Sony PlayStation 3 Entertainment Console

Reviewed by: Jack Reikel, November 2006, updated January 2007
Manufactured by: Sony Corp.
Requires: A high definition TV for the best gaming and movie viewing experience, surround sound/home theatre speaker system, ethernet connection
MSRP: US$599.99 (60GB model), $499.99 (20GB)

Sony has always done its own thing. Between ridiculously proprietary MiniDisc, ATRAC file format, Memory Stick technology, Betamax tape format, Clie PDAs, Blu-ray, unique and unfathomably hard to find accessories, and a raft of other pointless and sometimes expensive nonsense, you'd think the company would have sunk beneath the waves years ago. That didn't happen. Could the next version of its highly regarded PlayStation game console reiterate the wild success of the PlayStation 2 and vault Sony to the top of the electronics business? Has the wait for the PlayStation 3 (PS3), coming a year after Microsoft's successful Xbox 360 game console launch, been too long? Now that the PS3 has been released, is it the magnificent box that the Sony marketing machine has told us it is?

First things first. The PlayStation 3 is not just a game console. It's designed to be the center of a home entertainment system which includes gaming, music, video, movie and the internet. Web browsing is accomplished by connecting an ethernet cable to the rear of the PS3. You'll also find an HDMI port (v1.3 of HDMI actually, which means it will work with Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby TrueHD—coming in 2007), along with an optical audio port and the Sony PlayStation audio/video analog output. An HDMI cable is not supplied with the unit—only a composite cable. You can connect an EyeToy digital camera (or other compatible accessories), keyboard or mouse via the USB connectors on the front of the unit. You'll also find a multicard reader that will accept CF, SD and MMC cards as well as Sony's own Memory Sticks. The crown jewel is the integrated Blu-ray player, which makes the PS3 (at $600) the cheapest Blu-ray player available today. Between the USB ports and the Blu-ray player the PlayStation 3 can handle almost anything you feed it—digital photos via direct camera connection or from a media card, MP3/WMA/AAC/ATRAC files from CD or flash drive or USB source, MPEG1, MPEG2, MPEG4/h.264 video files from flash or USB or disc, DVD movies, Blu-ray high definition movies in full and glorious 1080p resolution, and of course PlayStation game discs.

The PlayStation 3 is not supplied with a game of any kind. Instead, as of this writing you'll find a Blu-ray copy of either Mission Impossible III starring Tom Cruise or Talladega Nights starring Will Ferrell, depending on where you live. With the general non-existence of PS3 games right now, the focus of the product is somewhat debatable. In fact, given the initial absence of PS3-specific games, the unit really functions more effectively as a general entertainment center rather than a game console. Mind you, the game play features are evident in force. The single game controller is a marvel of engineering, incorporating high speed wireless connectivity to the console, rechargeable batteries (which recharge via cable connection to one of the USB ports), reworked trigger buttons, usability while the battery is charging via USB cable, and SixAxis motion sensitivity which an awful lot of game players are going to like. Motion sensitivity in sports and fighting games in particular is going to be a lot of fun, with the main caveat being that it's strictly a two dimensional effect.


If you're thinking that Sony has stolen a march on Nintendo Wii, think again, because the Nintendo Wii-mote & Nunchuk combination is fully integrated in three dimensions and much more intuitive as well. However, SixAxis motion sensitivity works and adds a usable and genuinely interesting dimension to game play. All of the PlayStation 2 games we tried worked perfectly in the PlayStation 3. We did not have any PlayStation 1 games to try, but authoritative reports are clear that most older games work. For people who already own a PS2 or PS1, that's great news. For people who are purchasing a PS3 as their first Sony game console ever, there are no PS3-specific titles to play although the new titles ported from the Xbox 360 versions are quite good—NHL 2K7, Resistance: Fall of Man, Ridge Racer 7 and NBA 07 are all highly recommended. As far as we're concerned, they all look and sound better on the PS3.

Sony has garnered big press about its Cell processor which powers the console. The Cell is the result of a collaborative effort between IBM, Toshiba and Sony and the result will (eventually) be some genuinely creative game effects and movie-like realism once game developers have had sufficient time to grapple with the best ways to make use of the processing and graphics power available in the console. What that time frame looks like is still unclear, but you can expect some genuinely spectacular looking titles to appear before the end of 2007. Until then, you'll have to be content with the current crop of games. Unless you really need a Blu-ray player right now, maybe it's just smarter to hang on to your $600 until next year and buy a PS3 when the next generation of games start to appear?

Cons: The PS3 does not upscale movie DVDs to high definition (HD). Using the controller within movie menu systems is fussy. The worldwide product launch was terrible, with ridiculously short supplies of the console. Sony essentially missed the 2006 American Thanksgiving shopping rush and is not predicting sufficient supplies for the Christmas 2006 rush either. I don't get these guys—after all of the marketing hype and industry coverage, Sony is still building consumer pressure by means of inadequate product supplies? We've said it about Nikon and lots of other companies: stop being stupid by building this kind of pressure. If you want to build pressure, take the risk of developing a raft of terrific game titles and demonstrating them all over the place in advance of the console release. You'll sell more consoles than you can count. This business of producing and selling consoles before having the game titles needed to truly show off the hardware is foolish and ultimately does not serve a company's best interests. It places the product's potential market success squarely on consumers' shoulders, rather than on the quality and range of the initial product and the content produced for it. That's dumb. As of this writing, there aren't any existing entertainment all-in-one remotes which can be used to control the PS3, so if you want this usage & control option for viewing entertainment you'll have to shell out big money for Sony's proprietary Bluetooth compatible remote. No high-definition hookup cable in the box—composite only. Last but not least, the right side of the PS3 gets real hot because the power supply and AC/DC converter is internal (rather than being supplied in the form of the ubiquitous external power 'brick'. Some users have reported random thermal shutdowns, mid-game, most likely from extended, intensive use. No online PS3 gaming yet. Overpriced.

Pros: The Sony PlayStation 3 has incredible potential along with a feature set that is at the top of the heap right now. Considering the length of these product lifecycles, Sony is likely to be the technology leader for at least three years. Good titles are rolling out as of this writing. You'll see some game titles on the PS3 (NBA 07 for example) which, while not tapping anywhere near the tremendous processing and graphics potential of this console—it's a port of the Xbox 360 version—still look very good indeed and play extremely well. The powerful Cell processor inside the PS3 combined with the audio subsystem and superb video output clearly make this the state-of-the-art game console. The built in media card reader, USB ports and ethernet connectivity work perfectly. It's a terrific Blu-Ray HD movie player. The next generation of games for this thing are incredible. Overall, the PS3 is an interesting, versatile and powerful piece of equipment.

KSN Product Rating:





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