Good News About Our Once-Broken PS4…

Good News About Our Once-Broken PS4…

Our malfunctioning PS4, the one I mentioned in our review of Sony’s new console, has been fixed. It turns out that the fix was an easy one. We can now give you a clear run-through of what went wrong and what to look out for in what, at this point, seems like a fluke.

The video below will walk you through things:

We had received the unit from Sony at their big PS4 press event in New York City. Kotaku HQ is also in the city. Not too far away, if you care. After I got my unit, I brought it to the office, we hooked it up, and found that it wasn’t working. It powered on, but it didn’t emit any video or audio signal successfully to a TV. Since being able to actually use a PS4 is pretty important, sorting that out was a priority. We tried various monitors and wires and eventually a second PS4 that a colleague brought to the office. We were able to isolate the issue to the HDMI connection. I contacted Sony reps and let them know we had a problem and they offered to send someone over to swap out units. At that point, we didn’t know if we’d just seen the first of many broken PS4s to come or just an against-all-odds aberration. We shot the video above to compare a working PS4 and a non-working one and, soon enough, we were handing our busted PS4 back to Sony.

I told Sony that we’d have to mention the broken PS4 in our review. We couldn’t, after all, be in a position of having not informed our readers that we’d had a bad unit if it then turned out that this was a widespread problem. But I also didn’t want to freak anyone out. So we waited. We waited to see if other people reported having broken units. A few did.

The gaming site IGN reported that one of their PS4s “stopped outputting through the HDMI after the user began downloading Netflix.”

A user on Reddit who said he scored a PS4 early from a Taco Bell promotion showed in this video on Twitch that his console wasn’t sending a signal to his TV. I exchanged messages with him, wondering if he had the same problem we had. But his PS4’s light only turned blue. As you can see above, ours fluctuated between blue and white.

A thread on the NeoGAF message boards catalogues a few other reports of PS4 hardware failures, sometimes involving having downloaded various content on the system.

It seemed that no one had the problem we had.

The day before I ran our review, I asked Sony PR for comment. I’d hoped to have included their assessment of the PS4’s hardware reliability in our review. They didn’t give us a comment. This morning, Sony games boss Shuehei Yoshida addressed this stuff on Twitter:

Be assured we are investigating reported PS4 issues. The number is very small compared to shipped, we believe they are isolated incidents.

— Shuhei Yoshida (@yosp) November 14, 2013

Later in the day, I got a call from Sony. They’d examined our unit and they figured out the problem. A piece of metal in the system’s HDMI port was supposed to have been flush with the bottom of the port but instead had been bent upward, obstructing some of the pins in the port. It had been hard to see, though I imagine we would have noticed if we’d examined the unit more closely and not given it back. Nevertheless, we were told that that PS4 had been fixed. The Sony employee testing our unit used a pin to push the small piece of metal back down. They then plugged an HDMI wire into the unit and it worked. They even brought the unit to our office so we could see for ourselves.

The obstructing piece of metal in the formerly-broken PS4 had actually knocked some of the “teeth” out of the HDMI wire — the one bundled with that PS4 — that we’d originally plugged into the unit, the Sony folks told us. We checked two other HDMI wires that we’d used during our brief bit of troubleshooting, and sure enough, they were missing the same teeth, too.

The good news here is that the problem was small and easily fixed. The slightly bad news is that we’re unable to tell you why this happened. It’s certainly possible that we accidentally knocked that piece of metal upward when we first plugged Sony’s HDMI wire into the PS4. We can’t rule out human error on our end. But we’ve been plugging wires into HDMI sockets for a long time, and we’ve never had this issue before. It’s also possible there was something wrong with Sony’s wire and that that’s where the initial fault lies. Or perhaps the jack was indeed badly made. Sony doesn’t know. We don’t know.

All we can say is that, if you get a PS4, check the HDMI port carefully. Check the HDMI wire that comes with the system carefully as well. Make sure everything looks flush. And with that, hopefully you’ll avoid this problem and we’ll never hear about it again.

Sony’s official stance is this: “A handful of people have reported issues with their PlayStation 4 systems. This is within our expectations for a new product introduction, and the vast majority of PS4 feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. We are closely monitoring for additional reports, but we think these are isolated incidents and are on track for a great launch.”

We will, of course, also monitor other reports of hardware difficulties. If you wind up experiencing this issue or any others, please let us know.


    • Nice thought, but never the case. Nothing will ever be manufactured with 100% zero faults, and QA will never pick up everything. Even something as simple as a towel won’t be 100%…

    • In a perfect world you wouldn’t.

      All hardware devices have a acceptable failure rate and manufacturing defects, as with cars, motorcycles and any other appliance you buy. If you buy a new model car or motorcycle you would be ignorant not to expect a recall of some sort to fix a small/major issue they find later one.

      Edit: added manufacturing defects

  • Surely they should have a station on their assembly line to test the consoles they’ve just finished building…. 15 minutes run time would reveal problems if any…

    • I’m a software tester by trade. While you’re correct that 15 minutes run time would reveal (more) problems than none at all, consider the cost of doing so. One person could get through 32 a day. Multi-task, and assume they can monitor 10 or so units at once, and they can monitor 320 / day. Assume 10 people in a team doing this job, and you could get through 3200 / day. Divide the number of PS4 manufactured to date by this number, (even per factory, assuming distributed manufacturing), and you have the delay time adding a 15-minute run in. Then you need to multiply that by the number of people performing the job, the electricity cost for doing so, and all associated costs, and the cost mounts up.

      All in all, it’s probably an order of magnitude more expensive to do a 15 minute run on every unit than it is to simply replace any defective units, depending on the defect rate.

    • First shipment is something like 3-5 million units during the holiday season. 15 minutes x 5 million = 75000000 minutes, or about 142 years. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

    • You can’t go spreading misinformation on PS4 Red line
      It went into over heat based on the enclosure it was sealed in
      Read the article

  • You’re also putting the HDMI cable in while the unit is ON which carries the risk of shorting out your HDMI port. Tsk tsk.

    • I was always under the impression HDMI was hotswappable. I always do it with my laptop<-> TV cable when I want to watch youtube or whatever. Oops!

      • Wikipedia (Always perfect!) says explicitly that it is hot pluggable and there’s a pin in the cable specifically to detect when it has been and reset the connection.

  • I have bent HDMI pins before on notebooks and stuff a few times, and had to bend them back. I suspect this might be a common issue in general with devices that have HDMI connectors? Sony would have a clear idea how many units are actually affected. You may see a quiet redesign of the HDMI connector in the next few months if this is a flaw that can be solved. To some extent, they are limited by the HDMI standard, whatever that is.

    @shithead above mentions that RLOD above? This is potentially more of an issue. People do want to make an ominous thing about RROD, RLOD and all that but every console is going to have a fundamental error state for hardware errors just like how your computer beeps twice on boot and you go “uh oh”. A percentage of devices WILL fail, both for Sony and MS and the percent failure rate is what is important. At launch, you expect the processes to be not quite as good but anything over about 5% would probably be a good benchmark for failure. It remains to be seen how both consoles will actually measure up at launch.

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