Why the PS5 is the must-have gaming console of the year and everything you need to know about it

Forget the Xbox Series X, the long awaited PlayStation 5 is the gaming console that retailers can't keep in stock.

ps5-both.jpg

The PlayStation 5 comes in two versions.

Image: Sony Interactive Entertainment

In mid-November, the gaming world was brought to its knees when Sony Interactive Entertainment released the PlayStation 5. Within minutes, it sold out at retailers online everywhere.

When the PS5 went on sale Nov. 12, Sony opted to offer it online only the first day due to COVID-19 exposure risks at retail stores. As a result of sales being online, retail bots were able to buy up much of the merchandise from Walmart and other retailers who offered it in November, as described by the BBC, and it's been increasingly difficult for individuals to buy a PS5 for themselves or as a gift for the holidays. 

Demand is high, in part, because this is essentially the first new PlayStation since the PS4 came out seven years ago. There are two versions of the PS5. There is a $400 digital-only mode, the Digital Edition, and a $500 console version, the PS5 Disc edition. The only difference between the two is that the console edition includes an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc drive to allow for PS5 Blu-ray disc games, PS4 Blu-ray disc games, video from 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays, standard Blu-rays and DVDs. 

SEE: Guide to becoming a digital transformation champion (TechRepublic Premium)

Why the PS5 matters

This is truly the next generation of PlayStation. The PS5 has better graphics and high refresh rates. The PS5 has 8K output and delivered 4K graphics at a 120Hz refresh rate. This provides realistic effects in games. 

The audio is better, too. It supports 3D audio and Sony has created the Pulse 3D wireless headset, (that has sold out as well) although units have been available sporadically at various retailers this month. 

There's also a new DualSense controller for the PS5. The layout is the same with a directional pad and buttons on the top half, two control sticks on the bottom, and a center touch bar just like on the DualShock 4, but the shape is new and it has a sleek black and white design that's different for PlayStation. It has haptic feedback and a built-in microphone as well as a speaker. It has a USB-C plug as a power connection and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

It goes without saying that the PS5 is large--it's the first thing that's noticed. The disc drive version is 15.4 x 10.2 inches. That compares to the PS4, which is 12 x 10.8 inches. Anyone who buys it will need to make sure to find room for it on their shelf. Although that's the least of most people's problems--all of the cool new features mean that finding one is the toughest part. 

Games for the PS5

The PS5 comes with Astro's Playroom as a pre-installed game. There's also Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales that's a follow-up on the 2018 PS4 Spider-Man. There's a list of games that are PS5 exclusives and some that are also available for PS4. The good news is that there's backwards compatibility, so that most PS4 games will play on the PS5.

Other new, exclusive PS5 games include:

  • Horizon Forbidden West
  • Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
  • Gran Turismo 7
  • Returnal
  • Sackboy: A Big Adventure
  • Demon's Souls
  • Destruction AllStars

Cyberpunk 2077, which was also available on PS4 and Xbox One, has been pulled from the PlayStation store and Sony is offering refunds after a series of glitches and crashes resulted in poor game performance, according to Chris Pereira and Hayley Williams at Gamespot

Why retail bots are a concern to anyone wanting to buy the PS5

The problem with retail bots is that they can buy all of the units of an in-demand product as soon as it drops and then the item is typically resold at high prices for profit. That's happened over and over with the PS5, as described by the BBC. Some scalpers who use bots have been bragging about the practice and showing photos of their stacks of merchandise on social media, according to Business Insider.

In the UK, some lawmakers are proposing a ban on using bots to facilitate the resale of gaming consoles and computer components above the manufacturer's suggested retail price. 

"Whether or not it is legal, malicious actors will always use bots to try and stockpile and resell high-demand retail items like gaming consoles. That horse has left the barn, and as we've seen in the US, it's a threat that is unlikely to subside through legislature because it's so difficult to track the bot writers and operators. 

Some retailers may not be motivated to work too hard to mitigate this 'threat,' because at the end of the day they are guaranteed to sell their inventory," said Jason Kent, hacker-in-residence, Cequence Security. "But when consumers are consistently disappointed, customer satisfaction suffers and loyal customers might start to send their business elsewhere. At the same time, manufacturers have started to put real pressure on retailers to put an end to this behavior. The only retailers that are succeeding--and the only way to effectively mitigate these bots--is by utilizing automated behavioral analysis to differentiate between human and bot web traffic. The retailers that are able to do that are being rewarded for their efforts."

Specifications for the PS5

Processor: 8-core AMD Ryzen Zen 2-architecture CPU at up to 3.5GHz

Graphics: AMD Navi/RDNA 2-family GPU with 36 CU up to 2.23 GHz (10.3 TFLOPS, FP unit unknown)

Video memory: 16 GB GDDR6 with 256-bit interface (448GB/sec)

Storage: 825 GB SSD at 5.5 GB/sec; NVMe SSD slot; support for USB HDD

Optical drive: 4K Blu-ray on disc edition only

Maximum output resolution: 8K 60 fps; 4K 120fps

Audio: 3D, accelerated by custom Tempest Engine hardware; available on headphones only at launch, virtual sound supplementedfor speaker audio

VR support: Compatible with PSVR headset

Console streaming: Available for remote play

Dimensions for disc version: 15.4 x 4.1 x 10.2 in/390 x 104 x 260 mm 

Dimensions for digital edition: 15.4 x 3.6 x 10.2 inches/390 x 92 x 260 mm

Price: With optical drive (disc version): $500, £450, AU$750; without optical drive (digital edition): $400, £360, AU$600 

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By Teena Maddox

Teena Maddox is Associate Managing Editor at TechRepublic. She oversees TechRepublic's news team and TechRepublic Premium. She focuses on tech and business and how the two worlds intersect. Teena's lifelong journalism career has included writing on s...