Thursday, October 19, 2006
PS3 Multimedia Detailed.
Leading up to the 11/11 Japanese PS3 release, the Japanese gaming press has taken delivery of PS3 demo units. Included in the lucky bunch is the multimedia division of Impress Watch, whose editorial staff was good enough to put together a feature detailing the PS3's multimedia playback.
We previously described most of the functionality available from the PS3's Cross Media Bar (XMB) interface. Impress offers a few new details. Selecting the "Display Settings" icon from the settings menu gives you access to a menu for chosing your display connection. You can select from "Component or D Cable," "Composite or S-Video," and "AV Multi or SCART." The system displays clear images indicating which plug is which, so beginners shouldn't have too much trouble in getting set up.
The PS3 is capable of selecting resolution for you automatically. However, if you want to select your own resolution, you can chose from 480p, 1080i, 720p, 1080p and "custom." We're not sure what the last one is just yet.
You also have full control over the form of audio that the PS3 outputs. From the Audio Output section of the menu, you can select from Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1 and AAC, as well as Linear PCM with 2ch, 5.1ch and 7.1ch available in 44.1kHz, 88.2kHz, 48kHz and 192kHz. You can also set this to automatic in case you're not interested in the details. You have three audio cable options available: HDMI, optical and AV Multi.
To set up Blu-Ray playback, you go into the BD/DVD section of the settings menu. Here, you can select the disk's menu language and the default audio and subtitle languages, which isn't anything new if you've used a PSP or one of the Japanese-only PSX systems before.
Good news for those worried about the slow start-up times with current next generation optical disc players. The PS3 loads up a Blu-ray movie fast. Impress sampled the US version of Fifth Element (Japan won't take shipment of its first commercial Blu-ray movies until early November) and found that the PS3 took less than 10 seconds to start up the disc after it had been selected from the video section of the Cross Media Bar.
Incidentally, there seems to be a slight difference between when you insert a game disc and a Blu-ray disc into the PS3. When you put in a Blu-ray disc, you have to select the disc from the video menu in order to begin playback. With game discs, the system automatically starts playback. The Impress article didn't make mention of a menu option for switching automatic playback for game discs off.
Startup as a whole seems to be pretty quick for the PS3. Impress reports that the time from powering up the system to the appearance of the Sony Computer Entertainment logo is about 10 seconds. Following that, it's another 2 to 3 seconds before the XMB appears. You only see the PlayStation logo when playing games.
Impress describes the PS3's Blu-ray playback as "simple." The site reports no problems with pop-up menus and other Blu-ray disc features.
The PS3 is capable of more than just Blu-ray playback. It's also capable of playing back video directly from the hard disk. Impress was able to play a 1920 x 1080 MPEG2 from hard disk. It's unclear at this point if users will be able to play back VC-1 and H.264 encoded files from the hard disk, although these high powered codecs are, of course, playable from Blu-ray discs.
In addition to video playback, Impress was also able to sample the PS3's music features. The system can rip CDs to MP3, AAC and ATRAC3 formats, allowing for bit rates of up to 352 kbps. The PS3 is also capable of going online to read into the AMG music database in order to get track information.
One of the cool things about multimedia playback is that the PS3 can play back external files. By connecting a PSP to the PS3 via USB, the music, movies and images that are on the Memory Stick loaded into the PSP become accessible from the video, music and photo menus on the PS3. It's unclear if this is the case when the two systems are communicating via Wi-Fi.
Impress wasn't able to get details on the mysterious "Remote Play" icon from the XMB menu. It's believed that this option will allow you to enjoy your PS3's movies and music on your PSP. A PSP update is set to coincide with the launch of the PS3, and should make this area a bit clearer.
Another mysterious icon in the PS3 Cross Media Bar is found in the system settings section. The menu has an option labeled "Other System Install," whose function is currently unknown.
These are just a few of the PS3's features that remain in the dark at this point. We hope to get clarification leading up to launch or, at the very latest, once we've sampled retail units for ourselves on 11/11.