Sony has released the first PlayStation 5 system software beta, and with it enabled the internal M.2 SSD expansion slot. Finally, we can throw off the shackles and limitations of the PS5’s 825GB built-in SSD!
Well… kind of. There’s a lot of guidelines for what M.2 SSDs would be compatible with the PS5, from the speed of the drive to its physical size to fit into the relatively tight slot.
What are the SSD expansion requirements?
Sony are pretty strict in their M.2 SSD speed and size requirements, per their SSD FAQ. The drive should be able to manage a read speed of 5,500MB/s with an PCIe Gen 4 M.2 NVMe interface. It should also have a heatsink for more effective cooling, and that heatsink needs to be compact.
- Interface: PCIe Gen4 x4 M.2 NVMe SSD
- Capacity: 250GB – 4TB
- Cooling structure: Using an M.2 SSD with your PS5 console requires effective heat dissipation with a cooling structure, such as a heatsink. You can attach one to your M.2 SSD yourself, either in a single-sided format, or double-sided format. There are also M.2 SSDs that have cooling structures (such as heatsinks) built in.
- Sequential read speed: 5,500MB/s or faster is recommended
- Module width: 22mm width (25mm width is not supported)
- Form Factor: M.2 type 2230, 2242, 2260, 2280 and 22110.
These numbers can be found on retail listings for M.2 SSD devices. The first two digits refer to the width, the remaining digits to the length.
- Socket type: Socket 3 (Key M)
- Total size including cooling structure: In millimeters: smaller than 110mm (L) x 25mm (W) x 11.25mm (H).
- Height: The total height of the M.2 SSD and its cooling structure (such as a heatsink) – whether built-in or separate – must be less than 11.25mm (0.442in). The size below the board must be less than 2.45mm (0.096in). The total size above the board must be less than 8mm (0.314in).
Right, you got all that?
What SSDs are compatible, then?
I’m sure for many people, that’s all as clear as mud, but while Sony has not provided a list of validated devices at this time (and provides absolutely no guarantees that games will universally work on an M.2 expansion drive), there are half a dozen models that should work just fine.
- Seagate FireCuda 530 – confirmed by Seagate to be compatible, and has heatsink version available
- Western Digital Black SN850 – heatsink version available
- Samsung 980 Pro – will require additional heatsink
- Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus – will require additional heatsink
- Gigabyte Aorus NVMe Gen 4 7000S – heatsink built in, but .15mm thicker (which shouldn’t be a problem given the slot’s clearance)
- Patriot Viper VP4300 – Ships with two optional “heatshields” (which may not provide enough cooling)
All of these drives are currently very expensive. A 1TB M.2 SSD from the list above starts at £165 for the WD Black SN850, but that version comes without a heatsink. You will generally be spending between £180 and £220 for an extra 1TB at this point in time, and the less said about the price of a 4TB drive, the better!
Unfortunately, the physical size constraints mean that we also have an SSD that would be fast enough, but is simply too large thanks to its 1.5cm heatsink. Do not buy the Corsair MP600 Pro.
Do I really need a heatsink?
Apparently so! Sony went to great lengths to outline that you need a heatsink and the exact sizes that will work. The simple fact is that PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSDs can get really hot under load and that forces them to slow down, which in turn could cause issues with the running of games on PS5 that stress the SSD – Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, for example.
It is typically heavy file writing loads that would cause the most stress and temperature, but if there’s not quite enough airflow through the SSD expansion slot, read temperatures could also lead to throttling. My gut tells me that Sony are playing it safe by mandating a heatsink, but given hardware variability, that’s sensible.
Thankfully, there’s plenty of cheap and cheerful heatsinks available on Amazon, with simple aluminium designs. Here’s a few options:
- ELUTENG – Screwed with backplate or secured with rubber – £9
- EZDIY-FAB – Screwed with backplate – £12
- BeQuiet MC1 – Screwed with backplate (note: not the MC1 Pro) – £10
Essentially, so long as it’s 11mm or less in thickness when installed, and not more than 25mm wide, you should be fine.
It’s still early days for SSD support on PlayStation 5, but Sony will take the next few weeks and months to validate everything that they’ve worked on thus far, thanks to the newly released PS5 beta software.