Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Difference Between PS4 And PS5 Controllers Explained

Every new video game console seeks to improve on the generation that came before it. They feature better graphics, higher resolutions, shorter loading times, and faster processing. There are probably dozens of changes made in the architecture of each new system that the user may never see or even know about. There is one new feature that everyone notices, however — because they hold it right in the palm of their hands.

Every new generation of gaming systems comes with a new controller. It might not seem that important at first, but the controller is the interface through which a player experiences every game they play on that console. Microsoft has chosen to focus its energies on refining a proven design in the move from the Xbox One to the Xbox Series X/S. Sony, on the other hand, has made massive leaps in its controller technology with each iteration of the PlayStation. The PS4 DualShock made several innovations over the PS3 controller, but the new PS5 DualSense controller could mean a complete upheaval in the way the gaming industry shapes controls in future games. It's had some issues with controller drift, but people have been talking about all of the new features in its design ever since it was first revealed. Here are some of the biggest differences between the PS4 and PS5 controllers.

Ergonomics and design

The first difference that most people will notice between the two are the changes Sony has made in the overall shape and design. Many people have criticized the PS4 DualShock as being uncomfortable to use. This is partially due to the thumbstick placement, which has the left thumbstick below the d-pad (the opposite of the Xbox layout), and partially due to its flat design, which is much less ergonomic than its competitors. It seems that Sony has decided to keep the layout the same, gave the new PS5 DualSense a larger, more rounded shell with longer grips that make the controller much more comfortable for most users to hold.

There have been several aesthetic changes as well. The DualShock had a matt black design with lighting on the back to indicate that the controller was connected to the PS4. The new DualSense has a two-tone black and white design (unless gamers decide to get one with one of the new color schemes) and has the light coming out of the gap around the touchpad in the center of its faceplate.

Rumble vs. haptic feedback

One of the biggest changes between the two controllers is concealed beneath the surface, however. The PS4 DualShock used rumble vibration, which is the same method of tactile feedback virtually every controller used until recently. Anyone who's ever owned a transparent controller has probably seen this mechanism in action. It sort of looks like a stack of quarters was cut in half and attached to a pin. The uneven weight spinning is what makes those controllers vibrate. Rumble can vibrate slow or it can vibrate fast, but that's about it.

The haptic feedback in the PS5 DualSense is an entirely different animal. It uses much more advanced motors that don't just shake the whole controller, but rather can send pinpoint feedback to different places on the device. According to a video PlayStation posted to its YouTube channel, this can be used for any number of custom sensory effects that are used differently in each game. In "Ratchet and Clank: A Rift Apart" for example, "each weapon has a uniquely tailored haptic response designed to dial up your immersion and connect you to your play," while in "Bugsnax," players can "instantly feel the difference of terrain between running across sand, grass or snow." Many have found this to be the PS5's most innovative new feature.


Most of the buttons on your controller just need a satisfying click so that they don't feel too mushy and people will love them. Modern triggers are more complicated, however. They aren't just a button that you press or don't. Many games have different effects based on how quickly or slowly you pull them. The DualShock 4 has pressure-sensitive L2 and R2 buttons. This can be a useful feature for accelerating or decelerating in racing games and can make things like drawing a bow in "Tomb Raider" feel much more immersive.

The adaptive triggers on the new DualSense are even more advanced, however. A teardown of the controller on the TronicsFix YouTube channel reveals that there is a much more intricate mechanism at play. A spiral gear is controlled by a motor that can add resistance or even lock the triggers in place. Game developers have already found many creative uses for this new layer of functionality. One of the features in "Returnal" that was never possible before the PS5 is the way it utilizes the adaptive triggers. According to PlayStation's blog, "L2 will lock halfway when pulled for a zoomed in Focus Aim (this also highlights enemy weak spots in red.) Pull fully down to activate your weapon's alt-fire mode." Other games have discovered even more ways to make use of this new technology.

Bonus features

On top of all the major bells and whistles, there are a few smaller features that have been added between generations as well. The DualShock 4 pioneered a built-in speaker, touchpad, motion sensor, and headset jack. The DualSense retains these features while also adding a built-in microphone, a dedicated mute button and a bigger battery.

Another major step forward on the DualShock 4 was the addition of the Share Button. This allowed players to capture screenshots and clips from their gaming sessions which they could then upload directly to social media. Now, PlayStation has replaced the Share Button with the Create Button. This also serves to capture images and video clips, but according to Push Square, the "PS5 is always saving the last hour of gameplay footage in case you want it, and using the Create button, you can save this as a video to your Media Gallery, which is where any screenshots you take will also end up." That means players don't have to keep their thumb hovering over the share button to get the perfect screenshot anymore. They can scrub through footage from the last hour of gameplay to get the perfect shot and even perform basic edits.

All in all, the PS5 DualSense seems to have made significant technological strides over the previous generation.