What will happen when the internal SSD inevitably dies? We’re not so sure. Whereas the primary drives in the PS3 and PS4 could all be easily replaced, the fixed SSD in the PS5 could be an issue far into the lifespan of the system.
A defining feature of the Playstation 5 is its extraordinarily fast SSD to outpace the XBox Series X and even the latest desktop PCs as of 2020. Users were unsure if the PS5 primary SSD would be soldered or removable, but the official teardown video yesterday confirms that the 825 GB modules are soldered while a separate M.2 2230/2242/2280 PCIe 4.0 slot will be available for secondary expansion.
This approach presents an interesting scenario for the console. Whereas gamers could simply swap out the primary HDDs/SSDs on their PS3 or PS4 consoles should the drives ever fail, there are no such options on the PS5. All SSDs, be it soldered or removable, have endurance values measured in MTBF (Mean Time Between Failures) or TBW (Terabytes Written). If assuming all other parts of the console will run without any issues in the interim, the internal 825 GB SSD will eventually fail and be irreplaceable. Whatever happens next to the rest of the console is anyone’s guess at the moment.
The good news is that MTBF and TBW values are usually very high before failure is expected. The 1 TB Western Digital SN750 NVMe SSD, for example, has a TBW value 600 TB. In other words, you would have to be deleting and writing files constantly on your PS5 SSD up to about 600 TB before NAND flash degradation is expected to render the drive unusable if we assume a similar TBW value. For most gamers, this would thankfully be a tough ceiling to reach.
We can see a simple scenario where Sony can avoid rendering the console useless should the internal SSD inevitably fail. If users are allowed the option to install the OS on the aforementioned secondary M.2 PCIe 4.0 slot, then the rest of the system would be salvaged. This will hopefully be a feature for those unlucky users stuck with malfunctioning internal SSD modules.
The Sony console will launch in just over a month worldwide, but good luck trying to pre-order one without overpaying scalpers.
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Allen Ngo, 2020-10- 9 (Update: 2020-10-10)