Skip to main content

PS5 review six months later — what it's like for the lucky few

PS5
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The PS5 is a rare and elusive beast that you're going to have a tough time getting hold of, even with our PS5 stock tracker. We're six months down the line from its November launch when it debuted alongside the Xbox Series X but if you're still on the lookout for the next-gen console, you might be wondering if it’s worth all the fuss.

In short, yes. Yes it is. The PS5 offers a big enough leap in hardware specs that it truly feels like a next-gen console. The DualSense is a huge part of that.The controller brings a host of new features to the PlayStation gaming experience. 

It's not just the internal architecture that got an upgrade; Sony broke away from the traditional 'black rectangle' formula that previous generations have broadly adhered to, presenting us with a silhouette that wouldn't look out of place in a sci-fi skyline.

It's not just the internal architecture that got an upgrade; Sony broke away from the traditional 'black rectangle' formula that previous generations have broadly adhered to, presenting us with a silhouette that wouldn't look out of place in a sci-fi skyline. 

The PS5 towers over its fellow consoles, all sleek lines and sensuous curves. It's a veritable giant, but its striking form factor is the loudest thing about it. Owners of the PS4 and PS4 Pro will be familiar with the raucous fans that are the most immersive feature of the console; if you can't close your eyes and picture yourself on a busy runway, are you even getting the genuine PS4 experience? 

There's a lot to love about the PS5, but there are still some niggles that Sony has yet to iron out, despite months of feedback. Hopefully some of them get addresses, because I know these pet peeves aren't all just a me issue.

So here's what I think about the PS5, six months post-launch. 

PS5 SSD is a game-changer, but not perfect

Booting up a game on the PS5 and picking up my phone to absentmindedly scroll is a thing of the past — there’s just no time!

The drastic reduction in load times is one of the biggest advances between console generations. Booting up a game on the PS5 and picking up my phone to absentmindedly scroll is a thing of the past — there’s just no time! The Switcher feature plays into this, providing a shortcut to switch between recently used and suspended apps. So you save even more time by not flipping through your games and media library to pick up where you left off. 

It’s not quite on a par with the Xbox Series X and its Quick Resume feature, which lets you suspend multiple titles and hop between them on a whim. This has lead to issues with one particular PS5 exclusive game: Returnal. I’ve already bemoaned the lack of an auto save, which we also touched on in our Returnal review, but unless you leave the game suspended, the roguelike wipes your progress and resets your in-game cycle. Given that you can only suspend one game at any time on the PS5, it gets pretty annoying, pretty fast. 

It would be great to see Sony take inspiration from Microsoft on that front, but for now, the near instantaneous booting up of games, and brevity of in-game load times will do nicely. 

DualSense: Seriously innovative control

Sony PS5 Dualsense Controller

(Image credit: Sony via thegameawards YouTube)

If you’ve heard people gushing about the PS5’s controller and thought they really need to get out more, you’re severely underestimating what the DualSense is bringing to the PS5 party. Sony’s dedication to making a new piece of hardware that truly feels like a next-gen console extends from the specs, to the divisive color and form factor of the console, to the controller itself. 

The DualShock moniker has been tossed out for the new DualSense, and Sony has made sure that you can’t use it with the PS4 (or the DualShock 4 with the PS5) to hammer home the message that this is a whole new hardware generation. The design has also been overhauled for a larger, chunkier peripheral than its predecessor.

In Returnal, when your character is in the rain, you can feel the raindrops pattering through the controller.

The console ships with Astro’s Playroom included, and the free title introduces you to the various aspects of the DualSense and how it can be integrated into gameplay. Some of the snazzy new features include adaptive triggers and haptic feedback, which are game changers when utilised properly. The triggers are designed to offer tangible resistance when depressed and the PlayStation blog post reveal of the DualSense describes scenarios such as being able to feel the tension of “drawing a bow to shoot an arrow.”

Using the example of Returnal again, the title uses the adaptive triggers to differentiate between standard and alt fire, so it opens up the opportunity for developers to further refine how they incorporate the L2 and R2 triggers into games. 

One of my favorite additions is the haptic feedback, which adds another layer of immersion to gameplay. And coupled with a pair of headphones that also incorporate haptic feedback, things get pretty wild. Circling back to Returnal, when your character is in the rain, you can feel the raindrops pattering through the controller. 

But about that DualSense drain...

The downside is that all of these little touches take a massive toll on the battery. The DualShock 4 was put on blast for its battery life, but the DualSense constantly seems to be on the cusp of death. Even if you’re using it for media apps, the upgrade from the DS4’s 1000 mAh battery to the DualSense’s 1,560 mAh isn’t actually that noticeable. By the time you’ve accounted for the always on mic, LED light bar, haptic motors, and adaptive triggers, the controller runs out of juice at an alarming pace. 

I’ve only just managed to get hold of a charging cradle for it — which seems as difficult to procure as the PS5 itself — and will be getting a second controller so I can switch between them. Of course, you can opt to plug it in instead, but being a tad clumsy, I’ve come close to wrenching my PS5 off its shelf, or going flying across the room after getting entangled in the cable, so I’m prepared to shell out $69.99 / £59.99 / AU$109 for another one to avoid all of that.

That’s not an ideal solution for everyone by any means, and the reported instances of drift are only adding to the affront at the $20 price increase between the DS4 and DualSense. 

Of course, now that a couple of new PS5 DualSense colors have been announced, I’m glad to have the excuse to treat myself, but you’re going to have to do the same, or live with your controller semi-permanently tethered to your console. But that’s the price we have to pay for greatness. 

Quiet fans are bliss 

PS5

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

If there’s one feature I have to pick out to persuade you to part with a few hundred dollars for a PS5, it’s the noise. Or lack thereof. The PS4 and PS4 Pro are so loud that they’ve spawned countless memes that are as hilarious as they are accurate. The consoles sound like they’re prepping for takeoff when you boot them up, and god forbid you launch a game; they’ll sound about ready to fly off into space. The last game I played on my PS4 Pro was Ghost of Tsushima, and after a couple hours roaming around Japan, the silence was deafening when I turned it off. 

If being forced to use headphones with your console, regardless of the games or apps you’re using, is getting irksome, it’s time to upgrade. Bookmark a PS5 stock tracker and treat yourself! Aside from the sporadic, and very subdued fans kicking into action, the PS5 just sits there quietly. The loudest thing about it is its size and shape, and I can’t describe what utter bliss that is after living with a PS4 and PS4 Pro for years. 

PS5 exclusive next-gen games

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart

(Image credit: Sony)

If a peaceful living/bedroom isn’t enough to sway you, perhaps the next-gen exclusives will. Sony and Microsoft have taken a different tact this time around, with Xbox Game Pass providing a backlog of games you don’t have to pay for outright thanks to its subscription model. The downside is the lack of proper, next-gen titles exclusive to the platform thus far.

Meanwhile, the PS5 has a growing number of exclusives, with Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart inbound next month. Of course, the price of games for PS5 and Xbox Series X has gone up, meaning that you’re likely parting with $70 for every new one you buy these days. But the extra $10 is worth it for games that utilise the power of the PS5 and include a host of DualSense features to boot that add a layer of immersion hitherto untapped. 

Personally, I don’t mind the absence of a Game Pass copycat on PS5; I don’t often replay games and love diving into new titles. Of course, that’s not to say I’d turn my nose up at a subscription service that lets me play new releases for $9.99 / £7.99 / AU$10.95 per month (or $15 / £10.99 / AU$15.95 for Game Pass Ultimate), but as it stands, if you’re looking to pay out for a next-gen experience, the PS5 won’t disappoint. 

PS5 interface needs work

PS5 interface

(Image credit: Sony)

As far as the PS5 dashboard goes, I am still not a fan. Why no long press to turn off the console? Why no dynamic themes, or any real way to customize themes and backgrounds? Why is the capture gallery buried when sharing pics and videos on social media is so commonplace? And why the f*ck is there a profanity filter to stop adults who have just shelled out $499 / £449 / AU$749.95 on a piece of tech from using naughty words when sharing captured content? 

Why no long press to turn off the console? Why no dynamic themes, or any real way to customize themes and backgrounds?

Considering I had to take a minute to decide whether uploading a particularly grim screenshot from Resident Evil Village was appropriate to inflict on my unsuspecting Insta followers, this arbitrary line in the sand seems absolutely ridiculous. I didn’t upload it after all, but I was free to do so without Sony’s approval. So why it deems it necessary to monitor my language, I don’t know. 

I think most people transitioning over from the PS4 will have the same complaints about the dashboard. The Switcher feature is probably the only addition to the interface that I’ve found useful. Everything else feels like it’s been overhauled for the sake of it, and takes away from the user experience rather than adding to it. But what kind of world would it be if corporations actually listened to consumer feedback, and every iterative product actually addressed complaints rather than adding to them? And is there a portal that will transport me to such a place? 

Bottom line

There’s no denying that buying a PS5 is going to make a sizeable dent in your wallet, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise. At this stage, the real question is whether to hold out and try to snap one up once a PS5 restock drops, or whether to spend the money on a different, lavish treat.

If you spend a significant amount of time gaming, then I wholeheartedly encourage you to leave that piggybank untouched and bide your time. While chip shortages have meant that consoles, GPUs, and even smartphones are in short supply, the upgrade will be worth it. 

Shabana Arif

Shabana is T3's News Editor covering tech and gaming, and has been writing about video games for almost a decade (and playing them since forever). As well as contributing to Tom's Guide, she's had bylines at major gaming sites during her freelance career before settling down at T3, and has podcasts, streaming, and video content under her belt to boot. Outside of work, she also plays video games and should really think about expanding her hobbies.