PS3 – Review

The new slim PS3 console, unfortuneatly the two attractive peripherals aren't included.

The new slim PS3 console, unfortunately the two attractive 'peripherals' holding it up aren't included...

After a seven year period of being a PC gamer I finally took the plunge after much deliberation and purchased a PlayStation 3 console.  Not since the PS2 (which I bought way back in 2001) have I owned a console, I had a mod-chip fitted which ended up bricking the machine and from that point on I decided to try out the PC arena.

Well firstly, I went for the new slimmer model of the console, it just seemed like the logical choice since it has a 120Gig HDD and is about R1600 cheaper than the old 80Gig variant.  Even though the new console retails in South Africa for R3800 (510USD) I’m still getting ripped off as the console is sold in the States for $299 (R2225).  Unfortunately the 80Gig models were sold at a loss and in order to make up for that the slim model is sold at a fixed price in SA of R3799 *sighs*.  I wouldn’t recommend importing either as not only will you be raped by import duties and the like, but there’s no guarantee that your purchase will arrive in one piece (or at all, given the state of the SA postal service) and any warranties on the machine will become null and void.

To get the most out of the console you will need an HD TV or HD monitor, in my case I’m using the Samsung T260 26″ Widescreen LCD monitor, as well as an HDMI cable (which I had to purchase separately) and your TV/monitor needs to have an HDMI input.  Setting up the PS3 couldn’t be easier, the only things you need to plug in is the power cable and the HDMI cable after which the machine is ready to go.  The wireless controller is also great (and I generally hate wireless controllers, keyboards and so on) and initially the setup will require you to connect the USB cable (supplied with the console, used to charge the controller) into one of the two USB ports located at the front of the console in order to continue with the setup procedure, which is dead easy too, it’s like the ‘setup wizard’ you find on basically every piece of software in existence so all you do is just follow the prompts and fill in the relevant data like date, time, name etc.  At one point there will be internet settings,  the PS3 has a broadband ethernet port at the back of the unit, so I just stuck my wireless in and the console just auto-detected the connection type and automatically configured everything, instant internet capabilities, which impressed me a lot as I had braced myself for the worst.

After a short setup period, the console was ready to be used and the first thing I tested was Dark Knight BD, the image quality is sharp and rich but I must say that I find the video quality of both Blu-ray movies and games to be rather grainy.  I guess you’re meant to sit a certain amount of distance from the screen and at about two metres away you can’t see the graininess so it doesn’t really matter.  The same graininess is present on Killzone 2 and Motor Storm – Pacific Rift so I’m going to assume that that’s just how it is.  However the menu screen is perfectly sharp.  as a PC vet I’m used to video and games that are crystal clear, my video card is connected to the same monitor via DVI and games like Lost Planet, DMC4 and Street Fighter 4 have no noticible grain whatsoever.  I haven’t really messed around with the image settings though so maybe I can get better results.  Some forums recommend turning off anything that supposedly assists picture quality, and to change the colour output to RGB so I’ll give that a try, then again my contrast settings might just be too high (feel free to leave a comment if you’ve experienced something similar or know of ways to improve picture quality).

It felt kind of strange to play games that don’t have graphics settings, and I must admit that being able to play any game at the intended optimal level is a wonderful thing indeed.  The one thing that I noticed the most about games on the PS3, is a lack of anti-aliasing, perhaps I’ve just been spoilt (I have a Sapphire HD 4870 in my PC and it has awesome AA abilities) with PC games, however the PS3 games look amazing, especially Killzone 2 and considering that the console offers out-of-the-box gaming, I think I can overlook that minor detail.  A concern of note is the firmware updates, by default the PS3 slim ships with version 2.76 but there have been many reports of the 3.0 update bricking consoles (though Sony fixed this with the 3.01 update) and since the updates aren’t mandatory I think I’ll be sticking with the current version for as long as possible.

I haven’t suddenly turned into a Sony fanboy/zealot, I still feel that PC games (as far as graphics are concerned) are superior but the question is, how much are you going to pay in order to play those PC games at their optimal level?  I’ve spent over 20k on my PC and there’s still games it can’t handle at the optimal level.  But gaming isn’t just about graphics, Killzone 2 (while looking amazing) is great fun, as is Motor Storm – Pacific Rift.  My main reason for purchasing the PS3 is Killzone 2 and Final Fantasy XIII, and the Blu-Ray player played a large role in my decision-making too.

Another plus is the fact that the machine is near-silent when in operation, the old PS2 had quite a noisy fan if I recall although one concern that’s been floating around is that the new slim model may overheat.  I had the console running for over four hours last night and experienced no problems whatsoever.  I’m also very happy that the mirror top finish of the 80Gig version (though pretty) has been replaced with a matt finish as the previous mirror finish just wasn’t practical, attracting dust and being a fingerprint magnet.  The 120Gig HDD allows you to store, movies, photos, music as well as updates and of course your save games so it was really an apt choice of words when they said; “PS3 – It only does everything.”

PROS:

  • The new slim version is cheaper and has a 120Gig HDD
  • Blu-Ray Player
  • Plays all games out of the box at the optimal level
  • Near-Silent operation
  • The games
  • Region free games (though game add-ons are region specific)

CONS:

  • Not the final word in game graphics (lack of anti-aliasing)
  • Still expensive as far as consoles are concerned in South Africa
  • HDMI cable not supplied
  • Games are ridiculously expensive (shop around).
  • Blu-Ray capabilities are still region specific
  • Unreliable firmware updates (potentially hazardous to the console)

Update:

(03-10-’09)

After doing a bit of tweaking I discovered that by disabling AV Mode on the Samsung T260, it will remove the grain on both Blu-Ray films and games, while doing this works great for movies, the same can’t be said for games.  Even though the graininess is gone, the image quality appears to be dark and there’s a lot of pixel smearing (everything looks fuzzy).  At the end of the day, consoles are made for TVs, so if possible rather buy an HD TV for the best experience.

(05-10-’09)

Unfortunately the new PS3 console is not backwards compatible with PS2 games, though oddly enough, it is able to play PS1 games.  I tested Final Fantasy IX and it worked brilliantly.

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