Sony has started to detail its plans for the next generation of PlayStation, which isn’t technically named yet but will likely be the PlayStation 5. One of the biggest changes the company is making is to the system’s storage solution, which is going from a standard optical harddrive to a customized solid-state drive. But what does that mean?
SSDs are common in laptops and mobile phones, but less often used in hardware that remains in one place like a desktop computer or video game console. Optical harddrives have been used throughout console history, but SSDs offer a few key advantages. The difference is similar to the one between portable storage like CDs versus thumb drives, and there’s good reason that one has all but replaced the other for most people.
The major advantage, as detailed in the reveal interview, comes to load times. Hardware architect Mark Cerny used Marvel’s Spider-Man as an example. The fast travel loading screen took roughly 15 seconds on a PS4 Pro, but less than one second on a dev kit for the PS5. Given that the new hardware will be backwards compatible with older games, that means your load times will likely be reduced across the board when you upgrade.
Faster loading can also mean faster rendering, so games known for speed can push more architecture and textures at a faster rate. Spider-Man was used as the example here too, as the camera was sped up to show how the city could render more quickly.
The lack of moving parts in a solid-state drive also generally means less intense need for cooling. Current console owners know that particularly hardware-intensive parts of games can result in the fan spinning up at high speed, making for a distracting whirring sound. The PS5 is still a long way off and we haven’t seen it in action, but it’s likely that the SSD will require less cooling and therefore reduce fan noise.