Well my brother Brent finally broke down and bought a PlayStation 3. I haven't spent tons of time with it, but I have kept my eyes wide open while Brent has been using it and have been able to make a few observations, and make a few comparisons to my Xbox 360.
- The graphics are very detailed and from the games that Brent has purchased and the demos he has downloaded, frame rates are high. It doesn't look any better than the Xbox 360 at this point, though. In fact games look worse because…
- The games don't take advantage of anti-aliasing, so diagonal lines are jagged and objects with detailed textures tend to flicker a lot, especially when they are far away in the background. I believe this is a hardware limitation from what I have read online, so it isn't going away. The PlayStation 2 had a problem with this, too. Fortunately because PS3 games are in high definition, the flickering occurs in much smaller pixels so it isn't quite as annoying, but I still find it distracting. (I can't watch many PS2 games because of the alias flickering, PS3 games are at least tolerable.) The Xbox 360 does not have this problem in any of the games I have seen.
- The PS3 does NOT up-convert ANYTHING, including PS2 games. And games designed for 720P have to be down-converted to 480P if your TV doesn't support the 720P format. (The Xbox 360 up-converts all games, including original Xbox titles to the highest format your TV/monitor supports.)
- Blu-ray has the potential to look great on the PS3. Unfortunately it is only lately where movie transfers have started to be okay. The movie selection, in my opinion, is still poor, slightly worse than HD-DVD. Using the PS3 controller to control the Blu-ray player on the PS3 is kind of annoying and unnatural. If you intend to play movies on the PS3 invest in the remote control (especially since the PS3 has no infrared port, so no universal remote on this planet will work).
- Getting video and music on to the PS3 is annoying. Since it can't be streamed off of a networked PC you have to copy it over manually and store it on the PS3. One feature that it does have over the Xbox 360 is that you can store your ripped CDs on an external hard drive from the PS3 itself (the Xbox requires that you do this from a PC), but it will not pick up on file tags in AAC files created by iTunes, so you have to re-tag all of your music on the PS3, something to not even consider without a USB keyboard. Brent has spent hours retagging his music, which is something I wouldn't have done, that's for sure. Video formats appear to be limited to MPEG-4 with some pretty strict requirements on what it will take, but a freeware program is available to transcode your existing video files to something the PS3 will accept. The Xbox 360 has a HUGE advantage here; I had access to all 16,000 of my music files within a couple minutes over the network, all of the files properly tagged, and I didn't have to buy another external hard drive to store it all.
- Connecting an iPod is virtually worthless. You can see the file system of the iPod, and it will play files, but because the iPod file structure is essentially random, and the PS3 doesn't support the tags used in these files, you will never find anything you want to hear.
- The Sony store from within the PS3 isn't very good. One example of this is that we can't figure out how to move back a level after selecting a game to view its details. To really use the store effectively you need to plug in a mouse (the on-screen controls aren't very game controller friendly), but the PS3 doesn't support Bluetooth mice so you're stuck with a cord or USB wireless mouse. Who wants to sit that close to an HDTV? (Update: a recent firmware update for the PS3 added support for Bluetooth mice.)
- If you download a trial game and decide you want to purchase the full version, you have to download a new version of the game instead of just unlocking it. The Xbox 360's system of just unlocking the demo you already have is much better.
- PS2 games tend to look worse on the PS3 than they did on the PS2, with a few exceptions. Textures are rendered at lower resolution (who knows why?) in most titles, and the PS3 won't let you play some games that support widescreen in true widescreen format. It appears to not support the widescreen flag that can be set in a video stream to tell the TV to go to widescreen mode so even if you do find a game that can run widescreen on the PS3 you have to set your TV to widescreen manually. Considering how most PS3 owners are hooking them up to (widescreen) HDTVs, Sony really ought to figure out how to get the PS2 widescreen titles to play widescreen on the PS3.
- One little annoying quirk I just don't understand: despite the fact that you have controllers paired, online, and working, each time you start a PS2 title you have to press the PS button on each controller to re-connect.
- I do like the fact that you can buy an inexpensive adapter to copy your PS2 game saves over to the PS3. But I don't like they way they do it with virtual memory cards, because you have to keep track of which virtual card has the game save for each of the different PS2 games that you play.
Hardware - General
- The PS3 is BIG and it gets HOT! I wouldn't put it in a closed cabinet unless I was trying to play a game of Self Destruction. And to preserve its life, buy a small fan to blow on it.
- The Sixaxis controllers feel like a significant step back in quality compared to the DualShock controllers for the PS2. They are very lightweight and don't feel like they are very well built. The first day Brent had his PS3 the controllers were already showing signs of wear; I don't expect a controller to last very long. And when they are twisted (which happens when you are playing), they can creak and moan, a sure sign they aren't built very well. Oh, and since the rechargeable battery is built in and can't be replaced, if your battery dies in the middle of a game you have to plug it in via USB using a very short cord, placing you right back in front of your HDTV again. The motion/tilt feature is a gimmick and doesn't add anything to the games I've seen that use it. And I missed the rumble.
- The PS3 controller can be used on a PC via USB by downloading a third party driver off of the Internet. Without the driver it appears that it will work until it doesn't actually work. We didn't test if it could be used via Bluetooth.
- The game selection isn't very good yet. And some of the titles available are bad ports from other systems. In fact, at least one game that Brent rented for the PS3 is much better on the PS2. The PS3 still doesn't have a game that 'wows' me. (Motorstorm looks good but isn't groundbreaking.)
- There aren't going to be as many PS3 exclusives as there were PS2 exclusives. Many of the franchises that were exclusive to the PS2 are being developed for multiple platforms, or are not exclusive on other consoles.
- The PS3's on-screen keyboard is confusing and awkward… just plain terrible! If you buy a PS3, buy a USB keyboard, even if just for the online account signup process.
- I can't comment on sound quality for movies or games; Brent's PS3 isn't connected to a good sound system.
The only thing I see in the PS3 as an advantage over the Xbox 360 is the Blu-ray drive. (And speaking of high definition movie formats, my personal belief is that neither Blu-ray nor HD-DVD will catch on very well until the players are cheap, or the HD movies come with SD versions that you can play on your existing DVD players like laptops, in the car, or on other TVs in your house.) Some may argue that the PS3 is a good choice for those that have a large PS2 game collection, but honestly the PS2 makes a much better box for playing PS2 games.
To be completely honest, Xbox 360 games looked better at this point in its life, and look a lot better now despite the hype of the PS3 being a more powerful machine (which is a point of debate anyway). The 360's online service is unmatched, especially now that movies and TV shows are available for download. I like the feel and build quality of the 360's controllers a lot better than Sony's as well. I suspect the PS3 will be considered a success, but probably not at the rate that Sony and PS2 fanboys hope that it will; for now it is too expensive without enough compelling games or features to justify its high price. And as of this writing the 360 is outselling the PS3, and if that trend continues the PS3 obviously won't be able to catch up or surpass the 360.