Why it matters: The recently unveiled slim model PlayStation 5 raised concerns due to the detachable disc drive's online activation requirement. A closer look reveals that switching the component is more straightforward than many might have anticipated. However, uncertainty remains regarding long-term physical media preservation.
A teardown of Sony's new smaller PS5 model clarifies the optional disc drive's restrictions. Changing and using it is relatively painless, but it makes the console more reliant on an internet connection than the original variant.
Photos of the PS5 Slim's packaging revealed the one-time online activation requirement last month. During his unboxing video for the console, which is now available, YouTuber Mystic (below) tested the detachable disc drive and discovered the conditions under which the DRM triggers.
The good news is that the drive and its cover snap on and off without requiring a screwdriver. Furthermore, drives aren't permanently tied to the first console they register with. Instead, swapping units between PS5s repeats the quick one-time activation for each console. Factory resetting the system also repeats the process. Mystic also confirmed that physical games remain playable post-registration if the console is offline.
Lending, borrowing, and replacing the optical drive is simple as long as users are online. The component is often the first to fail in game consoles, so making it detachable will likely lead to fewer replaced systems.
A minor but welcome change is that the new model moves the eject button to the side of the disc tray, making it easier to distinguish from the power button. The front of the console also now features two USB-C ports instead of one, making it easier to connect and update two controllers.
Unfortunately, however, all slim PS5s must register with Sony's servers to play game discs. The requirement includes units that ship with the Blu-Ray drive attached, suggesting that the company doesn't activate them in the factory.
Earlier PS5 disc models can play offline games out of the box, meaning if someone digs one up in 20 years, it will theoretically be usable. The slim model, however, might become e-waste if it isn't registered and Sony's activation servers no longer exist.
The company is likely voluntarily complying with DMCA requirements that attachable disc drives employ DRM to fight piracy and modding. However, there is no guarantee that hackers won't circumvent the system to allow things like third-party drives, out-of-the-box use, custom firmware, or disc ripping.