The PlayStation 5 is a definite step ahead of the previous-gen PS4, thanks to its improved performance and great new user interface. But perhaps the best thing about the new console is its new controller. The PS5 controller isn’t just an update — it’s a total generational leap.
Of course, the best things about the controller — like the new haptic feedback and adaptive triggers — require a PS5 to use, and you can check out our full review of the PS5. But the controller is special — it’s part of the system as a whole, but worth its own look. That’s why we put together this PS5 controller review.
PS5 controller design
PlayStation controllers have evolved pretty naturally over the years, and it’s easy to see how the PS4 controller’s design harkens back to the days of the original PlayStation. The PS5 controller, however, takes that concept and flips it on its head. There are things that are the same, like the joystick placement and button layout. But almost everything else about the controller is completely different.
That starts with the overall shape. The PS5 controller actually looks a little more like the Xbox controller, with that oversized kind of look. That’s a good thing though — it plays into a more natural feel. Plus, it helps give the controller a more smooth, refined look.
The color scheme is totally different too. Gone is the all-black design, in favor of a two-tone black and white look. It looks great. Perhaps the only downside is that the white could discolor over time, but that remains to be seen. Since launch, the controller has been released in “Cosmic Red” and “Midnight Black” as well, but frankly, the base model looks the best.
There’s a ton of attention to detail here too. The controller offers a textured grip on the back, which is made up of tiny PlayStation shapes. You would never be able to tell without seriously looking close, but it’s those details that help make the controller so great.
The overall button layout remains, but there are a few differences. The Share button has been replaced with a “Create” button, and the PS button is now in the shape of the logo itself. Under that button, there’s a microphone mute button now, which controls the new built-in microphone.
PS5 controller features
While there are plenty of differences to the controller on the outside, the real benefits are internal. The DualSense controller offers a range of new features that help make it different than any gaming controller before it.Sony PlayStation 5 Gaming Console $499
Most of the buttons feel at least a little different. The buttons and D-pad have a good amount of travel and feel nice and defined, while the joysticks are smooth and fluid. The best changes, however, come from the triggers. The triggers have a lot more travel, plus they feature Sony’s new adaptive technology. This means that developers can make the triggers feel like you’re actually pulling a gun trigger, or build in enough resistance to create other tension. It’s absolutely awesome. Games like Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart are very good at taking advantage of the tech — though we’ll have to wait and see if others do it too.
The haptics are better too. Like way better. The controller offers new precise haptic feedback that can shake different parts of the controller separately, and with as little or as much rigor as is warranted. So, for example, in Astro’s Playroom, the left and right sides of the controller can shake independently, ever so slightly, with the main character’s footsteps. It’s these touches that can make gaming so much more immersive.
Of course, it remains to be seen if third-party developers really take advantage of the tech. Both Miles Morales and Rift Apart are developed by Insomniac, which is now owned by Sony — so it makes sense that they would use the tech. I would love to see the likes of Horizon: Forbidden West and God of War: Ragnarok use it too.
PS5 controller battery life
With all these new features, you might be wondering how long the controller lasts on a charge. Thankfully, the battery life isn’t dismal. Sony claims between five and six hours of use on a charge, which more or less matches the battery life of the DualShock 4 controller, and seems about right based on my use of it.
Five to six hours should be enough for most users — especially those that have a dock or something to charge the controller whenever it’s not in use. I only charge as needed — not constantly, but I got two controllers, mainly for multiplayer use. But it comes in handy in single-player too, as it means you can switch between controllers as they run out of juice.
I would recommend either getting a dock to charge whenever you’re not using your PS5, or get a second controller. It does come in handy, even if you don’t game for five or six hours straight.
The DualSense controller is the best part of the PS5. The controller looks and feels fantastic, and tech like the adaptive triggers and precise haptics really do improve on the overall experience. But there’s a caveat — developers have to actually make use of that tech, and that can be tricky for those developing for multiple platforms. Let’s hope they put in the effort.