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.
Note: Since originally posting this article on November 14, I've heard from other PS4 users who've had hardware problems. The original article follows right below this note. Below that you'll see a lengthy update that documents some of these gamers' troubles as well as the fixes that got things working for a few of them.
The video below will walk you through what happened with our once-broken PS4, and then the write-up that follows explains the simple fix, which involved using a pin to fix the bent metal in the port:
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.
UPDATE, 11/15: Since running this post on the eve of the PS4 launch, I've heard from about a dozen people—including a porn star, oddly enough (they're gamers, too!)—about various PS4 woes. Some have already found solutions or gotten Sony to agree to exchange their units.
No one seems to have had the exact problem we had, though a few think they've got HDMI issues. Those issues, which I've now heard about from two more people, match the one from the Taco Bell prize-winner from Reddit, who I linked to above. These folks have PS4s that have their system light turn blue but never white. Their systems seem to be perpetually warming up. At this point, I've not heard of anyone who has had that issue fixed. So, if your PS4 only goes blue and never turns white, consider your problem unsolved.
I heard from one gamer whose system stopped displaying to his TV after he downloaded the 1.50 update. His machine's light went from blue to white. He finally got his system working again by powering his PS4 down, unplugging it from everything for 10 seconds and re-connecting. This person was using an optical audio connection and HDMI for video. He said he'd had similar issues with the PS3 where the system would work fine for a spell and then require this kind of hard reset. Eventually a system update fixed the problem. He's hoping the same thing will happen here. One more detail from him: he says he was using an older 2007 Sharp TV.
One guy's PS4 disc drive sounds like a buzzsaw. I think he needs repairs.
Two people, interestingly, found that their non-Sony HDMI cables were the source of their problems. Cables that worked on other non-Sony electronics failed to connect their PS4s to their TVs. They'd connect but get no signal. They switched to using Sony's HDMI cables and the systems worked.
Several people did ask for a better look at our broken PS4, and some complained that we didn't show the fix. To be clear, we can't show the fix, because we didn't fix the machine. Sony did (and I believe them because the unit they brought back had some similar scratches and was bundled with an HDMI wire that was damaged in the same way that our own HDMI wires had been damaged by the bad unit). We had only possessed the broken PS4 for a short period of time mid-day on Monday. We troubleshooted enough to know that the HDMI connection was a problem. We shot a video to document the difficulty. And we snapped a couple of photos for our records. Here's the clearest one:
While Sony had our unit by Monday afternoon, they didn't get in touch with us about having fixed the unit until Thursday. As soon as they started talking to us on Thursday about bent metal inside the port, the picture we had took on a whole new look. What had initially looked like something was stuck into the left side of the port now looks, if you stare at that left side, like a piece of metal that was bent upward instead of staying flush with the bottom of the port. It's likely that the insertion of an HDMI wire pushed it further up into an obstructing position, preventing the system from making the proper connection to the TV, but it remains a mystery how it started to get bent in the first place. We've never had this issue with other PS4s, PS3s, Xbox 360s, Wii Us, PCs, capture boxes or any other devices, and we plug and unplug stuff every day. I'm sure we'd have diagnosed the bent-metal problem ourselves if we'd held onto the unit longer.
Happily, it still seems like our situation is a fluke. With any luck, others who are having problems will soon find happy resolutions, too. I'll update this post again if new problems or new fixes crop up.