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Sony losing on each PlayStation 3, teardown reveals

Posted: 30 Nov 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Sony? PlayStation 3? teardown? iSupply? Xbox 360?

Sony is taking a considerable loss of more than $240 per unit on each PlayStation 3 video gaming console, according to a "teardown" analysis conducted by market research firm iSuppli Corp.

The combined materials and manufacturing cost of the PS3 is $806 for the model equipped with a 20Gbyte HDD and $840 for the higher end 60Gbyte HDD version, according to a preliminary estimate of expenses by iSuppli's teardown analysis service. This total doesn't include additional costs for elements including the controller, cables and packaging, the firm said.

Sony is offering the PS3s at suggested retail prices of $499 for the 20Gbyte model and $599 for the 60byte model. According to iSuppli's analysis, Sony is taking a loss of roughly $307 on the lower-end model and $241 on the higher end model.

PS3's nearest rival, the HDD-equipped Xbox 360 console form Microsoft Corp., has a manufacturing and materials total of $323, based on an updated estimate using costs in the fourth quarter, iSuppli said. This total is $76 less than the $399 suggested retail price of the Xbox 360, according to the firm.

iSuppli said the size of Sony's loss per unit is "remarkable," even for a gaming console. Given the loss it is taking on each unit, iSuppli said it is no surprise that Sony is steering consumers toward the higher-end model.

iSuppli said its dissection concluded that the PS3 is "an engineering masterpiece," setting a new standard for computing price/performance, even considering that it is more expensive than Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox 360 gaming console.

"With the PlayStation 3, you are getting the performance of a supercomputer at the price of an entry-level PC," said Andrew Rassweiler, teardown services manager and senior analyst for iSuppli.

Rassweiler said the PS3 is so costly to produce mainly because of its "incredible" processing power. "If someone had shown me the PlayStation 3 motherboard from afar without telling me what it was, I would have assumed it was for a network switch or an enterprise server," he said.

Some of the more advanced features of the PS3 design, according to iSuppli, include:

  • Two GPUsthe RSX Reality Synthesizer from Nvidia Corp. and the Emotion Engine & Graphics Synthesizer from Toshiba Corp. Based on these design wins, Nvidia and Toshiba control 12 percent and 11 percent of the total PS3 materials and manufacturing costs respectively, according to iSuppli.

  • The Cell broadband engine from IBM, which serves as the central processing unit of the PS3, providing the equivalent computing power of eight individual microprocessors. The Cell is what endows the PlayStation 3 with its supercomputer-like power, according to Rassweiler. IBM's Cell processor accounts for 11 percent of the PS3 costs, iSuppli said.

  • Four Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd 512Mbit DRAMs that employ high-speed memory interface technology from Rambus Inc. iSuppli said this marks the first use of the advanced XDR DRAM technology that it has detected. Samsung's memory represents 11 percent of PlayStation 3 costs, iSuppli said. Samsung and Elpida Memory Inc. are dual sources for the XDR DRAM, the firm added.

Sony PS3

Sony's PlayStation 3 controller
(Click image to see part-by-part cost estimate)

According to Rassweiler, prior to PS3, iSuppli's teardown analysis team had seen only three chips with 1,200 or more pins in its five-year history. "The PlayStation 3 has three such semiconductors all by itself," Rassweiler said. "There is nothing cheap about the PlayStation 3 design. This is not an adapted PC design. Even beyond the major chips in the PlayStation 3, the other components seem to also be expensive and somewhat exotic."

As an example, Rassweiler cited PS3's inclusion of a power supply that packs 400Wyet uses a very compact, low-profile design. At $37.50, this power supply costs about twice as much as an average unit found in a PC, according to Rassweiler. While many of the major components found in the PlayStation 3 were already known, iSuppli's teardown analysis team reported some surprise part selections that the firm noted could boost the fortunes of their suppliers. According to the firm, these include:

  • International Rectifier Corp., which contributes several power-management devices to the PS3. This gives International Rectifier a 3 percent share of total PS3 materials and manufacturing costs, iSuppli said.

  • Marvell Technology Group Ltd.'s 802.11 b/g module chipset, which provides wireless local area networking capabilities. With this design win, Marvell owns 2 percent of the PS3's costs, according to iSuppli.

  • CSR plc's BlueCore 4 solution, which supports version 2.0 of the Bluetooth wireless standard, plus enhanced data rate technology. This gives CSR a 1 percent share of the PS3 cost, iSuppli said.

  • Spansion Inc, which contributed an 8-Mbit NOR flash memory chip for the PS3's Bluetooth module, and a 16-Mbit NOR flash part for the console's Blu-ray Disc module, according to iSuppli. This gives Spansion ownership of less than 1 percent of the PS3's costs, according to the firm.

Sony's difficulties in getting the PS3 to market, including a pushback of several months on the original timetable announced earlier this year, have been well publicized. As a result, Sony is now delivering less than half the number of units that it originally planned. In Japan, where Sony reportedly delivered fewer than the 100,000 units it had promised, initial PS3 shipments sold out in a matter of hours. In the U.S., consumers camped out overnight to get a good place in line for the midnight release Nov. 18.

Sony recently said it has solved its biggest manufacturing hurdle, the volume production of blue laser diodes.

- Dylan McGrath
EE Times

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