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As a huge gadget fan, I've owned a number of video game consoles over the years - twelve in fact at the last count. Normally, I will buy a system and then sell it when, a) I simply get fed up with it, or b) it becomes outdated - but i've stuck with my Sony Playstation 3 Slim for a long time now. The Playstation 3 (from here on in referred to as the 'PS3') wowed gamers when it was first released back in 2007 - but its initial incarnation was oversized and power-hungry. Sony rectified the problem with 2009's PS3 'Slim', a smaller and arguably sexier device. The Slim isn't just a cosmetic update however, it significantly ups the hard drive capacity, and is better for the environment too - using an estimated 34% less power when in operation. The latest version of the PS3 Slim comes in two formats - there's one with a 160GB hard-drive, and also a 320GB option.
PRICE & AVAILABILITY - where can I purchase my PS3 Slim from?
Currently, the 160GB PS3 Slim can be bought from amazon.co.uk for £229, whilst its higher capacity 320GB brethren retails at £269. Compared to the price of the Xbox360, the PS3 is the more expensive of the two machines - around £50 more expensive in fact. That said, if you're willing to buy a second hand PS3 Slim, then there are bargains to be had - from eBay for example, you can pick up a lightly used 160GB machine for around £170, which isn't bad at all. For the price you'll get a composite A/V input cable and one DualShock 3 wireless controller - unfortunately, if you want your console to operate in glorious HD, you'll have to buy an HDMI cable separately.
DESIGN & FEATURES - what does the machine look like, and what does it do?
In terms of its appearance, the PS3 Slim couldn't ever be described as glamorous - in fact it's fairly industrial looking with a moulded black plastic body and brutalist frontage. Discs are entered via a slot loading drive on the front right hand side, underneath which is a power on button, and an eject button. When you switch on the device, the menu system (referred to as Sony's 'XrossMediaBar') is really easy to navigate - perhaps not quite as user friendly and colourful as the Xbox360's, but it seems
more grown-up, and there are more in-depth settings to tinker with. In operation, the device is very quiet (another improvement from the original larger PS3), so you can enjoy playing games or watching movies without a tumultuous internal fan noise.
CONNECTIVITY - hooking up the device to your other accessories
Handily, the PS3 Slim has an optical audio out port, meaning that you can easily connect it to your home cinema system and achieve Dolby 5.1 stereo surround (or Dolby TrueHD / DTS-HD Master Audio for that matter). The front of the console has two USB ports - which to be honest probably isn't enough. I would have preferred an extra USB port at the back (the original PS3 had one), so you could plug extra accessories in without having a messy cable coming from the front of the machine - ah well, you can't have everything I suppose! For connecting to your TV, there's the HDMI out port, and also a composite A/V out. In terms of the network capabilities, the machine has in-built WiFi for the internet and playing games online. Speaking of which, the PS3 lets you play games online for free, unlike the Xbox360 where you have to pay for the privilege.
BLU-RAY / DVD PLAYER - How well will it play my movies?
One of the main reasons that many consumers decide to purchase the PS3 over the rival Xbox360 is due to its ability to play Blu-ray discs. In fact, so good is the quality of the blu-ray playback, that the PS3 is often ranked up there amongst the top standalone blu-ray players. The 1080p system even has support for 3D blu-ray discs - so if you've got a 3D enabled TV you'll soon be raring to go. You'll achieve the best results if you've got a TV which supports 24frames per second mode - here films will flow with a cinematic quality and generally look great. If you're watching regular DVDs on the machine, you'll get a nicely up-scaled picture, meaning that (providing you've connected to your TV via HDMI and have an HD ready TV) you'll achieve a better picture than you would from a normal bog-standard DVD player. I would recommend getting hold of the official Sony Blue-Ray remote which can currently be picked up for £14.99, as this makes controlling your movies a lot easier than doing it with your gamepad.
THE GAMES - availability & graphics
Of course, it's all very well having a well designed and feature-laden console - but if the game developers don't support it, then it's deemed a certain failure. That said, I'm happy to report that the PS3 is an extremely well catered for system, with a plethora of games to choose from. To single out just one title, the recently released 'Gran Turismo 5' is simply the most comprehensive racing game to have ever been made, and it's available only on Sony. I would similarly recommend 'Little Big Planet 2' - this Stephen Fry narrated platformer really does push the boundaries of creativity in the genre. Powered by the Nvidia graphics processor, games have the potential to be visually superb - technically more powerful than the Xbox360, although you won't notice a massive difference in practice. Unfortunately, the machine isn't backward compatible - so if you own a library of Playstation 2 titles, then sadly you won't be able to use them (although strangely enough PS1 compatibility is still intact). This is one advantage that the Xbox360 has over the PS3, as it allows you to play the original Xbox games without any fuss.
THE CONTROLLER - Introducing the DualShock3
New PS3 slim consoles ship with one control pad in the form of the DualShock3. If you need another however, you can purchase one for around £35 from Amazon. These black plastic controllers are comfortable to hold, feeling nice and sturdy in the hand. Utilising bluetooth technology, the DualShock 3 is a wireless pad - well, it's wireless until the internal lithium battery runs dry, and then you'll have to connect it via the (provided) USB cable to the front of your console to charge. Of course, the DualShock3 has a force-feedback feature (hence the 'shock' part of its title) - and this is pretty much spot-on, being frequently used to create anything from small vibrations to full on, large scale rumbles. From what I have described so far, the DualShock3 may sound like a magnificent controller - but I don't actually like it a much as the Xbox 360's offering, due to the positioning of the left thumb-stick. It
Pictures of Sony PlayStation 3 Slim (PS3)
The console in question
feels like it's too far to the right of the pad, meaning that your thumb has to stretch a little over the D-Pad to reach it. If you don't fancy forking out all that money for the Dualshock3, then the QuickAct controller (listed in the Argos catalogue as the 'PS3 Compatible Dualshock Controller') is really good for the price - it's only half the cost of the official pad, and it performs just as well (that's if you'll forgive the lack of motion sensitive controls). At first glance, it would appear that the Quick Act controller is identical to the DualShock3, and it feels just as comfortable in the hands - the four main Playstation 'shape' buttons are a little smaller by comparison, but they feel nice and solid to the press. The two thumb-sticks are excellent - feeling tactile and smooth to move around, so no issues here. The triggers are very good too - spongy, with a quality which is better than the low price tag would suggest. The controller requires three AAA batteries to operate, and these slot neatly into a section on the pad's rear - in my experience, the batteries last a reasonable amount of time before they need replacing which is certainly a good thing.
FINAL WORD - a must have, or a must avoid?
Basically, the PS3 Slim is the best console that you currently can own - the blu-ray player is excellent, and as a games machine it's truly superb. Although more expensive than the Xbox360, the PS3 Slim offers real value for money, and this is because it can be used as an all round entertainment system. There's even a BBC iPlayer app which you can select from the menu, allowing you to wirelessly stream direct from the popular TV catch up service. The PS3 Slim's capabilities are further extended If you decide to buy the excellent 'PlayTV' add-on (£35 from Amazon), which connects to the console via USB and enables you to use your PS3 as a Freeview+ enabled hard drive recorder. Yes, there are a few issues which I have pointed out in the review (not enough USB ports, lack of PS2 compatibility, and controller issues), yet these 'problems' are simply insignificant when the console is viewed as a whole - highly recommended as an excellent device.
ADDITIONAL TECHNICAL INFO
AV Output: HDMI Out x1, AV Multi Out x 2, Digital Optical Out x 1 Memory: 256MB XDR Main RAM Ethernet: X1 (10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX, 1000BASE-T Bluetooth: 2.0 (EDR) Blu-Ray Read Speed 2x / DVD Read Speed 8x Dimensions: 290mm (W) x 65mm (H) x 290mm (L) Weight: 3.2kg
*I have also published a shorter version of this review on dooyoo.co.uk under the username 'JJJJ'