PSA: Stop what you are doing and go turn your PlayStation 5 on its side. It's been discovered that the liquid metal used for cooling can potentially leak and fry the motherboard. There have only been a handful of cases reported, so should you take the chance, or is there not enough evidence for this to become a real problem?
The PlayStation 5 is vastly different than any other PlayStation to date. It's white, which we haven't seen since the miniaturized PS one, and of course, it's much more powerful. It is also comparatively colossal in size. But one thing has remained consistent since the PS2. Users can orient it horizontally or vertically — or so they were told.
Sony's stand that comes in the package and their marketing materials display the PS5 in both orientations, so it's more than safe to assume either mounting position is acceptable. The console is so large that the most practical position, for me at least, is vertical. I know I'm not alone, too.
A quick Google image search shows that most images posted to the internet have the behemoth in its towered position. So it may shock many users that this may be the risky way to orient your PS5...
A console repair tech who goes by the YouTube handle TheCod3r posted a video (above) last September showing a PlayStation 5 he received for repair. The console would not power on, so he opened it up, removed the motherboard, and checked each component to see how the voltage was flowing.
He was getting bad readings, but physically, everything looked fine. He decided to pull up the shroud around the APU (accelerated processing unit) to check for damage, and that's where he found liquid metal had leaked from its enclosure and shorted the contacts on the bottom (relative to vertical orientation) of the APU.
At that time, it seemed like an isolated incident. TheCod3r had not seen a case like this before, and neither had anyone else. However, since then, at least one other instance of a leaking APU has been reported.
TheCod3r calls it a major faux pas by Sony's design team. It would seem that when mounted vertically, the indium/gallium alloy between the APU and the heatsink, which remains liquid at room temperature, can dribble out over time due to gravity pulling it all to one side of the housing. Horizontally mounting the console alleviates this issue since the liquid metal is allowed to rest uniformly across the APU.
It's fair to point out that this is not the first time vertical orientation has caused problems for PlayStation users. Somewhere around mid-lifecycle, the PlayStation 2 began exhibiting disk-read errors. The problem was related to users having their PS2s set upright — again, something Sony said it was designed to do.
Unfortunately, the vertical orientation caused the CD laser head to shift out of alignment. However, the DIY fix was as simple as opening the housing and readjusting the CD head, which just about anybody not afraid to open their console could do. As for the PS5's problem, fixing the APU is not a DIY project for the weekend unless you are a trained professional and can access the parts.
Sony has not officially acknowledged the flaw yet. The company heavily marketed the PS5 in its vertical position, even as shown on the packaging (above). They also included a stand since the PS5 does not have a flat side and it uses the separate stand to facilitate horizontal or upright mounting (a first). One could reasonably expect Sony to offer free repairs to out-of-warranty users over such a fiasco, but don't hold your breath. Since the failure can ruin the motherboard, it's likely to be a full replacement situation. If it were a car, this would require a full recall.
The good news is that as long as your PlayStation 5 is in good working order right now, you should be safe. However, we'd like to at least acknowledge the potential issue and maybe decide to reorient your PS5 to horizontal as soon as possible, no matter how inconvenient that may be.
Image credit: Trusted Reviews