It felt interminable, but we finally have another new videogame console, an excruciating two whole days since the last one.
Yes, the PlayStation 5 is now out as of today, November 12, 2020, bringing a future full of better graphics and faster performance to the game-addled players of America and beyond. What can you expect from Sony’s latest game box, though? Well, you can find out in our official PlayStation 5 review that ran last week, or you can just keep reading for a convenient, easy-to-follow overview of what makes the new PlayStation, well, new. Yes, this is exactly what we did with the Xbox Series X and S yesterday. No, it’s not shameless—if something works, keep working it, and I’ve still got a job to do.
It’s time to cut bait on this preamble and get down to the details. Here’s everything you need to know about the PlayStation 5, from a guy who’s been messing around with one for a couple of weeks now.
Like the Xbox Series X and S, the PlayStation 5 comes in two standard models. Unless the Xbox Series X and S, they’re both called the same thing, thankfully. No matter which one you pick, it’s just the PlayStation 5, no prefixes or modifiers needed. What’s the difference between these two models? Well…
The bigger and more expensive of the two models is the only one with a disc drive. If you’re a physical media collector, or hoping to use your new game console to watch Blu-rays or 4K UHDs, you’ll need to spring for the $499 model of the Playstation 5.
On the other hand, if you’ve Marie Kondo’ed all those shiny discs and plastic game boxes off your shelf and out of your life, you might want to stick to the digital-only PlayStation 5. It’s $100 less. It doesn’t have a disc drive, so everything you play or watch will have to be a download or a stream. It’s the model for minimalists.
Don’t worry: the disc drive situation is the only tangible difference between the two versions of the PlayStation 5. Both have the same tech inside, including the same 825 GB solid-state drive for storage, and the ability to add both internal and external storage options. Unlike the Xbox Series S, which has a slightly less powerful GPU than the Xbox Series X, both PlayStation 5 models should provide the exact same performance on all of its games.
The disc drive model is $499. The digital-only one is $399. If you’re into physical media and want to upgrade to a next-gen system, the price of entry is $499 across the board, with that price shared by both Sony and Microsoft’s disc drive-enabled consoles. If you’re a futurist who has already fully embraced the post-physical, the digital models will save you a little bit of money. The digital-only PlayStation 5 is $100 more than digital-only Xbox Series S, but again, unlike the new Xbox, both models of the new PlayStation have the same hardware specs.
The PlayStation 5’s fancy new graphics processor can output native 4K, with high-dynamic range color, and that ray-tracing biz everybody’s all hepped up about. (Short answer: it makes stuff look cool.) Expect a consistently higher resolution image than the PlayStation 4 Pro and especially the original PlayStation 4, with more vibrant colors and lifelike lighting and all of the rest. It can also play games at 120 frames per second, which is about to become the new high-end target for the biggest graphics-guzzling games out there. Basically, as you would expect from a new system that cost $500, the PlayStation 5 is a top-of-the-line gaming device from a technical perspective.
Setup is easy: plug the system into your TV, hook it up to the internet, log into your PlayStation Network account, and you’re ready to go. You’ll even have a library of games ready to play, if you owned a PlayStation 4; every game in your PSN account’s library will be instantly available for you to download, and if you own physical PlayStation 4 discs, you can slide those into the drive and unlock that game for your new system, too.
The pack-in game isn’t dead: the PlayStation 5 arrives with Astro’s Playroom installed, and as I wrote last week, it’s tremendous. The adorable platformer is an even cuter and slicker tech tutorial than Wii Sports. It gives you the rundown on pretty much all of the PlayStation 5’s new features and capabilities, especially the ones found on the new DualSense controller, and it does so with the charm, poise and polish of an upper echelon Nintendo game. This should be the first thing you play on your PlayStation 5, no matter how jazzed you are for Miles Morales or that Demon’s Souls remake. Speaking of the DualSense…
The DualSense is a slightly larger iteration of last generation’s DualShock 4, but with enough new tweaks and features to give it its own identity. It has a larger touchpad, an immediately improved internal speaker, a built-in microphone that works well enough to use in online games, and the button layout you’ve been familiar with for decades. The biggest step up comes in the form of the adaptive triggers, the L2 and R2 buttons on the shoulders; they respond precisely to the amount of pressure you apply to them, and can also give tangible, physical feedback to create the sensation of tension. Play Astro’s Playroom for two or three good examples of how this can be utilized within a game. I can see it being unmanageable for people with arthritis, joint pain, or other issues with their hands, fingers or joints, and hopefully the accessibility settings on PlayStation 5 or the games themselves will let those people minimize or even deactivate the haptic feedback as necessary. For those who are able to use them, these new triggers feel like something genuinely new in games.
As I wrote above, if you buy the PlayStation 5 with the optical disc drive you’ll be able to watch Blu-rays, 4Ks, and DVDs through the system. Either model will run a full suite of streaming services and other apps—it’s got your Netflixes, your YouTubes, your Disney Pluses and Peacocks, the whole kit and kaboodle. (Let’s pour one out for poor Quibi.) You can also once again buy or rent movies and shows through PSN.
If you’re a PlayStation Plus member, you’ll hit the ground running on PlayStation 5. Subscribers can already download Bugsnax, the brand new game that bewitched everybody earlier this year with its goofy premise and catchy theme song. So yeah, PS Plus subscribers will start their PlayStation 5 journeys with two brand new games to play. PlayStation Plus, if you didn’t know, is a monthly subscription service that lets you download recent and classic games for the PlayStation 4 and now PlayStation 5; every month one or two games will be available per system, and you’ll be able to play those games as long as you have a subscription to PlayStation Plus. Launch day access to Bugsnax, which officially comes out today for the PS5, the PS4, and the PC, will probably seem like a pretty big incentive to some people.
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales isn’t a PlayStation 5 exclusive—you can also play it on the PlayStation 4—but it does a great job of showing off the graphical power of the new system. It’s out today, alongside the system. Other launch games that are console exclusives include the new remake of Demon’s Souls, From’s PS3 cult classic from 2009 that kicked off the whole Souls fervor; the “looter slasher” Godfall; Sackboy: A Big Adventure, a new platformer starring the mascot of Little Big Planet; and the previously mentioned Bugsnax. Roughly two dozen other third party games will also be available for the PlayStation 5 as of today, including Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla and Watch Dogs: Legion.
Okay, this sounds familiar. The PlayStation 5 officially launched today, Nov. 12, 2020, two days after the Xbox Series X and S. And like the competition, it’s really hard to find one, if you weren’t able to successfully preorder. Hell, Paste’s own Nicolas Perez was able to get a preorder in, but then had it abruptly cancelled just last night. Basically, if you don’t already have one in hand, you might be out of luck. Just keep checking the websites of the major retailers for availability, and keep an eye on social media for alerts of when they go back on sale. Or, you know, wait a few months, and pick one up when the supply is a little more consistent.
Senior editor Garrett Martin writes about videogames, comedy, music, travel, theme parks, wrestling, and anything else that gets in his way. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.