The PS5’s solid state drive (SSD) has upended my expectations of what a console can deliver. It’s a greatly underrated technology, one that’s generated countless online comparisons around load time but remains elusive to quantify until you experience the tech yourself.
Almost from the first evening I turned on the PS5 the fast SSD made an immediate difference. Sans any PS5 specific optimizations from developers, the load times across much of my backwards compatible PS4 library improved significantly. MLB The Show 20 and Everybody’s Golf shifted from menu to game in roughly half the time. With the former I could simulate ball games far faster than before, and in the latter load times between holes were non existent. My handful of PS5 specific games — Astro’s Playroom, Bugsnax, and Demon’s Souls — had even more impressive stats, able to shift from launching the game to active gameplay in under twenty seconds. The console itself boots from a cold off state to the main menu faster than my TV could turn on. Navigating the UI across games and settings is smooth and ultra responsive.
The speed bumps were cool, but admittedly nothing I hadn’t already read from online impressions and previews. What surprised me was how after a few weeks the speed difference shifted my perception of console gaming.
There was now more space for me to dive in as an easy “go to” for entertainment. I’ve found myself playing a lot more for this reason, when previously I’ve made the mental calculus I didn’t have proper time. Before the PS5, with many windows of free time under an hour, my phone would almost always my entertainment source. When my PS4 would require five plus minutes just to get into gameplay, not to mention smaller loads throughout the experience, it’s hard to compete against the instant gratification pulling up a New York Times article, the Twitter timeline, or a YouTube clip. But something psychologically shifts knowing I could be playing a PS5 game in about as much time as it would need for me to flip on a Netflix show, or that I’ll be ready for gameplay in less time than it would take for me to walk to the kitchen to get a snack. Furthermore, with less time spent on menus and loading screens, and more actual play time, even short console gaming runs of under 15 minutes feel satisfactory.
Once the PS5 is on, my gaming patterns have shifted away from sticking with a single game per sitting to almost always bouncing between multiple games for sessions longer than an hour. Given the faster load times and speed of the UI, it’s way easier to take a break from one game to another. Being able to easily play games that match my mood and whims in the moment further bolster gaming as a higher entertainment priority.
Unfortunately, the general narrative I’ve read online, from ResetEra to GameSpot and Bloomberg, is the same story I feel we’ve heard about most console generations, especially the last back in 2013 with the original PS4 and Xbox One. There aren’t that many next gen games. Graphical bumps are becoming hard to discern, only available to audiences with comparatively niche high end TVs and sound systems. There are bugs in the hardware and UI that will be patched over time. The conclusion: wait, unless you’re the most hard core of early adopters.
Granted, I agree with part of the criticism. I have a Vizio 4K TV from 2018 which means I’ll miss out on the ultra fast 120 fps games this generation that require HDMI 2.1 support. The Demon’s Souls remake looks fabulous, one of the best games I’ve ever seen, but late generation PS4 games like The Last of Us II would still compare against the game favorably. I haven’t had any hard crashes, but the PS5 UI today has some rough edges and baffling usability decisions that deserve cleanup.
Yet I think it’s a disservice to give the same “wait a while” recommendation that we’ve told potential buyers for decades. This generation is different: if you know which ecosystem to buy into, and you’re fortunate enough to have the disposable income and heavens forbid actually get lucky enough to find one in stock, buy a PS5 or Xbox Series X now.