Everything we know about the PlayStation 5

The next generation of consoles is right on the horizon, and both Microsoft and Sony have revealed quite a few facts about their new machines.

Sony gave us our first proper glimpse of the PlayStation 5 at a June event called “The Future of Gaming,” where it showed off the system’s strange but striking design, the discless PS5 Digital Edition, and a laundry list of exciting games. But even with all the details Sony has shared, a few secrets remain, and of course, anything the company has said already could always change. For now, though, here’s everything we know about the PlayStation 5.

What is the PS5’s release date?

Some time in “holidays 2020” is all Sony has said so far regarding the PS5 release date. If we’re taking guesses, the best bet would probably be Nov. 20. Both the PlayStation 3 and the PlayStation 4 were launched on the third Friday in November, at least in North America. This year, that third Friday will be Nov. 20, so that seems like as good a time as any. After all, Sony and Microsoft will want to launch before Thanksgiving. But we’ll have to wait and see.

What are the hardware specifications of the PS5?

Brace yourselves, because we’re about to get into some tech jargon. Here’s the gist of it: The PlayStation 5 is over 5.5 times as powerful as the launch-model PlayStation 4, and almost 2.5 times more powerful than the PlayStation 4 Pro, according to Sony. The guts of the PS5 will allow the console to deliver content at resolutions as high as 8K and frame rates up to 120 frames per second, with cutting-edge graphics features like hardware-accelerated real-time ray tracing in games.

PS5 and Xbox Series X hardware specifications compared

The PS5 contains a custom GPU from AMD based on the company’s RDNA 2 architecture. (RDNA 2-based graphics cards don’t yet exist, but AMD reportedly plans to release them later this year.) Sony went with a variable-frequency GPU, which means that the chip’s 36 compute units will not always operate at the maximum frequency of 2.23 GHz. Its peak performance is 10.28 teraflops — a power deficit on paper of more than 15% compared to the Xbox Series X’s GPU. Both consoles have 16 GB of GDDR6 RAM.

As with the GPU, Sony opted for a variable-frequency CPU in the PS5. The company settled on a maximum clock speed of 3.5 GHz, with simultaneous multithreading (SMT) always enabled, for the eight-core chip based on AMD’s Zen 2 microarchitecture. (SMT is a technique that can significantly improve computational efficiency by spreading work across processing “threads”; it requires more effort to program for it, and the majority of modern games don’t take advantage of it.) The Xbox Series X also has an edge over the PS5 in this category, albeit a much smaller one, with a CPU that runs at a constant frequency of 3.8 GHz with SMT disabled and 3.6 GHz with SMT.

However, Sony appears to have a trump card in the form of its unique storage solution. The company built a storage interface with a data throughput of 5.5 GB/s (raw) and 8-9 GB/s (compressed) — more than twice the read speeds of the Xbox Series X — for the console’s 825 GB SSD. That may not sound like a lot of space, but the PS5 will allow users to expand that storage by sticking an off-the-shelf NVMe SSD into the console’s expansion bay (as long as it meets the company’s certification program, to ensure compatibility).

What does the PS5’s design look like?

The Digital Edition of the PS5. Note the symmetrical design, which is enabled by the lack of a disc drive.
Image: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Sony’s most controversial choice with the PS5 may be the design of the console itself. There’s more white than black in the system’s two-tone color scheme, which already makes it stand out in a typical entertainment center. And then there’s the actual case, a striking design with two curved wings that wrap around a central slab. Standing vertically, it looks like a fancy cable modem; lying horizontally, it could be a … futuristic performing arts center.

Sony will actually launch the PS5 in two different models: The default console will come with a 4K Blu-ray drive, while the (presumably cheaper) Digital Edition will have no optical drive. Both of them have the same basic exterior design. The front panel on both units features one USB-C port, one USB-A port, and a power button; of course, there’s also an eject button on the standard console. Sony has yet to reveal the PS5’s rear port array.

As for the size, Sony hasn’t given the dimensions, but fans on the internet have done unofficial measurements that suggest the PS5 will have a massive footprint, with a length of approximately 15 inches when lying horizontally — more than 3 inches longer than the Xbox Series X.

What PS5 accessories are there?

Sony will launch the PS5 with a line of accessories led by the console’s new wireless controller, the DualSense. The DualSense’s biggest upgrade over the PlayStation 4’s DualShock 4 is its capacity for precise haptic feedback — the ability of the gamepad’s vibrating motors to convey the feeling of what you’re doing in a game, such as “the slow grittiness of driving a car through mud,” according to Sony. The feedback extends to the controller’s new adaptive triggers, which are also designed to impart a sense of the action that’s on the screen.

The DualSense — or, to be specific, two of them — will slot into the DualSense Charging Station, an official accessory of a type that’s typically reserved for aftermarket manufacturers like Nyko and PowerA. What’s interesting is that the bottom of the controllers is the part that plugs into the unit, even though the gamepads’ USB-C port is on top. PS5 owners will also be able to buy another input device, the Media Remote, a simplified clicker that looks way more like an Apple product than a traditional Sony remote control for a TV or Blu-ray player.

The PS5 and PS5 Digital Edition standing among Sony’s lineup of peripherals — the DualSense controller, Pulse 3D Wireless Headset, Media Remote, DualSense Charging Station, and HD Camera.
Image: Sony Interactive Entertainment

The other two items in the PS5 peripheral lineup will likely be the most expensive ones, although Sony has yet to announce pricing. The company is releasing a depth-sensing camera for the PS5 called, simply, the HD Camera. It will probably be required in order to use the console with the PlayStation VR headset, although the PS5 may also end up being compatible with the PS4’s PlayStation Camera. And finally, there’s the Pulse 3D Wireless Headset, which goes hand in hand with the PS5’s custom hardware unit for 3D audio: Tempest 3D AudioTech.

What will the PS5’s price be?

Sony hasn’t yet announced how much the PS5 will cost. As for likely pricing, the PlayStation 3 launched at $499.99 for the 20 GB model and $599.99 for the 60 GB model (2006 was a very different time). Meanwhile, the PlayStation 4 launched at $399.99. Another unknown is the price gap between the standard model, which has a disc drive, and its all-digital counterpart.

While there’s no way to know how much the PS5 might cost when it’s released, it’s worth noting that companies don’t normally hold off on announcing their products’ prices because they’re excited about how low they are. The PS5 reportedly may cost as much as $450 just to manufacture, which would likely drive the retail price of the console well above that mark.

And Sony hasn’t exactly been shy about that fact. In June, Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan told the BBC that Sony is approaching the PlayStation 5 more on the basis of “value as opposed to price.” This means, according to Ryan, that the company wants to ensure that regardless of the price, players will feel like they’re getting a good value that makes the price for the console worth paying.

Will the PS5 get delayed past its release date?

Who knows, maybe. But for now, Sony has assured fans that the PlayStation 5 is currently on track to hit its holiday 2020 release goal, despite worldwide supply chain complications from the novel coronavirus pandemic.

What kind of games will the PlayStation 5 have?

Spider-Man: Miles Morales on PlayStation 5.
Image: Insomniac Games/Sony Interactive Entertainment

The PlayStation 5 will have all of the third-party releases that you would expect from every console. That means that games and franchises like Call of Duty, Destiny, Fortnite, NBA 2K, and FIFA will all be on the console. But the real draw of a console is its exclusive games, and Sony is very committed to that idea.

The PlayStation 5 already has a wealth of console exclusives headed its way. Here are the console exclusives that Sony announced during its Future of Gaming event on June 11:

  • Astro’s Playroom
  • Deathloop
  • Demon’s Souls (remake)
  • Destruction Allstars
  • GhostWire: Tokyo
  • Gran Turismo 7
  • Horizon Forbidden West
  • Project Athia
  • Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
  • Returnal
  • Sackboy: A Big Adventure
  • Spider-Man: Miles Morales
  • Stray

On top of those games, there are also a few potential franchises like Uncharted and God of War that could come back to the platform in the near future.

Will the PS5 play PS4 games via backward compatibility?

At this point, backward compatibility is probably the murkiest element of the PS5. The latest from Sony is this: The company expects that “the overwhelming majority” of the PS4’s library — which totals more than 4,000 games — will be playable on PS5. Sony has to test games on a “title-by-title basis” to ensure compatibility, according to lead system architect Mark Cerny, and as of mid-March, the company said it had already tested “hundreds of titles.”

The Last of Us Part 2 launched in mid-June on PlayStation 4. Will it be immediately compatible with the PlayStation 5?
Image: Naughty Dog/Sony Interactive Entertainment

Sony hasn’t given any details on which PS4 games will be playable on PS5. The company is reportedly requiring developers to ensure that any PS4 game submitted for certification after July 13 is compatible with the PS5 — which would likely function via backward compatibility — but we haven’t seen any official public communication on that front.

We also don’t know how backward compatibility will work, exactly. Presumably, owners of digital PS4 games could just download them on PS5 and start playing. And with the standard PS5, it might be as simple as popping in a PS4 disc and booting up the game. But will there be any way for buyers of the PS5 Digital Edition to play the physical PS4 games they own, via a disc-to-digital program or some other solution?

Whatever happens, Sony hasn’t made backward compatibility a focal point of the PlayStation experience the way Microsoft has with the Xbox brand, where the company is promising compatibility with “four generations” of games from the original Xbox through the Xbox Series X.

Are there cross-generation games across PS4 and PS5?


The Sony PlayStation 5 ‘Future of Gaming’ June event

Maybe, but there’s really no guarantee. Sony hasn’t announced some kind of all-encompassing system (like Microsoft’s Smart Delivery) that will make sure you get the upgraded versions of games that debut on PS4 and are later enhanced for PS5. And while there’s no word from Sony on what will happen with new PS4 games like The Last of Us Part 2, third-party publishers have begun to announce their own Smart Delivery-esque initiatives for free PS5 upgrades of PS4 titles. That includes Electronic Arts with Madden NFL 21 and FIFA 21; Square Enix with Marvel’s Avengers; and CD Projekt Red with Cyberpunk 2077.

It’s worth noting that Sony is reportedly requiring developers to ensure that any PS4 game submitted for certification after July 13 is compatible with the PS5. But there remains a lack of clarity around whether customers will have to buy PS4 and PS5 versions separately.

One thing we do know is that Sony isn’t adopting Microsoft’s strategy of maintaining cross-generation compatibility, wherein first-party Xbox Series X games will also be released on Xbox One for the next year or two. “We believe in [console] generations,” PlayStation boss Jim Ryan said in a May interview with GamesIndustry.biz. “We are thinking that it is time to give the PlayStation community something new, something different, that can really only be enjoyed on PS5.” In other words, if there isn’t also a separate PS4 version of a PS5 game, you’ll need to buy a PS5 to play it.

How will PlayStation Plus work on PS5?

PlayStation Plus is a subscription that’s currently required to play games online on the PlayStation 4. It costs $9.99/month or $59.99/year. Alongside online play, PlayStation Plus also provides players with discounts on certain games, as well as two free PS4 games every month. Once you claim these games, you’ll have access to them as long as you have an active membership.

Sony hasn’t officially announced that PlayStation Plus will be required for online play on PlayStation 5; however, it seems almost certain, given the program’s popularity on PS4. By the end of March 2020, Sony had racked up 41.5 million PlayStation Plus subscribers. There’s no word yet on when or if Sony will start to offer free PS5 games to PS Plus subscribers.

PlayStation Plus

A 12-month subscription to PlayStation Plus offers online play and free monthly games for PS4.

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