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More details leak about the mysterious Sony gadget that might keep the PS5’s price down

Published Nov 13th, 2019 12:54PM EST
PlayStation 5 Price
Image: Olly Curtis/Future Publishing/Shutterstock

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A patent discovery a few days ago made us wonder whether Sony is secretly working on a second new console, in addition to the PlayStation 5 that’s due to be released next winter. The company registered a design patent in Brazil that shows a device that looks a lot like the kind of cartridge a handheld console would take. Then, the blog that made the initial discovery came up with a different use for the cartridge-like storage solution: the device could be a clever SSD housing that would let Sony keep the PS5’s entry price down, while simultaneously making it easy for consumers who want more storage to swap out the old one in favor of a higher-capacity SSD. If there’s one thing that Sony stressed while revealing some of the details surrounding the PS5’s specs, it’s the incredible SSD speeds that will make loading times a thing of the past. Solid-state drives are still an expensive upgrade though, even if the price per gigabyte has fallen in recent years.

This brings us to another set of images that LetsGoDigital extracted from the patent, which Sony has now updated with new illustrations that show the cartridge from various sides.

From the looks of it, the cartridge will have several pins inside the opening at the bottom, with the Dutch blog speculating that we’re looking at anywhere between 12 and 24 connectors. Here’s a render of the device:

Image source: LetsGoDigital

Patent illustrations, however, won’t always show all the particulars of a product, so counting pins isn’t enough to determine whether this is some sort of SSD housing.

Even if we’re looking at an accurate representation of a Sony PS5 SSD cartridge, there are plenty of SSD versions in the market, from large 2.5-inch SATA models all the way to tiny M2 SSDs that support NVMe tech. PCMag has a great write up describing the evolution of SSD drives, with a look at sizes, form factors, and connector types. Here’s a look at different sizes for M2 drives.

Image source: PCMag

Notice those connectors? There isn’t just one standard, as this Arrow article explains, and you absolutely have to pay attention to what type of M2 SSD drive your thin laptop utilizes if you want to upgrade storage. Conversely, that’s also a reason for Sony to design an SSD enclosure of its own, as it would make it very easy for users to buy the PS5 SSD upgrade that fits the console.

Image source: Arrow

The PS5 will likely support the latest type of SSD storage because Sony wants to ensure faster loading times than ever before. Therefore, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Sony make use of custom M2 NVMe drives for the console. But what will the design be like?

To give you an idea of how small an SSD can be, let’s take a look at the latest solid-state drives that Microsoft is using in this year’s Surface Laptop 3 and Surface Pro X computers. They’re this small, and they’re user-replaceable in theory, although Microsoft won’t let you do it yourself. Here’s what they look like, via iFixit:

Image source: iFixit

To get back to the renders of Sony’s mysterious gadget, notice those indentations on the sides? It’s as if they’re meant to allow the easy extraction of a component from a logic board, such as a swappable SSD.

Image source: LetsGoDigital

Computer vendors were forced to reduce the size of SSDs in recent years to create thinner and more portable devices, and that explains why storage for the new Surface laptops is so small. And let’s not forget that smartphones nowadays can pack up a lot of flash memory inside a very tiny enclosure, even smaller than Microsoft’s new SSDs.

The PlayStation 5, on the other hand, is practically the size of a desktop, so Sony can definitely use bigger SSDs than the one in the image above. Also, we have no dimensions for the cartridge in Sony’s Brazilian patent, so we have no way of knowing what sort of storage it would fit. But what I’m getting at is that Sony could definitely create its own housing for PS5 drives and sell the SSD cartridge to buyers who will need storage upgrades. That would keep the base price of the PS5 low while making it very easy to upgrade.

Microsoft’s new SSDs are comparable in size to the Nintendo Switch game cartridges, and a lot smaller than Nintendo 3DS storage, as seen in the following image, from Reddit:

Image source: Reddit

By the way, any kind of cartridge meant to provide storage for a console would have pins on one of the sides, so that the storage solution can communicate with the rest of the gaming system. Therefore, Sony’s cartridge in the patent above would also have to include a set of connectors to handle data transfer and power, regardless of whether we’re looking at a PS5 part or something else.

While we don’t have any proof that Sony’s invention is related to the PS5, though we’ll point out that it’s very unlikely for a portable Sony console to be in the works right now for a 2020 launch. That sort of device would have probably leaked, just as it happened with the PS5 dev kit earlier this year — a leak that also started with patent discoveries. The simplest explanation is that we’re looking at an SSD enclosure in the image above, crafted specifically for the next PlayStation console.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.