Every console generation is met with a new iteration of controllers. Major revisions, minor tweaks, and technological advancements all play a part, inside and outside of the hardware.
As much as the DualShock line of controllers has evolved since its inception, they all had a similar look and feel. Sony's new DualSense for the PlayStation 5 completely changes the shape of the chassis, giving it a more modernized look and improving its ergonomics. Both the DualShock 4 and DualSense are still part of the same family, but it's clear that Sony isn't content with just the same old formula anymore.
Sony is taking a generational leap
Sony's never really been one to drastically change its controllers. The three pictured above — the original DualShock, DualShock 3, and DualShock 4 — show that. The first three DualShocks are nearly identical to one another, with the major change coming in the form of the DualShock 3's wireless compatibility (and the addition of thumbsticks in a revised DualShock controller in 1997). If I were to hold a DualShock 2 and 3 side-by-side, most people may not even be able to tell them apart. The biggest giveaway is the absence of an analog button on the DualShock 3, replaced with the PS button.
The DualShock 4 was Sony's greatest departure yet with its Share button, light bar, and touchpad, but even then it kept a similar form factor throughout its entire chassis, with some minor adjustments to make it a bit more comfortable to hold. You could easily tell that all four DualShocks were within the same family line.
Now taking a look at the DualSense, you can really see that Sony wasn't satisfied with just minor revisions. It looks like a proper controller meant for a next-gen system.
|PS5 DualSense||DualShock 4|
|Price||$70 MSRP||$60 MSRP (Jet Black)|
|Share button||Yes (Create)||Yes|
|Trigger layout||Symmetrical (inline)||Symmetrical (inline)|
|Trigger type||Adaptive triggers||Regular triggers|
|Compatibility||PS5/Unknown||PS4, PC, Android 10 or iOS 13 (or later)|
|Dimensions||6.3in x 2.6in x 4.2in||6.4in x 2.0in x 3.9in|
|Release date||November 12, 2020||November 15, 2013|
Form factor and other features
Now more than ever, the DualSense is being compared to the Xbox One controller. That's not something that could be said in the past. This is due to the ergonomic design it now sports, which changes the shape of the grips and the rest of the chassis. This might seem like a minor tweak, but it's one of the most important changes that Sony made. Ergonomics are everything when it comes to a controller. It doesn't matter what advanced features it has if the controller is uncomfortable to hold. This is aided by new textured grips and thumbsticks.
Because of the addition of adaptive triggers, which I'll get into more below, Sony has to slightly tweak the shape of them as well. They definitely look similar to those on the DualShock 4, but a quick glance shows that the bumpers have certainly increased in size.
We had to consider how the components would fit into the hardware, without giving it a bulky feeling. Our design team worked closely with our hardware engineers to place the triggers and actuators. The designers were then able to draw the lines of how the exterior of the controller would look and feel, with a challenge of making the controller feel smaller than it really looks. In the end, we changed the angle of the hand triggers and also made some subtle updates to the grip.
The button themselves appear to be more tactile now, as well. On the DualShock 4, the face buttons and D-pad felt a bit squishy to use. I can almost hear the satisfying click that they make on the DualSense. Of course, we won't know for sure until we're able to test out the controller for ourselves.
On top of all that, Sony swapped out the Share button for Create, which we'll learn more about at a later date, added a mic array to the DualSense's internals, and is now utilizing USB-C charging.
There was nothing special about the triggers on the DualShock 4. That's set to change with the DualSense. Sony has created adaptive triggers to be used in its DualSense controller for PS5, adding layers of tension and resistance to the triggers depending on what actions you are performing in-game.
Combined with the DualSense's improved haptic feedback technology, these features are set to deliver a new level of immersion that was otherwise impossible before. You'll feel your actions.
Light bar placement
The light bar was an interesting idea that not enough developers took advantage of, and it ended up becoming more of a nuisance than anything. Instead of providing news ways to experience a game, you were stuck with some bright light that drained the battery and couldn't be completely turned off. Sony apparently decided not to give up on it though because it kept the light bar on the DualSense.
This time, however, the light bar takes the form of a small strip that borders the entire touchpad. It's unclear whether we'll be able to turn it off if we want to in the settings, but at the very least it appears less obtrusive and hopefully won't drain the battery as much.
There's no doubt that the DualSense is far more advanced than the DualShock 4. It's impossible to fully judge just how much without being able to go hands-on with the DualSense, but all signs point to this being a huge generational leap for Sony. The DualSense seems to be an upgrade in almost every way — if only Sony could do something about that unfortunate thumbstick layout.
A major step forward
Sony's design team at its best
It might be a bit too early to tell, but the DualSense seems to be shaping up to be everything you'd want from a controller revision. Sony's going full steam ahead for its next-generation, and I can't wait to see what else it comes up with.
Better to leave this hardware in the past
The DualShock 4 serves its purpose on PlayStation 4, but it's quickly becoming obsolete hardware. A subpar battery, janky ergonomics, and boring triggers makes it something you won't want to use going forward.
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