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The real reason Sony’s PS5 looks so wild

Published Jun 18th, 2020 2:54PM EDT
PS5 Design
Image: Sony

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  • The unusual PS5 design was revealed at the end of Sony’s online press event last week, generating plenty of debate and memes.
  • Sony said in a blog post that it “wanted to deliver a console that’s bold, stunning, and unlike any previous generation of PlayStation” in what could have been perceived as a direct hit at Microsoft’s simple Xbox Series X design.
  • The actual reason why the PS5 is so much bigger and bulkier than expected is thermals — a Sony executive explained that the console needs to dissipate a lot of heat.

Sony granted one of the wishes of PlayStation fans last week when it unveiled the final design of the PS5. The new console features an unusual design that is the polar opposite of the more “boring” Xbox Series X console. Additionally, Sony told fans that it’ll make a cheaper PS5 version that will be released alongside the more expensive one. That’s the Digital Edition that lacks a Blur-ray disc drive. Sony did not explain its design choices during the actual event, as the PS5 design reveal happened at the end of the presentation via a trailer. But the company did elaborate on the matter a day later when it recapped the news on its PlayStation blog.

“The PS5 gameplay experience will be the same, so the choice is all yours,” Sony wrote, addressing the two PS5 console models. “While there are some slight differences in the look of each model, for the overall design, we wanted to deliver a console that’s bold, stunning, and unlike any previous generation of PlayStation.” It turns out that “bold, stunning” design that’s “unlike any previous generation of PlayStation” has a more practical explanation, and the reasoning behind it is precisely what you may have suspected.

Vice president of UX Design at PlayStation Matt MacLaurin answered questions on LinkedIn after the event, and that’s where we found out that the PS5 will be the most customizable console Sony ever made. It’s still unclear what the exec meant by that, but there’s some speculation that users might be able to swap the external plates with something else.

One PlayStation fan went ahead and actually asked why Sony went for this particular design for the new console. “I’m really impressed by this design – however, in today’s times, people seek portability and convenience,” wrote the person via VG247. “The performance in the PS4 was amazing. Why make the new product bigger and bulkier?”

After the PS5 event, many marveled that the sight of the PS5. Some went ahead and compared the PS5 size against the previous consoles and all the Xbox models to date. They used the dimensions of the USB port and the disc opening to estimate the actual size of the PlayStation 5, and came up with this render:

The PS5 seems huge, and it’s far bigger than any of its competitors. MacLaurin’s answer to the question shouldn’t surprise anyone who has been following PS5 leaks and rumors.

“Thermals,” he said. “This gen is little supercomputers. While the 7nm process delivers amazing heat performance for the power, the power is very extreme.”

He continued in a separate comment, “This tech is still so fresh; it throws a lot of heat, so we need room to dissipate.”

Recent reports said that thermals will be a huge problem for Sony’s PS5. Some said the company paid more money than usual for the thermal solution used in the PS5. Separately, a recent Sony patent surfaced, explaining that cooling was the real reason why the PS5 dev kit had such a unique design. Sony detailed in the documentation a cooling system for that particular design, which is also quite unusual for a development kit. From the looks of those schematics, the cooling system would take up a lot of space inside the dev kit console:

Sony PS5 Development Kit
Schematic from Sony patent describing cooling technology for the PS5 dev kit. Image source: Sony via LetsGoDigital

Regardless of Sony’s motives, some will love the PS5 design and some will hate it. What really matters is the kind of performance the system can offer, and efficient heat dissipation is a major part of that.

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.