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The PS5 is basically a custom gaming PC, and that’s good news for fans

Sony showed off the internals of its upcoming PlayStation 5 console with an official teardown posted on the company’s YouTube page on Wednesday. A lead designer removes every component in the console’s massive, beautiful enclosure, and the internals reveal good news — along with similarities to modern PCs.

The side panels are a very PC feature

Let’s start with the side panels. These simply snap off either side of the case in a motion that will be immediately familiar to anyone who has worked with a $50 steel PC case. There are no thumbscrews here, but it’s still any easy device to crack open. This will make custom PS5 case mods a cinch.

The teardown also revealed a traditional cooling arrangement: Air comes in from the front and is exhausted out the back. This is true for most PCs, as well.

But there’s one notable exception. Unlike most PCs, the PlayStation 5 has one relatively thick fan that handles both the intake and the exhaust. Despite that, the fan appears simple to remove, as it’s held on by four screws and receives power from what looks like a 3-pin Molex connector (although the teardown video is not quite sharp enough to be certain).

It may be as easy to repair as a PC, but it could cost more

Unlike most PCs, removing the side panels of the PlayStation 5 doesn’t immediately reveal most of the internals. There’s another layer of plastic to remove. Thankfully, a screwdriver quickly takes care of that. Sony’s video shows a piece of tape is removed to access those screws. That piece of tape is a warning – digging into the PS5’s guts does invalidate your warranty.

The PS5 holds a key advantage over the Xbox Series X in upgradability thanks to a user-accessible PCIe 4.0 M.2 hard drive slot, which is empty when the console ships. While a bit less accessible than Microsoft’s proprietary Xbox Series X/S storage, which just plugs into the back of the console, Sony’s approach will provide a broader upgrade path because it’s identical to the M.2 slot you’d find in a PC. The M.2 slot is accessible without removing the PS5’s second layer of plastic shielding.

Removing that second layer of plastic reveals a mainboard that’s both very familiar, and very different, from a PC. Familiar in that it’s similar in size and shape to PC motherboard. Different in that all the key components are attached directly to it. That includes the RAM and primary system storage.

Accessing the mainboard seems simple. I’d imagine most PC enthusiasts could easily repair a broken PS5 at home if a new mainboard was sent to them, though I doubt Sony would be willing to do that. My only worry is a ribbon cable that was detached during the teardown. Ribbon cables can be fragile and sometimes aren’t easy to replace. The video moved past this too quickly to guess how durable the cable will prove, or how easy it is to detach and replace.

In some ways, the PS5 could be even easier to repair than a PC. You must remove multiple components to replace a PC motherboard. Not so with the PS5. Only a few connections need to be removed. Even the front and rear ports are soldered to the mainboard and exposed directly through the case, so there’s fewer fussy cables overall. Replacing the mainboard on the PS5 could only be more straightforward if it included a handle and thumbscrews.

The downside? With so much soldered to the mainboard, you’ll face steeper repair costs if any particular component conks out. The Xbox Series X integrates fewer components directly on the mainboard. Microsoft’s console looks more difficult to repair, but it’s more modular, which might lead to lower repair costs.

The PlayStation 5 is closer in size to a PC than you’d think

That shouldn’t send anyone running in terror, because we’re not talking about massive gaming towers. The PS5 is about 15.3 inches tall, 10.2 inches deep, and 4.1 inches wide. That’s very close in size to Falcon Northwest’s Tiki, which measures 13.5 inches deep, 13.25 inches tall, and 4 inches wide. Digital Storm’s Bolt and Origin’s Neuron are also similar in size, although a bit larger overall.

These PCs, and others similar in size to the PlayStation 5, use various tricks to reduce their footprint. They use PCIe riser cards or cables to change the orientation of the graphics card. They add custom storage bays to squeeze in support for extra hard drives. They rely on unusual power supplies and custom cooling solutions to meet and dissipate the required wattage.

Falcon Northwest Tiki (2015)
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

From the look of Sony’s video, tearing down a Falcon Northwest Tiki or Digital Storm Bolt isn’t any easier than tearing down a PlayStation 5. That, however, is good news. While the Tiki and Bolt are more difficult than a standard tower PC, they are still much easier to crack open, modify, and fix than most game consoles. The PS5 is hurdling over a bar most consoles don’t even attempt.

The similarities in size and form factor between the PS5 and small PCs suggests another nugget of good news: The PS5 won’t be a howling banshee. Small PCs are already pushed to beyond what Sony is trying with its new console. A high-end Falcon Northwest Tiki can pack in a 16-Core AMD Ryzen processor and Nvidia Quadro RTX 8000 graphics card, hooked up to a 650-watt power supply.

Does the Tiki get loud? In demanding workloads, certainly. But it isn’t always, and the PS5’s 350-watt power supply (which suggest a maximum power draw slightly south of that figure) is tame by comparison. It’s reasonable to think the PS5’s thick fan and chunky heatsink will be up to the challenge.

PlayStation fans should be pumped 

The PlayStation 5’s teardown suggests it will prove rather easy to repair, and that’s always good news for superfans. They’re the ones who will push this system to its limits, and potentially need to crack it open if something goes wrong.

It also opens the door for modding. Enthusiasts will surely swap out the side panels, and of course, and hard drive is simple to replace. I’m sure fans will express themselves with outlandish custom panels and the biggest hard drives they can fit.

This all adds up to a promising start for the PS5’s hardware. It’s true that most players will never turn a single screw, but the console’s design — not to mention the PS5’s price — will be a boon for both PlayStation superfans and PC gamers interested in giving a console a shot.

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Matthew S. Smith
Matthew S. Smith is the former Lead Editor, Reviews at Digital Trends. He previously guided the Products Team, which dives…
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