Making the Best Decision Before Purchasing Your New PlayStation 5

The PlayStation 4 era, which began in 2013, has come to an end. Despite the fact that major PlayStation titles such as Horizon: Forbidden West and the next God of War will still be released for the PS4 in 2022 and 2023, the PS4 is no longer in production. Instead, new PlayStation buyers have a better choice: the $500 PlayStation 5 and its slightly smaller brother, the $400 PlayStation 5 Digital Edition. That is, assuming they can find one.

You should acquire the regular PlayStation 5 so that you can use its UHD Blu-ray drive if you have a large collection of physical PlayStation 4 games, if you want to watch 4K Blu-ray discs on your system, or if you’re a deal hunter seeking for inexpensive new and used titles on disc.

The PlayStation 5 Digital Edition is a hundred dollars cheaper than the standard version, and it includes everything except a UHD Blu-ray drive. If you don’t want to pay $500 on a new system, don’t buy or watch UHD Blu-ray movies, or don’t care about disc-based games, the Digital Edition may be a better option, especially if you have a PlayStation Now game subscription.

With 38402160 pixels—four times the resolution of 1080p, which has been the standard high-definition for years—4K signifies the next significant breakthrough in high-definition video.

Many of PlayStation‘s biggest games, such as Horizon: Forbidden West, the sequel to 2018’s God of War, and Gran Turismo 7, are still coming to the PS4 in 2022 and beyond. However, PlayStation has already built a case for the PS5 by announcing a slew of high-profile exclusive games for 2021, including Returnal, Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, and Deathloop, and we’re seeing more and more games that take advantage of the PS5’s enhancements. If you’ve spent a lot of time with your PlayStation 4 and want to see immediate improvements in console boot times and game loading times, as well as some performance and visual improvements in the games you already own, you can get all of that right now on a PlayStation 5 while keeping almost all of your PlayStation 4 library.

What’s the difference between the PlayStation 5 and the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition?

The internal components of the PlayStation 5 and the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition are nearly identical, with the exception of the inclusion of a UHD Blu-ray drive in the main edition. However, that UHD drive comes at a cost: the PlayStation 5 costs $500, which is $100 more than the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition. However, we’re concerned that the $100 discount for Digital Edition purchasers will be lost in the long run.

By 2020, digital downloads had surpassed retail discs in terms of high-profile game sales. Despite the fact that digital games are on sale more frequently than they used to be, disc games continue to receive deeper discounts in more places. Disc-based games can also be bought, sold, and swapped, which is essential to certain players. If you save $20 per game by buying used discs, the PlayStation 5 will pay for itself after five used titles, which seems realistic during the console’s lifetime. Savings like this may be even more important this console generation, as PlayStation leads the pack with a suggested price of $70 for most of its exclusive games (a step that the companies behind huge games like Call of Duty, Far Cry 6, and NBA 2K22 have also taken).

Deciding to improve from a PlayStation 4

The PlayStation 5 has already introduced a few new titles that aren’t accessible on the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, in addition to its fundamental quality-of-life improvements. However, you’ll get prettier, better-performing versions of games—sometimes much better—that are frequently accessible on other platforms as well.

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Spider-Man: Miles Morales, for example, includes some next-gen graphical capabilities like ray tracing (and looks beautiful, don’t get us wrong), but it’s also on the PS4. Demon’s Souls appears to be a stunning game, but it’s actually a remaster of a PlayStation 3 game from 2009. Returnal and Deathloop were launched in 2021, and Ratchet & Clank: A Rift Apart was the first example of anything really generationally above and beyond games you can play on your PS4 (which released on the PC as well). However, several of PlayStation’s important upcoming exclusives, such as Horizon: Forbidden West, God of War: Ragnarok, and Gran Turismo 7, will be available on both the PS4 and the PS5.

New video games with nice graphics (finally)

The PlayStation 5 has a newer, more powerful graphics hardware generation than prior consoles, and the benefits should be visible in a variety of ways. Most new games will have better resolutions, frame rates, and more detailed characters and environments than those seen on the PlayStation 4, as well as more fancy effects like actual smoke and fog, and lighting that behaves and reflects more like light does in the real world.

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As the generation progresses, that last aspect is especially likely to improve. The GPU of the PlayStation 5 supports hardware-accelerated ray tracing, a technique of graphics rendering that enables for far more complex visual effects and lighting. Ray-traced reflections are used in launch titles like Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Watch Dogs: Legion, and Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, as well as Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs: Legion and 2021’s Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart. However, ray tracing has been dubbed the “holy grail” of video game graphics for years, and developers have barely scratched the surface of what they can do with it in the next years.

 

Greater body charges paired with sooner, extra responsive efficiency

While developers are still learning how to use all of the PS5’s improved graphics technology straight immediately, the PlayStation 5’s hardware enhancements are obvious in other areas. The PS5 boasts a far more powerful CPU than its predecessor, with around four times the raw speed and number of cores and threads, not to mention seven years of efficiency and other advancements. This translates to faster user interfaces, faster load times, more complex character and game behaviors, and simply more content on the screen at any given time.

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However, the most noticeable improvements will be in frame rates, which should achieve 60 frames per second far more frequently than on the PS4. The higher the frame rate, the more frequently the controller and the game communicate, resulting in more responsive controls. As evidenced in the upcoming Battlefield 2042—the PlayStation 5 release has larger maps and double the player counts (128) compared to last generation versions (64) on PS4 and Xbox One—this also helps to develop bigger worlds and allow more players in a game.

A lot of games launched for the PlayStation 4 have “performance” settings with unlocked frame rates, and these games, along with a slew of others, should benefit greatly from the PS5’s improved performance and responsiveness. Furthermore, many of Sony’s PlayStation 4 exclusives, such as God of War (2018), Ghost of Tsushima, The Last of Us Part II, and Days Gone, as well as Horizon: Zero Dawn, have received patches that increase their performance to 60 frames per second (and they also benefit from significantly improved loading times).

Faster storage means faster load times.

All of your games and saves on the PlayStation 5 are kept on PCIe storage, which is a more newer and quicker type of storage. This component improves console startup, game bootups, and even in-game load times significantly. This holds true for PS4 games as well.

A whole fresh user experience

Sony built the PlayStation 5’s redesigned user interface to take advantage of the console’s solid-state storage and quicker CPU to allow for speedier navigation and new functionality.

The change is immediately apparent when you turn on the PlayStation 5. The PS5 takes roughly 20 seconds to transition from fully turned down to its user login screen, and about six seconds to return from sleep mode, which is a significant improvement over previous-generation consoles.

In PS5 games, you can tell the console to default to particular settings, such as inverted look controls, first- or third-person view, and other often changed preferences, so you don’t have to adjust them game by game.

When you log in, you’ll notice that the dashboard has been updated. The PS4’s cross media bar has been reorganized into numerous easily accessible areas, such as games, media apps, and settings. The Control Center appears when you press the PlayStation button on the DualSense controller of the PS5. It’s designed to bring up the most common and crucial settings that gamers need while using the device. Notifications, music playback controls, audio volumes for headset wearers, friends lists, and system standby are all included on this screen.

Developers can use the new Activities feature to include informational windows and progress trackers in games, as well as picture-in-picture video playback in titles that support it. Additionally, developers can give instant jumping-on points from the dashboard, allowing you to engage multiplayer mode without having to navigate through game menus—if the game in question supports the capability. You may configure the PS5 to default to specific settings in PS5 games, such as inverted look controls, first- or third-person view, and other regularly changed variables, so you don’t have to change them game by game (for reasons we don’t understand).

The new operating system is a refreshing change of pace from the PS4’s, and it’s also faster to navigate than its predecessor. If you want to get to a game or app as soon as possible, you’ll need to tap a lot fewer buttons. However, if you want to do something more involved, you’ll have to navigate quite a bit to reach where you want to go. We enjoy the PlayStation 5’s superficial but pleasant new-console fragrance, but it will require a few more substantial revisions to reach the level of usability found in the PlayStation 4’s operating system.

Selecting equipment for the PlayStation 5

Controllers

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The PlayStation 5 comes with a new DualSense controller, according to Sony. It keeps the DualShock 4’s touchpad and sharing buttons, as well as the same general layout, but Sony has made some important alterations. With wider face buttons, tighter sticks, and more noticeable triggers, the DualSense is slightly larger than its predecessor, closer to the size of Microsoft’s Xbox controllers from the last decade or so. Similar to Microsoft’s Xbox Series X and S controllers, Sony has added a subtle texture to the back side of the controller grips.

However, the most significant changes are occurring on the inside. Resistance has been introduced to the DualSense’s triggers, which games may exploit and customize to produce various types of input to boost immersion. The DualSense uses coil actuators instead of vibrating motors to achieve a comparable but more diverse effect. A speaker, a built-in microphone array (with a noise-cancelling mic on the bottom of the pad), and a USB-C connector for charging are also included.

The outcomes can range from amusing and modest to almost transformative in some cases. The inbuilt speaker is substantially better than the DualShock 4’s and makes sound effects from the controller much more tolerable. As a result, these sounds are paired with delicate vibration, which provides a virtually textural degree of physical input. The haptic triggers may also generate a significant amount of tension, which games can employ in a variety of ways that we’ll go over in more depth later. We’re confident PS5 owners will rave about this controller, and the PS5 even comes with Astro’s Playroom, a simple-looking game with lovely platformer gameplay meant to demonstrate all of the DualSense’s numerous features.

A built-in microphone is also included with the DualSense controller, which works fine, and there’s a handy combo indication light and mute button that lets you know if the microphone is picking up your sounds. The DualSense’s speaker, like that of the PlayStation 4’s DualShock 4 controller, is used in numerous PlayStation-exclusive games during gameplay, including this year’s Returnal and Deathloop.

Headsets

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If you already have or plan to acquire a regular gaming headset with an 18-inch connector, it will continue to work when plugged straight into the DualSense controller on the PlayStation 5. An officially approved headset is required for game sound and USB chat (though the audio-balance controls may or may not work on a case-by-case basis).

The PlayStation 5 (together with the Xbox Series X and Series S) does not include the optical audio output found on the PlayStation 4 and other previous-generation consoles. This means that, unlike previous consoles, gaming headsets and audio receivers will not be able to connect to a PS5 through optical audio (the D-shaped connection). Some headset manufacturers, on the other hand, have released firmware patches that enable proper USB support for the PlayStation 5 in their current headsets. If you have a USB-capable headset, conduct a quick Google search to ensure it is officially supported. As hardware manufacturers have a better understanding of the new consoles, this situation is likely to alter. Sony has also released a new version of their Pulse Wireless Headset designed exclusively for the PS5, which offers totally wireless compatibility for the new system as well as solid build and a pleasant shape (unless you have bigger ears). It’s a little on the costly side for a console headset, but it works with the new console almost smoothly.

What about PlayStation VR, for example?


The PlayStation VR headsets (both the launch version from 2016 and the more streamlined update issued by Sony in 2018) are compatible with the PlayStation 5, but there are certain limitations. The PlayStation Camera is required for existing PlayStation 4-based VR headsets, and if you want to connect it to the PlayStation 5, you’ll need a special adapter that you can only get from Sony.

Furthermore, the PS5 only supports the PSVR with PS4 titles that are played in backwards compatibility mode on the PS5. PS5 native games are not compatible with earlier released PSVR hardware. This, paired with the slow pace of new software for PSVR, makes it a poor purchase for most people, while there is a good library of old titles for VR beginners who aren’t concerned about outdated technology.

PlayStation is working on new PS5-specific PSVR technology that it claims would connect to the console with just a single connection, although no release date has been set. The wait may be longer than even PlayStation would want due to ongoing supply challenges for nearly all consumer electronics gadgets.

Storage

The internal storage of the PlayStation 5 is an NVMe-based bespoke memory component with a base capacity of 825 GB. However, after the operating system and other OS files are taken into account, the PS5 only has 667 GB of useable storage space for games. With games like Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War filling up 133 GB of that disk and many more taking up 50 GB or more, the storage capacity may quickly fill up.

The PS5 has an expansion slot for a high-speed hard drive that you’d normally see in a desktop computer (an NVMe drive via an M2 expansion slot). This slot was newly enabled by Sony, allowing customers to install PCIe 4.0 drives and store and execute games from this additional storage. The drive specifications are very stringent—you’ll pay a premium for a fast PCIe 4.0 NVMe drive that requires a heat sink. Fortunately, third-party drive findings have been encouraging so far, with similar performance and load speeds reported across a number of devices.

For PlayStation 5 owners wishing to expand their storage, we recommend the Samsung 980 Pro NVMe SSD. We purchased our own cooler to place on the drive’s version that didn’t come with one, but Samsung now sells a 980 Pro with a heatsink already installed, which we recommend. The price difference is only a few dollars, and while installing an aftermarket heatsink isn’t impossible, it does take a few minutes and is more than a little inconvenient. This is in addition to the not-overly-complicated but still-involved process of opening up the PlayStation 5 and installing the drive. The PlayStation 5 will require you to format the disk once you install it before you can use it.

Before installing an NVMe SSD, ensure sure your PS5 has the most recent firmware available. Firmware versions prior to 21.02-04.00.00 will not enable the console to properly boot with an extra disk installed, so you’ll have to remove it, update your firmware, and then reinstall it (then format it).

PS5 games can also be copied and kept on external storage, but they cannot be played there. This acts as an archive to avoid having to redownload a game in the future.

External storage alternatives are plenty fast and cheaper than adding an NVMe drive for backward-compatible PS4 games, while USB SSD options are plenty fast and cheaper than installing an NVMe drive. Simply connect a USB-to-SATA cable to an external, portable SSD drive, such as the Samsung Portable T5 SSD we recommend, another similar drive, or a plain SSD.

A USB hard drive like the Seagate Backup Plus Slim or the Western Digital My Book is your most economical alternative if you’re most concerned about keeping a large number of PS4 games for later. The load times will only be somewhat faster than on the PlayStation 4, and you won’t be able to utilize such drives with PS5 software, but the price per gigabyte is unbeatable.

Any drives you’ve used with a PlayStation 4 system should also work with the PlayStation 5. When you plug them in, eligible PS4 games will appear instantly and should be playable, barring any necessary updates.

Subscriptions

Monthly
retail price
Annual
price
Online
multiplayer access
Free games
while subscribed
Stream games
to console or PC
PlayStation Plus$10$60YesTwo per monthNo
PlayStation Now$10$60Only on PS Now gamesHundredsYes

Anyone who wants to play online multiplayer games needs a PlayStation Plus subscription. PlayStation Now is more like Netflix for video games.

PlayStation Plus and PlayStation Now are two subscription services offered by Sony.


A PlayStation Plus subscription is still required if you want to play multiplayer games on the PlayStation 5. Despite the fact that Plus provides at least two free games per month, the quality of those games is unreliable. Early adopters of Sony’s new platform will be rewarded with access to the PlayStation Plus Collection, which includes more than a dozen highly rated older PlayStation 4 titles, many of which have been upgraded for the PS5.

PlayStation Now, Sony’s on-demand game-subscription service, can make sense for you if you receive a PS5 Digital Edition without the disc drive, or if you’ve never had a PS4 and want to try out all of the latest titles at a reasonable price. PS Now offers downloaded access to a number of PlayStation 4 games that are also playable on the PS5, as well as streaming access to a number of PlayStation 3 games (the only method PS3 native content will probably ever be played on the PS5). Sony does not promise to the timely delivery of some key games on PS Now in the same manner that Microsoft does with Game Pass. Hundreds of games are still available in the PS Now catalog. If you cancel your subscription, you will, of course, lose access to them.

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Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on [relevant Amazon Site(s), as applicable] at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

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