I love my Sony PlayStation 3 — absolutely love it. The PS3 provides everything I've ever wanted in a gaming system, but anybody who has owned one for a moderate length of time knows that it runs hot. Of course, this is true of any high-powered computer product. It is also true that the cooler the product runs, the longer it will last. Now the PS3 does come with a nice cooling system built-in. The ventilation fans even vary their speed depending on the temperature of the unit. However, if you run it long enough you might be faced with a warning message about the system being too hot and needing to be powered down for cooling. To remedy this problem (and possibly extend the life of your PS3), you might want to consider adding some additional cooling — enter the PS3 Intercooler from Nyko.
What's an Intercooler?
The PS3 Intercooler is a fan-based, external cooling product designed to work in conjunction with the PS3's internal system to provide an even lower operating temperature. The Intercooler comes as a two-piece unit — one piece for the back of the PS3 and one piece for the right side (when looking at the PS3 in the horizontal position). The back piece provides 2 medium fans and 2 small fans, and the side piece provides one large fan (for a total of 5 fans). The back piece connects to the PS3 AC IN connector and provides a pass-through port so you can still connect the PS3 power cable. Because of this configuration, the Intercooler does not need an external power supply, which is nice because it saves you from taking up yet another outlet on your home theatre power strip or conditioner. Also, contrary to what some rumors may suggest, the Intercooler does not draw power from the PS3. The Intercooler runs off of the power coming from the PS3 power cable and also passes the power through to the PS3. This is basically the same as plugging in two devices to the same power outlet on your wall, so it does not put any extra burden on the PS3 power supply.
In addition to the 5 fans, the Intercooler provides a variable fan speed adjustment and a power switch relocated to the front of the PS3. The design of the Intercooler is also quite nice as it can be used whether you position your PS3 horizontally or vertically. It also fits the same contours of the PS3, so the look is unobtrusive. The only thing I don't like is the Intercooler logo splashed on the top of the side piece — this takes away somewhat from the cool, sleek look of the console.
Keeping Your (PS3) Cool
The two pieces of the Intercooler are made to snap on to the PS3 console. Installation is fairly simple but it can be a bit tricky because the Intercooler uses small hooks that attach to the ventilation holes. You have to be careful not to break either the hooks or the holes as you press the Intercooler pieces into place. I personally didn't have any trouble in this regard. The back piece goes on first and then the side piece connects to the back piece as it is being attached. Once complete, the Intercooler fits snug against the body of the PS3.
Since the Intercooler covers the AC IN connector and the Main Power switch, the switch is conveniently relocated to the front of the console. Flipping this switch is the same as turning on the Main Power of the PS3, and it also powers up the Intercooler. The PS3 is then in standby mode and ready for you to press the PS button on your controller. This configuration has both an upside and a downside. The downside is that you can no longer just power down the PS3 via the controller. Doing so only puts the PS3 in standby mode and doesn't cut the Main Power. As such, the Intercooler fans will continue to run until you manually flip the power switch. Some may find this a bit annoying, but the upside is that while the PS3 is powered down, the Intercooler can continue to cool the unit. For me this isn't much of a problem since I power my whole theatre system down all the time so as not to waste electricity with all kinds of components staying in standby mode.
You can also adjust the speed of the Intercooler fans by rotating the knob on the front of the console. This is my main gripe with the Intercooler. While you can adjust the fan speed, even the lowest setting makes a lot of noise. Yes, the Intercooler is quite loud. However, I did test it in a variety of situations and really the only time the noise becomes a nuisance is when watching the quiet scenes of a movie. Movies with a lot of action don't pose a problem, and most games have constant background music and/or ambient sounds so the Intercooler is less noticeable. I usually run the Intercooler at the lowest setting and then put it on high after I power down the PS3 for quick cooling.
So, do you really need an Intercooler for your PS3? Some people say yes and others say no, but it really depends on your needs and your situation as to how you use your PS3. If you put your PS3 through some heavy use, then additional cooling is probably a good idea. It will keep you from getting warning messages and will probably prolong the life of the console. In addition, if you keep your PS3 cooped up inside a component case, you'll definitely need some extra cooling. On the other hand, if you only use your PS3 on occasion (for short periods at time) and you keep it out in the open so that it is well ventilated, the built-in cooling will probably suffice. For me, I keep my PS3 out in the open, but I also use it quite a bit (both for gameplay and Blu-ray movies) so I don't mind putting up with some extra noise. Although, it would be nice if the Intercooler could be turned off while the PS3 remains on during those times where you don't really need the extra cooling. I like having choices. But the Intercooler is a good product and it does what it is designed to do — it provides the extra cooling needed during those times when you're into some major gameplay and you don't want to be interrupted when the PS3 gets a little too hot under the hood.
[Review Update: After a few months of use, one of the small fans in the back of the Intercooler started making a really loud noise. It could have been the bearings or even the fan itself, but suffice to say I have since removed the Intercooler from my PS3 and I'm actually happier without it. I no longer have put up with the excess noise and my PS3 is running just fine. One important fact, however, is that I'm still keeping my PS3 out in the open and very well ventilated.]