"I will work more hours to buy one"
Release Date: November 11, 2006
Developer: Sony Computer Entertainment
Hardware Category: Game Console
Reviewed by: Brian Wray
I know what you are all thinking, BigRed you sold out. I can assure I did not sell out, but I have purchased a Sony Playstation 3. The reason behind this purchase was simple, I like HD movies and since we do not have a unified standard that will allow me to watch all the HD movies I want on one system I was forced to purchase a Blu-Ray player. As it turns out, be it by chance or by design, the PS3 is the cheapest Blu-Ray player currently on the market. This gives me a great chance to answer a few questions that are plaguing every gamer’s mind. Is the PS3 and its “cell processor” superior to the Xbox 360? And which one is the best value for your money? The answer may surprise you.
The first thing I noticed once I opened my new PS3, was a card inside that congratulated me on purchasing not a game console but a device that will greatly increase the level of joy itself in my life. This new SUPER COMPUTER from Sony will not only allow me to play games, but will cure my cancer (since I do not have cancer, I could not test this functionality), ensure my hair does not fall out and if I licked it, get me more primed than Viagra ever could. Yes the card did boast many things, so I was very excited to hook up this puppy to 51" HD screen to see what it could do. Now where did they place that HD cable? What, no HD cables? After a quick trip to the local store to purchase a multi-out HD cable and I was once again primed and ready to go.
The package came with the console, one SIXAXIS controller, a Blu-Ray copy of Spider-Man 3, a power cable, an RCA cable, a USB cable, a user manual and the previously alluded self glorification card. I do not understand how a console that boast the advantages of “TrueHD” (Sony buzz word) in 7.1 surround sound with integrated Blu-Ray got packaged with RCA cables. Consider that for the same purchase price of $399, I could get an Xbox 360 Pro bundle with two games (the careful shopper can score more) with HD cables and headphones included. (Note, no headphones with the PS3 either).
The actual console setup was pretty straightforward and only took a few minutes. Not as simple was figuring out that I had to connect the wireless controller to the console via a USB cable before it could be used. I guess I was spoiled with the Xbox 360 wireless controllers that never actually require a wire. The PS3 USB wire is also required to charge up your wireless controller that ships with a non replaceable internal battery. OK..done...moving on. First thing first, I downloaded and installed updates, and there are quite a few updates. Unlike Microsoft that bundles all updates into a big semi-annual package, Sony rolls out updates every few weeks. Strangely once the update was complete, I had update again. I guess the first long update was to update the updater. Updates all done. Now let’s start the real fun.
(Click for larger image)
The PS3 interface is actually very calming. In sharp contrast of the Xbox 360 full screen blades, the PS3 went for a minimalist approach. This look is very appealing and does indeed work very well in supplying the gamer with all the information needed. The interface of the console can be easily changed (in appearance, not layout) via themes that are available from the Playstation Store for FREE (yeah, PS fans get free stuff. Are you reading this Microsoft? FREE STUFF!). Playing around with the interface a bit more, I concluded that while the navigation was simple, finding the specific item I was looking for is not. Some menu items have many options that require the user to scroll through a long list to find the required setting to change. Now that the Playstation 3 was all updated and looking the way I wanted it, it was time to test this console out with a few game demos. So I signed up for the PlayStation Network and proceeded to visit the PlayStation Store. This is where I stopped having fun. There has been much debate about Xbox Live and the annual cost (well there is no cost for downloading demos), but after dealt with the PlayStation Store, I will never complain again.
I wanted to compare the performance of the PS3 versus the Xbox 360. To this end, I figured that the fairest test would be to compare demo for demo. I now need to find a series of game demos that was available for both consoles. Downloading demos meant I needed to visit the Playstation Store. This is Sony’s version of the Xbox Live Marketplace. The two may share the same function, but little else. The PSStore is nothing more than a webpage, one that is extremely poorly laid out and hard to read even on my 51" HD set. Even worse than bad layout, bad font choices is bad user feedback in relation to the navigation. I constantly found myself wondering if the console had registered my “click” or not, resulting in pressing buttons too many times and downloading something I did not want. After struggling for over ten minutes with the Playstation Store, I managed to find a handful of demos that were also available for both consoles.
For the challenge, I choose a few of my favourite titles; NHL 08, The Simpsons Game and Need for Speed ProStreet. I tried to get a good variety of games and ones that hopefully would display different special effects and texture. On a side note, while I was in the Playstation Store, I also set for download the movie trailer for Walk Hard as LeafsGirl wanted to see it. I even changed the download queue to download the movie trailer first before the game demos. I did like the fact that I could queue up as many demos or items (well I did not notice a limit) as I wanted on the PS3 as opposed to the 6 slots available on the Xbox 360. I then switched over to my Xbox 360, which I had to turn on, and set the same 3 demos to download. The entire process took less than 2 minutes with the more intuitive menus system of the Xbox Live Marketplace. Now I was playing the waiting game. I did not need to wait very long. Fifteen short minutes later, all 3 demos were downloaded from the Xbox Live Marketplace and were ready to play. I switched over to the PS3 expecting similar results and noticed that the Walk Hard movie trailer (only 54MB in size ) had yet to complete downloading. Both consoles were on the same WIRED network (even thou the PS3 has integrated WiFi, I still choose to wire it up). It took less time to download all 3 demos on Xbox Live, over 2GB of information, than to download a simple 54MB movie trailer on from the PSStore. It was obvious the console face-off was not going to occur today. I left the “Super Console of Happiness” to do its thing, while I used my “less awesome” console to play Crash of the Titans.
(Click for larger image)
Day 2: I powered up my PS3 (well it was still technically powered up from downloading the demos all night) and was ready to start the face-off between the two consoles. I went straight to start up the first demo; NHL 08. The challenge would need to wait some more as I found out that the demo did indeed download successfully, but does not get installed. I now had to choose to install each demo. This took another 10+ minutes to complete (I kid you not). Demos fully installed, I was finally I was ready to start the challenge. First up was NHL 08. I would set both consoles to start the game at the exact same time. The game took equal time on both consoles to start up (considering they both started from the hard drive, this was to be expected). As the game started I noticed that both games run at 720p. I quickly hit the pause button as each game prepared to drop the puck. This allowed me to enter the replay mode and to move around the ice rink, zooming in and out of each player, comparing lighting, textures, shapes etc...And what did I see? Nothing. The PS3 and Xbox 360 versions were not close, they are identical. So I left the players and started looking at other stuff, like reflections, ice surface, lighting, etc, and this is where it got interesting. For example the reflection of the players against the glass on the PS3 got skewed when you zoomed in, and at time disappeared completely. The Xbox 360 did not have such problems. Also the Xbox 360 version appeared to have more advertisements therefore more textures. The ice surface appeared a little smoother on the PS3, but the Xbox 360 ice looked more realistic (when was the last time you saw mirror surface on an ice rink). Still the differences were very subtle and would not noticeable to most. Admit it, do you actually look at your players reflection when trying to score a goal. I noticed similar trends for “The Simpsons Game” demo and in the “Need for Speed ProStreet” demo. The Xbox 360 textures appear more detailed, but slightly. I think this is because the PS3 appears to wash things out a bit, while the Xbox 360 darkens things a bit. Before you blame my TV set for this, I did calibrate my TV using THX calibration methods and tools. The reality was, even without the benefit of life altering cell processing, the Xbox 360 was graphically superior to the PS3, even if just slightly.
(Click for larger image)
While testing these games, I took an instant dislike to the PS3 SIXAXIS controller. To me it felt like a cheap piece of plastic. I assumed it was because I have larger hands than most. I invited LeafsGirl to come and test the NHL 08 demo on the PS3 to see her take on the SIXAXIS controller as she has smaller hands than most. She is an avid NHL hockey fan and even has her own Xbox 360 and copy of NHL 08 so she can play whenever she wants. She scooped up the controller, did not appear to notice that it was different than usual, and started playing. She was not even a minute into the game when she asked why my Xbox was running so choppy. I actually did not notice till then that the PS3 version of NHL 08 was indeed choppy. I was comparing still images for differences and forgot to compare the game demos in full motion. As it turned out, NHL 08 for the PS3 only runs at 30fps while the Xbox 360 runs at 60fps. Glad to say this trend did not extent to all games.
The strength of the Xbox 360 console is not it graphical prowess, but its social capabilities. With Xbox Live, one feels as he/she is part of a greater community. The PS3 has a similar setup, in some ways superior to Live (in that it’s FREE), but the feeling of being connected is removed by the need to exit games to chat with friends.
The PS3 is a nice piece of hardware that does have a lot of potential, but in my household the PS3 was purchased a movie player and nothing more. I already have a gaming console and I have not seen anything on the PS3 so far to change my mind.