Sony has given the PlayStation 3 its second makeover since the game system first debuted in 2006. This new version is smaller than the “Slim” update from 2009 and sports an even bigger hard drive, offering 250GB and 500GB versions that put the original 20GB and 60GB PlayStation 3 systems to shame and offering a sizeable upgrade over the 160GB and 320GB versions , which are still available.
At $269.99 for the 250GB model and $299.99 (list) for the 500GB model, the new PlayStation 3 systems are either identical or only slightly more expensive than the previous versions while offering nearly twice the capacity. On the downside: The new sliding-door, top-loading-disc design feels a little like a step backward designwise. If you don’t mind a slight compromise in build quality in favor of storage capacity, the new PlayStation 3 is a top-shelf system that offers the same gaming, Blu-ray playback, streaming video, and entertainment features that keep it our Editors’ Choice for video game systems.
The new PlayStation 3 is slightly smaller than the previous, slim version and downright puny compared with the original PS3, which could be hollowed out and used as a carrying case for the new system and two controllers. At 2.3 by 11.4 by 9 inches (HWD) and 4.5 pounds, it’s positively dwarflike compared with the massive, tanklike 3.9-by-12.8-by-10.8-inch, 11-pound original PS3. The new design is built entirely out of black plastic, like the previous PlayStation 3 models. However, its lighter design means it doesn’t feel quite as solid as either of its predecessors.
The slot-loading optical drive of the slim PS3 has been replaced by a stationary optical drive under a sliding plastic door. The round Power and Eject Disc buttons have been replaced by a plastic bar on the right side of the front of the system. The left side of the bar serves as a mechanical button that slides the spring-loaded door open. The right side of the bar serves as the power switch. The back of the console holds HDMI, Ethernet, optical audio, component (with adapter) and power ports, and two USB ports sit tucked under the front of the system, giving the new PS3 the exact same ports in the exact same positions as the previous model.
Whether the PlayStation 3 looks better than the slim version from 2010 is a matter of taste, but it definitely doesn’t feel as sturdy. The sliding plastic disc door makes the side of the PS3 feel flimsy and wobbly, and the button bar is awkward-feeling and coarse compared with the execution on the previous version’s buttons. The Open button only pops the door open; when you put a disc in you have to close the door manually. This execution pales in comparison to the PS3 slim, and even the slot-loaded disc tray of the original.
On the inside, the only big difference between the new PlayStation 3 and the previous version is the hard drive space (either 250GB or 500GB). It uses the same Cell processor made with a 45nm manufacturing process as the previous PlayStation 3, a big step up from the original PlayStation 3′s 90nm processor in terms of size and efficiency but not a big change from the most recent version. Besides the hard drive capacity, the PlayStation 3 models share the same power and capabilities across the board: They can play PlayStation 3 games and Blu-ray movies, and access a wide variety of content through Sony’s PlayStation Network. Like its predecessor, the new PS3 doesn’t support any form of backward compatibility with earlier PlayStation or PS2 games.
Same Excellent Features
Because the new PlayStation 3 has the same gaming and media-playing abilities as its predecessor, I won’t go into depth detailing all of its features. For a full look at what the system can do, our PS3 Slim review gives a good look at what the PlayStation Network can offer and how the console functions as a game system and a Blu-ray player. It remains a flexible, powerful game and movie system that can access a ton of content both online and in disc form, and its larger hard drive sizes mean you can download more content than ever.
Currently, most major game releases are cross-platform between the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, but if you want to play certain system exclusives like Halo 4 and Gears of War: Judgment, you’ll want an Xbox 360, and if you want to play God of War: Ascension and PlayStation Battle Royale, you’ll want the PlayStation 3. As with all game systems, check that the game you want to play is available on the console before purchasing one. If you want to watch 1080p movies and don’t already have a Blu-ray player, the PlayStation 3 handily beats the Xbox 360, since it does double duty with its built-in drive. You should consider purchasing the optional $20 Blu-ray remote control to go with the system if you want to use it as your primary Blu-ray player or media box, though; playback control is a pain on the DualShock 3 controller.
The PlayStation 3 is compatible with PlayStation Move to offer motion control for games. While technically superior to the Nintendo Wii’s motion controls and more directly useable than Microsoft Kinect , PlayStation Move has failed to find much of a footing besides gimmicky games. This might change soon with Sony’s Wonderbook, an augmented reality book that promises additional Move functionality in both education and entertainment titles.
Despite the PlayStation 3′s long lifespan, it’s not likely Sony will replace it any time soon. My guess is the soonest we’d hear of a PS4 or similar replacement would be at the Electronic Entertainment Expo next June, and even then, it wouldn’t likely be released until late 2013, or even 2014. Given that, the new PlayStation 3 is a welcome upgrade, but not a necessary one if you’re already a PS3 owner. The larger hard drives for around the same price lets you put more content on the system, but otherwise it’s functionally identical to the last iteration. The new, smaller design is certainly easier to carry around and tuck into your home theater system, but not significantly so. Its sliding door, open-top optical drive feels like a downgrade to the previous version’s elegant slot-loading drive, and it makes the system look and feel slightly flimsier. Despite these flaws, the PlayStation 3 remains one of the best home entertainment tools you can get, with all the features of a game system, a Blu-ray player, and a streaming media box built into one high-capacity package. Combine Blu-ray playback with PlayStation Network, a service that lets you play multiplayer games online without an additional subscription, and the PS3 continues to edge out the Xbox 360.
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Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc