Header Ads

My Experience with PS3 & Elusive 1080P Video Nirvana

When Sony introduced PS3 in India on 27th April, I bought it to get a first hand experience of the so called high tech “Digital Media Hub”.

Since I spent a fortune for this “Digital media hub” I am not going to be satisfied with anything short of the best. It did not take much time to set it up and start going. I had to spend another Rs 2000/- for an Panasonic 3mtrs HDMI cable to have HD Video experience. 1.5 M Sony HDMI cable (1.3a HDMI standard compliant) will cost you RS 2500/- where as Panasonic is kind enough to give the same (HDMI certified 1.5 Mt cable) for RS 1500/- . Sony provides AV cable for those who are ok with standard TV quality (alias pirated video quality) along with PS3. Connecting to my Full HD TV was very easy.

Trouble started when I insisted on getting the best, ie 1080P resolution. I have all ingredients in place for a full HD (1080p)experience. A 1080P game in a Blue ray disc , Sony Bravia X series Full HD LCD TV and all necessary HDMI cables. I was very bullish on the expected outcome. I checked everything and put on all the equipments, including my Negear 108mhz Wi-FI router for Internet connectivity for PS3. After a couple of blinking, TV screen light up like a MF Hussain painting, I could not understand a thing. My left side of the brain understood it as a Sync problem. Oh! PS3 1080P video output is recognized in my TV as 720P. How can I make my TV understand it is something you are going to experience first time in your life – 1080P input signal.? I searched for TV manual and it is disappointing, it says it is fully automatic. I want my manual control. I always hated automatic gear in cars but now I understand that it is true that any fully automatic is for the ordinary and we, professionals always like manual!

I tired with PS3 manual, it is meant for idiots who do not know how to mate one equipment to another. I thought it comes natural for us! If you want any other information looks elsewhere.

So I requested the help of our trusted “Google God” You get variety of answers for all questions , till you are tired of finding the right answers. Typed “1080P PS3 Video” and hit the return button – I was bombard with answers to my problem. “Problem is with your TVs HDMI implementation” All “unfortunate” fellows who owned a non-Sony TV believed it. How can I believe it? I have Sony’s best TV (X series) marketed anywhere in the world. It is able to produce fantastic picture when I mated it with a cheap Philips DVD player (1080i upscaling for Rs 5000/-, ironically HDMI cable cost half of it). As far as HDMI implementation goes Philips got it right for a mere Rs 5000/-

So I googled more and more and decided that I have to upgrade my PS3 firmware. Sony came out with so many upgrades for its PS3 after its release people lost count. 18 patches in a couple of months. Sony is very successful in beating Microsoft in its own game!! So I tried to download it using PS3. It is connected wirelessly to Netgear router. It flashed a message “system software 1.7 is found”. Mine is 1.53. So I hit the upgrade button. Nothing happens. I realized that It is 12:00AM midnight. Netgear router was on full day. It has a special property, it starts in the morning with good determination as a wireless router (with a good range), but as the day progresses it gets heated up and the range reduces every hour and by end of the day it will go to sleep as a wired router!! Recently I recommended Netgear router to somebody. Why should I suffer alone?

I decided to download it to my desktop PC and copy in a USB drive and upgrade. When I connected to PS3 site Sony spotted an Indian connecting to its site and warned me that the firmware is country specific and they will disown me if I try to upgrade from any other country’s site. So I searched for India in Asia Pacific region, but to my surprise India does not exist. Now I have to decide which country has similar principles of our country. Meanwhile I found out that the user manual is written in English and Russian. So my PS3 must be of European origin and Sony still thinks we are a British colony. Spending so much money I was even ready to accept Sony’s stand. I decided to download it form UK site. But UK PS3 site did not like an Indian connecting to it and decided to throw me out by holding on to the neck. So 200K became a couple of kb. I got frustrated and left for Australia. In its euphoria of becoming world champions they did not realize that an Indian has silently siphoned 106Mb worth PS3 firmware from its site.

I copied it to a USB thumb drive and connected to PS3. PS3 recognized that there is a USB drive but refused to see any firmware image. Back to “Google God” again. I prayed to “Google God” again and again. (For me there are only three avatars of God, 1st Google, 2nd Wiki and the third one I married to)

“Google God” commanded through one of its prophets in the corner of an unknown country that “You have to create a directory by name ‘PS3’ and a folder inside it called upgrade and copy the firmware”. I followed the advice in letter and spirit. Oh it worked. Finally my PS3 got upgraded to the latest firmware 1.7 and it could talk to my in TV in 1080P. I could see Ravi Varma’s painting instead of MF Hussain’s in my TV screen. Picture quality is only next to real.

Now you know why I am not a Sony fan.

Sony finally released the much awaited firmware update on PS3 (1.8) on 24th of May. One week prior to this release, PS3 enthusiasts all over the world blogged enough about the upcoming 2.0 release which is rumored to be leaked out by a Sony employee. It gives a list of features which looks more like a wish list but there was glaring omission of 1080P video upscaling for DVD playback. So while people were waiting to access XMB from games, Sony surprised all with 1080P video upscaling and enabling media streaming with an interim release of firmware 1.8. So within hours of its release people were screaming in the net about the newly acquired capability of PS3 – 1080P video upscaling for DVDs and old PS2 games . This may be Sony’s strategy to win people’s heart. What all games companies play to satisfy its fan following? I do not know.

Everybody knows that traditionally Sony releases the upgrades all over its World wide websites starting from east. Sunrise is the not the only thing East enjoys first over West! So on 24th May early morning I try to download 1.8V firmware upgrade from its Japan site, no luck, moved to Hongkong. I could not read any Chinese characters but could recognize that it is still holding on to 1.7 version. So I kept on moving west along with Sun, reached Sydney. Oh! 1.8V upgrade is flashing in its sight. What a relief! I try to grab it like new born calf attacking its mother’s udder. But it smiled at me and says “thank you for your patience, we are in the process of uploading 1.8 ”. So I calculated, 110MB uploading should takes only seconds for them. I waited patiently for 5 minutes and tried again. No luck. Oh Sony is using a dial up connection for uploading!. Waited for 30 minutes and checked again. No luck same message. I checked again after 1 hour. No luck, By this time I realized that the euphoria of winning the world Cup is over for Australians and they are into business. I do not know whom to blame! Is it our BCCI?. One thing is sure, Australian’s attitude has changed recently! They are in no mood to help an Indian.

So I traveled to London, Sony playstation site still says it is 1.7. Nothing else to do, in desperation I kicked the download button. It shows 112MB to download instead of 106MB (size of f 1.7). What would have happened? May be like us with time it adds some fat. I do not know. So I decided to continue with the downloading. Let me see what happens I copied this to a thumb drive, religiously followed PS3 - upgrade directory structure and inserted it into PS3 USB port. PS3 recognized it as version 1.8. I decided to continue with the system upgrade. I do not have a UPS backup for PS3 and in case of power failure the generator takes 10sec to switch over. 10 Secs, enough time to turn this black beauty to an ugly black box while upgrading. I decided to pray. This is the only time I pray to “conventional God”, while doing system upgrading without power backup. God always listened to my prayers since I hardly bother him and it is very easy to satisfy my wish! Just do nothing.

At last PS3 is up with firmware version 1.8. I looked for 1080P DVD upscaling and media sharing features. I shoved in a Mallu DVD, “Thanmatra” which scores in video quality over any other DVDs in my collection, lots of English and just few Hindi. It is really a double layer DVD. I could see Mohanlal in his full glory, 1080P upscaling really works! I tried with other DVDs. Picture quality varies depends on the DVD quality. Surprisingly some DVDs looks the same in 1080i in(1080i upscaling by my Philips DVD player) looks different in 1080P in terms of video quality. Now I know there is a considerable difference in video quality among the DVDs eventhough it cost you the same, Rs 599 to 799 per DVD.

It is time to test the BDs, Blue-ray movies. I shoved in Planet Earth BD which is a collection of 4 BDs shot entirely in HD (1080P mostly) by BBC. Picture quality is Awesome! ( Awesome is a new addition to my vocabulary which I picked up recently from my teenaged daughter who finds it cool to say Awesome!). TV screen looks like a window to the real World. In some underwater scenes my full HD TV will be mistaken for a small aquarium placed in the living room. There is no wonder Planet Earth is one of top selling Blue-ray disc inspite of being a documentary and its high cost ($72/- to $100/-)) . It is known for its video quality and its content. Audio is just mediocre.

By this time I was itching to see PS3’s media streaming capabilities. PS3 can act as a client, but we need as media server for multimedia streaming. I know Windows Media Player 11 is DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) ready. So I set up the WMP 11 in my Vista Desktop for media sharing. There are plenty of Mp3s and DivX movies in my PC. It can talk to PS3 via Netgear wireless router with UnP enabled. It is time to scan for the media server from PS3. It scanned for a couple of minutes and popped up a message “no media server found”. No success after repeated attempts. I probed, traced all the connections, brood over it, could not locate the fault. So I decided to switch over to another media server with DLNA compatibility. Nero media sever as part of its well known DVD burning application suite has all the capabilities I want. I downloaded a 15 days free trial and installed it and put it on running. PS3 immediately recognized Nero Media server. Looks like all MP3 and MPEG2s and MP4s are working. Now I can do video & audio streaming from my PC. But unfortunately Divx and Xvid are not supported. Because of reasons known to everybody Sony may not like to support Divx format aggressively unlike Philips.

So Sony delivered mostly what it promised out of PS3. Only thing I do not like about PS3 is the amount of heat it generates and the sound of its cooling fan. It runs so hot that somebody demonstrated in web that you can make omlet using the shining surface of PS3. They published a video to prove their point, but I do not need any proof, I am convinced. Its cooling fan generates more sound than my trusted Usha fan in the living room. Not joking. I always remember Prof Rajaram (IISC) told us in one of the class I attended something like this “When will we able to make super computers which can process as many TFLOPS as human brain with the same amount of heat it generates?” So with its 380W power consumption stop thinking of using PS3 as a “Cheap” high end DVD player unless you are an old timer Infoscian with 100 rupee ESOPS.