Hands-on with the new PlayStation 5 console CFI-1100 series • Eurogamer.pt

The recent revision of the PlayStation 5 CFI-1100 series is now making its way to market, bringing with it a wave of controversy. It started with the intriguing news that in addition to the revised WiFi and a new bracket screw, the CFI-1100 model weighs 300g less than the original – an interesting puzzle that could only be solved using the machine. The first journalist to do this was Austin Evans, whose disassembly and analysis answers many questions but raises others. Last night I purchased a unit myself, so I can add some initial ideas based on my first few hours with the machine.

Evans’ video deserves to be seen because, however you look at the thermal performance of the machine, you can see exactly how Sony changed the design – and equally important, where it didn’t – and this is crucial information. Yes, WiFi looks different (the extent of the performance changes has not been tested), but the 300g weight loss seems to come down mainly to a new cooling design. There are no “ifs” and “buts” – this is clearly and obviously a cost-cutting exercise, coming at a time when the platform owner expects to sell millions of consoles as the holiday season comes into full force. The monstrous cooler from the original model – which weighs 1639g – is replaced by a 1368g alternative, so essentially 277g of the 300g weight reduction is accounted for with the smaller cooler. The heat sink has fewer heat pipes (four against six) and is built with an overall reduction in copper content – aluminum has only 60 percent of the thermal conductivity of copper. There’s another interesting design change: the fan has been replaced with one that has more blades, potentially capable of pushing more air out at the same speeds.

But most interesting is the evidence around what not changed, based on Evans’ data. Most importantly, the machine’s power is very similar to the launch PS5 model, in a world where cost savings on cooling packages are typically only implemented when the main processor is moved to a smaller, more efficient process technology. . So, at first glance, there are questions to be answered here and, fundamentally, it boils down to this: if the chip is no longer fresh and if the power requirements are the same, what has changed that justifies such a significant cut in mass and in the cooler materials? It’s a perfectly reasonable question and I asked Sony to comment.

Austin Evans and his friends dismantle the new PlayStation 5 from the CFI-1100 series, revealing a smaller, more cost-conscious cooling solution.

The heart of the controversy surrounding Evans’ video stems from his view that the new PS5 is worse than the old one – it’s his argument that a smaller cooler made of less efficient materials produces a warmer machine. It is by no means a strange theory when looking at mass and material reductions, but the question of whether or not it is hotter cannot be determined by just measuring the heat output of the exhaust and even if it runs a few degrees warmer. , may well still be within the manufacturer’s tolerances. In Evans’ video, there was a reduction very small in noise from the new model, which seems to be at odds with the notion of a warmer machine. This can be explained in several ways – first, if the new machine is running warmer, that is absolutely correct according to its firmware and nothing to worry about. After all, if there was an overheating problem, it would be assumed that the fan would speed up to better expel heat. Second, the new fan may be doing a better job of expelling hot air and may simply be quieter than the original. After all, it’s a new part. The final theory – which is perhaps a little less plausible – is that a smaller heatsink based on materials with a lower overall thermal conductivity was redesigned to make it most efficient.

Several requests were made to test the new PS5’s internal thermal profile in operation, especially after tests by Steve Burke of Gamers Nexus on the launch model revealed concerns about how a memory chip was operating at very high temperatures, with no major concerns on the as far as thermal dissipation is concerned. However, temperatures on the main processor and voltage regulators looked good. However, ultimately, if the central chip is running too hot, you would expect the fan to run faster. This apparently didn’t happen in the Austin Evans unit and it isn’t happening in mine either. I have been running Remedy Control on my own CFI-1100 unit for several hours. In ray tracing mode, the game locks at 30fps and in standard game mode, the PS5 pulls about 170W from the wall. However, when visiting the now infamous Corridor of Doom – a notoriously heavy area of ​​the game well known to DF audiences – the power usage increases to 200W. Entering photo mode removes the 30fps rate limit, adding even more power, reaching a peak of 214W.

This is pretty much the same maximum power consumed by my launch PS5, which strongly suggests that the main processor hasn’t been changed, but crucially, the new console’s acoustics haven’t adjusted at all to any noticeable degree in the times when the scene has been operating with the processor at full gas. Whether or not the machine is warmer is yet to be tested, but logic suggests that if the new cooling assembly wasn’t up to the task, the fan would be increasing in speed and volume to expel the heat buildup. This doesn’t seem to be happening – and hours later, energy consumption remains consistent as well.

cooler
Photograph of Austin Evans showing the old PS5 cooling package (left) alongside the simplified version on the CFI-1100 model.

So if PlayStation 5 can work well with a cheaper and thinner cooler, why didn’t it come out with it? With no news from Sony, we can’t say for sure, but in terms of the production process, it’s important to realize that when a console first hits the market, the machine’s separate components are created at the same time – in parallel, not in series . As silicon leaves the production line, heat sinks are also being made. Nobody wants another red ring or yellow light of death, so it makes sense to build redundancy into the design. There’s a documented example of this on Microsoft’s original Xbox One – the hardware architects saw that there was free space in their thermal solution, so they increased the core clocks on the processor itself. The GPU went from 800MHz to 854MHz, while the CPU enjoyed a rise to 1.75GHz from the original 1.6GHz. Had the machine gotten hotter? Probably. Would it have been important? Clearly not. Perhaps with the benefit of increased exposure to production silicon and all the telemetry of the millions of existing units, Sony is confident enough to shrink the cooler and lower the cost of building the machine.

There are some theories circulating about the potential for overheating that I think should be addressed. The PlayStation 5 runs up to a set power limit, with the CPU and GPU clocks moving up and down according to their power requirements – as reported in Mark Cerny’s Road to PlayStation 5 last year. There is concern that a hotter PlayStation 5 might leave the machine unable to hit the higher clocks compared to a conceptually cooler launch model. Yes, the performance on the new model should be tested, but I find it extremely unlikely that the new PS5 will perform differently even though it was hotter than the old one. Clocks adjust according to an algorithm based on a single ‘model’ processor. Sony has profiled how this single chip works under a multitude of different workloads and has applied this algorithm to every PlayStation 5 in production to ensure that even if clocks change, they will do so identically across all existing systems. In short, the boost isn’t controlled by the PlayStation 5’s temperatures, so the system should function identically to the others.

According to sources, the new machines are currently a mix of CFI-1000 and CFI-1100 machines. Although the chances of being able to choose which one to get are dwindling, unless you go the scalpers’ way, there is a potential window of opportunity here to get an original machine or a newer one. At the moment, the new machine appears to be very similar to the old one in terms of actual user experience and Sony certainly has the confidence to support the new design – we can assume that the CFI-1000 is out of the millions of PlayStation 5s sold. in the run-up to Christmas and beyond, they will all be based on the new design. We will spend more time with the new machine and produce a full analysis in due course.