PS5 with a disc drive.

$70 is the new $60

You might have noticed a $69.99 price on some of Sony’s PS5 launch games. No, your eyes are not deceiving you — some games will have a $10 increase from the $59.99 you might be used to paying for new games. Although Sony says games from its studios will be priced between $49.99 and $69.99 moving forward, it seems likely that you’ll be paying at the high end of that spectrum more and more as the generation goes on.

In addition to Sony’s titles, there will be a handful of third-party titles available as well, including:

  • Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War (technically the day after, November 13th)
  • Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition
  • Fortnite
  • Observer: System Redux

Sony is also offering a collection of PS4 games that you can download and play on your PS5 at launch if you have a PlayStation Plus subscription. Some of Sony’s biggest first-party PS4 hits are part of the collection, but there are a number of third-party titles in the mix, too.

Here are the first-party games available as part of the collection:

  • Bloodborne
  • Days Gone
  • Detroit: Become Human
  • God of War
  • Infamous Second Son
  • Ratchet and Clank 
  • The Last Guardian
  • The Last of Us Remastered
  • Until Dawn
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

And here are the third-party games:

  • Batman: Arkham Knight
  • Battlefield 1
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops III – Zombies Chronicles Edition
  • Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy
  • Fallout 4
  • Final Fantasy XV Royal Edition
  • Monster Hunter: World
  • Mortal Kombat X
  • Persona 5
  • Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

There are already lots of PS5 games to look forward to

While the list of brand-new PS5 games available on launch day is pretty short, there are a number of titles that should quickly round out the PS5’s lineup into 2021. 

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and Gran Turismo 7 are both set to launch in the first half of 2021. The aforementioned Horizon Forbidden West is expected in the second half of 2021. And Sony has announced a sequel to 2018’s God of War for 2021, too. 

There are a lot of big third-party titles to look forward to in the PS5’s life span as well, including Final Fantasy XVI, which will launch first on PS5; Resident Evil Village, the eighth mainline game in the popular horror series that’s scheduled for 2021; Hogwarts Legacy, an open-world game set in the wizarding world of Harry Potter; and the spooky-looking Five Nights at Freddy’s: Security Breach.

If you want to get a picture of the early lineup for the PS5, we’ve compiled an extensive list of games you can look forward to playing at launch and beyond. And if you’re looking for recommendations of what to actually play on your new console right now, we’ve got a guide for that, too.

The PS5 is backwards compatible with most PS4 games

Nearly every PS4 game will work on the PS5. To quote Sony on the matter: “more than 99 percent of the 4,000+ games available on PS4 will be playable on PS5.” And even better, some PS4 games will run at higher or smoother frame rates on PS5, thanks to something Sony is calling Game Boost. In early tests, Digital Foundry found that the PS5 brings notable improvements to many PS4 games. See for yourself in this video:

That said, Sony says that some PS4 games will be missing functionality or may “may exhibit errors or unexpected behavior” on PS5. And 10 PS4 games aren’t playable at all on the PS5:

  • DWVR
  • Afro Samurai 2 Revenge of Kuma Volume One
  • TT Isle of Man - Ride on the Edge 2
  • Just Deal With It!
  • Shadow Complex Remastered
  • Robinson: The Journey
  • We Sing
  • Hitman Go: Definitive Edition
  • Shadwen
  • Joe’s Diner

You’ll also be able to play some PS3 and PS2 games on your PS5 through Sony’s PlayStation Now cloud gaming service, which Sony only recently revealed would be supported by the new console.

The PS5 has a brand-new user interface

The PS5 has a brand-new user interface with a number of new features to make jumping into games more streamlined. Apps are divided into two sections — games and media, and if you’re familiar with the PS4’s interface, then the row of app icons in the games menu will look very familiar to you. But when you actually select a game, there’s now a lot more information to look at.

You can just hit the play button to dive into your game or look at the trophies you’ve collected or even Twitch streams of that game. But you can also select from “activities,” which let you jump right into a specific mission or mode of a game, and games even offer in-game tutorials to help you through a certain objective. (That tutorial feature is only available to PlayStation Plus subscribers, though.) And in-game, whenever you press the PlayStation button on the DualSense, you can access the “Control Center” menu, which gives you access to things like notifications, settings, and parties.

Sony has a full walk-through of the new interface if you want to see it for yourself:

When does the PlayStation 5 go on sale?

Both versions of the PlayStation 5 launch on November 12th in the US, Japan, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and South Korea. They’ll launch on November 19th in the rest of the world. The one exception is China — Sony says it will announce a launch date for China in the future.

Pre-orders for the PS5 were a bit of a mess, though, sometimes selling out in less than a minute. And demand is likely to remain high throughout the holiday season, if not into 2021. So if you’re thinking about picking up a PS5 now that it’s out, you might need a little luck to get your own.

Update November 12th, 1:30PM ET: We’ve learned a lot more about the PS5 since we first published this article in September — and reviewed it! — so we’ve made numerous updates throughout.

Correction November 12th, 1:30PM ET: We originally said the PS5 had 802.11ac Wi-Fi, but it actually has 802.11ax Wi-Fi (Wi-Fi 6). We regret the error.