April 23, 2007 - Last week we got a first look at Pelican Air Flo for the PlayStation 3 [Register or Login to view links]. The device will likely be the first cooling solution to hit the market for the PlayStation 3. Though Sony's console hasn't developed a reputation from spontaneously bricking itself ala the Xbox 360's dreaded Red Eye of Death, it does run hot. Wide temperature variation doesn't do any bit of high end electronics much good, and was indeed the culprit of the warped optical drive-mounts problems that snuffed so many original PlayStations and Xboxs.
Though PS3s aren't dropping like flies, a number of owners have reported ongoing heating problems with the console during Blu-ray movie playback, including playback stuttering and 'Your PlayStation 3 is too hot. Please shut down.' warnings. Short of gutting the console for a hardcore water-cooling mod, pumping more air though the chassis is the only real solution to the issue, and that's exactly what Pelican's Air Flo aims to do.
The device itself is a single unit that clips snuggly to the top of the PS3 (when the console is vertical), and draws power from its own AC-adaptor rather than by USB or a pass-through on the PS3's power supply. Aesthetically the Air Flo does a pretty good job appearing as a natural extension of the console, and the glossy black plastic is almost as fine as the PS3's own. The silver accents on the PS3 are continued in the Air Flow's styling, and can be replaced with back tabs (included) so as to match the 20GB version of the console. Though a seam between the console and Air Flo can't be eliminated, seen from a distance the Air Flo is innocuous and doesn't cramp the PS3's style.
Inside the add-on, five fans suck and blow extra air into the PS3's upper-most intakes, three straight down, and two horizontally from the corners. As best we can tell, two of the fans blow air into the PS3's intakes, while the other three fans aid in pulling hot air out. Pelican claims the Air Flo is capable of cutting the PS3's internal operating temperature by up to 15-degrees. We don't have the equipment to validate such claims, but our less advanced process of getting a pair of PS3's (one cooled, the other not) playing Blu-ray movies for a few hours and then comparing, via touch, their surface and exhaust temperatures did reveal the Air Flo to be making a noticeable impact.
The weakness to all add-on console cooling systems is the extra noise the additional fans add to the machines' operating noise. To address this concern as best as possible, Pelican integrated 'Auto Thermo Sensing Technology' into the Air Flo so as to regulate fan speeds as needed based upon the load on the console. In our testing the system worked well, and under light load (Virtua Fighter 5) the Air Flo's fans ran at low speeds and added only slightly to the PS3's quite purr. Under the heavy load of an hour and a half of Blu-ray playback, however, the PS3 was running hot and the Air Flo kicked into high gear, significantly increasing its noise pollution. Though the amount of air being sucked out of the PS3 was admirable, the Air Flo bordered on sounding like a small computer. Though turning up the volume helped cover the extra noise, in momentary lulls we could easily hear the fans running from roughly 8 feet away from the console.
Console cooling in this manner is something of a Catch-22 situation. Sony could have easily incorporated more or bigger cooling fans, but likely chose to use as few as possible in order to make the PS3 a quiet console. In some application's Sony's formula was apparently too weak, but rectifying it with Pelican's Air Flo carries a cost of making the PS3 sound like the powerful computer that it truly is. Of course, it's obviously preferable to be able to actually watch a Blu-ray release all the way through with the volume a bit higher than to be forced to take a 20-minute break in the middle of it due to heat issues, so things even out in the end for those so seriously effected. The Air Flo would appear to be an excellent solution for PS3 owners who tuck the console into an entertainment cabinet or crowd it among other hot electronics and have experienced overheating as a result, or those that simply want some added protection for their $600 investment. Users who sit very near their PS3 console, however, may find the added fan noise a distraction.
IGN's Ratings for Pelican Air Flo PS3 RatingDescription out of 10
Moves significantly more air through the PS3 chassis. Thermo-sensing ramps up fan speed under load. At top speed becomes noisy, however.
8.0 Build Quality
Does an admirable job blending with the PS3. Thogh not perfect, from a distance its hard to notice.
9.0 Ease of Use
Snaps on without a hitch. A simple switch in the rear turns on the Air Flo.
$29.99 is reasonable as a solution to an overheating problem or as insurance against console failure.
(out of 10 / not an average)
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