Lab – PlayStation 5 and noise: not all consoles have the same fan

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Aina Prat
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Is the PlayStation 5 really a model of silence? It really depends on which copy you get. Indeed, all consoles are not materially identical in terms of their cooling.



Sony PlayStation 5 (PS5)


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How the Sony PlayStation 5 (PS5) Digital Edition pricing table works Launch price €399


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How the price table works

Several tests of the console, including ours, have said it without taking gloves: the Sony PlayStation 5 would be a remarkably quiet game console – admittedly not quite as silent as the Xbox Series X, but all the same. 'admirable discretion at stake. However, since the console's public availability, a few dissenting voices have been heard on social networks. Some users indeed report a significantly higher operating noise than what they had been told.


One of these users is none other than… the humble author of these lines, who, after spending three weeks in the company of the Numeriques test console, found himself very upset when he noticed that his personal console, received on November 19, 2020, was undeniably louder than its twin. What could this be due to? We investigated, and ultimately didn't have to look far to find the answer.

Different fan models, different noise profiles

It was only after a few minutes of dismantling that the pot of roses was revealed: the two machines simply do not use the same fan model. The differences between said models are far from trivial: the shape and density of the blades show pronounced variances. It is therefore not surprising that their acoustic performance is not similar.


The red tape stuck on one of the fans is for identification purposes only. Rest assured, it was removed before the fan was reassembled in a machine!

In fact, while on our test console we measured in-game noise at 39 dB(A) at the air intake, the noise emitted by the second console rose to 43 dB(A). The difference is therefore not monumental (in any case, the console remains infinitely less noisy than an original PS4 or a PS4 Pro!), But it is not anecdotal either. It's the difference between a console that is technically audible, but which knows how to be totally forgotten once you're immersed in its game, and another which comes to mind as soon as the soundtrack of said game becomes quiet. .



We record fan noise at the console's air inlet.

Note: the recorded noise has been greatly amplified to make its acoustic characteristics perfectly perceptible. The purpose of these recordings is to report the differences between the noise emitted by one console and the other, not the “absolute” intensity of the noise.

Fan A, after 15 minutes of playing Demon's Souls

Fan B, under the same playing conditions

What's more, you may have noticed on these recordings the kind of little squeaking noise (probably generated by the fan motor) which is added to the hissing noise. It turns out that this squeak is also noticeably less pronounced on the fan of the first console (which we will henceforth call fan A) than on that of the second (fan B), including when the fan is running at very low speed. This is particularly the case when the console is on standby and a background task is in progress (download, game update, etc.). In this case, the fan B always emits this small noise, certainly with a very weak intensity, but nevertheless very audible. This can be particularly disturbing when the console is placed in a bedroom.


Fan A, standby active

Fan B, standby active

A lottery for the consumer, but Sony is within its rights

Of the five machines that we have been able to examine at this time – the test console and four consoles personally ordered by members of our editorial staff – two are equipped with the quieter A fan, and the other three with the B fan. Note that there's even a third fan model that some users might find in their console: the one that was shown off by…Sony in the “official” PS5 teardown video.


The fan shown by Sony in its teardown video is again different from the two models seen in our consoles. ©Sony Interactive Entertainment

After all this, it would therefore be understandable on the part of the consumer to want to make sure, at the time of purchase, that the console he acquires is indeed equipped with the quietest fan. Alas, that's not possible: the only way to know is to take the console out of its box and remove at least one of its side panels. The console model number, identical on all the machines we examined (CFI-1016A), is of no use.

The situation is obviously very frustrating, but Sony is not doing anything illegal here. The manufacturer is perfectly entitled to use different parts on different copies of a commercial product, on the sole condition that these parts perform their function without a hitch – in this case, to cool the console properly. And since Sony's communication never made any quantified promise as to the noise pollution emitted by the machine, it is impossible to plead misleading advertising.

Therefore, for the most zealous users, there is only one possible solution: simply replace the fan yourself. The good news is that provided you have a Security Torx T8 screwdriver at your disposal, the operation is extremely simple and can be carried out without touching any seal of guarantee - we were able to swap the fans two consoles without the slightest difficulty. All that remains is to wait for fan A to appear on the market as a spare part...

A question about food

The fan is also not the only source of variance in noise pollution that we have been able to identify. Your servant's personal machine, decidedly badly endowed, also has a power supply very prone to the phenomenon of coil whine, or its strict name, electro-magnetically induced noise. Well known and feared by PC gamers, this phenomenon most often occurs with graphics cards; it then results in small sharp whistles. But it can also occur at the level of the power block. In this second case, it results in a hoarse clicking sound, the pitch and timbre of which vary according to the current delivered. And that's exactly what this copy of PlayStation 5 gives us to hear.


The power supply unit is housed at the bottom of the machine frame.

Loudest model PSU coil whine, recorded during a game of *Demon's Souls*. The noise is constantly changing depending on what is displayed on the screen: simply rotating the camera is enough to cause the variations heard in this example.

Here again, the impact of this noise should not be exaggerated: it remains on the whole quite bearable. But it's an additional element that tarnishes the console's reputation for silence. Alas, we have absolutely no data to date that would allow us to estimate how widespread it is, the five consoles of the Digital editorial staff representing a sample far too rickety to be able to draw any conclusion. For the form, know all the same that three of them are impacted, to varying degrees. We will of course continue to investigate this issue and hope to be able to share further findings soon.

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