Sony PlayStation 3 (PS3) 60GB

Sony’s next generation console is big, heavy and power hungry. So, how does it fare in its Best4Review test?

Sony’s PlayStation 3 (PS3) is, well, a bit of a lump, as you quickly discover as you lever it out of the box and set it down. The sleekly swooping black lines are attractive but still cannot hide the fact the PS3 has landed with a 5kg thump on your shelf.

You get a nice SIXAXIS wireless controller that recharges when it is plugged into one for the console’s USB ports and a full charge will last around five hours of continuous play. However, the current controllers do not include the 'rumble' DualShock 2 capability where you can 'feel' the hit from, say, an opponent in a game, through the vibrating controller.

Sony originally sited interference with the motion sensing capabilities of the new PS3 controller if the DualShock 2 kit was included. However it looks as if this may have been overcome as Immersion Corporation’s “Feel The Game” TouchSense Technology looks set to appear in non-Sony PS3 peripherals, hinting at what must eventually arrive in the Sony kit itself in the coming months.

The PS3 has a slot-loading Blu Ray drive built into the console on the front, accompanied by the on/off button and joined by an eject button below. Three memory card slots hide beneath a cover to the slot’s left side and can accommodate CompactFlash, SD/MMC, and Memory Stick external storage. Below the covered card slots are the four USB ports where you can connect the controller (when charging for example) or any other USB device - such as a steering wheel for a driving game or perhaps your MP3 player.

The back of the console, which, incidentally can also be used vertically a la its predecessor the PS 2, houses the various ports including RF Phone, Scart sockets, the on/off switch and of course the HDMI port.

Annoyingly, the PS3 is not set for use as a HDMI device out of the box, so you’re forced to set up using Scart.

Pnce done, you'll find that the new PS3 user interface - the Cross Media Bar or XMB for short (a UI similar to that used in the PlayStation Portable) - is fast and easy to use, providing quick access to the various options on offer.

These include Game and saved game data, Music, Photo, Movies, Updates, System and Internet browsing , all indicated by easily recognizable icons. You scroll across to, say, Game (a SIXAXIS icon) and a NOT ALLOWED down menu of options pops out, enabling you to scroll down to the required option using the controller.

A very funky feature is that, once you've made your choice, you can see a clip of the game before it is selected to play. Elements of Sony’s LocationFree TV technology are built-in, meaning you can watch anything on the PS3’s hard drive on, say, your PSP, that is if your within range of the console on your wireless network.

Interestingly, game saves are stored on the PS3’s internal 60GB hard drive, so the old external PlayStation 8MB memory cards are not used (thank the Lord), but this also means you have to log-in to the system using a password system just as you would log into, say a desktop PC.

This process may be a little off-putting to some, but is actually great because it means none of your gaming buddies can log in and accidentally overwrite game saves and the like. But the PS3 is much more than a games machine: the addition of the Blu Ray player means the console can play the latest in high definition DVD discs making it much more a multimedia machine than, say Nintendo’s Wii.

Picture quality is superb and the PS3 becomes a great stand-alone movie machine as well as a games console as a result.

In terms of games, graphics are at least as cinematic in quality as the FMV sequences that punctuate games including Resistance: Fall Of Man (the review of this game is to follow shortly) with details such as leaves blowing in the wind eerily realistic.

There are inevitably a couple of downsides. 

These include the heat the PS3 chucks out as it runs (though the it is miraculously quiet compared to the Xbox in action) - plus the fact the PS3 is a power-hungry beast. It uses  far more energy than any of the other next generation consoles on the market (Xbox, XBOX 360, Nintendo Wii) at 380 W in use, which is  much more than its predecessor the PS2, which used just 50 W in use. This means it’ll cost around £43 a year to run, so no 'green' stars to be awarded here.

However, since the PS3's launch, where it suffered from a relative paucity of new games, there are now a growing band of new titles that push the new console, and a growing range of games that actually make use of the console’s motion sensing SIXAXIS controller. Ditto Blu Ray movie titles, which are rapidly growing in availability.

Viewed solely as a games console, the PS3 looks poor value for money despite the price NOT ALLOWEDping significantly since its launch. But when its network capabilities are considered, along with the 60GB hard disk (incidentally an 80GB version is rumoured to be on the way), the Blu Ray player, plus the sheer quality of the graphics/picture, it makes much more sense. Enough sense in fact for me to recommend you buy one.