Roughly two weeks from now, the PlayStation 5 will be out in the wild. First (officially) revealed in June, Sony’s next-gen console promises the de rigueur next-gen improvements: shinier graphics, faster performance, killer exclusives, all that jazz. But when the curtain was pulled back, the general consensus seemed to coalesce around one talking point, which could be summed up as: “Well, uh, that’s a look.”
Last week, Sony sent units of the much-memed PS5 to several of us at Kotaku. All of these units are the model with the disc drive—the decorously contoured one that some members on staff would love to repurpose as a seat—rather than the flatter, less-expensive, sans-drive model. We can’t tell you yet how it performs, but we can talk about how it looks, how it feels, and how it physically fits into our various spaces. Here’s a look, alongside some initial thoughts from those of us who’ve finagled this massive piece of machinery into our TV stands.
About a month ago, I finally got my consoles set up perfectly. I have a black metal tower next to my play area. Everything’s hooked up to IOGEAR’s outstanding eight-port HDMI switcher. The PlayStation 4 Pro is under the Xbox One, which is under my Polymega retro console, which is under my Apple TV, with my Switch on a separate shelf. A place for everything, everything for its place. Then came the PS5.
The PS5 is taller than any of the sections on my shelving unit. It’s also wider than the shelves, which only just hold my PS4 Pro. It is not going to fit on those shelves. Instead, I pushed my desktop speakers closer together on my desk, adjusted my 27-inch monitor slightly, and stood the console up. It fits, with a little room to spare.
It’s the biggest game console I’ve ever had. It cuts this massive profile. I like the design so far, I think, but I am a little worried. You know how bugs love hiding inside the PlayStation 4? We get bugs in this neighborhood now and then, and the PS5 is designed like a cockroach playground. There are all sorts of nooks and crannies to hide in, and if you look at it sideways it’s sorta got a slide for them. Here’s hoping that nightmare never comes true.
Did you know the PS5 is big? Well, it is.
I prefer my consoles horizontal, but because of the PS5's prodigious size, I’m forced to put it on top of my little entertainment center standing up. Which, honestly, isn’t so bad! The stand is pretty sturdy and it looks a little like a PC tower.
As you can see, the PS5 towers over my small collection of amiibo figures and even the Seth Rollins action figure someone in my family got me for Christmas one year. I’m almost afraid it’s going to tip over somehow and crush my poor little Switch.
Sony also encouraged us to talk about how the console feels but I’m not really sure what that means. It’s smooth? It feels like plastic, I don’t know. Do people constantly touch and rub their consoles? Have I been missing out on part of this experience?
PS5 is a new video game platform. It is tall and has nice hips. It feels like the future.
I like weird-looking game consoles (long live the purple GameCube), but I also like to lay my consoles down. So I’ve aligned my PS5 horizontally. It looks great that way, almost as if it’s floating.
How does it do it? It needs a stand. In fact, the PS5 is the first console I’ve ever had that needed a stand to lay down. The circular, plastic device, which is included with the console, hooks around the back of the console and then sits smoothly beneath the PS5's side curve. That set-up isn’t as rock-solid as just laying a flat appliance on its side, but it’s not terrible. A colleague asked me if it’s wobbly. Not really. The machine feels stable enough that I’m not worried that my cats (or kids) will knock it off its perch. The set-up is also sturdy enough that you can plug or unplug controllers or USB sticks from the front ports without the system falling off the stand. The PS5 is more likely to slip, however, if you’re turning the console to check its rear ports. Those plastic hooks don’t completely lock the machine into place. When I’ve turned the console, unless I reach back to grip those hooks, I’ve found that the PS5 slips a tiny bit out of position. I’m still getting used to this and, really, don’t need to turn my system around that often. If this gets annoying, I’ll try switching to the vertical alignment.
Now, how do we know the PS5 is really a PlayStation console? It’s not the “PS” logo that gives it away. It’s not the square, circle, triangle, and x icons. No, it’s the reflective shine of the black part of the machine. It could rival the PS3's ability to serve as a measure of how long it’s been since you dusted. Oh, nostalgia!
Look: I have two cats, and they’re very bad. I don’t care how sturdy the PS5’s base stand is—it’s relatively stable, all things considered—these loveable idiots will find a way to topple it. We’re talking about two little devils who can open closet doors and shove their weighty electronic feeder without assistance. A box shaped like one of Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Towers wouldn’t stand a chance. So, yeah, I decided to place it horizontally. If you have some mischievous monsters of your own, you might consider the same.
An astute eye will also note that, compared to some press shots (and Stephen’s photos) my unit is technically upside down. That’s a purposeful choice, albeit an unusual one. Sony hasn’t recommended setting it this way, and there’s no way at the moment to determine the long-term ramifications of an upside-down orientation. We’ve reached out to Sony for comment, but, in the meantime, I’m currently testing it out that way. (Yes, this is an example of “don’t do as I say or do—yet.”) See, one side of the console is mostly flat. One side isn’t. It’s almost natural to lay it on the former. And, while true that the packaging comes with a stand that levels things out if you lay it properly, that accessory is exactly that: an accessory. It’s not hard for one to picture, say, an eager child eschewing it some snowy holiday morning this winter in order to quickly get the PS5 up and running on its flat side. Without the stand, which one could miss, laying it the “proper” way feels like putting a t-shirt on backwards. It also just looks better with the disc drive on top.
When the PS5 was first revealed, some of my colleagues bashed its look. I took the other tack, deeming it “magnificent” and praising the “pristine powder-snow plastic.” Now that I’ve laid my eyes on it in person? Well…
For one thing, the plastic is more matte than I anticipated. “Pristine powder-snow” it is not. This is the type of rough, grainy plastic you might spot on a chair in a bingo hall. (Curiously, the plastic of the central segment—where the meat of this thing lives—is so shiny you can see yourself in it. Just look at Stephen’s photos!) I was hoping to buff my fingerprints out of this thing. A sheen screams “next-gen.” Bingo plastic? Not so much. Oh, well.
Now, this isn’t to say the PS5 is ugly. In fact, I still think it has some aesthetic bona fides (the least of which being that it both matches and perfectly fits in my TV stand). It’s just not the museum-worthy centerpiece I was expecting.
Of course, does this superficial stuff really matter? Well, maybe to design aficionados, but it’s secondary to the matters of critical importance: how it plays, what new features it introduces, and whether or not this altogether truly feels like a step forward worthy of that “next generation” claim. We’ll have more to say about all of that—and, y’know, the games too—in the coming days and weeks. Stay tuned.