Daily Reaction: PlayStation 5 Console Teardown Analysis

Finally, the thing I’ve been eagerly awaiting since March is here. Sony’s PS5 teardown video has finally taken the outer shell off and shown us what awaits inside the console. It also helped answer a number of questions we had, like how expanded SSD storage would work and just what the hell that rumored—and now confirmed—lavish and expensive cooling system was. Turns out it’s basically the entire console.

Of course, I couldn’t resist analyzing the PS5 teardown video after watching it more than a few times. And so Daily Reaction is reacting to the PS5 teardown, where I nerd out on the nerd stuff. (Remember, I was the guy who loved Mark Cerny’s March 2020 Road to PS5 tech talk, and I listen to the ASMR version of it to ease my brain.)

First let’s just stop and watch that glorious seven minutes again:

PS5 Size

First impressions at the outset of the video are immediately on the size of the console. We all knew it was huge. Leaked pictures suggested it was huge. Now we know that the PS5 size is enormous. This thing is… big. It’s going to have trouble fitting it compact living room setups. It’s the size of a man’s torso! There’s a good reason for this size though…

PS5 Cooling Solution

We’ve heard rumor after rumor, report after report. We’ve read patents and heard Mark Cerny praise the PS5 cooling solution. And the reveal of the unconventional design suggested some clever cooling, something even Microsoft’s Phil Spencer praised. But the PS5 teardown finally confirmed the configuration of the components and how cooling will work for a high-end chipset that is inevitably going to get hot.

PS5 teardown liquid metal cooling

It starts with the liquid metal thermal conductor between the System on Chip (SoC) and heat sink. The liquid metal portion of the cooling system was recently revealed via a patent, but it’s now confirmed. Effectively this offers much more stable cooling long term (where normal thermal paste can dry and crack). The implementation of liquid metal cooling took more than two years, being subjected to “various conceivable tests” in order to ensure its efficacy. But that’s just one piece of the full system.

The PS5’s heatsink is an enormous beast, perhaps the largest component inside the the console and the piece responsible for a good chunk of the overall weight of the system. The heatsink works similar to a radiator on your car, dissipating the heat using expanded surface area and airflow to remove the heated air. It uses a heat pipe—like both the PS3 and PS4 used—but the custom shape and airflow offer the same heat dissipating performance as a vapor chamber. That’s good, because the inside of this system is going to get hot.

ps5 teardown heatsink heat sink

But how does that hot air move from the heatsink to the exterior of the system? An enormous fan sits in the upper center of the system, acting as something of a water-wheel for the hot air, pulling the air from the heatsink and disspiating it out of each side of the system while drawing in the cooler room air to replace it. Along the front and top of the console are two vents flanking each side, while the back of the console is one entire vent. And that outer white shell? It’s engineered specifically for airflow too, being the final step in getting the hot air away from the crucial internal components. You need resistance in order to force airflow, both in and out, and the shell’s cover and shape leads that air from the fan to the outer vents and vice versa. (Please do not try to operate the system without the shell on and just an open fan, which will reduce its efficiency.)

Phew, is that it on cooling? Yeah, PS5’s cooling is freaking awesome, even if it makes the console enormous. Recent reports say it’s very quiet too, helped by the larger fan which can move more air while moving a bit slower than small fast fans.

 PS5 Ports

We saw these ports earlier this week, but the teardown gave us a good look at them again, and further confirmation of their capabilities. Honestly, it’s just nice to see the PS5 in new ways. Is it November 12th yet?

PS5 Stand

The PS5 Stand is a piece of engineering masterwork. It functions for both the upright and horizontal orientations. The screw that holds it stead for the vertical orientation can be removed and put in a small compartment in the stand itself when moving to horizontal. A small cap plugs the hole where the screw went to keep the console looking flush and clean. Symbols along the back show exactly where to clip the stand in for the system.

I imagine for most people, this will be a one and done thing (choosing one or the other orientation and leaving it that way). But the multi-use ability of this single part is some pretty awesome IKEA level engineering. And should you ever need to change it? It’s easy enough to do (seriously, quit complaining about needing a screwdriver. It’s not like you have to do this every time you start the console, and it makes the thing far more stable and secure).

Removable PS5 Panels/Outer Cover

Again, a bit of information that originally leaked thanks to some factory pictures, but it’s confirmed now that the outer white panels are both removable by the user, no need to unscrew anything. They simply pop off. There’s a good reason for this that we saw in the video (which will get to), but the unspoken feature here is customization and special edition PS5 faceplates without needing to buy a whole new system. Imagine Sony launching a Collector’s Edition of the next God of War with custom faceplates. I imagine third-parties will also be quick on the uptake with custom console covers for the PS5. That market is going to be big. Almost as big as the PS5 itself!

Dust Catchers

So under the hood, the PS5 has two little pockets/holes that are used to catch dust, intentionally designed as dust traps to prevent it building up on the internal components. By removing the covers, you can simply vacuum up the collected dust quickly and easily, just like that. It will no longer be a chore to clean out your system. The console itself is designed for easy maintenance.

PS5 Storage Expansion

This was another of my big questions about the PS5. With a relatively small onboard SSD—only 825 GB, and that’s before you account for reserved memory and the system OS—it’s always been assumed there would be some kind of internal expansion port, and now we’ve seen it. The port is an M.2 interface with PCIe 4.0 support, which means off-the-shelf SSDs will work to expand your memory (converse to Microsoft’s proprietary expansion port that requires special cards). However, SSDs will need to meet Sony’s benchmarks, a list that hasn’t been released just yet. So hold off on rushing out to buy an expansion SSD for your PS5 just yet.

ps5 teardown SSD expansion storage

Accessing this port is easy. The expansion bay is under the removable cover, and can be accessed by removing a single screw. (The PS4 required you to remove four screws to install a new hard drive, and it replaced the old one, not added to it.) The bay supports all four sizes of NVMe drives. Again, we’re just waiting on Sony to release benchmarks and a compatible list of drives that can match the internal custom SSDs speed and specs.

It’s also important to not that the covers coming off, stand adjustments, and SSD bay or all designed for the consumer to access. They will not void your warranty. Tearing down the console any further, however, will.

PS5 Ultra-HD Blu-ray Drive

For the PS5 digital, this part obviously won’t apply, but Sony did a lot of work making sure the PS5 disc drive operates silently. It’s housed in a metal casing, with two layers of insulators and shockmounts that prevent noise and vibration when a disc spins up. With my PS4, I can clearly hear when the disc drive kicks in, yes, even over the obnoxiously loud fan noise. It vibrates my whole entertainment center. This should ensure stable and silent operation if you do happen to use discs.

ps5 teardown blu ray drive disc drive

I got a PS5 with a disc drive, but honestly, I don’t see myself using it all that often, if ever. It’s more a “just in case” thing for me. I’d rather have it than not.

PS5 Board

I could separate this section into all of the PS5 board components (CPU, SSD, SSD Controller, etc.) but I decided to lump the entire board into one talking point. Apart from the rest of the system, the board itself, which sits at the very center of this ice cream sandwich-like console, has a really unique layout. The way the CPU, GPU, and RAM are laid out like a summoning circle is a cool design that players will never see (thus, thankful for this video, then). The much talked about SSD is a surprisingly small component on the board. I mean, I know SSDs are small, but it’s still interesting to see this long-discussed feature represented by this small black rectangle in one corner of the PS5 main board. These units flank the custom SSD controller that makes the PS5’s storage so unique.

The SSD is built right into the main board and is not removable or replaceable. Unlike the PS4 hard drive, which needed to be entirely replaced if upgrading (at least internally), the PS5’s onboard SSD is built in at a system level.

PS5 Power Supply Unit

No surprise really, but the PS5’s power supply unit is in the console, meaning no big power brick on the cord.

Final Thoughts – PS5 Teardown

A console is more than its CPU, its GPU, its SSD, or really any one component. Each piece impacts the others, and the design of the console needs to reflect and support all of the development decisions made. It also needs to solve pain points from the previous generation. The teardown gives us an inside look at how Sony engineered its console to not only play games in unprecedented ways, but to do so without overheating or running too loud. It also answered a few questions we’ve long only had assumptions about before, like the expandable SSD storage and just how its cooling system works.

Of course, it does just call attention to additional questions that Sony needs to answer, the biggest being what SSDs will be compatible with its expansion port. Mark Cerny mentioned back in March that consumer-grade SSDs that could keep up with the PS5’s custom controller weren’t yet available on the market, and we still have no official word on what the options are for anybody anticipating needing more space come November 12th. I’m anticipating running out of storage rather quickly (Black Ops Cold War is rumored to be a pretty massive file), so I want to be able to quickly pick something up to allow me to have more than 10 games on my system at one time.

Sony also needs to talk about how external drives currently housing PS4 games will work. We know that PS4 games can be played on a PS5 off of an external hard drive, saving space on the internal SSD, but will we have to redownload every game, or can I just take my PS4’s external drive and plug it right into my PS5, ready to go?

The teardown is at least a big thing checked off the list of “everything we still don’t know about the PS5,” and now we all eagerly wait an in-depth breakdown of the PS5’s OS, UI, and user experience.

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