After Hours

PS3 Super Slim teardown reveals hardware changes, but no real upgrades

Bill Detwiler cracks open the PlayStation 3 Super Slim, shows you how Sony redesigned the popular gaming console, and compare the new machine to 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 it can. And, what better way to do that than release a redesigned version, that's slimmer and likely cheaper to make.

Full teardown gallery: Cracking Open the PlayStation 3 Super Slim

When launched, the PlayStation 3 Super Slim was only available 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.

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 11.4" (W) x 2.36" (T) x 9.05" (D).

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 cut both costs and save space, but it just feels cheap and as Bakalar wrote, it's "ultimately a step back."
  • 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, they've gone right 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.
  • Smaller fan that's more difficult to remove: Unlike the PS3 Slim you can't remove the 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 to 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.

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 relaize that radically changing the hardware could compromise game compatability, but I would have loved an extra 512MB of video/system RAM. So that begs the question, why would they 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), they're making more on each unit sold. If they do lower the price later this year or definitely once the PlayStation 4 is released, the lower production cost let's them keep making money on the PS3.

Internal Hardware

Our PS3 Super Slim had the following internal hardware components:

  • Sony Cell Broadband Engine CXD2996BGB
  • Sony RSX CXD5302DGB 220B25NA "Reality Synthesizer"
  • Hynix 64MB (536,870,912 bits) H5RS5223DFR-14C GDDR3 SDRAM (x4)
  • Sony CXM4027R MultiAV Driver (CXM4027R 221N26E)
  • Panasonic MN8647091 HDMI transmitter
  • Marvell 88EC060 Fast Ethernet PHY transceiver
  • Samsung 1Gb K4Y12324TE-KCB3 DRAM (x2 for 256MB)
  • Sony CXD9963GB Southbridge
  • Sony CXD5132R-1 Blu-ray drive SATA controller
  • Spansion S29GL128P90TFIR2 NOR Flash
  • Marvell Avastar 88W8782 WLAN system-on-chip (SoC)
  • Panasonic CR 2032 3V system battery
  • Sony IDT 9277BNLG 1133L
  • Winbond 25Q16CVY05 1221
  • Fairchild FDMF6823C Extra-Small, High-Performance, High-Frequency DrMOS Module (FDC25AV FDMF6823C)
  • Sony SW3-302 system controller
  • BD7761EFV 224 T76
  • 217 3536A
  • Texas Instruments PS53123
  • Intersil ISL6332 2 Phase VR11.1 Buck PWM Controller with Integrated
  • MOSFET Drivers with Light Load Efficiency
  • Sony IDT 4227ANLG
  • Texas Instruments PS53123
  • Sony Model APS-330 12V, 18A power supply
  • Delta Electronics KSB0812HE DC12V 1.65A fan
Updated Monday, Oct. 15 1:42 PM ET: Added information about hardware and game compatibility.

About

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 supp...

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