While some lucky gamers have already picked up Sony’s next-generation console, our region must wait another agonising week. In the interim, the Nexus Hub staff got access to an early review unit PlayStation 5 and, sticking with tradition, this presented the opportunity to unbox the console, photograph and film it from a myriad of angles, and stack it alongside its predecessors. In this feature – with a video to follow soon – we’ll provide some impressions of Sony’s new hardware.
Note: Given there’s no difference in the specifications between the PlayStation 5 Blu-ray and PlayStation 5 Digital, we’re just looking at the model with the disc drive for this feature.
The packaging and retail box
We’ve known for a while now that the PlayStation 5 was going to be huge and both the size and weight of the packaging is equally impressive. The PlayStation 5 retail box is simple but effectively packed, with white now seemingly the dominant brand colour, however, the opening flap is still the iconic PlayStation blue. The retail box itself is clearly designed to highlight the appearance of the new console, rather than plaster text everywhere. It highlights support for 8K output-resolution (a feature that’ll mostly apply to streaming media), HDR (for both games and media), and 4K/120 Hz output that’ll be the maximum targets for games.
You already know what you’re in for once you get your hands on the packaging. We’ve stacked it up alongside the prior 3 generations for comparison.
What’s in the box?
Opening the top flap, you’ll first remove a separate box housing the new DualSense gamepad, base plate, and cabling. Below that, padded by two cardboard sleeves, is the PlayStation 5 itself, wrapped in a thick layer of anti-static wrap. Extracting the console requires some effort and you’ll want to lay the retail box on its side and slide it out. Despite weighing much the same as their competitors premium console – around 4.5 kg and 3.9 kg for the “Digital” version – it’s an ungainly beast given the size (39 cm x 10.4 cm x 26 cm), and pulling it straight up and out is risking disaster if it slips your grip.
Despite being just shy of 40 cm tall, the console looks great in the vertical orientation and feels sturdy once the base plate is attached.
The PlayStation 5 immediately scores bonus points with its futuristic and distinctly console-like design. Sony has always created great looking consoles – if we exclude a few tacky-looking “slim” versions – and the PlayStation 5 will stand out among your other devices (and not just because it’ll literally be taller than all of them bar the TV). As with their prior generations of consoles, the PlayStation 5 feels unique, not drawing on any prior console design elements.
Stood upright and looking front-on, the distinctive V-shaped cover plates on the PlayStation 5 exist for more than aesthetics reasons. To either side of the shiny black inner casing, you’ll find several large vents for air intake, which run up and over the top of the unit. A massive 120 mm fan draws in air, pushes it over the internals and massive heat sinks, and vents it through the back of the unit. In terms of IO ports, the design is kept simple. On the front, you’ll find a power button and disc eject button, one USB 3.1 type-A port, and a USB 3.1 type-C port – used for the DualSense charging cable and packing 10x the bandwidth, maybe for future accessories like PSVR v2.0? On the back, between the exhaust vents, you’ll find the figure-8 power port, the 2.1 HDMI-out port, two additional 3.1 USB type-A ports, and an ethernet port.
The shiny black central casing does a good job of concealing the ports and looks great when the console boots up, highlighting the edges with a blue glow. Unfortunately, it's a fingerprint magnet.
On the base of the console, assuming you’re going to mount it vertically, there’s a small plastic cap that can be removed, exposing the anchor point you screw the base onto. This is, for aesthetic and space-saving reasons, probably the orientations you want. You simply twist the clip on the base to expose a small screw inside, pop it out, orient the base plate, and screw it tight. If you’ve got space for the horizontal configuration, you can leave the screw in its housing, find a textured area on the inside of the cover plate, clip the base plate over the edges, and lay the console down so it rests snugly on the sloped surface provided. It’s a slick but not entirely stable design, so mounting the PlayStation 5 in the vertical position appears to be the safest option.
For those interested in the cheaper PlayStation 5 Digital, it’s worth noting the lack of a Blu-ray drive means you’ll be committing to digital purchases going forward and, if you’re looking to take advantage of the backward-compatibility feature, you’ll need an existing digital PlayStation 4 library. Sadly, Sony continues to pretend anything pre-dating the PlayStation 4 generation doesn’t exist, so we’ll have to wait and see if we get emulators for earlier games in future updates. The optical audio port has also been removed, a potential issue for those using a sound system connected by a TOSLINK cable.
The unique design ensured the PlayStation 5 got plenty of attention from everyone with a camera on hand.
Sony’s last-generation DualShock 4 was already a massive leap over the rubbish DualShock 1 through 3 (feel free to argue in the comments) but the DualSense goes a step further. The basic analog and button/trigger configuration remains the same, but the gamepad has more heft, sits more comfortably in your grip, has several textured surfaces, and just feels sturdier than any prior Sony gamepad. The black and white design complements the console, and you’ve still got the dedicated share button, touchpad, gamepad speaker, and 3.5 mm audio jack. Thankfully, the obnoxious light bar on the DualShock 4 has been moved to the edges of the touchpad (and should no longer reflect off the TV in a dark room). All that said, it’s the internal features that are the true highlight.
First up, haptic feedback allows for games to further immerse you by simulating on-screen action with far higher spatial precision than the crude vibration feature in past designs. Now you can feel the vibration in specific parts of the gamepad, correlating with directional feedback in the game. Secondly, adaptive triggers can now vary resistance based on what's happening in-game. This could allow for different sensation when drawing a bow or pulling the trigger of a firearm, or emulate the force needed to fully depress the break pedal in a racing game. The only real negative I can think of is that the DualSense, given its updated shape and weight, may no longer be as comfortable for those with smaller hands.
As far as gameplay goes, the new DualSense gamepad may be more impactful than higher resolutions and framerates.
Sony has stuck to its guns and provided yet another next-generation console, not only significantly more powerful than the last but also one that provides unique aesthetics and novel hardware features. The PlayStation 5 looks premium and feels well-constructed in hand; it’s simple to set up, transfer your profile, and game data; the DualSense sits better than ever in your hands and has tangible gameplay benefits; and you’ve immediately got access to both next-gen exclusives and your existing PlayStation 4 library (of which several games ware receiving enhancements, and you can use your older accessories when playing them).
Finally, I'd like to give a shout-out to the camera and editing team who generated a ton of great footage to use.
Note: Retail console purchased for review. There'll be a score at the end based on how I feel about the console at launch.
Microsoft has spent the last few years leading the pack when it comes to gamer-friendly business practices, using their mid-gen Xbox One X upgrade as a launchpad. Despite constantly being told no one wants to play old games, their backward-compatibility program has ensured this is now an important feature on both major consoles. They’ve worked to improve accessibility on the hardware, operating system, and software level. Perhaps most significantly, they’ve taken the original premise of game-streaming and turned it into a high-value, low-cost subscription service with Xbox Game Pass, which provides access to console (and PC) Microsoft exclusives on day-one, with a rotating selection of third-party and backward-compatible games.
No doubt a lot of these initiatives were driven by a need to recover from a rough start to the last generation, but it resulted in a lot of goodwill, media coverage, and even granted them the underdog status in the eyes of many. That said, the Xbox brand still has a lot to prove when it comes to hardware power and delivering a steady flow of quality exclusives from their first- and second-party developers. With the Xbox Series X, they’ve conclusively addressed the hardware concerns. However, when it comes to exclusive games, several recent developer acquisitions have shown the potential of what’s to come, but the launch window and year ahead still remains light on content.
...the Xbox brand still has a lot to prove when it comes to hardware power and delivering a steady flow of quality exclusives from their first- and second-party developers.
The Xbox Series S shares the same content weaknesses but also sports a lower-powered GPU and less storage to hit that budget price. At first glance, these compounded limitations might make you dismiss the console outright, but I’d argue it’s still a compelling choice when you consider it a part of Microsoft’s accessibility push.
Stacked up alongside its premium sibling and a gamepad, you can get a feel for how small the Series S is.
Starting with the hardware itself, the Series S is tiny, despite the next-gen internals (6.5 x 15.1 x 27.5 cm), and it feels dense at just over 2 kg. It has a similar design to the Xbox One S, just cut in half and slightly thicker, with the extraction fan highlighted by a black finish. It can be stood vertical or horizontal (which seems safer to me) and the build still feels as premium as its premium sibling. The new gamepad is a refinement of the Xbox One X|S version, with a hybrid octagonal d-pad, textured grips and triggers, and a dedicated share button the standout features. You can check out our full impressions in the Xbox Series X|S unboxing article.
It has a similar design to the Xbox One S, just cut in half and slightly thicker, with the extraction fan highlighted by a black finish.
It’s an all-digital console, so there’s no Blu-ray drive taking up space and the power supply is internal, keeping the hardware compact. Setting it up is as simple as plugging in the power and HDMI cables, pressing the power button, then connecting to the internet via Wi-Fi or the ethernet port to begin the initial setup (which defaults to accessibility features for the visually- or hearing-impaired – a nice touch). The gamepad automatically syncs to the console without the need for a data cable. While not “portable” in the conventional sense, it’s small enough that you could easily pack it in your hand luggage when travelling.
With no Blu-ray drive and an internal power supply, the Series S is seriously compact and easy to set up with minimal cabling.
Two important caveats to note are the lack of a Blu-ray drive, which makes it a tough sell to those with an extensive physical library of games from the prior generations, and the custom SSD that has only 360 GB of usable storage space. Thankfully, only next-gen games that make use of the Xbox Velocity technology need to be installed on the internal drive. A USB 3.1 external drive (an SSD would be your best bet) can be used for playing backward-compatible games. You can also use that drive to store your next-gen games and transfer them back to play later if you want to avoid redownloading them. It’s not ideal but was clearly a cost-cutting necessity for the Series S.
Regardless of whether the console is sitting idle or you’ve been gaming for several hours, the Series S is incredibly quiet. My setup is a small office, with only 1.8 m between the couch and console, yet I’ve never heard it above background levels. My four-year-old gaming laptop, which is propped up on a riser on a desk in the opposite corner, maybe 2.5 m away, is far more audible when simply standing idle. The extraction vent on the top of the console does get warm, so you’ll want to make sure it's always uncovered and the console has plenty of airflow. Much like the Series X, the Series S is also going for an understated design, but I’d argue it looks more aesthetically interesting and console-like than the Series X.
You could argue the OS is all about comforting familiarity.
Once you’ve powered on the Series S – which takes about 5 seconds, even from a cold boot – anyone who already games on an Xbox One X|S will be greeted with a familiar sight. Microsoft has gone for a unified user interface between its new and last-gen consoles. It still uses the tiled design for the home screen and storefront, pop-up quick menus, and a myriad of deeper menu options that wouldn’t look out of place on a Windows PC. Some recent OS updates are much-appreciated but long overdue: like the ability to pick the internal or external drive when first installing games, rather than having to change the default setting; or the ability to sort games in the store, the Game Pass library, or your own library using more granular options (think console generation, number of players, genre, etc.).
Microsoft has gone for a unified user interface between their new and last-gen consoles.
What sets the Series S OS apart from the last-gen consoles is the speed at which you can navigate menus, your library, the Xbox Game Pass selection, and the storefront. This OS upgrade includes the "fast resume" function, which allows you to store several games in memory, and quickly pick up from where you left off (even if you just paused the game, or fully powered off your machine for a while). Having the OS installed on the custom internal SSD clearly has its benefits, while it seems the storefront gets faster the longer you use it (I’d guess it starts caching thumbnails and low-res trailers for featured content as soon as you open the store). Unfortunately, if you’re looking for a snazzy new interface to go along with the next-gen gaming experience, you’ll have to settle for a boost in responsiveness to the existing design.
Why did it take an entire console generation to get this option? Also Microsoft, please can we have an option to take screenshots of the UI?
Once the initial charm of new console hardware, the aesthetics, and the updated OS wear off, the only thing that matters is the gaming. After several days using the Series S, it’s clear that intelligent compromises were made to provide a next-gen experience, despite the lower-specced GPU. Whereas the Series X is targeting 4K resolutions at up to 120 Hz, the Series S instead targets 1440p at up to 120 Hz. It’s a 2.5x reduction in the number of pixels rendered, using a GPU roughly a third as powerful. Thankfully, the GPU hardware-level capabilities (like ray-tracing), the custom SSD, CPU clocks, and RAM configuration is identical or close to the Series X.
Now rendering load doesn’t scale linearly with the resolution, so you can still expect games operating with a dynamic 1440p resolution on the Series S. However, my experience so far – be that for new games, “optimized” cross-gen games, and backward-compatible games – has been rock solid framerates, so this was the right choice. It’s incredible how console gamers have become conditioned to unstable framerates, with the focus on visual fidelity instead of responsiveness. There’s no going back once you’ve experienced an unwavering 60 fps or, at the very least, a locked 30 fps. Not all games need high framerates, but they do need stable framerates. I’m just hoping the shift to “targeted” resolutions and locked framerates remains the standard this generation.
However, my experience so far – be that for new games, “optimized” cross-gen games, and backward-compatible games – has been rock solid framerates, so this was the right choice.
I’ll be publishing several Series S reviews or impressions over the next few weeks as I get access to new games, but one new third-party title I spent time with pre-launch was Watch Dogs: Legion. It gives a good idea of what Series S owners can expect this generation from third-party developers. The game targets 1080p/30 – with the Xbox hardware handling the up-scaling to your native display resolution – and that framerate was locked during my time spent tearing around London causing chaos. Next-gen features, like quick load times, higher quality textures, better texture filtering, faster asset-streaming, and the much-vaunted ray-traced reflections are all accounted for. The ray-traced reflections, admittedly, look incredible and match high-end PC settings, with both static geometry (think buildings) and moving objects (think NPCs and vehicles) accounted for in every reflective surface.
If this generation has taught us anything, it's that puddles are important. Watch Dogs: Legion on the Series S is fully-featured, with speedy loads, high-resolution textures, and ray-traced reflections on every appropriate surface.
Based on my time with Watch Dogs: Legion, and the drip-fed Series S information coming from publishers, this looks to be the common pattern for third-party games on the budget console. The visuals settings used by the premium consoles to run at 60fps will be the 30fps modes on the Series S (with a bigger hit to the dynamic resolution and visual feature set when 60fps modes are offered). Thankfully, when it comes to Xbox exclusives, several optimized last-gen games, and backward-compatible games, the results are far more impressive and a better indication of who this budget console is geared towards.
The console release of Gears Tactics runs at a rock-solid 60fps on the Series S at 1440p resolution, as do the optimized versions of Forza Horizon 4, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, and Gears 5 (which uses the PC ultra-settings to boot, and offers 120 fps multiplayer if you’ve got a display that supports it). Less visually-demanding indie titles, such as The Falconeer, The Touryst, and Tetris Effect: Connected can hit 120 fps (again, if you’ve got the right display) and exceed that 1440p target on the Series S.
Thankfully, when it comes to Xbox exclusives, several optimized last-gen games, and backward-compatible games, the results are far more impressive...
Thankfully, optimised games that don’t use the Xbox Velocity technology can be played off an external hard drive to free up space on the internal drive (and it turns out a powerful CPU handling data compression/decompression is more important than the hard drive read/write speeds for fast loading). Microsoft dedicated considerable time and effort to ensure their first- and second-party games ran well on the base Xbox One S – albeit sometimes after several patches – so I’m certain it’ll be the same with the Series S throughout this new generation.
Never trust someone who says they can't tell the difference between 30fps and 60fps, or can't pick up unstable framerates! There's no going back after playing Gears 5 at 1440p/60.
Backward-compatibility and the idea of continuity between generations is something I’ve always appreciated. Aside from keeping your library intact without the need for a ton of hardware and cabling under your TV, a good chunk of that library might be part of your backlog. With a packed release schedule and abundant sales, I’ve got a shameful amount of games I’ve yet to play (or want to replay before their sequels come out). In addition, Microsoft has spent the last generation refining its backward-compatibility performance, and the results, impressive as they were last-gen, are even better on the Series S.
Original Xbox games get a 3x resolution boost, Xbox 360 games get a 2x boost, and they all hit their target framerate cap effortlessly. When it comes to last-gen games, the Series S enhances the Xbox One S version of games, providing faster load times, improved texture filtering, eliminates screen-tear, and maxes out both the dynamic resolution and framerate cap. As with many optimized games, backward-compatible titles don’t make use of the Xbox Velocity technology and can be played off an external drive while still benefit from these enhancements. Unfortunately, only the Series X gets the backward-compatible One X versions of last-gen games by default, but several developers – such as Bethesda Game Studios – have indicated they’ll patch Series S and X backward-compatible titles to enable more performance options.
When it comes to last-gen games, the Series S enhances the Xbox One S version of games, providing faster load times, improved texture filtering, eliminates screen-tear, and maxes out both the dynamic resolution and framerate cap.
I spent several days just going through my library and the Xbox Game Pass selection to find titles that ran poorly on my Xbox One S. As a result, I got to experience Doom Eternal at a locked 1080p/60. Both Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus and Wolfenstein: Youngblood ran at a locked 1080p/60, with the dynamic-resolution-scaling turned off. One of my favourite janky and compelling survival games, State of Decay 2, ran at a silky-smooth 60fps (admittedly, a ton of patches have clearly played their part too). Ultimately, there’s no way of getting around hard-coded limitations unless the developer goes back to patch them, but games with unlocked framerates, like the Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3 remakes, now run at a gloriously responsive 60fps. As an added bonus, games that never natively supported HDR benefit from an "auto-HDR" feature (so long as the results are checked and deemed acceptable by Micorsoft's back-compat team).
I'm ashamed of how many hours I've plugged into State of Decay 2 but now, running at 60fps, I've got an excuse to return for a dozen more.
So, as I wrap up this review, who do I think the budget-friendly Series S is for?
First up, there are plenty of gamers who’ll have had a rubbish year thanks to the pandemic and resulting industry lockdowns. A budget console, albeit one with some caveats, paired with an Xbox Game Pass subscription, could make next-gen gaming more accessible sooner (and you could potentially upgrade to a Series X later). Secondly, for those who are already fans of Microsoft’s IPs, but are using 1080/1440p displays with Free-sync (e.g. those who have their console sharing the PC monitor), the Series S is a great fit for that setup. Finally, if you skipped the Xbox consoles last generation, but have since taken note of Microsoft’s recent run of critically-acclaimed exclusives and upcoming next-gen titles, the Series S coupled with an Xbox Game Pass subscription will get you access to both those last-generation and next-gen exclusives at relatively low cost, making it a viable second console (and you’ve got the advantage of knowing Microsoft will properly optimise its exclusives for the budget console).
We’ve reached a point massive leaps in visual fidelity are less impactful, and a focus on features like fast loading times and higher/more stable framerates are taking precedent. In that regard, the Series S is a well-designed, budget-friendly, next-gen console that comes with several caveats you need to keep in mind. When it comes to Microsoft exclusives, you’ll be getting a true next-gen experience, optimized for the Series S’ capabilities. Optimized versions of last-gen games and backward-compatible titles look and run beautifully – the icing on the cake for those still catching up with the hectic release schedule. However, you do need to be aware third-party developers might put minimal effort into optimizing for the Series S as the generation progresses and, as an all-digital console, the limited SSD storage will be a pain for those who play multiple games simultaneously (and official storage cards cost way too much at present).
With the launch of the next-generation consoles less than two weeks away, we finally got our hands on the final, retail versions of Microsoft’s Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S consoles. As is custom, we had to tenderly unbox them, display them, line them up alongside one another, and spend an inordinate amount of time photographing and filming them at their best angles. So without further ado, here are some photos and impressions from the unboxing, with the video coming as the poor editor figures out how many times I mixed up “One S” and “One X” with “Series S” and “Series X” while talking.
*Made in collaboration with Glitched
The packaging and retail boxes
It’s clear Microsoft wants to ensure nothing happens to their new consoles during shipping, retail/warehouse packing, and customer deliveries. They arrived in hefty carboard boxes able to withstand most knocks – with a pretty Xbox-themed inner pattern – that snuggly protected the retail packaging. The retail box feels like a continuation of the Xbox One X/Xbox One S black-and-white designs (assuming you haven't gotten a console with a promotional skin), following the same basic design and information layout as far back as the chunky launch Xbox One.
The Series S packaging is slimmer, lighter, crisp white, and – considering the all-digital nature – highlights titles from the Xbox Game Pass library prominently on the back. You’ll find all the symbols and descriptions of next-gen features intact (Xbox Velocity Architecture, Smart Delivery, Ray Tracing, Variable Rate Shading, Fast Resume, Spatial Audio, HDR, and support for up to 120FPS), total storage indicated as 512 GB, and there was a curious circle with a line through it that I quickly realized meant “no disc drive”.
The Series X goes for a black and dark-green colour scheme, highlighting the patterned exhaust vents on the top of console on the front, and the upcoming Halo Infinite on the back. It too highlights the same next-gen feature set but prominently displays “4K”, seeing as its budget sibling is targeting 1440p instead. Both consoles also indicate that the 2.1 HDMI port can output 8K/120, which’ll no doubt be useful as streaming services continue to push for higher fidelity content.
What’s in the box?
Folding open the retail box, both consoles are nestled in a cardboard frame, shrouded in an anti-static sleeve, positioned right in the centre of the packaging, further ensuring they’ll remain safe (even if customs has done a hack-job of inspecting it and denting the corners). Starting with the Series S, you’ll find the absurdly small, light (~2 kg), yet dense console under a “Power Your Dreams” label (presumably Microsoft’s new marketing tag line). Within a carboard enclosure alongside the console you'll find the gamepad, power cables, and a high-speed HDMI cable. The Series X has similar packaging configuration, albeit it for a much heftier console at ~4.5 kg and sports an ultra-high-speed HDMI cable.
Both consoles are aiming for an understated design, blending in with other electronics rather than standing out. The Series S, in particular, feels like an evolution of the One S; half the size but retaining the cooling fan design, now accentuated by black finish on the top of the console. The Series X, on the other hand, is its own beast when compared to the One X. It has the same matt black finish but the distinct rectangular shape, layout of the I/O ports, and prominent green cooling vents on the top of the console give it the appearance of a PC Mini Tower instead of a console.
As I alluded to above, the Series S is tiny given its specifications (6.5 x 15.1 x 27.5 cm), with intake vents on the side and base, and the primary fan extracting air through the top of the console. The front is simple: the Xbox logo which is your power button, there's a sync button for accessories, and a USB 3.1 type-A port. On the back, you’ll find the figure-8 power port, a 2.1 HDMI-out port, two additional 3.1 USB type-A ports, an ethernet port, and the proprietary expansion slot for more storage. Although it has the option to stand vertically, the Series S feels more stable on its side without some sort of base accessory. For those who hate rummaging behind their consoles to change cables, or if you suffer from any visual impairments, you’ll find each port has a raised symbol above it so you can identify it by feel (this is also found on the Series X, of course).
In contrast, the Series X is still relatively compact (15.1 x 15.1 x 30.1 cm) but heavy. There are large cooling intake vents behind the base-plate and on the back of the console near the I/O ports, with the internal vapour cooling chamber and primary fan extracting air through the top of the console. The front is again simple: the Xbox logo functions as your power button, there’s the sync button for gamepads, and single USB 3.1 type-A port, and – unlike its all-digital sibling – a 4K Blu-ray drive and eject button. Despite the different positioning, you’ll find the same I/O ports on the back as the Series S (figure-8 power, 2.1 HDMI, two additional 3.1 USB type-A, ethernet port, and proprietary expansion slot). Although the Series X has several soft pads one side for horizontal positioning, it looks best kept upright.
At this point it’s worth noting a few caveats. For those interested in the Series S, the lack of a Blu-ray drive means you need to be committed to digital purchases or the Xbox Game Pass subscription (and your backwards compatibility library needs to be digital too). There’s no longer an HDMI-in port, but the rise of streaming services makes this feature redundant. For those who connect their current Xbox console to an audio system by TOSLINK cable, there’s no optical audio port. Finally, you've got to pick a side in the eternal conflict: a black console that highlights fingerprints easily, or a white console that highlights dust easily.
“If it ain’t broke…” seems to be the approach Microsoft has taken with their next-gen gamepads. In terms of shape and heft, they’re almost identical to the Xbox One gamepads – black for Series X and white for Series S – but have a few much-needed tweaks. As someone who’s enjoyed Microsoft’s heavier gamepads, offset analog sticks, and actual trigger-shaped triggers since the Xbox 360 generation, they’ve almost perfected the design. The gamepad has textured grips and triggers to prevent slip, the d-pad is now an octagonal-hybrid for more versatility, and there’s a dedicated “share” button that makes it much easier to take screenshots or start a recording in the midst of gameplay.
One of the benefits to Microsoft’s attempt to create continuity between generations is that all Xbox One S|X accessories are compatible with the Series S|X. If you need a second gamepad for some couch coop, just sync your old Xbox One gamepad. If you invested in an Xbox Elite Gamepad, you’re not going to have to fork out again this generation for the premium experience. Gamepads still have a 3.5 mm audio jack, so you can make use of spatial audio using a standard headset, using the Sonic for Windows or Dolby Atmos audio functions.
Overall, Microsoft’s approach to continuity between generations has paid off with two expertly-packed, well-designed consoles – albeit consoles with a no-frills look and feel. They both feel well-constructed in hand, they’re simple to set up with a bare minimum of cabling, and they integrate with your existing Xbox library and accessories seamlessly. The fact they’re offering both a budget and a premium console can only help increase next-gen uptake at launch, so now we have to wait and see how a packed holiday-season worth of games play on them.
Finally, I'd like to give a shout-out to the camera and editing team who generated a ton of great footage to use.
The Asus TUF Gaming VG32VQ is an odd beast that straddles the line between an ungainly but feature-rich gaming monitor, and an HDTV for those without a lot of space. Hell, I still remember how excited I was when I got my first 32” HDTV and stuck it in my lounge for gaming on PC and console. However, I’ve always found 24” monitors the sweet spot for work and gaming using a typical sitting- or standing-desk configuration, while 27” is pushing the upper limit of practical if you’re going to spend as much time working as gaming. The Asus TUF Gaming VG32VQ, despite offering basic high-dynamic range (HDR) support and well-established monitor perks – millisecond response times, high refresh rates, and variable refresh rate (VRR) – is going to appeal to a specific niche.
- 32” 2560x1440 (16:9 WQHD) panel with 1800R curvature
- VA panel
- 1ms response time and support for up to 144 Hz (DisplayPort 1.2 and HDMI 2.0)
- Freesync for variable refresh rates (48-144 Hz) supported by both AMD and Nvidia GPUs
- 120% sRGB wide colour gamut and DisplayHDR™ 400 certification (10-bit 400 cd/m2 max brightness)
- 1x DisplayPort 1.2, 2x HDMI 2.0, 3.5 mm earphone jack, 2x 2 W speakers, and side control panel
- 180° swivel stand with -5° to 20° tilt, VESA wall mount (100x100 mm)
Just to get a sense of how large this monitor is, here’s the Asus TUF Gaming VG32VQ (32” with 1800R curvature) standing in front of my UHDTV (49” with 3000R curvature)
Packing away my modular standing desk, on which even a 27” display looks unnervingly big, the Asus TUF Gaming VG32VQ took up a huge portion of my desk area – my gaming laptop had to sit on an adjacent shelf, along with my small printer. Pushed back as far as I could, giving me a viewing distance of >100 cm, the 2560x1440 “WQHD” still looks sharp with a pixel-density of ~93 PPI. This is on par and exceeds many UHDTVs, but is low by monitor standards and you’ll not want to sit much closer to the display. The WQHD native resolution does make hitting the high refresh rates offered by this monitor more plausible of a wider range of PCs without upscaling, and there’s no doubt refresh rates that exceed the 60 Hz standard of HDTVs has a notable impactful on your gaming experience.
You may have already guessed from that prior paragraph that the Asus TUF Gaming VG32VQ is not an ideal monitor if you need it for work-related tasks. Sure, you’ve got plenty of screen space (~70x39 cm), sufficient pixel-density, and a high refresh rate that makes navigating the desktop and apps smooth, but I found no optimal position to offset the size of the display. Up close, the 1800R curvature can’t offset the fact you’ll be constantly turning your head to take in everything on the screen. Move it far enough back to avoid this – you can use the VESA the wall mount if you don’t have the desk space – and you end up with so much in your peripheral vision it’s difficult to focus on the screen. If it’s a secondary display, purely for gaming and media, this’ll be less of an issue - just make sure you’ve got the space.
The sturdy swivel stand connects with a solid metal rod and securing screw that, coupled with the ability to tilt the display between -5° to 20°, make it easy to get the screen into an optimal position. The VESA wall mount removes this flexibility but it’s an option if you need the space.
As the Asus TUF Gaming VG32VQ is a gaming monitor first and foremost, I can at least report the performance in exceptional, just so long as you’re not after the HDR experience. With the resolution and performance target for many recent games set 4K/60, something even Nvidia’s GTX20-series and AMDs RX5000-series can’t promise at ultra-settings, the WQHD resolution and adaptive-sync support makes it easier for those aiming for high refresh rate. Sitting over 100 cm away from the display, games still looked sharp at the native resolution, while the responsiveness and fluidity of gaming at 144 Hz remains underappreciated.
To push the maximum supported framerate and test the VRR features offered by the Asus TUF Gaming VG32VQ, I once again picked several retro-styled shooters (Project Warlock, Ion Fury, Dusk, and Hedon) that wouldn’t challenge my GTX 1050Ti. They all ran all ran silky smooth, felt responsive, and the precision you gain when it comes to fine movements and aiming at 144 Hz must be experienced first-hand. Any drops below that figure were imperceptible thanks to VRR with the massive 48-144 Hz range. To test both the VRR support and HDR quality, I first dug into several campaign chapters of Gears of War 4 and Gears 5, before plugging in an Xbox One S and PlayStation 4 to see how HDR content looked on the display (and how well the VRR worked with the Xbox). In both cases, VRR performance between of 48-60 Hz meant any dips in performance were resolved while playing both Gears games that would stress my GPU when tweaking settings for 1440p/60.
The Asus TUF Gaming VG32VQ offers 1x DisplayPort, 2x HDMI 2.0, and 3.5 mm earphone jack. The speakers are passable at best, so you’ll want your own earphones or a sound bar if you plan to use it as a TV.
If you’re using an Xbox One S/X, the VRR support is recognised immediately over HDMI and the results are impressive. All too many console games that target 60fps use a combination of dynamic resolution and adaptive sync to achieve it, resulting in partial or full-screen tearing. The Asus TUF Gaming VG32VQ handles upscaling well enough, but the elimination of most screen tearing in the 48-60 Hz range is the real bonus to using the monitor instead of an HDTV. If you’re playing older games or media that only support standard dynamic range (SDR), the expanded 120% sRGB colour gamut paired with a 3000:1 contrast ratio ensures the image is vibrant and looks far better than my current UHDTV handles SDR content.
As with many monitors that claim HDR-support, you’ll likely be disappointed with the results on the Asus TUF Gaming VG32VQ. I spent time switching between the Asus TUF Gaming VG32VQ and my 4-year-old Samsung KU7500-series HDR UHDTV while gaming, and the 400 cd/m2 max brightness just doesn’t produce a significant improvement over the SDR image, falling behind the minimum requirement of many recent games. With Gears of War 4 and Gears 5 offering more granular HDR settings, I could barely produce an image that looked more vivid than using SDR settings. Two PlayStation 4 games with excellent HDR support, Horizon Zero Dawn and God of War (2018), produced visual artefacts even after iteratively tweaking available HDR settings on both the console and within the games themselves. With many games and video content using a baseline of 1,000 cd/m2, you’ll notice artefacts on pixels that are assigned a wide range brightness values, but which end up homogenized by the limited range of the display. These games looked much better when using the SDR setting and expanded 120% sRGB-range.
The easy-to-access side panel allows you to quickly access and adjust menu options, or jump between default or user-defined or configurations.
Overall, I feel the Asus TUF Gaming VG32VQ will be a niche product for those who happen to not be interested in HDR content (something that’s getting increasingly less likely), those that want a massive gaming monitor they won't use for work, and those who want a display that can double up as an HDTV for other devices. If you’re purely after performance, the WQHD resolution, 1 ms response time, and VRR support will help you hit the maximum 144 Hz refresh rate it offers. If you enjoy gaming with a gamepad, or if you have a lap-desk you can with a wireless mouse-and-keyboard setup, the Asus TUF Gaming VG32VQ would work as an excellent display if you prefer playing from the couch.
Unfortunately, if you have a typical desk setup that doesn’t allow you to mount the display at >100 cm, it just feels too big to be practical and is unsuited for work-related tasks. Likewise, if you’re looking for a way to experience HDR-supported games and media, the Asus TUF Gaming VG32VQ falls too far behind modern HDR UHDTVs and you’re better of sticking to SDR and taking advantage of the expanded 120% sRGB-range. With an RRP of over R10,000, this is also another specialised gaming monitor that falls in direct competition with mid-tier HDR UHDTVs, which offer a 4K resolution, improved HDR support, and greater versatility for non-gaming media.