A bad batch of PlayStation 3 machines captured in the wild

Even though PlayStation 3 consoles have been on the market barely six months, reliability data thus far has been quite good, especially when compared to the competition. Early reports of overheating demo-box consoles were found to be a non-issue with typical gamer setups in homes. In fact, some users have reported no problems running their PS3s for over a week, non-stop with the Cell processor-stressing Folding@home.

However, some new owners of PlayStation 3 are complaining that a recent batch of 60GB consoles is exhibiting a high-pitched “whine” noise (.wav audio file available here).

“I first purchased a system 2 days ago and noticed that there was a high pitched whine coming from the system,” wrote OptimusRhyme on the official forums. “It wasn't from any cable as sound was definitely coming from the hardware itself.

“Thinking it was just a defective unit, I returned it and got another one. Once that one was all setup, the exact same thing happened, so yesterday I returned that system to get a third unit thinking maybe the other two were part of a bad batch. Unfortunately for me, the third one is making the exact same noise.”

More new owners of PS3s joined the discussion to report similar experiences with their new consoles. Some report that the whine noise comes only when the console is running Folding@home, while others say that the sound is constant, whether the machine is idle, playing a game or watching a movie.

“I have the exact same issue and I'm on my second unit,” replied Ironlung17 to the thread. “I could stand the noise but not my wife, [we] tried to watch Casino Royale and it was annoying from 10 feet [away from the PS3].”

“My system does the exact same thing.  Even without a disk, even when it's not connected to a TV or stereo, it still makes the sound.  I can hear it from like 5 metres away and it's very annoying,” also wrote Batmaniac. “The system itself remains extremely quiet until about five minutes of being on, at which point it becomes very hot and the noise occurs.”

The poster continues, “EB Games wouldn't let me exchange it for a new one, not even the day after I bought it ... I then proceeded to call Sony and tell them of the situation, I sent it in to be repaired and they sent it back to me saying that nothing was wrong with it.”

Participants of the forum thread eventually narrowed the “whining” PlayStation 3 consoles down to a specific batch by serial number, mostly sold by EB Games in Canada. Those who have had noisy machines report serial numbers in the CE133190xxx and CE133212xxx series manufactured in January 2007.

PS3 owners who have been able to exchange consoles report that the high-pitched noise does not exist outside the identified serial ranges. “After a day of use, it appears to be running fine,” said OptimusRhyme, after purchasing a new PS3 from Future Shop. “I'm going to say that yes, I have a fully working system finally.”

Calls to Sony PlayStation tech support found no one aware of the problem, though through the collaboration of PlayStation forum users, the issue appears to be isolated only to a small batch from a recent production run.

"This is about the Internet.  Everything on the Internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue. If they can't deal with the Internet, they should shut it off." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis
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