Gaming console design always involves some corner-cutting to keep the price reasonable, but storage performance is one detail that Sony did not compromise on in the PlayStation 5.
Not only is the built-in solid state drive (SSD) really fast – you can also upgrade the console with an additional high-speed SSD.
Upgrading is easy and will not void your warranty as long as you follow Sony’s recommendations, but there are some details to keep in mind for the best possible results.
The M-key M.2 form factor compatible with the PS5 is identical to what you will find on PC motherboards, meaning that there are lots of affordable options on the market. However, if you want your expanded storage to perform as well as the integrated drive, Sony has a minimum speed recommendation.
* Interface: PCI-Express Gen4x4 NVMe
* Capacity: 250 GB – 4 TB
* Form Factor: M.2 Key M, size 2230, 2242, 2280, or 22110
* Dimensions incl. heatsink: Width up to 25 mm, length 30, 40, 60, 80, or 110 mm, thickness
up to 11.25 mm
* Sequential read speed: 5,500 MB/s or faster (recommendation)
These specs look far more complicated than they really are, not least because they align with nearly all leading drives on the market in 2023.
Form Factor, Performance, and Interface
The M.2 form factor in the M-key variation is used exclusively for this type of SSD and all mainstream drives come with the 2280 dimensions (22×80 mm).
Also, Sequential speed and interface are mutually exclusive, as only PCI-Express Gen4 drives (or higher, theoretically) can reach speeds of 5,500 MB/s.
That leaves us with the dimensions of a heatsink if one is included. Thankfully the PS5 has room for a rather large cooler and most manufacturers take care to disclose if their designs will fit in the console. While you can install a heatsink on your own, considering an SSD that comes with a heatsink preinstalled is also a good option.
Is an SSD Heatsink Necessary?
Using an SSD without a heatsink will not damage the console – in theory. The same type of SSDs are used in even more space-constrained laptops without issue.
What could happen is that performance is reduced in the event of thermal throttling, which may happen during lengthy write operations. This is likely why Sony wants you to install one.
Should It Have Onboard DRAM?
Another detail that Sony is not overly clear on is whether the SSD should have an onboard DRAM memory buffer, i.e., physical memory chips on the PCB. It is now common for budget drives to use part of the system memory (also known as HMB or Host Memory Buffer) to reach their rated speeds.
This is a feature that the PS5 unfortunately does not support, so it’s possible that you lose some performance by using a DRAM-less drive. The good news is that users and users and testers have reported good results with this type of drives so far.
Out of the PS5’s internal 825GB SSD, only about 667GB is available to the user. With many triple-A titles now soaking up over 100GB each – without even considering patches – this means that most PlayStation 5owners will eventually run out of storage space.
Having access to an empty PCI-Express 4.0/NVMe M.2 slot is therefore great as this interface can provide the same fast loading experience as the internal drive. What is also great is that high-end Gen4 SSDs like the Samsung 980 Pro and WD Black SN850 have dropped a lot in price recently (unlike many other types of electronics), making these upgrades even more worthwhile.