Play Station 3 (PS3) - More than Game Console



Folks who are not familiar with PS3 may think it is just a gaming console. Infact it is much more than that. It is an excellent Blu-Ray player, it can play videos, songs and used for showing your family photo albums and can be used for streaming media files from Internet (ex: YouTube), Social networking and even enable you to lead a virtual cyber life. In short it can be used as a digital media hub for your living room.

Sony introduced PS3 in Nov 2006 as a successor to PS2 which is the bestselling console with over 150 million units sold. PS3 is sold over 50million and competes with Xbox in sales. Initially PS3 sales were sluggish compared Xbox due to the higher cost but eventually caught up with the competition once Sony introduces slim PS3, a cut down version of the original PS3.


Sony PS3 comes in two major types, Fat and Slim PS3s. The following figure shows the different types. Sony’s original PS3 is known as FAT PS3 with more versatile hardware. It could emulate PS2 games in hardware, had 4 USB ports and a multi card memory card reader where your photos can be loaded to PS3 directly using SD cards. But this was costly and Sony could not sell PS3 as much as they wanted, Xbox became much more successful. So Sony later introduced a Slim PS3 where they used 45nm cell processor, reduced USB ports to 2, removed the card reader support and PS/2 games support. Sony introduced their famed XMB menu (Xross Media Bar) in PS3 which makes it easy to operate.


Slim PS3

Slim PS3 consists of
  1. Blu-Ray support with a slot loading drive
  2. 2 USB ports
  3. 6 axis controller DUAL SHOCK 3
  4. Optical Audio
  5. HDMI video and audio output
  6. Both component and composite video support
  7. Network support Wired Ethernet or Wi-Fi g
 

XMB Menu

PS3™ system comes with 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 horizontal category menu has options for photo, music, video, games, Network, and Play station Network, Friends etc. This XMB menu was found to be very easy to use and clutter free, so Sony introduced this across their products.


PS3 as a Blu-Ray & DVD Player

PS3 is an excellent Blu-Ray player, till two years back it was the cheapest too! It supports region coded Blu-ray movies and DVDs. So if you buy the PS3 in US it will not support region 5 DVD movies sold in India.

Video: It supports up to 1080P and can be connected to your HD TV / AVR using HDMI interface for the best performance. If you have an old CRT TV which has only AV input, still you can connect your PS3, if you are happy with the SD quality video killing the whole PS3 experience. It supports deep color and super white so the picture quality is really good. It can even upscale SD videos from DVD s to 1080p of acceptable quality. Since the cell processor is very powerful it is easy to fast forward or rewind at 120X which is unheard of in standalone Blu-Ray / DVD players. It generally plays any DVDs without much trouble even the bad ones which create stuttering issues in DVD players. The Ultrafast cell processor used in PS3 helps the player to recover from any issues in DVD.

Audio: PS3 decodes both uncompressed audio formats like DTS HD Master Audio / Dolby True HD and compressed audio formats Dolby5.1 and DTS. If PS3 is connected to an AVR you can select its bit stream output to allow the AVR to do the decoding. If you do not have an AVR use the built in audio decoders of PS3.

PS3 Bluray player can be controlled by the 6 axis game controller and it is pretty convenient. But if you really want to have a conventional remote you can buy it separately. Both works using Bluetooth interface not IR so it is pretty convenient too.
PS3 as a Media Player

PS3 can play video, audio and photos. Video files stored in a portable hard disk or flash drive can be connected to the system using the USB port. PS3 recognize only FAT and FAT32 formats, not NTFS which is a serious limitation. PS3 can be networked wired (Ethernet) or wireless using Wi-Fi. Networked PS3 supports DLNA so the media files stored anywhere in the network can be streamed to PS3 and watch in your TV using PS3.

Still PS3 is not a great media player since it does not support NTFS format limiting the file size to 4GB and it plays only few video formats. Do not expect your .MKV collection of movies to play in PS3. Normally an average HD movie in .MKV format will be of 8GB size so you need to convert and split the movies in to PS3 format using handbrake utility to be compatible with PS3.

Music: PS3 is good music player too. It supports both MP3 and AAC.

Photos : Photo Gallery is an application that enhances the experience of viewing photos saved on the PS3™ system. You can group photos in various ways such as by date and time, by event or by the number of people in the photos. You can also create a playlist of selected photos and select a photo frame for the playlist. Photo gallery one of the best implementation for Family Albums I have seen so far. The ultrafast processor enables you to browse through photos at breakneck speeds J


PS3 as Game Console

PS3 is basically designed as a Game console, the important function. What really differentiate PS3 from other games console is its stunning graphics. Even though it can play 1080P titles there are only a few titles which really comes with 1080P support. Most of the games play at 720p because the developers do not want to go the extra mile to get a better video for PS3, since it is developed for both Xbox and PS3. There are very few PS3 specific titles but if you go by the number of games Xbox wins hands down. To play the games you need to use a 6 axis game controller which is shown in the picture below which uses Bluetooth to communicate to PS3.


PlayStation Store

Playstation Store is the place you shop around for new online games and movies. Trial versions are free download to help you to make a choice. You have plenty of titles to down load and what you need is just a PSN account to sign in.


PlayStation Home

PlayStation Home enables us to have a virtual life similar to 2nd life offered by IBM for desktop and is one of the most interesting features of PS3. You can lead virtual life in any avatar of your choice, roam around virtual shopping malls find friends around the World and chat with them. You can play games of your interest with your newly found international friends. You will need to create (sign up for) a PlayStation Network account to use these features. I felt this is one of the most interesting features in PS3 and I have seen often my son is playing FIFA with Europeans and daughter playing Snooker or spending hours together in bowling alley with friends across the Globe whom they never really met. You can even buy and sell virtual goods from the shopping mall J It is an imaginary World where you can drift around do what interests you most. Network game enables to you to play your favorite games with your friends without leaving the comfort your home.


Friends

PS3 allows you to chat with your friends once you have signed in.


PlayStation Move

PS3 move is introduced in the market to beat the success of WII’s revolutionary motion sensor technology and the games supported by it. It consists of a camera (PS3 Eye camera) and a move controller which has a bulb which lights in different colors. The camera keeps track of the LED light emitted by the move controller to define exact spatial location of the controller and the kind of movement you are performing with it.

Initial setup: Connect the Eye camera to USB port of PS3 and place it in the top or bottom middle of your TV. Register the Move controller through PS3 setup menu and calibrate it. Install the games and you are ready.

Before starting any games like Sports Champion you need to do a very brief calibration to make sure that your movements within the view of the camera. Once it is initiated the move controller LED light will be lit with blue, pink, yellow etc… one color from the set. If you have two controllers both will lit with different colors. There will be a training session for all the games, Beach volley ball, Table Tennis, Archery, Gladiator etc. It is pretty easy to pick up the movements but I cannot say it is highly accurate, but definitely, not bad. It gives a new experience to PS3 games. You are forced to stand up and sway around to play the games and in the process sweat a little :) But after the novelty is over I do not think it can persist unless Sony introduces compelling games for people to get addicted. In its present form only Kids will get attracted to this.
Accessories for PS3 Move

PS3 move comes with lots of interesting accessories to enhance the gaming experience. Most of them aim to give a real life experience for the games. Some of them are given below.

Other OS on PS3

Initially Sony allowed us to install other OS. I have installed Ubuntu Linux on this and experimented little bit. It was working fine in most cases. But later Sony removed this option when hackers used this option to get access to PS3 L

Overall PS3 is a good gaming console with excellent titles and vivid graphics which is better than other consoles. The biggest drawback is that it is power hungry; it produces lots of heat s (Fat PS3), it does not support Wi-Fi n, and its noisy fan.




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