Is the PlayStation 5 CFI-1100 really worse than the original model? - technical analysis

Is the PlayStation 5 CFI-1100 really worse than the original model? - technical analysis

The new CFI-1100 revision of the PlayStation 5 is making its way onto the market, bringing with it a wave of controversy. It started with the intriguing news that, beyond the revised WiFi and a new screw for the support, the CFI-1100 model weighs 300g less than the original: an interesting fact that could only be investigated with a direct analysis. . The first reporter to do it was Austin Evans, whose teardown answers many questions but raises as many. A unit of the new PS5 model recently arrived here at Digital Foundry too and so we got to shed some light on the mysteries that hover over this review.

It's worth watching Evans' video because, regardless from his take on this new take on the machine's cooling system, you can see exactly in what aspects Sony changed its design (and, equally importantly, where it didn't) and that's crucial information. Yes, WiFi looks different (although we haven't had a chance to test its performance changes yet), but the 300g weight loss appears to be mainly due to the different heatsink design. The reason why the company has decided to opt for this solution is quite clear: it is an obvious expedient to reduce production costs that comes just when an exponential increase in sales is expected.

The original model's monstrous radiator (weighing 1639g) has been replaced by a 1368g alternative, so essentially 277 of the 300g less weight is due to the inclusion of a smaller heatsink. The latter has fewer heat pipes (four versus six) and is built with an overall reduction in copper content (aluminum has only 60% of the thermal conductivity of copper). There is another interesting change in the design: the original fan has been replaced by a version with more blades, potentially capable of pushing more air out at the same speeds.

But what's more interesting is the evidence surrounding what hasn't changed, based on Evans' data. Most importantly, the machine's power consumption looks very similar to the PS5 launch model, in a world where cost reductions on cooling systems are usually only introduced when the main processor is replaced with a smaller solution and more efficient. So, at first glance, there is a question to answer: If the chip has remained the same and the power requirements are the same, what has changed to justify such a significant cut in the mass and materials of the cooler? It's a perfectly reasonable question, and we've asked Sony for a comment.

Austin Evans and his co-workers take apart the new PlayStation 5 CFI-1100, revealing a smaller, more cost-conscious cooling solution.

Watch on YouTube. The core of the controversy surrounding Evans' video stems from his opinion that the new PS5 is worse than the old one (it's his belief that a smaller cooler made from less efficient materials can translate into worse cooling performance). It is not an extravagant theory when looking at the dimensions and the reductions of the material used alone but there are also other factors to keep in mind besides the thermal dissipation and in any case, even if the system were to register a few degrees more, it could still be within the manufacturer tolerances. Evans' video shows that there has been a small reduction in the noise produced by the new model, which seems to contradict the notion of a warmer car.

This can be explained in several ways: first place, if the new machine is actually hotter, that's still fine according to its firmware and there's nothing to worry about. After all, if there was an overheating problem, the fan would speed up to expel the heat better and the situation would still be under control. Secondly, the new fan may do a better job of pushing hot air out and it may simply be quieter than the original. It is a totally new component, after all. The latest theory, perhaps a little less plausible, is that the smaller heatsink, based on materials with a lower overall thermal conductivity, has been redesigned to be more efficient.

There have been requests to test the new PS5's internal thermal profile in operation, especially after Gamers Nexus' Steve Burke tests on the launch model revealed concerns about how a memory chip ran at very high temperatures, without the necessary care in terms of dissipation. thermal. However, the temperatures of the main processor and voltage regulators seemed fine. Ultimately though, if the core chip gets too hot, the fan is expected to adjust its speed accordingly.

This apparently didn't happen on the Austin Evans unit and it's not happening on ours either. We ran Remedy Control for several hours on our CFI-1100 unit. In ray tracing mode, the game freezes at 30fps, and in the standard game, the PS5 draws around 170W of power. However, by visiting the now infamous Corridor of Doom (a notoriously heavy area of ​​the game, well known to the DF public), the power usage increases to 200W. Finally, the inclusion of photo mode removes the 30fps limit for the frame-rate, adding more power with a peak of 214W.

This is more or less the same maximum power drawn by our PS5's launch, which suggests that the main processor has not been changed but, above all, it is clear that the noise of the new console has not undergone any major changes in the hours when the scene has pushed the processor to the tablet. Whether the machine is warmer or not is yet to be verified but logic tells us that if the new cooling unit was not up to the task, the fan would have to increase in speed to expel the additional heat build-up (resulting in an increase of the noise produced). This doesn't seem to be happening, and even hours later, the power draw is still consistent.

Austin Evans photo showing the old PS5 cooler (left) next to the scaled-down version found in the CFI-1100 model. So, if the PlayStation 5 can work just fine with a cheaper and leaner cooler, why not include it in the launch model now? Without Sony's word we can't say for sure but, in terms of the manufacturing process, it's important to realize that when a console hits the market, the machine's components are created at the same time (in parallel, not in series). As the silicon rolls off the production line, heat sinks are also made. Nobody wants another red ring or a yellow light of death, so it makes sense to 'abound' in the design.

There is a documented example of this in Microsoft's original Xbox One: The hardware architects noted that their thermal solution would allow for an increase in processor clock rates and acted accordingly. The GPU went from 800MHz to 854MHz, while the CPU enjoyed a jump from 1.6GHz to 1.75GHz. Would it make the car warmer? Probably yes. Did it matter? Obviously not. Perhaps, with all the telemetry gleaned from the millions of units already on the market, Sony is confident enough to cut cooling and lower the cost of building the machine.

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There are some theories circulating about the potential for overheating that we think need to be addressed. PlayStation 5 operates within a set power limit, with CPU and GPU clock rates varying according to their power needs (as stated in last year's Mark Cerny speech). There is a fear that a warmer PlayStation 5 could prevent the machine from reaching the speed of the theoretically cooler launch model. Yes, the performance on the new model should be tested, but we find it extremely unlikely that the new PS5 will behave differently even if it is warmer than the old one. Clock rates are adjusted according to an algorithm based on a single processor model. Sony has profiled how that single chip works under a multitude of different workloads and applied that algorithm to every PlayStation 5 in production to ensure that even if clocks do change, they will do so identically on every system. out there. In short, the boost is not controlled by the temperatures of a given PlayStation 5, so the new system should have identical performance to any other on the market.

According to sources, new arrivals in retail stores are currently a mixture of CFI-1000 and CFI-1100 machines but the chances of being able to choose which of the two machines to buy are very small (unless you choose the path of touts). At the moment, the new machine appears to be very similar to the old one in terms of user experience and Sony certainly has the confidence to support the new design (we can assume that production of the CFI-1000 model will be discontinued and that the millions of PlayStation 5 sold over Christmas will all be based on the new design). We will spend more time with the new machine and produce a full review in due course.

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