News regarding the beta release of this was published back in July but Sony just made this official: the second major software update for the PlayStation5 will be offered to all owners of the system tomorrow, bringing a number of new options and extended functionality to the table as well as the most user-requested feature since last November. That would be the use of the internal M.2 SSD storage expansion slot, of course, which will allow consumers to finally have more than 667GB worth of PS5 games installed at any given time (those could not be played off an external drive like PS4 games can).
This being a PlayStation and not just any old PC, making use of that M.2 SSD slot in the former is not as straightforward as it is on the latter. The PS5 needs M.2 SSDs that are of a certain speed or better, are of specific physical dimensions and are accompanied by a heatsink. These are all required in order for these M.2 SSDs to at least match the data transfer speed of the internal SSD of the PS5, to fit in the expansion bay comfortably and to not take a performance hit (get throttled) while handling intense workloads. Sony, to their credit, has clearly laid out all this quite clearly in the relevant support page it recently updated. They even published a new official video that’s taking PS5 owners through the process of installing an M.2 SSD into the expansion slot of their system.
It’s fair to say that the M.2 SSDs meeting Sony’s requirements for use in a PS5 are not exactly cheap. Most of them, though, are in the same ballpark with the proprietary storage expansion card of the same capacity (1TB) that Microsoft is offering for the Xbox Series S|X at the moment: they hover around the $200 mark (consumers do have to check whether the model they are interested in comes with a heatsink or not). In time competition among the various SSD manufacturers is expected to drive prices down. For those that can afford larger sizes a number of models are already offered in capacities of 2TB or even 4TB.
Microsoft is also expected to lower the price of its own storage expansion cards at some point, but as these are only manufactured by Seagate it will take more time to happen. Sony will probably be having an advantage in that respect for some time to come, provided that more M.2 SSDs are confirmed to be compatible with the PS5 and competition does drive prices down.
The PS5 system software 2.0 update will offer a few other noteworthy features. It will introduce 3D audio support for built-in TV speakers using the DualSense controller to measure the acoustics of a room (the controller itself will be updated before it can be used for this). The Control Center interface will be offering more personalization options and PS5 users will be able to view or write messages to friends/parties from the Game Base. The Friends tab is also being updated with better management options and the ability to see how many friends are online.
Sony will also be taking care of a nagging issue with the PS4 or PS5 versions of games: different versions will now appear separately on the home screen or game library and each game’s title will be clearly labeled for PS4 or PS5. The PS Remote Play feature — the one that lets consumers play PS4/PS5 games on other compatible devices via game streaming from their own console — is expanded to work on smartphones or tablets based on iOS or Android via 4G/5G networks. Connection speed requirements remain the same (5 Mbps minimum and 15 Mbps recommended) but there’s always lag to consider (high ping values) depending on carrier networks and network environment. Talking about smartphones and tablets, the official PlayStation app will be getting an update in the next few days allowing for real-time viewing of their friends’ Share Screen.
The M.2 SSD storage expansion option and everything else this new software update brings to the table is more than welcome, but there are still things Sony could do that would make the PlayStation5 even more useful or versatile. Quite a few of those are collected in this January story but, truth be told, if just Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) was added by a new software update soon, practically everyone would be perfectly happy with the PS5. It’s the only important function missing from Sony’s system right now and it would be great if that was taken care of sooner rather than later. Cross fingers!