Hand-in-hand with the PlayStation 2’s incredible history, the console has had many variations released. While they all function the same when used normally, for homebrew they have important caveats. Before purchasing a console to play with, it’s important to find the one that closely matches what you need, as my every PS2 is made equal. This what-to-buy guide aims to help guide you in which one you may want.

Original (Fat)

An original PlayStation 2 console with a DualShock 2 controller in front.

  • βœ… Console can be laid vertically or horizontally.
  • βœ… Uses an tray-loaded disc tray.
  • βœ… Supports a 2.5β€³ IDE Hard drive.
  • βœ… Available in black, silver and many other colours.
  • ❌ Bulky design – takes up a lot of room.
  • ❌ Can suffer laser burnout issues.
  • ❌ Requires network adapter for online functionality.

The launch type model of the PS2, and the much loved variant that started the PS2 craze. The console features a tray loaded disc drive, which departs from the top-loading mechanism that was used in the numeric predecessor. These consoles features a horizontal groove-like pattern, with the classic PlayStation logo on the disc drive door. They came in a wide variety of different colours, with the primary colours being black and silver.

The console itself is quite bulky, yet it is still smaller than most DVD players available at the time. This is primarily due to the expansion bay featured at the back. The expansion bay allowed the addition of an ethernet or modem connection, allowing you to go online with your PS2. For few games and advanced purposes, this also allowed the addition of a 3.5 inch hard drive.


A slimline design PlayStation 2 console with a DualShock 2 controller in front

  • βœ… Slimmer design, allows for more flexible placement.
  • βœ… Built-in wired network (Ethernet).
  • βœ… Top-loaded disc drive.
  • ❌ External power supply (bulky brick in-between power cable).
  • ❌ No support for a hard drive.

Sony released later models of the PlayStation 2 with a reshuffled board, allowing for the PS2 to be vastly compacted from the original models. They moved the bulk of the power into a β€˜brick’ in the power cable (similar to a laptop) to reduce some console bulk, and also removed the expansion bay, opting for a built-in ethernet connection. However, the most notable of the changes is the disc tray. Instead of a tray load, they resorted for a top load similar to the PS1. This cuts out the electronic tray mechanisms, reducing space and the chances of mechanical faults.

Issues with Homebrew

Be warned if you wish to proceed down the homebrew route, as there are a couple of caveats. Firstly, with the removal of the hard drive bay means you cannot install a native HDD to the PS2. This means to play games off of a hard drive, you will need to use an external hard drive. The PS2 USB slots are USB1.1, which will unfortunately be slower than running games off their discs. However, using special means you can run games off a network drive, which is faster than a USB drive. This means all is not lost if you wish to go down the slim route.

Also, with the final models of the PS2 released, Sony finally patched FreeMCBoot. This means that when a FreeMCBoot memory card is plugged in, the PS2 will not start the FreeMCBoot exploit. Avoid purchasing any consoles with the code SCPH-9000x, as these are known to contain the hardware patch. These are easily identifiable, as half of the PS2 top shell was shiny, and the tray matte plastic. This differs from regular slim consoles, which had a strip of shiny plastic instead.

Images used are in the Public Domain, featured from Wikipedia.org.