The PS5, it seems, has copied a very bad habit from laptop manufacturers: using different parts in the same product. While some PS5 consoles produce barely a whisper, others are considerably noisier.
Apparently, this is because Sony has used at least five different fans in various PS5s, and until you purchase a console, there’s no way to tell which one you’ll get. Information comes from French tech publication Les Numériques, covered in English by our sister site Tom’s Hardware.
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Journalists at Les Numériques were confused when they found that their two PS5s — one provided by Sony and one from a retail store — produced different levels of noise while running the same game. Two quick teardowns revealed the culprits: two completely different fans.
There’s not really much to say beyond that. Fans with more blades tend to be quieter than fans with fewer blades, even though they both provide the same level of cooling. As such, while every fan should (theoretically) keep the PS5 running at safe temperatures, some will do so more quietly than others. Further study revealed that Sony may use at least five different types of fans in various PS5s.
There’s absolutely no way to know which fan you’ll get before you get the PS5 up and running — and unless it’s obnoxiously loud, Sony is unlikely to replace your unit, as long as it’s running properly.
The good news is that there’s no indication of widespread fan-related failure in PS5s. Whether your unit is nearly silent or a little noisy, it should run games just fine. Of course, having a quiet system is better than the alternative, and not knowing in advance which one you’ll get is frustrated.
For the record, Tom’s Guide has a review unit from Sony, and it barely makes a sound. More specifically, it is actually in use across the living room as I write this, and I had to move within about a foot of the console before I could hear anything.
As Tom’s Hardware points out, Sony is not unique in this regard. Laptop manufacturers have a bad (and well-earned) reputation for using wildly inconsistent parts, even in high-end machines. Keyboards, touchpads and even SSDs can come from different third-party manufacturers, meaning that some laptops are simply better than others, even though they’re priced and sold exactly the same way.
As for why Sony did this and what the company plans to do next, that’s harder to say. The usual hardware supply chains are, in layman’s terms, a little messed up from COVID-19, and it’s possible that a single fan manufacturer couldn’t field all of Sony’s orders. Perhaps in the future, all PS5s will be quiet — or maybe this will be the most efficient manufacturing method for years to come.
In either case, if you managed to get a working PS5 at all, consider yourself lucky for the moment. Consider contacting Sony just in case, though — if enough people do it, maybe we’ll get a widespread fix, as Microsoft did for the Xbox 360 “red ring of death,” or Nintendo did for Joy-Con drift.
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Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.