PS3 Super Slim teardown finds hardware changes, no real upgrades

Bill Detwiler cracks open the PlayStation 3 Super Slim, shows you how Sony redesigned the popular gaming console, and compares the new machine with older PS3 models.

With the PlayStation 4's launch still at least a year away, Sony wants to squeeze every bit of profit out of the PS3 and ensure that it can keep making money on the console when the next PlayStation is released. What better way to do that than to release a redesigned version that's slimmer and likely cheaper to make.

Full TechRepublic teardown gallery: Cracking Open the PlayStation 3 Super Slim

When launched, the PlayStation 3 Super Slim was available only as part of two bundled packages. The first bundle ($270) shipped September 25 and included a 250GB console, Uncharted 3, and a voucher for the download-only game Dust 514. The second bundle ($300) will go on sale October 30 and will contain a 500GB PS3 and Assassin's Creed III.

Bill Detwiler/TechRepublic

As of publication, Sony hasn't said if the PS3 will be sold as a standalone console, but it's highly likely given that the outer sleeve on the Uncharted 3 box can be removed to reveal a plain PS3 box.

For real-world tests of Sony's redesigned console, check out Jeff Bakalar's full CNET review of the PlayStation 3 Super Slim .

Smallest PS3 yet
The PS3 Super Slim is 20 percent smaller and 25 percent lighter than the previous model. It measures 11.4x2.36x9.05 inches.

 
Credit: Bill Detwiler/TechRepublic)

Like its predecessor, this PS3 has two USB ports and a hard-drive activity light along the front. Around back, you'll find the same Ethernet, HDMI, optical audio, and PS3 AV ports found on the previous model.

Cracking Open observations

  • Redesigned Blu-ray drive: The new machine's optical drive has a manual sliding disc cover instead of a motorized slot-loading mechanism. This design likely helped Sony both cut costs and save space, but it just feels cheap and as Bakalar wrote, it's "ultimately a step back."
Bill Detwiler/TechRepublic

  • Repositioned HDD: The original PS3's hard drive was accessed through a panel on the side. Sony moved that access point to the front on the PS3 Slim. And now, it's been moved back to the side. But on the Super Slim you remove the whole side panel and not just a small cover.

  • Smaller power supply: Like the optical drive, the new machine's power supply is smaller than the PS3 Slim's. It's also rated for fewer amps, so the new console appears to be drawing less current than its predecessors.
Bill Detwiler/TechRepublic

  • Smaller fan that's more difficult to remove: Unlike with the PS3 Slim, you can't remove the Super Slim's fan without removing the whole motherboard assembly and then separating the shield from the motherboard. Given the Super Slim's more compact design, it's not surprising that the cooling fan is smaller than the one in the larger Slim.

  • More compact motherboard, new components, same overall specs: Compared with the PS3 Slim's board, the Super Slim's board is smaller and the chips are placed closer to each other. Sony also removed the heat spreader from the Reality Synthesizer package, swapped Marvell's discreet wireless board for a newer Marvell WLAN/Bluetooth SoC, and went with two 1GB XDR DRAM chips for the machine's main memory instead of older machine's four 512MB chips.
Bill Detwiler/TechRepublic

Why launch a redesigned PS3 now?
After cracking open this console, it's clear, and a bit disappointing, that Sony wasn't trying to upgrade the PS3 line with the Super Slim, merely refine it. I realize that radically changing the hardware could compromise game compatibility, but I would have loved an extra 512MB of video/system RAM. So that raises the question, why would the company do this?

I think the decision comes down to the unit's production cost. The new optical drive, redesigned motherboard, and all the other changes likely make the console cheaper to manufacture. And, given that Sony hasn't lowered the price (at least not at launch), it's making more on each unit sold. If the price does drop later this year or definitely once the PlayStation 4 is released, the lower production cost will let Sony keep making money on the PS3.

A more detailed version of this story was first published on TechRepublic's Cracking Open.

About the author

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop support specialist in the social research and energy industries. He has bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Louisville, where he has also lectured on computer crime and crime prevention.

 

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