As the PS5 draws closer and closer, Sony continues to unveil the system in bits and pieces. Previously, we knew about its holiday 2020 launch, its impressive 8-core processors, its ray tracing capabilities and its ambitious SSDs. If the system works as advertised, it could drastically reduce load times while displaying more lifelike graphics than ever before.
Now, Sony has revealed the PS5’s controller: the DualSense. This peripheral looks quite different than Sony’s previous DualShock lineup, with a two-tone color pattern, vertical grips and a mysterious “Create” button to replace the “Share” functionality.
Along with the system’s RDNA GPU and ambitious 3D audio, the DualSense could help the PS5 differentiate itself from anything on the market today. To learn more, read on to find out what we know so far about the PS5, including its release date, confirmed specs, expected games and more.
- CPU: 8x Zen 2 Cores at 3.5GHz
- GPU: 10.28 TFLOPs, 36 CUs at 2.23GHz, RDNA 2 architecture
- RAM: 16GB GDDR6
- Storage: Custom 825GB SSD
- Expandable storage: NVMe SSD slot
- Optical drive: 4K Blu-ray drive
The PS5 is a little less mysterious than before, thanks to a live stream from Sony On March 18. Mark Cerny, a lead systems architect at Sony, hosted a talk today that walked users through some of the salient points of the PS5’s hardware. The lecture was rather technical in nature — to the chagrin of some fans who were hoping for a more straightforward reveal event — but it did give us some solid information about how the PS5 might perform, and the hardware in place to make that performance possible.
During his talk, Cerny hit on three main pillars of the PS5’s development: “Listening to developers,” “Balancing evolution and revolution” and “Finding new dreams.” Practically speaking, these three categories speak to the PS5’s SSD configuration, backwards compatibility and 3D audio capabilities. We also learned about the system’s CPU, GPU and RAM structure, although that information is potentially of more use to developers than everyday consumers at the moment.
Listening to developers
While the PS5 will be able to produce better graphics than the PS4, the more pressing concern is load times. Cerny explained that the PS4’s internal hard drive, at best, can load about 1 GB of data in 7 seconds — and this figure usually balloons to 20 seconds, once you take seek times into account.
The solution, according to Cerny, was to take advantage of solid state drives (SSDs), which were prohibitively costly when the PS4 first came out, but now quite common. Since SSDs require no seek time, and retrieve information much faster, Cerny said that the PS5 targets a load rate of 5.5 GB/s. In theory, that’s almost 10 times faster than the PS4. Cerny imagines that developers might have to artificially increase wait times for loading screens, respawns and fast travel, if only to stop things from happening too fast for the player.
(It’s worth noting that in practice, load times are dependent on more than simply how fast a console can parse data, but if the PS5 can halve load times rather than increasing them tenfold, that will still have a big impact on how players go through games.)
To be cost-effective, however, Cerny said that the PS5’s default hard drive will be 825 GB. (Whether he means 825 GB usable space or total space, he didn’t elaborate.) Players who want more storage space will be able to replace the SSD with third party models, but they won’t be able to do so right away.
Last year, for example, even the most powerful SSDs on the market could only transfer data at a rate of 3.0 GB/s. Cerny believes that by the end of this year, they’ll be up to a rate of 7.0 GB/s. Sony will still have to test a variety of drives for both functionality and physical fit, to ensure compatibility. After all, if the SSDs can’t hit the 5.5 GB/s transfer rate, high-end games could be nearly unplayable.
As such, Cerny believes that SSD swapping will have to wait until somewhat after the PS5’s launch. He cautioned potential buyers to hold off on purchasing additional SSDs for now. (External hard drives are fine, if you want to use them to store PS4 games.)
Balancing evolution and revolution
Cerny thought that for the PS5 launch, it was important to balance the concepts of evolution — backwards compatibility and familiarity for developers — and revolution — new features and higher efficiency.
Cerny’s lecture on “revolution” was one of the most technically complex of his talk, focusing on the PS5’s custom RDNA2 AMD GPU, and the physical construction of the PS5’s CPU. The short version is that the control unit (CU) on the PS5 is 62% larger than the PS4’s, largely due to the amount of transistors present. This means the PS5’s CPU will be able to route more processes, more efficiently.
The GPU will also make use of both ray tracing and primitive shaders, which will affect both power consumption and heat management. Unlike the PS4, on which power consumption can variously tremendously from game to game, the PS5 will try to standardize power consumption for each game and make resources available as needed. This should prevent overheating, as well as excessive fan noise.
Potentially more interesting to the everyday consumer was the information on how PS5’s backwards compatibility would work. Unlike the PS3, which essentially incorporated a PS2’s guts into early models, the PS5 will run older games via regularized software algorithms. In theory, this means that almost every PS4 game will be compatible with the PS5 right from the get-go.
In practice, that seems to be the way things are working out, too. Cerny explained that the developers have tested the PS5 with the top 100 PS4 games (based on playtime), and discovered that most of them work beautifully. At launch, most of those 100 games will be playable. However, Cerny didn’t detail which games would get left out. He also didn’t elaborate on whether every PS4 game would be compatible until proven otherwise, or whether Sony would manage which games get the backwards compatibility treatment first.
One bright spot, at least, is that the PS5 will offer both PS4 Pro and regular PS4 compatibility modes, so games that were optimized for the PS4 Pro will not get left behind.
Finding new dreams
One of the most exciting —but also most technically demanding — aspects of the PS5 is its emphasis on 3D audio. Cerny pointed out that a game screen refreshes between 60 and 120 times per second, but audio calculations have to happen up to 200 times per second. Audio is a vital part of any game experience and developers have not always given it the due it deserves.
Some PC headsets already feature 3D audio, but eventually, Cerny wants the PS5 to deliver 3D audio, regardless of platform: TV speakers, headset or soundbar. The key to 3D audio lies in Head Related Transfer Function, or HRTF.
Briefly, everyone’s ears are shaped somewhat differently, and that affects how our brains process sound. HRTF maps out an individual’s hearing based on a sound’s frequency, direction and volume.
While it’s not possible for the PS5 to account for every single individual’s HRTF (at least not at launch), Sony mapped out five different standardized HRTF profiles, and users will be able to select the one that best matches their preferences. If the HRTF is close to a user’s ear structure, he or she will hear sounds as though they were happening in real life, all around them, rather than coming from a speaker.
This functionality will be available only on headsets at first, but Cerny wants to expand it tremendously over the next few years. He envisions a future in which a user could send a picture of his or her ears and a neural net could analyze them — or one in which every user starts the PS5 experience by playing an audio game to map out an exact HRTF profile. This is a feature that will keep evolving as the PS5 does.
As far as release date and games, we don’t have any more information than we did before. But this deep dive was a promising start, and could mean a substantially better moment-to-moment experience than the PS4 offers.
PS5 release date
According to Sony, the PlayStation 5 will officially launch in Holiday 2020. That will put it right up against Xbox Series X.
We have yet to get a specific date for an official reveal event or the console’s retail release, but rumors have been flying fast around a potential launch event. After various rumored February dates never came to fruition, all eyes were on a potential March reveal event, which could be March 18 event, due to a tip from Twitter leakster PSErebus.
The PS4 hit shelves on November 15, 2013, and we expect Sony’s console to arrive in stores around a similar fall window in 2020.
The PS4 found big success by undercutting the Xbox One at launch with its $399 price tag, but the PS5 might not be quite as affordable. In his quarterly forecast (as reported by Twinfinite), Ace Research Institute analyst Hideki Yasuda predicts that the system will launch for $499, which is $100 more than what the PS4 and PS4 Pro sold for at launch.
This prediction lines up with a February 2020 report from Bloomberg, which claims that the PS5 will cost more than the PS4 did at launch due to expensive components such as DRAM and flash memory. Speaking to Bloomberg, Macquarie Capital analyst Damian Thong estimates that the PS5 price will land around $470.
In March 2020, a Facebook post from Canadian game retailer Play N Trade Vancouver suggests that the PS5 could cost around $396, which would be shockingly low given previous price reports. However, its possible that Play N Trade is taking pre-orders at a placeholder price, and will adjust accordingly when Sony announces an official MSRP.
There may be an additional wrinkle, however, based on a Bloomberg report from April. The system may not be widely available at launch, and Sony might compensate for this by raising the console’s price: $549 instead of the anticipated $499. Whether this price would drop once the PS5 becomes more widely available is anyone’s guess — the again, so are the actual price and availability, since Sony has yet to confirm anything about either topic.
In April 2020, Sony officially took the wraps of DualSense: a radically redesigned PlayStation controller that will accompany the PS5. While DualSense has a familiar button layout and brings back the touchpad from the DualShock 4, its two-toned black-and-white design looks nothing like any PlayStation controller before it.
As Sony confirmed before, DualSense will have haptic feedback and adaptive triggers, which will provide realistic, tactile rumble to simulate the feel of, say, driving through mud or firing a bow and arrow. The controller’s Share button has been replaced by a new Create button, which Sony says will provide even more ways to capture and share your favorite gameplay moments.
DualSense also has a built-in microphone, which will let you chat with friends without needing to dig your gaming headset out. The controller’s light bar now surrounds the touchpad, which lets you better see the glow emanating out of it and complements the white design nicely.
The PS5 interface will look fairly similar to that of the PS4’s, if some sketchy leaks are to be believed. User John Titor posted an image on Slashleaks of what is purportedly the PS5’s UI, which looks to once again have a large horizontal bar of icons for key menus and apps. The big difference this time around is that, based on this image, “Games” and “Apps” would have their own distinct menus, and wouldn’t be lumped together like they are on the PS4 right now.
A separate alleged look at the PS5’s interface made the rounds on 4chan (and later on Reddit) earlier in January, with larger app and menu icons. However, this UI is believed to be that of the PS5 dev kits that have been showing up in leaked images left and right, and likely isn’t indicative of how the final PS5 interface will look.
Furthermore, a Sony patent application filed in 2018 might tell us a little more about a new addition to the PS5’s interface. A “durational information platform” could use pop-up dialogue boxes to tell you how long any given level might take to complete, as well as whether doing so would conflict with any real-world obligations you have. The patent hasn’t been granted yet, so this might not be a launch feature, if Sony ever implements it at all.
A Sony patent discovered in August 2019 could give us a clue about the PS5’s potential design. The patent images show what looks like a chunky game console, complete with a slew of USB ports, a disc drive, and a unique V-shaped chassis that could help keep the system cool.
The folks at LetsGoDigital mocked up their own PS5 render based on the patent images, proving how the odd shape could actually turn out to be an attractive game console.
The folks at Gizmodo were sent images of the alleged PS5 dev kit, which are reportedly identical to the patent images that have been circulating for months. What’s more, the report claims that both the PS5 and Xbox Series X will pack integrated cameras for hassle-free livestreaming.