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PlayStation (Games) Sony Games

The PS3's "Yellow Light of Death" 292

Xest writes "More and more reports are appearing about PlayStation 3 consoles failing in a similar way to the earlier models of the Xbox 360, except for Sony, it's the 'Yellow Light of Death.' The BBC has an interesting article which suggests the problem could be almost identical to that which caused the Red Ring of Death — poor soldering connections. From the article: 'Several of those businesses have told Watchdog that the vast majority of consoles they see with the "yellow light of death" can be repaired by heating up specific parts of the circuit board. This process is called solder re-flow. By heating the connections between the components and the circuit board to temperatures in excess of 200 Celsius, the metal solder joints melt, just like they did when the device was first assembled. Console repairers say that this process method is commonly used to repair fractured connections, or dry joints.' But that's not the only rule from Microsoft's playbook Sony has been following; while they have admitted 12,500 out of 2.5 million systems have failed (a convenient 0.5%), they refuse to release full figures of failure rates, citing them as being 'commercially sensitive.' Unfortunately, Sony does not appear to be following Microsoft's lead with regard to an extended warranty, stating that if a PS3 fails after 12 months, it is not their problem. In the UK at least, the Sale of Goods Act would disagree with that statement."
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The PS3's "Yellow Light of Death"

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  • by Narcocide ( 102829 ) on Friday September 18, 2009 @10:19PM (#29473635) Homepage

    Hmm. You're right there does not seem to be comparatively very many people out there complaining about dead Wii consoles. I wonder why that is...

  • by Swanktastic ( 109747 ) on Friday September 18, 2009 @10:33PM (#29473683)

    [Apologies in advance to Wii fans]

    It's because most people play Wii Sports for a week, put it on the shelf, and never touch it again...

  • RoHS strikes again (Score:5, Insightful)

    by russotto ( 537200 ) on Friday September 18, 2009 @10:41PM (#29473719) Journal
    Ahh, lead-free solder... is there any problem you can't cause. (Aside from lead poisoning, anyway)
  • by fredc97 ( 963879 ) on Friday September 18, 2009 @10:46PM (#29473737)

    It should only be fair to note that Sony might not be handling most YLOD repairs since they charge more than many third parties that reflow the PS3 and also Sony will only provide refurbished console which will force the customer to redownload most content (because of the strong DRM that is used).

    So even if 0.5% is quite small, that number is what Sony actually gets to repair/refurb, so it should be viewed as a sample of the actual problem.

    It would seem that the oldest launch PS3 is most affected by the problem, yet since its price was very high at the time (notwithstanding its actual manufacturing costs) it only seems unfair to customers that Microsoft would extent its warranty and yet Sony would claim it's such a small problem that it's a customer issue not a manufacturing problem and thus not act on it and show some good will.

    A 10 year lifespan on current gen consoles is quickly becoming a farce in light (yellow?) of this...

  • by Rainbird98 ( 186939 ) on Friday September 18, 2009 @10:48PM (#29473749)

    You beat me to it! This is absolutely the problem and not just for the PS3. This lead-free solder problem as plagued most manufactures of electronics.

  • Xbox 360 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Idiomatick ( 976696 ) on Friday September 18, 2009 @11:02PM (#29473811)
    The comparison is a little unwarranted... Xbox's failure rate was around 16.5%~33%. Having systems fail isn't a problem.... infact .5% is nicely below the industry standards. It is when you can get 5broken ones in a row that it becomes a problem...
  • by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Friday September 18, 2009 @11:06PM (#29473825) Homepage

    Everything wears out - shoes, clothes, cars .... and consoles.

    Similarly these rings of death ... is it really supposed to last for years if you give the power connector a hard pull three or four times a day or pile so much junk on top of it that it overheats?

  • RoHS fault (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dorsai65 ( 804760 ) <> on Friday September 18, 2009 @11:14PM (#29473847) Homepage Journal
    I suspect this is just another case of RoHS coming back to bite the electronics industry on the butt. I've used a number of the various lead-free solders, and it's bloody difficult to get a decent solder connection with them -- and even if you do, they still seem to get brittle/cold after some period of time. Too, there's the likelihood that the Chinese manufacturers cut a few corners to increase their profit margins, exacerbating the problem.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 18, 2009 @11:29PM (#29473897)

    [Apologies in advance to Wii fans]

    It's because most people play Wii Sports for a week, put it on the shelf, and never touch it again...

    It's true! I haven't played Wii Sports in a long time. There are so many other fun games out on the Wii now that I'm too busy playing them...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 18, 2009 @11:33PM (#29473907)

    There is no problem.

    This is a concerted smear campaign by Microsoft to try to neutralize their broken console hardware. The scumbag behind these lies is Iian Lee. He is Microsoft contractor using the BBC program as part of a Microsoft PR effort to smear Sony and the PS3.

    Fucking pieces of shit Microsoft employees. Can't get a decent product out the door so they try to trash a competitors.

    Part of a wider campaign where suddenly when the RRoD fiasco started becoming public claimed to have had '5 PS2s die on them' and that their 'launch 360 is still running'.

    And Xbox fans are constantly crying why the gaming world hates Microsoft, the Xbox, and its fans.

  • by Merls the Sneaky ( 1031058 ) on Friday September 18, 2009 @11:50PM (#29473999)

    Bullshit the time to pull that play way over twelve months ago. You Sony fanboys will say anything.

  • by _xeno_ ( 155264 ) on Friday September 18, 2009 @11:54PM (#29474021) Homepage Journal

    I had to ship mine back to Nintendo twice. Does that count?

    Of course, in my case, the console still worked. It just had graphical glitches over the screen that made some parts of some games nearly impossible to play through.

    And I got a really nice letter of apology from Nintendo about needing a second repair.

    So, now we just need another anecdote and we'll have data, right? :)

  • by Fallen Kell ( 165468 ) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @12:31AM (#29474183)
    I agree. We see it with any and all high thermal density chips. The old leaded solder was a much better product in terms of operating lifespan and conditions. The only problem was that there was no required recycling of products which used it. If that was the case, there would have been no problem with it at all since the lead itself was trapped in the medium and not able to be absorbed by humans or animals who were in contact with it in that form. It was only after it was sitting in a landfill with rainwater running down it when the lead would leech out and contaminate the local ground water supply. Again, nothing that mandatory electronics recycling would not fix. Heck, it would probably be worth it to for the amount of copper interconnected contained on the circuit boards would probably pay for the cost of recycling to begin with (especially the way the prices on copper have been going).
  • Re:Affected Models (Score:2, Insightful)

    by badasscat ( 563442 ) <basscadet75@y a h o o . com> on Saturday September 19, 2009 @12:38AM (#29474233)

    I can confirm personally that the North American launch model is also affected by the YLOD issue, as I had my PS3 reflowed a month ago to cure its YLOD.

    No, you can confirm that your own personal PS3 broke. That's it. You cannot confirm that there's some systemic problem with launch US PS3's.

    I also have a launch PS3 and it's fine. Does that mean I can "confirm" that there's no YLOD problem with US PS3's?

  • by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @04:11AM (#29474981) Homepage Journal

    In my experience, Sony = Sucks to Own Next Year.... :-)

    I stopped buying Sony products about five years ago because of a long series of bizarre product problems, including products that took multiple repairs before they worked, products that never really worked well, etc. About the only product I've ever gotten from them that wasn't a train wreck was my Sony Ericsson phone, and even that was pretty clumsy, had a bizarre screen distortion if you kept it in your pocket, and had a joystick that didn't work reliably after a couple of years. And good luck finding a usable case for those lollipop-style phones.... Grrr.

  • by Yvan256 ( 722131 ) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @09:11AM (#29475937) Homepage Journal

    And since when are Playstations American products?

  • by parasonic ( 699907 ) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @09:16AM (#29475951)
    Sony does tend to have that "sucks to own next year" thing going on (as does Toshiba), but there are manufacturing problems all across the board. And the biggest one?


    Electronics have been soldered together for close to a hundred years with leaded solder. Then, the Europeans decided that it would be a really good idea to just pull the lead out of everything. Good move.

    What can you replace the lead with? That's a really tough question, and companies have been trying to figure this out in the aftermath. You can't just throw silver or copper into the mix and expect everything to be the same. It ends up that when you do, the solder has a significantly higher melting point (i.e. ever tried desoldering RoHS process solder?) and is incredibly brittle. Where lead would stretch or distort, RoHS solder snaps. And here is your problem.

    With IC package miniaturization, consumer electronics now use chip packages without leads. Cellular phones, portable devices, video cards, and many more now use BGA packages, where there are hundreds of balls of solder on the underside of the chip. Each ball has very little mechanical stability as the balls are so small. When the chip's CTE is not exactly matched to the board's CTE, one expands (or contracts) more quickly than the other, and BAM! you have a cold solder joint.

    So in the end, what is worse for the environment? Throwing away a Sony product and buying another every year rather than three? Or dumping/recycling the product after three?

    RoHS: Planned Obsolescence
  • Yeah, well that's just one person's experience, yours, so take this with a grain of salt.

    Here's another person's experience: Mine.

    I purchased my first PS3 off of E-bay, back when they were rather spendy and hard to find (right after they first came out). The unit failed after 14 months or so. I called Sony and informed them of the failure, and they asked me how long it had been since I purchased the PS3, where I had purchased it from, and if I had a receipt. And at this point I thought I was screwed.

    I told them I bought it "about a year ago" which was not a lie, I wasn't exactly sure at the moment. I told them I got it from E-Bay and that I didn't have an original receipt.

    You would think they would have refused me, and offered no help.

    Instead, they sent me a free-shipping box for the old unit, and a new unit free of charge, and asked me to retain my receipts in the future.

    Lo and behold, the new unit failed immediately upon trying to run System Update. I called Sony, informed them of what happened, and they again sent me a free-shipping box, and sent me a new unit free of charge.

    Again, this is just one person's experience. Mine. And as an aside, I've found that it doesn't matter which company I am dealing with, if I am not a jerk to the service rep on the phone, and actually ask them how their day is going and have a genuine conversation with them, instead of just demanding that they fix my problem, I get a LOT further towards a solution. You can talk all the shit you want about a company, you can claim that it shouldn't matter what my attitude is on the phone, but then you can also expect to get a lot lower level of service from people. Despite the fact that you're dealing with a big corporation you are also, at the most basic level, dealing with another human being.

    The procedures and policies a company has for customer service are just your baseline. If you are cordial, polite and genuine with them, you'll find that the baseline at times can be far exceeded.

  • by X0563511 ( 793323 ) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @03:47PM (#29478143) Homepage Journal

    Speaking as someone who has performed that role... you are absolutely correct. Being a decent human being will carry you far.

Do not underestimate the value of print statements for debugging.