Why I love the design of the PS5

(Image credit: Future)

Hey! Gamer! Chill out! Your hot take may be sizzling, but I think the PS5 console design looks cool.

After years of sticking black boxes under my TV, I’m more than ready for something that has a bit more flair to it. With its white plastic wraparound shell and curvy design, the PlayStation 5 looks like a science-fiction movie prop, complete with glowing blue highlights that give it an icy personality.

If the Xbox Series X is Pixar’s Wall-E, the PS5 is his robot lady friend E.V.E, the roadster to Xbox’s Humvee. Both look good in their own way, both serve to lure in slightly different audiences and I think, interestingly, both speak to the direction their different ideologies towards consoles are going in.

The Xbox Series X is a bigger, beefier black box. It shouts grunt and power. An Xbox + an Xbox = better Xbox. If you want more Xbox, the Xbox Series X is more Xboxy. And that’s absolutely fine! It’s what Microsoft wants you to think – it’s not so much a step away from Xbox’s past as it is the latest chunky evolution of it, the One X on ‘roids. 

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(Image credit: Microsoft)

As Microsoft itself has said in the marketing, it’s ‘the most powerful console ever’, and it looks as muscled as that title demands. Its design language follows Microsoft’s plan to make the idea of console ‘generations’ moot this time around, a generation-less generation, with new games working on older hardware and being enhanced if you pick them up on the incoming machine. 

The Xbox Series X isn’t so much the ‘next’ Xbox as it is ‘another’ Xbox, right down to its continuation of the black box design; but it’s the one you’re going to want if you demand the absolute most powerful beast of an Xbox you can find. 

(Image credit: Sony)

Future nostalgia

Sony has taken a different approach. It’s stated that it still believes in the power of distinct generations – it’s pushing titles exclusive to the PS5 generation (if not exclusive to PS5) primarily, and hasn’t made anywhere near the progress Microsoft has made with backwards compatibility efforts. 

And that future-gazing desire is reflected in the design. The PS5 looks nothing like the PlayStation 4, or the PlayStation 3, or even the PlayStation 2. In fact, its color scheme and curved elements have more in common with the original PlayStation than any recent iteration.

That’s an interesting thought, tying in not only to what products the hardware designers of today were brought up on, but also what the promise of a new console used to mean. A SNES, for instance, looked vastly different from a NES, and its design was playful, a reflection of the gameplay experiences it would offer. The PlayStation 1 entered a gaming space where consoles were still seen alongside toys, and ground-breakingly bridged the gap in its industrial design between playful box and more adult-oriented consumer electronics device. 

The PS5 sees Sony come full circle – here is a games console that verges on cliche in its attempt to look futuristic, one that your younger self would have screamed for, in a modern age where consoles are increasingly being compared to more conventional-looking PC hardware. The PS5 design looks forward, while playing to an imagined nostalgia you may have sketched on the back of your school books. That’s very attractive for the now-older gaming audience (or at least in terms of grown-ups having more disposable income than kids, and more likely to be the cash-flushed early adopters of sure-to-be-expensive wave one hardware).

In fact, I read a tweet (that I’ve now lost to the annals of my Twitter timeline) that said the PS5 looks like what a 15 year-old would have scribbled as their hopes for a PS3 design back in 2005. And that’s probably pretty accurate, given a Sony designer now in their thirties would have been about that age then. 

But it goes to show that the kids eventually become the gatekeepers of taste, and I’m all for what they’ve grown up to produce this time around. Me and the PS5, we’re in sync. And, in turn, I expect I’ll be duly horrified by what the kids of today conjure up for the PS6 and PS7 of tomorrow.

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Gerald Lynch

Gerald is Editor-in-Chief of iMore.com. Previously he was the Executive Editor for TechRadar, taking care of the site's home cinema, gaming, smart home, entertainment and audio output. He loves gaming, but don't expect him to play with you unless your console is hooked up to a 4K HDR screen and a 7.1 surround system. Before TechRadar, Gerald was Editor of Gizmodo UK. He is also the author of 'Get Technology: Upgrade Your Future', published by Aurum Press.