Sony DualSense test: the PlayStation 5 controller causes a sensation and buries the DualShock

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Aina Martin
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Articulated around sensory experiences, the DualSense controller of the PlayStation 5 stands out quite clearly from the DualShock of the previous PlayStations. A sensational controller in many ways.

Presentation

Revealed by Sony even before the design of the PlayStation 5 for which it is designed, the DualSense controller created a surprise with its haptic technologies and its innovative adaptive triggers, but also because of a design that marks a real evolution compared to the DualShock. Enough to improve the grip to highlight the new sensory effects of the DualSense as best as possible.



Included with the PlayStation 5, the DualSense controller is also sold separately at the official price of €69,99, which is €10 more than the DualShock 4 of the PlayStation 4. On the other hand, it is not compatible with the PS4, but can run on PC, smartphones and tablets (Android and iOS), and even Nvidia Shield.

Construction and ergonomics

Sony had already significantly modernized its DualShock on the occasion of the release of the PlayStation 4, for the better since it gained in particular in comfort thanks to extended handles and more welcoming analog sticks. We could then guess the path towards which the Japanese manufacturer was heading, because the controller was already tending to smooth its volumes to make room for more harmonious curves. With its DualSense, Sony continues in this direction and completely erases the aesthetic particularities of the DualShock, while retaining its essential ergonomic features.



A curvaceous design that respects the fundamentals

This is how the two disc-shaped trays hosting the directional cross and the four emblematic buttons of the PlayStation (triangle, circle, cross and square) disappear. These now follow the curve of the handles, like what is done at Microsoft with the Xbox controller. Same observation for the two cylinders which accommodate the analog sticks, still a little more embedded in the shell. A curved controller, therefore, which takes on volume in passing and seems more imposing in the hands than the DualShock 4.

However, its more generous forms do not disturb the grip, Sony having taken care to preserve the fundamentals of its DualShock, changing neither the layout of the main controls of its controller nor the distances which separate them from each other. This revolution in design therefore remains entirely reasoned and everything is done not to upset the habits of PlayStation players. The upheaval seems to us in any case less marked than during the transition from the DualShock 3 to the DualShock 4.


Dualense


DualShock 4
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You can appreciate the increased comfort provided by this new design from the first minutes of play. he spirit of what we observe inside the facades of the PlayStation 5, as we can see in the photo below – offers enough grip to limit slipping.


To top it off, the build quality is up a notch. The controller is very rigid, the assemblies are perfect, without any visible screws. The DualSense is worthy of high-end “pro” controllers, despite its price twice as low.

A few grams more for the benefit of autonomy

If the DualSense has gained in volume compared to the DualShock 4, it is not only to improve the comfort of the grip. It is also a question of integrating more components, in particular the adaptive triggers which occupy more space, but also a larger battery. The capacity of the latter thus increases by 57,5%, to 1260 mAh against 800 mAh only for that of the DualShock 4. A very clear gain, necessary to power the new triggers and haptic technology which increase energy consumption. The autonomy does not therefore progress in the same proportions, but is established at a dozen hours of play with the default vibration intensity settings (80%).


Charging is now done via a USB-C port.

On the downside, the DualSense is gaining weight, displaying 282 g on the scale, or 64 g more than the DualShock 4. It's still 14 g less than an Xbox Series X/S controller with its two batteries, but the remarkable lightness of the DualShock is no more. Charging takes approximately 1 hour 15 minutes and is done via the USB-C port on the controller or via the specific connectors located on its lower edge if using the optional dual charger sold by Sony.


It is also on this edge that we find the mini-jack port used to connect a headset if you do not have a wireless model compatible with the PlayStation 5. What to enjoy the 3D sound of the console with any wired headset.

Small refinements that matter

Although it preferred to keep controls of the same size as those of the DualShock 4 (diameters of 10 mm for the buttons and 17,5 mm for the sticks, 50 mm center distance for the latter), Sony did not failed to improve them. The four main buttons and the directional cross are thus quieter and a little more flexible.

As for the analog sticks, they benefit from a fine relief on their edges, further improving the grip.

We can also note a better response to the Create share and Option context menu buttons (Share and Options on the DualShock 4) placed on either side of the touchpad. The PlayStation button, for its part, takes the form of the brand's logo and is now used to bring up a quick menu bar. We will therefore use it quite often and we can be delighted to see that it responds just as well as that of the DualShock 4.

The L1 and R1 button triggers unfortunately do not benefit from such good treatment. They are certainly wider, but still less reactive than their equivalents on the Xbox Series controller.

Otherwise, we note the absence of a light bar on the upper edge of the controller, initially introduced on the DualShock 4 to allow controllers to be identified during multiplayer games in the same room and for detection in space when playing. use in virtual reality with the PlayStation VR. This light bar is replaced by a thin translucent band that goes around the touchpad of the DualSense. The effect is thus much more discreet and no longer disturbs when playing in the dark or at the same level as our television (in which case the light could be reflected in the screen).

Innovative adaptive triggers

The biggest changes are in the L2 and R2 triggers. Like the L1 and R1 button triggers, these are wider and offer a touch similar to those of the DualShock. However, all the magic is indeed inside, without one being able to perceive at first sight any difference during their manipulation. These two triggers therefore become “adaptive”, that is to say capable of opposing more or less strong resistance to depression depending on the events occurring in the games that exploit their capacities.

The best illustration of the possible uses of this technology is given in the game Astro's Playroom, included with the PlayStation 5. This is how we observe the trigger gradually stiffening when stretching the string of a bow, before feeling a sudden release when we release the arrow, that we can precisely dose the gases of the left and right engines of our spaceship, or that we compress with more or less force a figure mounted on a spring to make it jump with the desired strength. Examples among others that reveal a real playful and above all immersive potential, as well as an ability to serve the gameplay, which the touchpad introduced with the DualShock 4 never really managed to do.

Haptic technology to go beyond simple vibrations

Another great novelty of this DualSense controller, the introduction of a so-called “haptic” technology to replace the still very basic vibrations of traditional controllers. A technology ultimately quite close to what Nintendo offers with the HD vibrations of its Joy-Con. Sony thus uses more precise and responsive electronics and motors, capable of making us feel even the changes of materials on which our character evolves in the games. Here too, Astro's Playroom gives us the best demonstration of this, from the very first seconds of play, when we release our little robot character from its case, which is none other than the DualSense itself.

The precision of the vibrations is such that it becomes possible to give the feeling that something is moving in the controller. And this is only a foretaste of the possibilities of this haptic technology, which is then illustrated in different ways, as surprising as they are varied: feeling of the materials (glass, metal, wood, sand, mud, etc.) on which our character, blowing wind and even raindrops crashing on an umbrella, the effects are striking and make you want to see all games using this technology. If indeed, of course, that one appreciates the tactile sensations. However, before being able to say whether or not we appreciate this technology, it will be necessary to at least have tried the experience during a few levels of the game Astro's Playroom, since it is very difficult to realize the gains obtained without having tried it yourself. even experience.

For this haptic technology as for that of adaptive triggers, the main question obviously lies in the interest that third-party publishers will show them. With good use, in combination with the gyroscopic sensors and even the much more precise microphones with which this DualSense is equipped, the developers of Astro's Playroom have been able to show that the potential is not lacking. On the other hand, an underuse to be satisfied globally with improved vibrations would be generally disappointing. This is what we can already see with the launch games of the PlayStation 5, which exploit with more or less finesse, or even not at all, these new features (see our report in the box). It's up to Sony studio games to show the way.

Precision and responsiveness

Like the DualShock 4, the DualSense uses a Bluetooth-based connection, but with a proprietary protocol to communicate with the PlayStation 5. And like the DualShock 4, this one is surprisingly fast! The latency is virtually imperceptible, which is far from the case with all Bluetooth controllers.

A very low reaction time combined with a good responsiveness of the buttons, which make this DualSense a very good base that will be difficult to surpass. One would have hoped for the arrival of mechanical switches instead of the rubber domes used now for several generations of controllers, but that would have been to the detriment of the operating silence and the habits of millions of players who have learned to play with these characteristic feelings.

A more limited use outside PS5, but possible

Although Sony does not allow the use of its DualSense on PlayStation 4, it has not locked its controller so far. We therefore appreciate being able to use it both via USB and Bluetooth on PC, even if we have to do without the refinements of haptic technology and adaptive triggers, for lack of games that can exploit them outside of the PS5. We also appreciate seeing it supported directly in Steam.

The DualSense is also able to operate on Android smartphones and tablets such as iOS via Bluetooth, which allows you to take advantage of it if you use the PlayStation Now cloud gaming service, for example, but also in any other game. mobile. Finally, let's mention the arrival of compatibility with the Nvidia Shield, which completes the good compatibility of the DualSense.

Highlights

  • Grip comfort.

  • Sensations provided by haptic technology.

  • Adaptive triggers.

  • Manufacturing quality.

  • Good responsiveness of the wireless link and controls.

Weak points

  • The lightness of the DualShock is no longer (but remains very correct).

  • Autonomy correct, but not fantastic (12 hours max).

Conclusion

Note globale

Significantly different from the DualShock 4 in terms of design, the DualSense has the good taste to keep the fundamentals of its elder so as not to disturb players on PlayStation too much. It nevertheless brings many convincing improvements, which certainly come at the expense of the record lightness of previous Sony controllers, but act as real technological advances. The mention of “haptic” technology is thus not usurped and the adaptive triggers surprise as much as they convince. A success on almost the whole line, in short.

Sub Notes
  • Construction and ergonomics
  • Precision and responsiveness
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