PS5 controller analysis: 5 questions we still have about DualSense
Will it support PSVR? And what’s on the back?
Sony has revealed the very first images of the PlayStation 5 controller, along with details on several interesting additions including haptic feedback, adaptive triggers and its built-in microphone.
The controller is called ‘DualSense’, and according to Sony it’s “a radical departure” from the more iterative DualShock pads of past PlayStation consoles.
Its distinct two-toned design is certainly bold, but there are still a number of questions surrounding this new design, including what it means for PSVR, voice chat and overall gameplay on Sony’s next-gen console.
Here we analyse the five big questions that still remain for PS5‘s DualSense controller.
What is the light bar for?
The light bar on the DualShock 4 was originally designed as a trackable reference point for the PS Camera.
This enabled developers to implement highly precise motion control and Wii-style pointer functionality in their games, that’s otherwise not possible using just the typical accelerometer and gyroscope sensors included in other game controllers.
Discussing the new controller, Sony’s Hideaki Nishino said, “we changed the position of the light bar that will give [the controller] an extra pop. On DualShock 4, it sat on the top of the controller; now it sits at each side of the touch pad, giving it a slightly larger look and feel.”
What’s interesting here is how Nishino talks about the light bar purely from an aesthetic standpoint and doesn’t infer any actual functionality behind it.
Looking at the official renders, the light bar surrounds the touch pad and, critically, is player-facing. And although it looks like it wraps around the top side of the new touch pad, according to the renders released in the official post the light doesn’t appear to illuminate along the top of the controller.
So the big question is, can the top part of the light bar be made to illuminate? And would that thin slither serve any other purpose other than indicating what player you are during local multiplayer?
It’s possible that Sony heard the complaints about the old light bar reflecting in TVs, and made it so that the top part of the new light bar will only illuminate during certain conditions. If it doesn’t light up at all, however, this might mean that the PS5 controller is not compatible with a key PS4 peripheral…
Will DualSense work with PSVR?
That light-beacon tracking system is what PSVR uses to track player inputs. Everything from the PS4 DualShock controller, to the Move controllers and even the headset itself makes use of these illuminated arrays.
Sony has confirmed that the current PSVR will be compatible with PS5, but unless the company makes significant changes to the way PSVR works, you may need to keep hold of your PS4 controllers to make it work.
It’s technically possible to track specific objects in a video feed (the PS2 Eye Toy camera did it to track players hands and faces), and Sony could possibly just track the shape and color of the PS5 controller without the assistance of the Light Bar. But this type of image recognition is temperamental at best and is therefore too inaccurate to make it a likely answer for PS5 VR.
Could a simple attachment be made to add a top-side light bar to the controller temporarily when using PSVR? Sony has shown that it’s not adverse to the idea of controller attachments with the recent release of the Back Button Attachment for the DualShock 4, so perhaps it could adopt a similar approach for its next-gen console.
What’s on the rear of the PS5 controller?
The official DualSense images released this week do not show the rear of the controller. This could be because there’s nothing particularly exciting to see back there, but Sony will be well aware of how eager fans are to see the next-gen pad from every possible angle. So what could be on the back of the controller?
It was a surprising move for Sony to release the DualShock 4 Back Button attachment in 2019 – a significant hardware development for a seven-year-old console that’s about to be superseded.
The release prompted a common question: does this reflect a new design initiative that will be featured on the PS5, and is this a move to help PS4 controllers be forward compatible with PS5 games?
Could there be paddles on the back of the PS5 controller that are being cleverly hidden in the pictures released so far? Both Sony and Microsoft (with its Elite controller) acknowledge the potential for rear-facing buttons but have yet to commit to including them in their base controllers.
How will the microphone and Mute button work?
The DualSense controller includes a built-in microphone, which will be handy for when players briefly drop into a game or group chat.
There are two things to note with this feature: Firstly, while we haven’t yet seen the underside of the PS5 controller, according to a PlayStation employee users will be able to plug in standard aux headsets and microphones into the controller like on the DS4.
Secondly, there’s clearly a new mute button on the controller, and we’d love to know if this button will only be functional when using the built-in mic, or when using any form of voice chat.
When Xbox 360 first released, the included headsets came with a mute switch that was right within reach of players’ thumbs. And this was excellent because you could conveniently mute and un-mute yourself without taking your hands off the controller.
This design was later revised to place the mute switch on the wire high up near the user’s chest, which was clearly less convenient.
Will the PS5 console also be two-toned?
Since the DualSense serves as our first glimpse of PS5 hardware, what does it say about the console design, which Sony is yet to reveal?
Sony has gone for a unique and rather bold two-toned design for its controller, and if this says anything about its design philosophy for the next generation, we might see a similar design for the console itself.
There are already plenty of plaudits for the design, but it’s inevitable DualSense’s neo-futuristic look will have its naysayers among those that think the edgy designs of gaming PCs and peripherals are tacky.
More things we noticed about the PS5 controller
The Face Buttons: It looks like Sony has abandoned its colourful face buttons, likely to fit the clean white design of PS5. We hope this is something that is revised or perhaps returns in coloured variants of the controller. Not just for looks, but also because colour helps with correlation when thinking about which button does what.
The D-Pad: Sony has stuck with its traditional D-Pad design, which has grown to be widely liked. And it looks like it harks back to the transparent D-Pad from the original PSP, and as big fans of the PSP that makes us happy.
That’s a USB-C Port: Although Sony didn’t mention it in the reveal post, the images of the DualSense very clearly show the inclusion of a USB-C port on the top of the controller. This is par for the course nowadays, as we see the micro USB port (used on the DuslShock 4) being widely phased out, and is already used on the Nintendo Switch console for charging and video output.
For the uninitiated, USB-C is a very powerful, multifunctional port. For controllers, it will mean faster charging thanks to its ability to transfer significantly higher amperage than micro USB. But it also features high bandwidth data transfer, which opens the possibilities for interesting expansions and add-ons.
Sticky Grip: The analogue sticks retain the indented design of the DS4 sticks, albeit with a slightly more ridged outer rim. Hopefully we won’t see any issues with peeling rubber like we did during the PS4 release.
Bigger Design, Better Battery: The DualSense is visibly bulkier than the traditionally slender DualShock. It sounds like this was largely the product of the extra internal hardware required for Sony’s new adaptive triggers. But with the extra bulk we may also see a bigger battery included, which could help fix the notably short battery life of the DS4.
The New PS Button: …is now just the shape of the classic PlayStation logo. And that is fantastic.