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Sony PlayStation 3 (60GB)

July 20th, 2007 by Maxim · 1 Comment · 8,049 Views


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I have a nice 46″ Sharp Aquos, but no player to play DVDs in 1080p. I’ve done quite a bit of research, looked at stand-alone players, different formats (HD-DVD and BD), and it appeared that the best value is buying not a player, but a game console: either XBox 360 with HD DVD player, or Sony PS3.

I also have a lot of movies, photos and music on my PC and I wanted a unit that can act as media player. I already have D-Link DSM-520 which can play DivX on top of many other formats, but when I playback 1080i videos on it it stutters every 3-5 seconds.

PS3 seemed like the best choice: for $600 I can get a box with 8 processors, a gigabit network adapter for streaming my media to it and a BD player. A stand-alone player costs just as much.

So I ordered mine online at Circuit City and went to the shop to pick it up.

The machine has beautiful black finish that matches my Sharp AQUOS TV perfectly.

Installation did not take long. There was no HDMI cable in the box so I used one of my own. Put audio out through digital optical link to my receiver. Turned it on. After a few seconds, it displayed greetings screen and I went through straight-forward setup wizard. It connected to the internet via my gigabit LAN, discovered latest firmware and updated itself.

Then I tried to configure my Logitech Harmony 880 universal remote. Turned out PS3 doesn’t have infra-red receiver. It’s all BlueTooth. Yet Harmony-880 can still be used to switch all inputs on TV and receiver for use with PlayStation3. Using BlueTooth game controller for navigating menus turned out to be very intuitive: use arrows or left joystick to navigate menus, one button always words as “Enter”/”Yes”, another to pull menu, and third works as “cancel”/”back”. The interface and menus are very slick.

I tried to play a game, Motor Storm. It’s nice to have no wire between the controller and the computer. You can be in another room and still control the box. You can just layback on the sofa… I am not into games though, so I was bored in about 30 minutes.

I ordered a Blu-Ray movie on Netflix (just check the blu-ray box in your format  settings and Netflix will send you this preferred format if they have the title in it). Don’t remember what I watched exactly. Watching movie in HD was nice. Once you see HD television or an HD movie you never want to go back to standard definition. However the unit has become very hot and the fans in it started to operate at very high speed. The freaking fans create as much noise as my hairdryer. After that the movie experience was basically ruined. The PS3 becomes hot in about 10-15 minutes after being turned on. So forget about hiding it somewhere in your entertainment furniture. Actually, user manual clearly states that it has to be in open area for heat dissipation. You will need an air-conditioned room at 69F to prevent the machine from sounding like a jet engine.

Already a little bit disappointed, I then tried to play some standard def. DVDs. PS3 can scale them up to 1080p, but my Sharp has up-scaling function too. I already knew that standard def. DVDs look good on my Sharp. But now I discovered another problem: on some SD DVDs the audio will be out of sync when audio is streamed through the optical cable to the audio-video receiver. Sound has to go either via HDMI to the TV, or via analog to the receiver, or else it may go out of sync.

Now the time has come to try media streaming. I have had 3 media servers running on my desktop PC: Windows Media Player 11, D-Link Media server that came with DLink DSM-520, and I also recently installed TVersity – a free media server that can stream Internet video, photo and RSS feeds, Internet radio and transcode formats on the fly.

PS3 supports very few formats compared to DSM-520: just mpeg 1/2, mp3 and Sony HD recordings (if you have a Sony HD camcorder). PS3 had discovered all three media servers instantly. I tried viewing photos. Very nice function: a slide-show can be presented in 3D, although it does not automatically detect whether a photograph is horizontal or vertical. With WMP11 only few formats could be played. D-Link could play more, but DivX and XVid  movies would not play because they are not natively supported. So I selected TVersity and turned transcoding on. The low-resultion movies can be transcoded on the fly; although CPU on the desktop goes to 100%, there are no hiccups on PS3. Still many files were reported as “corrupt” or “unsupported”. I was messing with installing different codecs for several days but PS3 would refuse to play all of the files that DSM-520 was playing without much complaining.

Thanks to the gigabit adapter that PS3 has, I could now stream HD movies in 1080i to it. There were some hiccups still, and after tweaking TVersity config files for several hours and days of research on the internet I managed to play 1080i with no hiccups at all, but now there was no audio.

At this point, 2 weeks after the purchase, I was fed up and returned everything (the console, the game, the Blu-Ray DVD remote and an extra controller I got as a freebie) back to the store. If I can’t play BD in a quiet environment, don’t want to play games on a $600 box and can’t stream at least the same files that so DSM-520 was accepting quite happily, there was no use for me for it.

I also looked at XBox-360 + HD DVD player, but the total ticket was into $720 and I gave up. For this kind of money I can buy a dedicated PC with Windows XP Media edition with remote and hook it up to the TV via HDMI or DVI.

I’ll wait for the autumn for the new prices and new products – something new always comes out around Thanksgiving or Christmas, and hopefully by then the format war will be over.

** Update (March 16, 2008) **

HD DVD is now dead, which lowers the value of the XBox + HD-DVD player combo. However the time has shown that PS3 has not measured up to expectations. The adoption rate of PS3 is a fraction of the adoption rate of PS2, which costs 40% less. There are about 10 times as many games available for PS2, albeit without HD capabilities, but Nintendo Wii doesn’t offer HD either yet it’s very successful. XBox 360 also offers a much bigger list of games the PS3 has, while the console itself is at least $50 cheaper. XBox 360 provides 1080p picture for games as well. The 40GB version of PS3 is $100 cheaper then its older cusin, but is not backward compatible with PS2 games. The point is, there are great alternatives to PS3 at better value. Some gaming magazines suggest PS2 offers the best value for the customers, which is probably the main reason why PS3 adoption rate is so low, eve despite the fact that PD3 can play Blu-Ray discs – a format that won HD movies war.

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Rated 3/5 on Jul 20 2007
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Tags: Hardware · Home Theater

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