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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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