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From PS1 to PS5: How the PlayStation console has evolved over the years

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The PlayStation is a household name. In every generation since the fifth, Sony’s gaming console has constantly kept the public’s attention with its ever-improving gaming experience.

Now that the next console generation is almost here, with PlayStation 5 set to launch in the 2020 holiday season, now is a great time to reminisce how the gaming console evolved over the years.

PlayStation (PS1)

Release date: December 3, 1994 

Must-play games: Crash Bandicoot, Final Fantasy VII, Gran Turismo, Metal Gear Solid, Tomb Raider

Variants: PSOne

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Sony entered the gaming scene in what is considered the fifth generation of video game consoles. Its first console, the PlayStation, was born when a Nintendo-Sony partnership for a CD-based SNES platform didn’t pan out. 

The first PlayStation used a RISC microprocessor that operated at 33.87 MHz, which was only 33 percent as fast as the processor inside the Nintendo 64, its closest competitor in the fifth generation.

The PS1’s processing of 3D graphics was also inferior, but its games at least looked more realistic. The original controller that came with the console was basic but nevertheless durable. The amount of RAM was meager at 2 megabytes.

Despite its shortcomings, the PlayStation still managed to become the first gaming console to reach 100 million shipments. Its adoption of the CD as its media format gave the PlayStation better sound quality and full-motion video for in-game cinematics. The CD was also easier to manufacture and easier to develop games with, two major factors that attracted third-party developers. 

PlayStation 2 (PS2)

Release date: March 4, 2000

Must-play games: Final Fantasy X, God of War I and II, Kingdom Hearts I and II, Metal Gear Solid 3, Shadow of the Colossus

Variants: PS2 Slim line, PSX 

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The PlayStation 2 received a massive boost in hardware. Its 128-bit “Emotion Engine” CPU had a 295 MHz clock speed. It could render 75 million polygons per second and output 480p native resolution thanks to its Graphics Synthesizer GPU. The PS2 also came with 32MB of RAM and a much-improved DualShock 2 controller.

Versus competing consoles in the sixth generation–the Nintendo GameCube, Sega Dreamcast and the original Xbox from then newcomer Microsoft–the PlayStation 2 didn’t have the best hardware and software in several aspects. Nevertheless, the PS2 was most appealing for the gamers due to, among others, its perceived brand as the console for adults. 

Its backward compatibility, an uncommon feature at the time, allowed the PS2 to run games made for the original PlayStation. Third-party support remained strong, with several games released exclusively for the console. That it had a built-in DVD player also helped boost its value to customers.

With more than 150 million units shipped, the PlayStation 2 is the best-selling console of all time.

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PlayStation 3 (PS3)

Release date: November 11, 2006

Must-play games: God of War III, Little Big Planet, Metal Gear Solid 4, The Last of Us, Uncharted 1 to 3

Variants: Slim, Super Slim

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The PlayStation 3 was a behemoth, not only in physical size (it’s the biggest in the seventh generation) but also in hardware specs. Running under its hood was the proprietary Cell processor that boasted eight cores, 3.2GHz clock speed, and performance potential that could easily and arguably surpass today’s Intel processors. 

For graphics, it used the Nvidia RSX Reality Synthesizer. It had 256MB RAM. Similar to the PS2 with its DVD drive, the PS3 had a built-in Blu-ray player. Its 20GB internal HDD was removable so gamers could upgrade to a larger capacity.

The PS3 was also first among PlayStation consoles to have Wi-Fi, HDMI support, 1080p output, and wireless controllers in DualShock 3. Online gaming and digital content was made available through the PlayStation Network. 

While 80 million worldwide shipment is still a win for Sony, the PS3 failed to live up to its predecessor. Among the factors that contributed to weaker sales include the console launching with the most expensive price tag in the seventh generation, the Cell architecture being too hard to program and optimize for games, and the competing Xbox 360 getting a strong head start by launching a year earlier than the PS3.

PlayStation 4 (PS4)

Release date: November 15, 2013

Must-play games: Horizon Zero Dawn, God of War (2018), Marvel’s Spider-Man, The Last of Us 2, Uncharted 4

Variants: Slim, Pro

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Perhaps learning from its mistakes in the PS3, Sony has bounced back and is currently winning the eight-gen console war, with PlayStation 4 dominating the sales (at 110 million units so far) ahead of the Xbox One and Nintendo’s Wii U and Switch.

With the PS4, developers didn’t have a hard time to develop games as they did with the PS2 and PS3, because the PS4 featured a custom, eight-core AMD Jaguar CPU with an architecture that’s commonly used in gaming computers.

With custom AMD Radeon graphics, 500GB internal drive, 8GB GDDR5 RAM, HDR support and other noteworthy specs, the PS4 was on par with, if not superior to, the Xbox One. The former was also launched with a price that undercut the latter. 

PlayStation 5 (PS5)

Release date: Holiday 2020

Anticipated games: Gran Turismo 7, Godfall, Horizon Forbidden West, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, Spider-Man: Miles Morales

Variants: Standard, Digital Edition

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The upcoming Playstation 5 was officially unveiled earlier this month, with a bold, new look that’s polarizing the fans. Once again the hardware has undergone a massive upgrade: custom eight-core AMD Zen 2 CPU, custom AMD RDNA 2 graphics, 16GB GDDR6 RAM, 825GB SSD, 8K resolution support, 120Hz refresh rates, and so many more jaw-dropping features.

Both the PS5 and its future rival, the Xbox Series X, offer high-end gaming specs (although some experts claim the latter is better specs-wise, at least on paper). 

It will be interesting to see how PlayStation 5 will fare in the upcoming console war. But just like in the past, it will most likely boil down to the quality and exclusivity of games, console price, and third-party support. Based on how well overall the PS4 fared against the Xbox One, the future looks bright for the PlayStation 5.

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