Playstation 3 - PS3 - Review

It’s black, it’s shiny, it’s a dust magnet and it is a console gaming system that offers so much more than merely the ability to play the state-of-the-art games.

Sony’s catchphrase for the PlayStation 3 is PLAY B3YOND (aka Beyond) – and what the PS3 offers is a device that is capable of playing the latest PS 1080p games, surfing the Web, play blu-ray videos and so much more.

But first things first …

The local phone company tech showed up at the door to install DSL. Cool. Problem was the wireless modem was connected to the wall outlet upstairs and the PS3 was in the master bedroom (hooked up to the HDTV) downstairs. Look in the manual … Select Network Settings … Select Internet Connection Settings … Select “Wireless” and then press the X button. A firmware download later, the machine was surfing the Web, using a Logitech USB keyboard.

There were a couple of retail games included in the box – Genji: Days of the Blade and Resistance: Fall of Man. Genji was tried – nope, need to upgrade the firmware to the next iteration (from 1.00 to 1.02). Again, not a problem. Resistance comes packaged with the firmware upgrade and other games down the line will do the same thing (think PC and getting the latest iteration of DirectX with the game).

Sony ushers in its version of the next-gen console system with the launch of the PS3 on November 17. Pre-sales indicate the machine will sell out. The first 500,000 units shipped carried the blu-ray release of Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby. Sony wants those who buy the console to see what blu-ray can do. Words don’t do a blu-ray justice. It could be mentioned that blu-ray disks hold much more information than DVDs (DVDs can hold nine gigs of information while blu-ray disks can hold 50 gigs), and in the case of movies come the closest yet to a visual experience that is amazing. Imagine all that on a disk.

What’s in the box …

The PS3 comes in two models, the lower-priced ($499) 20-gigabyte hard drive and the ($599) 60-gig hard drive. There are differences, aside from the hard-drive size between the two.

The 60-gig machine uses a Cell Broadband Engine and the main memory is 256-meg XDR RAM with 256-megs of GDDR3 VRAM. The hard drive is a 2.5” Serial ATA and the main input/output devices include a memory stick, SD and CompactFlash disks as well as four USB 2.0 ports. The 20-gig machine only has the USB ports, not the other input/output device ports. The hard drive size and the input/output configurations are the differences between the two machines.

The machine will support screen sizes of 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i and 1080p with the ability to connect either through HDMI cables (not included) or the composite analog cables (5 connections – three for video and two audio channels). Both machines have the digital audio capabilities and the Blu-ray/DVD/CD (read-only) disc drives.

Blu-ray and Cell Broadband Engine …

The Cell Broadband Engine was developed by IBM, Sony and Toshiba and is purported to deliver up to 10 times the processing speed of a typical home computer. The hype on the engine states that developers should be able to start approximating actual intelligence in games, rather than artificial intelligence, meaning the enemies should get a lot smarter. The engine is capable of performing 200 billion calculations per second and has a clock speed of 3.2 GHz.

The blu-ray disc offers next-gen media capabilities that can render high-definition graphical power to a receiver that is also HD. It can support 1080p, which is 1,080 lines of progressive scan – the highest resolution available. Blu-ray discs can carry more than five times the amount of data of a DVD. DVDs can hold up to 9 gigs of information but the blu-ray disc can hold 50 gigs – which translates, in gaming terms, into titles that will be much bigger in terms of detail or game scope. Blu-ray also supports 7.1 surround sound.

Sixaxis controller … 

No more forced feedback from the controller – that has been replaced by gyroscopes in the peripheral that will enable players (if supported by the game) to use controller movement to affect the game. Let’s face it – we have all tried to take corners in a racing game by tilting the controller in the direction we wanted to turn. With the sixaxis controller, that will be possible. Menus will be able to be accessed by tilting the controller, or flight controls will rely on the angle that the controller is at. In every other way, this is the PS control device. However, only one sixaxis controller comes in the box.

PlayStation Network …

Signing up is fast and free. You can connect to the Internet via the CAT5 port or the wireless network card. Each account is broken into two parts – the Master account and the secondary account. On the network you can download demos, keep track of a friends, send messages, and chart game progress. There is an option to input billing information (credit card) so that you can buy games and such through the network and load them onto the hard drive of the machine.

Using the machine …

The PS3 has a crossbar menu on the boot screen. This is exactly the same as the PSP. You can store video, audio, downloads, browse the Internet, message friends, access the PlayStation store (where there are free downloads and downloads you would pay for as well), or launch a movie or game.

The disc simply slides into the front of the machine, a la a CD player in your car, and the buttons to eject it, or turn off the machine take only a whisper of a touch. Using the controller, which has a lithium battery in it and once charged can go wireless, the PS3 owner can quit the game by pressing the PS logo, holding it down and waiting for the prompts. The power supply is built into the casing, and while I puts out some heat, it does not feel as hot as the 360 external power supply.

Navigating the crossbar menus is a breeze and hooking up the PlayStation Network is also easy.

Anticipations and expectations ran high for the next-generation console systems and Sony has delivered. This machine is amazing.

Review Scoring Details for PlayStation 3

Pros:
Blu-ray, Cell Broadband, storage, Web access, sixaxis controller and high-def graphical output all add up to a machine that is delicious to look at and delightful to play on, or just to watch movies on. The machine is easy to use, but the cover is a dust magnet and will need to be tended to (wait, isn’t that a ‘con?’ Nope, the sleek machine design is a definite ‘pro.’)

Cons:
There is a marked difference in storage and input/output between the 20-gig and 60-gig machine. Everything else is the same, but with only a price point difference of $100, it seems silly to not buy the bigger machine. Clever marketing is not entirely too friendly in asking consumers to cough up that extra $100 for more machine. Sony did tout this as backward compatible with all PSOne and PS2 titles, but – while not confirmed – there does seem to be some titles that will not run on the machine.

Verdict: 9.7
The games, both as launch titles and those coming in the next few months, will be amazing and will take console gaming into the next generation. The controls are easily accessed and used – both on the PS sixaxis controller and the crossbar navigational system. This machine has so much that using it merely as a gaming device seems rather silly. No, it won’t be a primary Web surfing tool (and it is recommended you get a USB keyboard for that anyway) but the PlayStation Network is a definite bonus. Blu-ray provides wondrous graphical output and the machine does play CDs as well as old PS titles (maybe not all, but still the majority). With online downloads, or games with the latest firmware support, this is a machine built to play, to use with entertainment media and to go online with.  

Go ahead, spend the extra $100 for the bigger machine, you may be glad you did so – especially if you plan to store photos and such on the machine. About the only thing that would have made this better would be a R/W disc.  

Sony has said that this is the foundation for the next 10 years. Maybe it is, maybe technology will outgrow it sooner, but one thing is certain – this machine fits today’s entertainment needs wonderfully.

 

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