Archive for the ‘Playstation 3’ Category

By now you’ve read about Warner Bros. Entertainment announcement to drop HD DVD and focus on Blu-ray, a Sony Corp. backed technology vs. rival Toshiba.  Warner was the last major studio to put out movies in both formats and after May they will exclusively release on Blu-ray. 

The announcement by Warner rattled the industry nerves to the point that the N.A. HD DVD Promotional Group (which included Intel and Microsoft) canceled a major media event.  Who would blame them?   It’s not the kind of exciting news for what’s to come in 2008! 

I predicted Sony would not allow the “Betamax” struggle to repeat and that Blu-ray would prevail (HERE).  No need to bore you with the technology advantages of each format.  Ironically HD DVD has better interactivity today than Blu-ray, but that will evolve with BD Live.  I also observed evidence of a move of desperation during the holiday season when Toshiba HD DVD players flooded the market at $179.99.  Then Sony countered and jumped on the price discounting wagon with their BDP-S300 (entry level player) at Costco for $278.99 after a $100 rebate.  A $100 premium and never mind it didn’t support 7.1 audio. 

So what will Microsoft do now?  Speaking to Reuters, Albert Penello, group marketing manager for Xbox hardware, said in response to a question about Microsoft possibly supporting a Blu-ray accessory if HD DVD failed that they would consider it.  According to Engadget during holiday ’07 consumers purchased 92K HD DVD players for the xBox 360.   I believe Microsoft really wants the market to shift to digital download (aligns with xBox 360 content download service and their xBox 360 IPTV directions) and the format war was likely viewed as a gift which stalled adoption, create consumer confusion while digital download services improve. 

What is really important to most consumers is that the Warner announcement translates to the release of more movies which we want to watch (rent/buy) in stunning hi-def.  Now that the format battle is over I can plan on the Blu-ray release of Lord of the Rings (LOTR).  New Line (parent Time-Warner) will make this happen in ’08. 

And if all this wasn’t enough good news for the week, Sony demoed at CES the “next generation” of portable cinema viewing.  Samples of Blu-ray movies were successfully copied from a PlayStation 3 Blu-ray drive to a PlayStation Portable’s memory stick, as part of Sony’s new web-oriented service/approach to interactivity and play anywhere portability known as BD Live.  Other abilities include ring tone downloading and other media content to a BD Live media player.  One issue is that current Blu-ray players in the market (including the PS3) do not support BD-Live, but Sony confirmed the PS3 firmware update will be rolling out as early as this month to incorporate BD-Live playback into the system.

Now if Universal and Paramount can see that it makes sense (or is that $cents) to move to Blu-ray we’d be all set for a great hi-def year!

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The Playstation 3 pulled down Sony profits in fiscal 2007 with a loss of $1.97B for the game units $8.6B in revenues. Sony stated they sold 5.5 million PS3 through March 31, 2007 and 13.2M software units. I’m not predicting doom and gloom as the PS3 was designed to last multiple years and they knew the first year would have losses — maybe not as high — but Sony is behind in the console market, a market they dominated as the #1 position.

However, this isn’t about finance — it’s about the free firmware update — something for nothing. I downloaded over the weekend the latest PS3 firmware update (Version 1.80) which provides DVD Upscaling**, Remote Play on PSP (PlayStation Portable) via the internet and DLNA transfer of media content that is also enabled.

The DVD movies are upscaled to full 1080p HD resolution if you have a compatible HDTV set. The capability to upscale DVDs to HD quality is a feature normally only associated with top range DVD players, and the latest firmware upgrade now allows enhanced viewing pleasure from my DVD collection.

The firmware (V1.80) update also allows me to enjoy Remote Play on my PSP across the internet, allowing it to access my PS3 anywhere in the world where a broadband internet connection is available. The update allows me, on a home network, to view and play rich media content such as images, music and video on my PS3, that is stored on any DLNA enabled devices such as my media hub PC and/or laptops elsewhere in the house. All of this reinforce Sony/PS3’s credentials as a home entertainment hub that deserves pride of place in the Living Room. There are a host of other enhancements included in the update like the ability to print photo images stored on PS3’s hard disk or inserted storage media to a selection of Epson printers.

I’ve become somewhat of a zombie on updates. Always for bug fixes or plugging security holes. The V1.80 firmware update is dramatic and add’s great features.

What a novel idea…

**Upscaling: is a feature that can be used to enable content recorded in SD resolution (480p/480i) to be displayed in HD resolution (1080p/1080i/720p).

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When Nintendo® announced it opened up Internet access on the new Wii™, the people lucky enough to get the popular video game console got an unexpected gift free“frii” – a simple new way to enjoy all of the digital entertainment on their home PC directly on their living room TV screen using Orb Networks™ software as the bridge.

Orb’s frii software allows you to enjoy all digital media from your home PC as well as online videos from the growing source of Internet TV and content sites on any other networked device with an internet browser – be it other PCs, lap tops, PDAs or mobile phones with streaming players – and now TV with the Wii. Also available for the PLAYSTATION®3.

Offering web browsing and internet connectivity on game consoles is simple and easy. And consumers want the freedom to surf the Web while sitting on their sofas. People can get any digital content on their home PC, be it videos, music, TV, photos, whatever they want, and watch it on their TV screen without limitations or additional fees, which is what Orb Networks promises and the Wii console deliver.

Let’s add this up. A Wii for $249, a frii Opera web browser, and frii Orb software. Isn’t that the cost of the Mediabolic DMA (Digital Media Adapter)? Stop the presses! Mediabolic was just acquired by Macrovision. I’m sure we’ll read how Mediabolic extends Macrovision’s capabilities in the delivery and enhancement of digital content blah, blah, blah. Bottom line is it’s ISS (It’s Simplicity Stupid!) – Simplicity is what consumers are looking for. Within 24 hours of Nintendo’s announcement, an avid fan had posted a tutorial on how to use Orb with Wii on YouTube, which thousands have already viewed at YouTube.

The net-net, is Nintendo has opened the door for millions of gamers to see the power of what the Internet can offer in terms of media freedom, choices and access: Sony will follow suit, and the content providers and programmers will take notice.

Did Intel® Viiv™ just became a bit less relevant?  Is it relegated to a museum in a celebration of fascinating devices that don’t work? Watch and be amazed by the Wii!

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The Playstation®3 (PS3) became available in North America on November 17, 2006. Lots of hype and marketing buzz led up to the launch. Unfortunately PS3’s were being sold on eBay for more than $2300 and reports of violence surrounding the release include a customer shot, campers robbed at gunpoint and the fatal police shooting of a college student suspected of stealing video game consoles in Raleigh, NC. In California, two GameStop employees fabricated a robbery to cover up their own theft of several PS3 and four Xbox 360 consoles. All this put a rather negative spin on what would normally be a positive launch.

Sony’s game unit is expecting a $1.7 billion loss this fiscal year with an estimated loss of $250 for every PS3 sold. I help contribute to their “loss” and was fortunate to obtain a system three days before Christmas. Fry’s lowered their 7 game bundled requirement to ‘only’ 3 games so, I dug deep into my savings and walked out (admittedly a bit nervous thru the parking lot) with a black lacquer shiny object.

Before I detail how I’ve been riding the XBox pony for a long while and decided to switch to a PS3 vs. upgrade to the XBox360 let’s review some of the technology.

The basic configuration of the PS3 console has a 20 GB internal hard drive. The “premium” version comes with an internal 60 GB 2.5″ Serial ATA hard drive, IEEE 802.11b/g Wi-Fi connectivity, multiple flash memory card readers (SD, CompactFlash, Memory Stick), and features a chrome-colored trim.

Cell Broadband Engine™:
The heart of the console is the multicore Cell Broadband Engine™ (CBE) architecture. Dr. H. Peter Hofstee is the chief architect of the Cell Synergistic Processor, and Cell chief scientist at the Austin STI (Sony -Toshiba – IBM) design center. It’s a new processor architecture which extends the IBM 64-bit Power Architecture™ technology. The multicore CPU with 8 SPU (Synergistic Processor Units) were launched November 9, 2005.

Blu-Ray Disc™ (BD):
Included is the next-generation media format player that delivers high-definition resolution at 1080p. Previous blog on HD-DVD vs. Blu-Ray here.

Online Connectivity:
Always on connectivity with the gigabit networking to the internet to access communication features and play on line games. The PlayStation Network, is a response to Microsoft’s very successful Xbox Live network. Sony provides a unified online service for the PS3 console and the service is always connected, free and includes multiplayer support. However, developers are permitted and will charge a subscription fee.

The PS3 SIXAXIS sensing system allows users to maneuver the controller as an extension of your body. It has finer analogue sensitivity, more trigger-like R2 and L2 buttons, a PS button, and a USB mini-B port for charging the internal battery and use for wired play. The PS3 supports up to 4 simultaneous controllers over Bluetooth. The SIXAXIS is named for its ability to detect motion in the full six degrees.

Media Connectivity:
HDMI connector for highest resolution via a single cable. If you have an older HDTV, i.e. one that doesn’t support 720p resolution, prepare to be disappointed. The PS3 will down-rev your video to 480p, not up-rev it to 1080i. HDMI and DVI have the same video signal, so if you have a DVI port on your TV you lucked out! (Audio must be handled separately though.) Simply adapting from an HDMI port to a DVI port does the trick. You can use a HDMI to DVI adapters from Gefen.

User Interface:
The system includes a user interface called XMB™ (XrossMediaBar). The horizontal row shows system features in categories, and the vertical column shows items that can be performed under each category. The main screen for XMB is called the “home menu”.

Contents and Install:

Most new owners will fire up the console without looking at the manual–and they probably won’t run into any trouble. It’s easy to hook up, even if you do some tech reading before.

Once turned on, the PS3 will ask you to choose a language and a time zone, and set the time/date. You then create a user account, sign in, and are presented with the Xross Media Bar (XMB) navigation interface, which looks similar to the PlayStation Portable (PSP) handheld.

The first order of biz was to properly configure the high-definition output. I did this by navigating to the video settings and changing the unit’s output to 1080p over HDMI. The difference was incredible. I attached the audio connections via an option fiber-optic cable, and set the PS3 to send audio over that route (while still transmitting video via HDMI). The result: Easy setup and great sound.

I wanted to view what the Playstation Network had to offer so I signed in with my user account and surfed thru some offerings.

In the PS3’s system settings, I noticed that my new unit’s hard disk had approx 52GB of its 60GB total available, and that the operating system was version 1.00. The first game I loaded–NBA 07–included the 1.02 system update and installed it before I could begin playing. Though the installation took only a few minutes, having to wait at all was a little frustrating. The PS3 manual says that some games have their required updates built-in to help you avoid having to patch via the Internet.

The default background color changes depending on the current month of the year. Mine went from blue to silver (black & white) after I updated the system software. This confused me for a good while until I dived deeper in the book.

Bonus Features:
Bluetooth: My blackberry bluetooth enable head phone/set works with PS3, and very well I might add for a solid gaming experience.

Why PS3 vs. Xbox 360
1. Noise – The PS3 runs much more quietly than the Xbox 360. The PS3 unit itself doesn’t get hot and lock up like large number of users continue to report on the 360. Sure you can buy another fan base, but then the air around it tends to warm the family room after a few hours of continuous play.

2. Blu-Ray Disc Player – Included and it upgrades my media experience. If you price an Xbox 360 with the $199 HD-DVD then you are with-in $25 of PS3 and the Xbox 360 only does 1080i not “P”. I’m told there is a firmware update that does support “p”. Even if you pay for the remote (the Xbox 360 comes with one) to make the PS3 the entertainment-centric package it’s claiming to be, you’ll be spending a total of $525 or $625, depending upon which version of the player you get. That’s far less than you’d pay if you bought a dedicated Blu-ray Disc player today; they range in price from $899 for the Philips BDP9000 to $1500 for the soon to release Pioneer Elite BDP-HD1

3. Supports AAC (iTunes default). The PS3 can play music CDs, access song information from AMG (the All Music Guide) and copy/rip songs to its hard disk. By default, it does it in AAC format at 128 kbps, but you can create MP3 and ATRAC files if you prefer. I’m not sure about WMA, but I don’t rip my music in this format since I’m running iPod’s.

4. HDMI-output, gigabit networking, and built-in Bluetooth 2.0 support.

Pesky Issues:
You are forced to select Audio output through the HDMI connector, Component cables or the fiber-optic audio port. I don’t always like to power my home theater amp and associated surround speakers and will play a game just on the HDTV speakers. No option to do this now and I’m required to power up the amp for audio.

Unlike the DualShock, the PS3 controller has no force feedback (rumble) support in controller. I like this feature during game play and hope they update the controller.

Parting Shots:
The PS3 at first glance seems like an expensive box, but less so when you compare its cost to the cost of a stand-alone Blu-ray player, a high-end PC graphics card, the Xbox 360 with its HD-DVD add-on, or even a Media Center PC.

The PS3 was worth the wait! And don’t sit too close to your HDTV when playing… I tried it and felt sick!

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There is a format battle brewing between the video-disc players and with no clear winner consumers are going to walk out of stores confused this holiday season and not buy anything.

This past weekend I stood in front of a 50 inch Pioneer Elite plasma, toggling between two 1080P stunning video’s with the absolute best and brilliant image quality offered from a video disc player. One is known as Blu-ray and the other HD-DVD. Before I explain how I walked out of the store dazed and confused about how an industry is doing a re-do (or is that Deja Voodoo?) of previous VHS/Betamax format mistakes…let’s back up some and cover a bit of the technical details.

Blu-ray and HD-DVD are new types of optical discs that provide better image and sound quality than standard DVDs. The discs are read by a tiny blue laser at a shorter wavelength than standard DVDs, which means more digital information can fit onto a single disc. The players retail cost is between $800-$1000.

Traditional DVD format manages a resolution of 720 x 480, for a total of 345,600 pixels. Blu-ray Discs for example can pack in a head spinning sum of 2,073,600 pixels for content recorded in 1920 x 1080 resolution. In case you don’t have a calculator handy, I’ll add it up for you: Blu-ray Discs are capable of six times the resolution of standard DVDs. Blu-ray’s higher bit rate also outshines regular DVDs at 10 Mbps and HDTV broadcasts at 19 Mbps.

Blu-ray Stats:

  • Storage capacity: 25 GB (single-layer); 50 GB (dual-layer)
  • Data xFer Rate: 54 million (bits per second)
  • Industry Backers: Sony, Dell, Disney, Fox, Panasonic, LG, Phillips, Apple, MGM, Columbia Tri-Star, Miramax, ESPN, Touchstone, Pioneer, Samsung, Sharp, TDK, Thomson
  • Console Support: Sony Playstation 3
  • PC Support: Apple
  • Security: Mandatory HDCP encrypted output, ROM-Mark watermarking technology, BD dynamic crypto (physical layer) and Advanced Access Content System (AACS)
  • HD-DVD Stats:

  • Storage capacity: 15 GB (single-layer); 30 GB (dual-layer)
  • Data xFer Rate: 36.5 million (bits per second)
  • Industry Backers: Toshiba, NEC, Microsoft, Intel, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros., HBO, New Line Cinema, Sanyo
  • Console Support: Microsoft xBox 360
  • PC Support: Intel
  • Security: Mandatory HDCP encrypted output (for HD), Volume identifier (physical layer), Advanced Access Content System (AACS)
  • The Consumer Electronics Association lowered (twice) their U.S. projected adoption rate for players this year from their hopeful robust holiday season of 600K units to only 200K units. These numbers don’t include video game consoles.

    Speaking of gaming consoles, Sony expects to ship 2 million PlayStation 3’s (Blu-ray) by year end which is behind the 10 million shipments of Microsoft Xbox 360, however, very few Xbox 360 (1080i) units were shipped with the $199.99 add-on HD-DVD as it only become available in November. According to NPD, HD-DVD had out sold Blu-ray by 33 percent due to an earlier introduction and more vendors selling the hardware. And why does Microsoft put so much “puffery” behind how the 1080i picture will look identical to a 1080p picture? I’ll save details for another post, but trust me there is a difference between i (interlaced) and p (progressive). Historically, interlacing was first used in TV signals because CRT displays built in the 1940s could simply not work fast enough to draw every line in one-sixtieth of a second. So, has HD-DVD has won, correct?

    Not so fast and back on topic. I suspect that a number of consumers are like me. Heads hurt and eyes roll because retail can’t promote the technology without confusion. There is no guarantee that top movies will be released on the format that I want. Not all movie Discs will be encoded at 1080p. I’m fearful of buying an expensive player that may well turn out to be worthless. Remember Laser Disc? And that really smarts…having a lot of $$ tied up in excellent content/movies that become unplayable due to MTBF rates (electronic gear built to fail) and your “format” is no longer supported.

    And what’s behind that HD player pricing. For $200 I can buy the HD-DVD add-on for the Xbox 360 which is already attached to the HD TV or pay 3-5 times that amount for a standalone unit. Huh?! Or maybe I should just take the lowest common denominator approach and buy that $79 “up-converting” DVD player, and with all money left over pass out iPod’s like chewing gum stocking stuffers?

    I’ve just said no, and will work really hard to convince to be happy and content with a low-rez DVD library for another year.

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