Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Close-up Look At The PlayStation 3.
On March 23, Britain will see the launch of the latest and undoubtedly the greatest video game console ever as Sony bring the PlayStation 3 to its most technology-led customers yet.
Already on sale in Japan and America, the system has been doing most notably well in the States. And in the UK, despite the high asking price of £425, there’s huge anticipation building up to the launch with most electrical retailers promoting pre-order deals as gamers keen to buy the most technically advanced console on the market sign on the dotted line.
Digital Spy have managed to get our hands on a PlayStation 3 before it goes on sale so here we take a close-up look at the system and reveal whether we believe the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 will be the outright winner in the battle of the consoles.
In the Box
Before handing over your £425, here’s a rundown of what you will find inside the PS3 packaging:
One PS3 console
One Sixaxis controller
Composite AV cable
Casino Royale on Blu-ray Disc (to first 500,000 buyers)
The look and feel of the PlayStation 3 is very modern and stylish. Its sleek curves are just the ticket when standing it underneath a hi-tech plasma or LCD television.
Front ports are neatly hidden behind a cover and the disc player has no pop-out tray, but instead works like a car CD player where you simply push the disc into the empty slot.
The driving force behind the PlayStation 3 is its much publicised Cell processor. Co-developed by IBM, Toshiba and Sony, this 3.2Ghz superchip has 64-bit PowerPC processing along with eight separate elements that can be assigned to specific tasks in a game such as handling animation, while another processes the Artificial Intelligence involved.
This increases the speed games run at, but not significantly so as Xbox 360 also has a 3.2Ghz chip built-in.
PlayStation 3 also includes a powerful 550hz Nvidia graphics card, offering true 1080p HD resolution and graphics that are ahead of anything else out there. Play Virtua Tennis 3 or Ridge Racer 7 and you can’t fail to be impressed.
Xbox 360 features a 500Mhz graphics card that is undoubtedly stunning, but just falls short of the PS3’s visual crispness, speed and immense attention-to-detail.
There has been much debate on how compatible the PlayStation 3 will be with games from earlier models.
According to Sony, "PS3 embodies a new combination of hardware and software emulation which will enable PS3 to be compatible with a broad range of original PlayStation titles and a limited range of PlayStation 2 titles".
Sony has also said it will offer downloadable updates from its site to allow certain PS2 games to work on PS3.
The firm has launched a website listing all compatible games with PlayStation 3. To take a look, log on to the: official website.
The PlayStation 3 features an upgraded version of the Portable PlayStation’s Cross Media Bar interface and works very well.
It makes operating the PS3 simple allowing you to add a profile, archive your digital photos, upload and listen to MP3 tracks and much more.
With built-in wi-fi connectivity for those with a wireless router and an Ethernet cable for those with a wired Broadband connection, getting your PS3 online is a doddle.
The console has been built for online use and comes with a multitude of features for this. There’s a full web browser, allowing the user to visit any site on the Internet including those that are flash-enabled. There’s chat – both voice and video – and best of all is Sony’s very own online PS3 high-street.
The PlayStation Store will offer a range of items that can be downloaded – many for free. This includes games, content such as updates and demos and trailers of forthcoming PS3 titles.
A good proportion of commercially released PS3 games will take advantage of the online world. Ridge Racer 7, for example, offers an online ranking system that lets you compete with players from around the world.
Sony is also tinkering with the idea of offering downloable chart music and movies for PS3 owners.
If you’re lucky enough to own both a PlayStation 3 and a Portable PlayStation you will find the two can ‘talk’ to each other.
Using wi-fi, Sony’s PSP can access the PS3 hard drive and playback music, video and even utilise the PlayStation 3’s web browser.
With a built-in HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) port, those with an HD-ready TV can buy an HDMI cable and hook up their PS3 to experience stunning visuals at 1080p resolution.
For Xbox 360 owners, an HDMI output is something they can only dream of and is the machine’s most notable shortcoming.
Blu-ray Disc Player
The reason the PlayStation 3 costs so much is largely down to the inclusion of a Blu-ray disc player. These normally retail at upwards of £600, so taking this into consideration it’s clear that Sony has done well in keeping the price of the PS3 as low as it is.
The choice of format is something up for debate. Many believe the HD format will win in the movie stakes, but Sony is backing Blu-ray. Both offer the same 1080p resolution, but there is one distinct difference between the two.
While HD-DVD’s can store up to 9Gb on a single-layer disc and up to 30Gb on a dual-layer, Blu-ray can manage a more impressive 25Gb on a single-layer and 50Gb on a dual-layer. Furthermore, Sony is rumoured to be developing 200Gb discs.
The result is that there’s the potential for a lot more game on PlayStation 3 in the future. Indeed, launch title Resistance: Fall of Man is believed to use 20Gb of space. But there’s also a chance there won’t be as many movies on Blu-ray as on HD should the latter eventually win the format war.
To offer the best of both worlds, Warner has announced Total HD hybrid discs which offer a movie in Blu-ray on one side and HD on the other. The first commercial releases on this double format DVD will be the second half of 2007.
Standard DVDs can also be played via the Blu-ray disc player.
The PlayStation 3 features an impressive array of connection ports, including one Gigabit Ethernet port, four USB 2.0 ports for hooking up a keyboard, mouse, MP3 player or camera and there’s also full Bluetooth support.
There’s an SD/Mini SD card slot, Compact Flash and Memory Stick Duo slot built-in. And there’s even the chance to hook up seven gamepads via Bluetooth.
Sony must have examined the innovative gameplay functions of the Nintendo Wii when developing the Emmy award-winning Sixaxis gamepad for the PlayStation 3 as it works on much the same principles.
Although it looks the same as the PS2 pad, there are some key differences. The vibration function of the DualShock 2 controller has gone and – instead – Sony have introduced motion-sensing. Play a driving game and you can move the pad as if it were a steering wheel. If you’re in control of an on-screen character, you can tilt the pad around to make your on-screen character look around their environment.
It works superbly well and is also wireless so you’re free to move the pad around at will. Many PS3 games are already taking advantage of it. For example, in Call of Duty 3you can row a boat and in the forthcoming Metal Gear Solid 4you will be able to shake items out of an enemy guard’s pockets.
In the US and Japan, both a 20Gb and a 60Gb PlayStation 3 were available from day one. In the UK, Sony is only making the 60Gb hard drive version available - for the foreseeable future, at least.
With such a high asking price for the 60Gb model, it’s odd that Sony are not launching the cheaper 20Gb PS3 into the UK from launch. Instead, the firm claims it will offer it later in the year if there's enough demand. Cynics could argue this is down to the fact Sony wants to maximise profits by selling the more expensive model to early adopters.
The PS3 hard drive is also fully upgradeable and a larger drive can be added to increase capacity therefore a 20Gb drive could have been updated at a later date.
Xbox 360 or PS3?
Although an add-on HD drive is available for Xbox 360, when you add together the cost of this, the console itself and a year’s subscription to Xbox Live it actually costs more than the same package on PS3.
While Xbox 360 is still a mighty fine console, the huge storage capacity of the Blu-ray discs, the innovative controller, the PS3’s HDMI port, its higher-powered graphics card and the amount of titles already in development means PlayStation 3 is the winner in the latest console wars - at least from a technical viewpoint.
The PS3 price is - despite what many believe - low when taking into account it offers a next-generation games machine, mini Internet-ready PC with hard drive, a high-definition Blu-ray DVD player and is fully MP3, video and digital camera compatible.
A 20Gb machine would, of course, have been much better priced and made the PS3 more mass market but those willing to wait could see a price drop in the not too distant future thanks to retailer discounting.
Whatever you think of the PlayStation 3, there's little doubt its excellent use of technology gives it plenty of ammunition to fire out some amazing games in the future.