The massive size and unusual shapes of both upcoming next-gen consoles are owed to the need for unique cooling solutions as the increase in power creates a lot of heat output. On Gary Whitta’s Animal Talking, a late night-styled talk show that takes place entirely in Nintendo’s Animal Crossing, the host interviewed Xbox boss Phil Spencer and broached the topic of the PS5 design. “I like the design of what they did,” Spencer said. ““I have a lot of respect for what the teams do at PlayStation.”
The Xbox head went into additional details about the staggering cooling requirements that presented all-new design challenges for the next-gen consoles, both Sony’s PS5 and Microsoft’s Xbox Series X. “It’s hard because I know the physics that we’re both dealing with when it comes to these consoles,” Spencer said of the new hardware. “And cooling these consoles—the power, the energy use — that presents real challenges this generation. We’re talking about consoles, with the CPU and GPU, that are real powerful computers, effectively.”
Speaking specifically to the Xbox Series X’s tower design, Spencer said it came from a desire to have a cooling solution that didn’t have a fast loud fan. “We chose our design because we wanted a large fan that we could spin a little more slowly so we’re not making noise,” said Spencer. “We wanted a very quiet console, so noise was something that we focused on. So we built a form-follow-function design so that we could draw a lot of air with a big fan spinning a little bit slower so we didn’t get those high-pitched whining sounds that sometimes consoles can make.” Everyone with a PS4 knows it can often sound like a jet engine as it runs the latest games. Sony’s said a lot of effort went into reducing fan noise on the PS5.
With higher clock speeds, the PS5 will likely output even more heat than the Xbox Series X, something Spencer acknowledged, but said isn’t uniquely a Sony problem. “So knowing that the PlayStation 5 is running at higher clocks, it just creates more [heat],” he said. “But that’s not a Sony problem.” The Xbox Series X has 52 compute units (CUs) running at 1.825 GHz, but the PS5 is running with with 36 CUs that can spin up to as high as 2.23GHz. Pushing the clock speeds that high is expected to produce a lot of heat, which led to Sony’s vertical tower design that’s the company’s largest console to date.
We’ve yet to see an internal breakdown of the PS5 that shows how its cooling system works, but previous reports said that Sony was splurging for a “lavish” cooling system to preemptively combat the heat the console is expected to put off. The unique architecture also allows it to run at a consistent power consumption, rather than variable, which is also expected to help with the issue of fans cycling up and down.
With “holiday 2020” rapidly approaching—most likely November, if we’re being honest—we’re bound to start hearing more from Sony soon about the PS5, including the long promised console teardown that will show us the inside of the console and how everything comes together into its unique curvy design. At this point, Microsoft has narrowed its release date down to November for the Series X, but neither company is budging on revealing the price or opening the door to preorders just yet.