Is that a gaming console, or the fanciest wi-fi router we've ever seen? Sony says this is the PlayStation 5, revealed at last, but I'm not so sure. Take the logo off, and I'd be confident this thing could blast wi-fi to every corner of my house.
I'm still coming to grips with this being the real, finished design. Not because I think it's terrible, but because one of my favorite traditions in the lead-up to a new console generation is the concept render, an imaginary version of what a new PlayStation or Nintendo or Xbox might look like. I assume art directors and design firms love coming up with these as much as I like looking at them, but probably for different reasons. I love them because they're usually ridiculous looking, impossibly impractical, and reminiscent of a curvy sci-fi car from Blade Runner or something. And then the actual console gets announced, and it's some version of a rectangle.
But not the PlayStation 5. Sony has finally done it: They've made a console that actually looks more ridiculous than decades of concept renders, although I'm still not sure if it looks more like the top Google result for "futuristic technology" or a really fancy 2020 wi-fi router.
I mean, here's the Netgear Orbi. Eh? Eh?
Let's take a look back at some of the imaginary console designs that the PS5 has now handily outdone.
The jokes and Photoshops have cast the PlayStation 5 as a router, a Portal turret, a fan, a Yu-Gi-Oh character. The list goes on. What it pretty obviously doesn't look like is a PC, though there's a real Alienware undercurrent to Sony's new aesthetic. Although if you took away the curves, it'd be a ringer for Zotac's Steam Machine, part of the short-lived wave of Linux PCs meant to bring Steam to the living room.
The Zotac box is simple, unobtrusive, and stackable, and Sony clearly didn't prioritize any of those things. But hey, that makes the PS5 pretty striking.
Would you buy a prebuilt PC with that much flair? Or even buy a case with a design like the PS5, if the black strip in the middle somehow had enough space for a mini-ITX build? One thing it does have in common with PCs (and, I must point out, the Orbi routers): RGB lighting.
Personally I think I prefer the boxy tower design of the Xbox Series X, which I'd happily build a PC in if there was enough space. This is pure speculation, but I feel like the Xbox will have better (and quieter) cooling with a chamber built around a single giant fan on top.
Phanteks actually built a similar, very handome vertical tower called the Evolv Shift a few years ago. It's definitely bigger, but still accomplishes that 2001 obelisk look.
Honestly, I admire the audacity in Sony's direction here. I can't quite decide if the curve is a bold departure from angular design trends, or if it just makes the thing look like someone squeezed on the bottom until the guts started to pop out the top.
The PS5 might be a design people come to love and appreciate more over time. But right now, it really is hard to see anything other than a router with a popped collar.