Over the weekend, Sony’s curious new PlayStation 5 hardware revision—same price, same performance, slightly changed internals—began finding its way into fans’ hands, and at least one rushed to figure out exactly why it weighs 0.6 lb less than the launch model. The most obvious answer, at least parceled out on a measuring scale, is a smaller, wholly redesigned heatsink element, though the person behind the discovery didn’t necessarily make the right call about this PS5 revision being “worse.”
Tech reporter Austin Evans posted his findings on YouTube on Saturday, after sourcing a new Japanese PS5 and upgrading his purchase to overnight shipping (holy bank account, Batman). The resulting breakdown is informative, though not entirely authoritative. Evans and fellow YouTuber Jimmy Champane tore down both the new PS5 and a launch model in short order, noticing almost immediately that the newer heatsink takes up far less physical real estate. Before the teardown is complete, one visible heatsink portion near the system’s primary fan is reduced enough that a finger can fit in, but that’s nothing compared to the final comparison.
The launch model’s heatsink included a complete airflow-encompassing plate of copper, along with conductive metal all along the way. The updated heatsink, on the other hand, has been re-engineered to reduce both the base copper plate and the amount of metal attached to the cooling system’s heat pipes, all while leaving the heat pipe concept intact—and likely still relying on a liquid metal application on PS5’s System-on-Chip (SoC). After weighing the two consoles while fully assembled, Evans then weighed the extracted heatsink constructions, finding these accounted for nearly the entirety of the 0.6 lb difference.
Do not mod your PS5 with shag carpeting
However, Evans’ findings come with a gross misunderstanding of what the heatsink assemblies are meant to do: dissipate internal heat by any means necessary. His basic conclusion of the new console revision’s thermals comes from pointing a thermal camera at both consoles’ rear exhaust ports while testing the console’s launch game Astro’s Playroom. In doing this, Evans measures an increase in exhaust temperatures that averages out to 5° Celsius on the new revision. However, he doesn’t run the same tests with either thermal cameras or direct temperature measurements aimed at more crucial internal spots like the SoC, the motherboard-soldered DIMM modules, or the SSD storage expansion slot.
Without that data in hand, it’s unclear whether the re-engineered heatsink is getting more heat away from those crucial system elements. If that’s indeed the case, Evans’ claim that he’d prefer to own the launch PS5, with its heavier, over-engineered heatsink, doesn’t actually add up. Arguably, the new PS5 revision’s jump in average exhaust temperature is worse for anyone who might stow their console in a cramped entertainment center, at which point an abundance of copper to distribute trapped, hot air might be the only thing keeping your sweaty PS5 SoC from buckling. But if you’re trapping a PS5 in a tiny glass enclosure, surrounding it in carpet, or otherwise misunderstanding how hot an average PS5 runs, no amount of copper will keep your console in decent shape forever.
As a test of a single revised PS5, of course, Evans’ examination could turn out to be anecdotal, but it stands to reason that Sony has a vested interest in both reducing manufacturing costs per console and not cheaping its way into a Red Ring of Death scenario. Getting an extra chip-shortage year to refine and touch up the PS5’s heatsink probably meant ample time to test both the SoC’s heat envelope and new airflow opportunities. And if reducing the material weight without impacting internal heat measures—or, heck, improving them—gets more consoles onto store shelves (and, according to Sony, gets them to per-unit profitability), we’ll take it.
Sony representatives did not immediately respond to Ars Technica’s request for comment.
Listing image by Austin Evans