Friday, April 27, 2007

Buying a Laptop…

I use two laptops. That might sound crazy to some of you, but they each have a purpose. Up until recently I was using a Dell Inspiron 9100 and Averatec AV4265. The Dell is a large heavy beast at approximately 8 pounds, but with an Intel Pentium 4 running at 3.2 GHz and 1920 x 1200 screen it is perfect for doing audio and video work away from home. The Averatec, on the other hand, is small and light – just over 4 pounds and small enough that when an 8.5x11 sheet of paper is placed between the base and screen (with the laptop acting as a file folder) the paper actually sticks out the front. The Averatec also lasts 4 hours on a battery charge – or at least it used to – so it really is a perfect machine when portability is key. But neither machine is dual core, and Vista has some annoying limitations on the Averatec, so I have been recently thinking about getting something new to replace both machines. Especially since most new laptops are dual core and that reduces the resale value of both of my current machines. If I sell now I'll get a lot more for them than I will even in a few months, so it really seems like now is the time to replace both machines.

Big & Powerful

The Dell hasn't been too difficult to find a replacement for. I have always liked Dell's offerings at the high end of the Inspiron line, so I started there looking into the E17005 / 9400 (they are the same machine despite the name difference), and again this seemed like a perfect fit. Not that I didn't look at other options… In fact I looked at a LOT of other options, and in the end, there was one feature on the Dell that I consider essential that I couldn't find on any other machines, and that is screen resolution. Dell offers a screen at 1920x1200, but I haven't found any other computers that match it. Since I use the computer primarily for audio and video production and this requires multiple programs to be open and visible simultaneously, I actually use all of that screen real estate, and it is very high on my list of priorities. I liked a few of the features on some of the other computers I looked at – most other laptops with a 17" screen have a full keyboard complete with numeric keypad (the Dells don't) for example, but in the end it was mostly about screen resolution and price. So the Dell is a done deal; my new machine shipped yesterday and will be on my doorstep in the middle of next week. Does anyone want to buy a Dell Inspiron 9100?

Small & Light

The Averatec is becoming very difficult to replace. Not because I am so attached to it, but because I can't find a suitable replacement for it, especially since I upgraded the RAM to 1280MB. I have, on the other hand, grown really attached to its size and weight. Its 13.3 inch screen and just over 1 inch thickness are perfect for me on a portable machine. For some reason laptops with a 14.1 inch screen get a lot bigger and heavier, and 12.1 feels just a little bit small but it isn't off the table as an option. The problem with staying with a 13.3 inch screen is that they aren't offered by a lot of manufacturers. Averatec is still selling the same 4200 series I'm trying to replace and doesn't offer a newer version with dual core CPU. Their 2300 series uses a smaller screen and runs a much more power hungry AMD Turion processor (and as a result have poor battery life), not to mention that I hate the keyboard layout on the 2300's (I don't want to press two keys for Home/End, or PageUp/PageDown!), so they don't have anything that fits me well for now. Sony has a few models in the 13.3 inch variety, but they are either bulky and heavy or outrageously expensive. I even considered getting an Apple Macbook and installing Windows on it but I can't live without a real right mouse button or its funky keyboard under Windows. (Should Apple fix that and increase the RAM I'd very seriously consider the Macbook.)

If I compromise on the screen and move down to 12.1 (again the 14.1 machines are just too heavy) I have a few more options available, but every one of them has something wrong with it, and it's usually the price. I only paid $900 for my Averatec when I got it, and I'm willing to pay a little more than that for a different brand, but I'm not willing to double it for what would in reality only be a small step up over what I already have. Dell's 12.1 inch XPS is too expensive, as are Lenovo's offerings. HP doesn't have anything in that category, and Fujitsu seems to be stuck with old processors. I don't trust Gateway right now – their machines might be okay, but I don't think I want to take that risk based on the frequency of repairs I've had to make on several Gateways for friends recently and the tech support horror stories I've heard. Toshiba has a couple of interesting machines in their U205 line, and they are a lot closer to where I want to be on price, but I hate their keyboard layout and their laptops can't be configured with Bluetooth, which I use a lot. (Who doesn't offer Bluetooth these days??!??!?) So far, though, the U205 is the closest I've found to a match.

For right now it looks like the Toshiba U205 is the closest thing I've found, but I'm still not excited about it, so for at least a little while longer I'll replace the battery on my Averatec and live with its limitations under Vista until somebody offers what I consider a good option at an affordable price, the price comes down on the U205 to the point where I can't say no, or my Averatec decides to die.


Mac OS X

I know I'm going to catch a lot of flak from Mac owners over this article. Mac owners tend to stick together and defend their choice of computer and operating system almost to the point of death. Discussions often get very heated and feelings often get hurt. Frankly I don't really understand why this is; a computer is a tool, and you usually don't hear many arguments about why a particular brand of screwdriver is better than another, certainly not with the same ferocity. And you certainly don't see television ads about how someone has switched from one brand of hammer to another or two guys making tongue-in-cheek comments about how one bench vice can do things that another can't. So if you are a Mac addict, I'll gladly listen to any comments you make about factual information, but I would really rather not hear prejudiced comments about how your computer is better than my computer without factual evidence to back it up, especially about why "Windows sucks." For what I do a PC is a much better alternative than a Mac. You may have selected a Mac for what you do with a computer, and if so, I'm happy for you. If the Mac OS does what you want your computer to do, great. But the Mac OS doesn't "just work" for me. And this article attempts to explain to some degree why that is.

Biggest Beef

My biggest beef with the Mac OS isn't so much with the Mac OS. It is with the Mac owners themselves. For some reason, as part of this close-knit community they have put together, many they feel they must pass along false information about what their machines can do that others can't. Or what their machines do better than others. I have a feeling that most of these people sharing this information don't bother to do their own research. An example: I know a lot of guys that work with video and film, and a lot of them use Final Cut Pro. I also work with video, and I have elected to use Adobe Premiere Pro. Final Cut Pro is a fine product (I have it on my Mac and I have used it enough to be able to speak with some authority on the subject) but it doesn't beat my Premiere Pro "hands-down" doing…. well, anything. Premiere Pro does nearly everything that Final Cut Pro does, and it does quite a few things that Final Cut Pro does not, including some very basic editing features that improve workflow tremendously. And Premiere Pro does NOT crash more than Final Cut Pro. Both pieces of software will crash from time to time, about equally. To the contrary of the rumors being passed around, Premiere Pro has been more stable and consistent than Final Cut Pro for the things that I have done – considerably less weird behavior out of the Adobe product. Please don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to bash on Final Cut Pro, because I do think it is a good product, but if you were to listen to a lot of Final Cut Pro users you would think that it does everything you could ever want with video, plus squeeze your orange juice and make your morning toast, without you lifting a finger. Please, let's be realistic here. A piece of software is a tool, and no piece of software is perfect. Some are used differently, some are faster at performing certain tasks, but in the end, it is just a tool. So if you are a Mac owner making such comments, please do a little research before perpetuating false rumors.

A great example of the self-perpetuating rumors is the recent television ads produced by Apple. In one such ad you see the "Mac" talking to a new digital camera from Japan easily because the Mac speaks its language, whereas the "PC" is not able to talk to the camera quite so easily (requires drivers). This is a classic example of highlighting just one particular situation, where other examples turn the tide the other direction. If the ad had selected a webcam instead of a digital camera the conversation would have been going the other direction: finding a webcam that will work with a Mac is quite difficult unless you are purchasing Apple's own iSight camera, whereas on a PC, many webcams "just work." And I have yet to find a digital camera that doesn't "just work" on Windows XP. But of course you will never hear this publicly discussed by Mac owners.

My Own Experience

This last summer I actually purchased a Mac Mini of my own so I could help friends who are Mac owners with projects, and to find out what all of the hype is about. I knew a few things about OS X going into it but I tried my best to lay those aside and keep an open mind as I learned a new computer environment. Initially I spent about 3 full days with the Mac, and have spent quite a bit of time with it since then as well.

For the most part everything looks nice on OS X; it has a level of esthetic appeal that you typically don't find with other operating systems until Windows Vista was released. Apple has always been pretty good about keeping things simple and clean, and OS X is no exception here. I didn't find any examples of "there are too many options to choose from" anywhere in OS X itself. For a new user this was nice; I didn't have to spend too much time reading each screen to change the settings I was looking for, and thus the intimidation factor of the computer was fairly low, though I don't think I would turn someone who is totally computer illiterate loose on it without some over-the-shoulder direction. Everything was going pretty well for a while, but I must say that I began to get a little bit frustrated fairly quickly.

I've been a Windows user for many years now and I have grown accustomed to having a certain level of customizability, and with the Mac, well, it just isn't there. You can't change the system font, or the system colors, for example, out of the box. If you want to do such things you need to download and purchase third-party software. And speaking of fonts, I don't think the font rendering in OS X is anywhere near as good as what you find in Windows; everything looks a little bit blurry, like I forgot to put in my contacts, especially when text is small. A lowercase "H," for example, at 8 point in the default system font appears as a gray box with a gray vertical tail and no clear lines whatsoever. (On a related note, a friend of mine who uses the Mac had spent hours poring over some code trying to figure out why it wasn't working, and it turned out to be that he had used a period where a dash should have been used, and he couldn't see it because on his Mac the two were virtually indistinguishable.) In contrast, text in Windows is always crisp and easy to read; there is always a clean edge on each character, whereas on the Mac there is a lot of gray added to the edge of text, especially at smaller sizes, making it appear blurry and harder on my eyes. And since you can't customize the system font, you are pretty much stuck what Apple has selected. This probably isn't a big deal to most people, but something that I do believe is worth noting and caused me a little grief.

Software Installation

One fundamental difference between the Mac and PC is the way that software is installed. On the PC virtually every piece of software comes with an installer that you run to go through all of the steps required to get the software working on your computer. The Mac also has an installer but not all software developers use it; some applications will come packaged in such a way that you drag and drop an icon from a .DMG disk image file or a CD into your Applications folder. This is pretty easy to do, and once you figure out that this is what you are supposed to do it works pretty well. The problem here is the way that software is uninstalled. On the Mac you drag the application package (the icons are actually packages of multiple files, more like a folder) to the trash. This is a little disconcerting for users of other operating systems, but we won't hold that against the Mac in any way. It does, however, leave behind the settings files for the application. And if the application used the installer instead of just being dropped into the Applications folder, anything that the installer added outside of the Applications folder is left behind as well. With the apps I installed on my Mac I think I only found one Uninstall program in everything that I installed despite the fact that quite a few of them used the installer. So I have absolutely no idea how much stuff has been left behind after performing an uninstall. I know a lot of PC uninstaller software leaves preference and user files behind, but they, almost without exception, remove any miscellaneous program bits they added as part of the installation, so you are left with preference and user files only. Overall I'd say that the experience on Windows was more consistent—applications almost universally use installers and come with uninstallers, whereas on the Mac there are two main ways to install software, and from what I have seen, no consistent way to do a clean uninstall, so bits and pieces do get left behind to some degree. Again, not a huge deal, especially if you are someone who doesn't install and uninstall software frequently, but something to be aware of.

Bigger Disks Required

This brings me to another issue that doesn't get any attention. Since Apple recently switched from a Power PC-based architecture to an Intel x86-based architecture, Apple and other software developers are producing what are called "Universal Binaries" that include native code for both the Power PC architecture and the increasingly common x86 architecture. These Universal Binaries tend to be quite a bit larger than their single-architecture cousins because they contain code for both platforms, so recent application software files are considerably larger than what we have seen in the past on either the Mac or the PC. With a large enough hard drive and a fast enough Internet connection this probably will not be an issue, but if you purchase a Mac with a small hard drive, be prepared for it to fill up quickly. The 60GB hard drive in my Mac Mini was filled to capacity very quickly (to the point of burning some of the included software onto DVD so I could continue to work), even though I never copied any of my documents, music, pictures, or video files to the Mac, whereas on my Dell laptop with a 60GB drive running Windows Vista, I have all of the document files I have created over more than a decade, a large collection of pictures taken on my 8 megapixel camera, a significant library of music, and a couple movies (in addition to a large selection of installed software) with 20 GB of space to spare. Disk space gets eaten up more quickly on the Mac, so if you buy a Mac buy a bigger hard drive than you would on a PC.


One rumor spread throughout the Mac community in the past has been that despite the lower numbers for computer processor speeds that the Mac is just as fast, if not faster, than a PC performing similar tasks. We don't hear a lot about this these days now that the Mac OS runs on hardware very similar to that which runs Windows where an apples-to-apples comparison would be easier to make. Since the newest Macs run Intel-based hardware, you can install Windows on Mac hardware and it runs natively. As a result of this, you can really get a good feeling about the difference in speed between the two operating systems. On my Mac Mini, OS X is sluggish. Quite sluggish. Sluggish to the point where I'm often not quite sure if it registered a click to open an application (there is no visual indicator on screen that a program is loading), and often have to wait several seconds when switching programs. I timed several applications startup times and they were a lot longer than they should have been. Firefox, for example, took 22 seconds to get to a point where I could enter a web page address. Loading Mail and Address Book took 17 and 15 seconds respectively. Now, the Mac Mini hardware I purchased shouldn't be slow. It runs an Intel Core Duo processor, which anyone who knows PC hardware will tell you is quite fast by today's standards, yet everything that I do in OS X seems slow. I thought at first that maybe it was because the Mini only came with 512MB of RAM, so I upgraded it to 1 GB, but that had no effect on performance; everything still takes a while to respond. What gives here?

I had quite an eye-opening experience when I installed Windows XP (and later Vista) under BootCamp … XP was FAST! Nearly as fast as I had ever seen it run. It would boot and be usable in less than 30 seconds and most applications would literally open within a second or two (though Firefox took a little longer at about 10-11 seconds to be usable), if not instantaneously. So now I'm confused. I am running OS X and Windows XP on the same piece of hardware. If the Mac OS is indeed faster as claimed why is it running so much slower on my computer? I don't have that much software installed on my Mac (remember I ran out of disk space pretty quickly so I didn't even have the opportunity to install that much), and nothing I have installed should be slowing it down—no antivirus or firewall or similar software getting in the way of performance on the Mac side of things. The only answer I can come up with is that OS X is just slower than XP. Mac owners feel free to chime in here… this is a legitimate question; I am honestly perplexed why there is such a drastic difference—is there something wrong with my OS X?

Update: I updated to Windows Vista under BootCamp recently, and it runs very well on the Mac Mini as well. It is actually still quite a bit faster than OS X on the same box.

Not for keyboard users

While I am on the subject of speed, I also find that, because of its design and not its (apparently slow) implementation that using the Mac really slows me down. I am one who uses the keyboard a lot to control my computer—the Windows key and Alternate keys on my keyboard are two of my best friends—and the Mac doesn't do a very good job of providing keyboard shortcuts for navigation around the machine. I couldn't find, for example, a key to send focus up to the menu bar to allow me to select commands with the keyboard. I have become very accustomed to navigating menus on my Windows computers using just the keyboard, and it saves me a lot of time over having to move my hands back and forth between the keyboard and the mouse. Having to always use the mouse for accessing commands makes me a lot less productive.

User Interface (continued)

And one other item that bugs me about the Mac is the way that the menu bars themselves are setup. In Windows each window or program has its own menu bar that is always visible. On the Mac, there is one menu bar that always stays at the top of the screen, and it changes to reflect which application's window is active. This reduces screen clutter a little at the expense of productivity. When I am using two programs simultaneously (such as a web browser and a word processor, where I am copying and pasting between the two) things take twice as long to get done on the Mac because in order to access the menu bar for a given application I have to click on one of its windows first to reveal that application's menu bar (occasionally having to wait for a while for the computer to respond to the change), then I can use the mouse to select the menu command I want. Then when I want a menu command from the other application, I have to click on a window for that application, wait for its menu bar, move the mouse back up to the top of the screen to access the menus, etc. On a Windows PC all menu bars are always available as long as its window is visible, and since I can access menu bar commands with the keyboard, very often my hands never have to leave the keyboard and I can switch between the two programs very quickly, and can usually switch every couple of seconds. I realize that not everyone will do this, but power users may feel as though their work is hindered by the extra steps that are part of the process.

It "just works?"

I often hear Mac owners brag about how hardware devices "just work" with their computers without any difficulty. This may be true for some devices, but my own experience has been quite a bit different. Apple has placed a fair amount of emphasis with its driver development teams to create generic drivers for digital cameras, MP3 players, and some other popular devices, and for devices which they support it does tend to work pretty easily. But I have had significant problems getting my Mac to talk to my cell phone for mobile Internet access – in fact it doesn't appear to be possible, while my PCs and my PDA all made it very simple to setup and get working.

OS X only comes with drivers for one of my four printers, and even that one works with greatly reduced functionality. Fortunately I was able to locate a driver for my color laser from the manufacturer's web site but it was somewhat difficult to install and get working because the printer uses an Ethernet connection rather than USB so it wasn't something that the Mac could automatically detect and get working. The remaining two printers aren't supported by Apple or the manufacturers, so I guess I am out of luck with those. My Mac also absolutely refuses to complete the Bluetooth pairing process with my headset; it just sits there doing nothing. Just to make sure it wasn't taking a long time I let it sit for 48 hours with no progress whatsoever, requiring a forced power off of the computer to end the process. So despite what Apple and many Mac owners will tell you, it doesn't always "just work." For someone looking at buying a Mac, make sure there is support for the hardware that you will need to connect.


We've probably all seen the television ad where "PC" freezes and requires a reboot. The implication is, of course, that OS X doesn't ever freeze and doesn't need to be restarted. My own experience confirms this; you don't need to restart Macs very often. Apple tends to use quality hardware that is stable. But then again, I never have to restart any of my 7 PCs either, other than for security updates. But OS X also has security updates that require a restart about once a month, just like Windows. They must be comparing Macs to PCs with really cheap hardware that isn't stable (you do get what you pay for with PC hardware). If you ran OS X on cheap hardware it would crash too. I learned my lesson about cheap hardware a while ago so now I use only quality components, and my computers just don't crash. As of this writing my two desktop computers have each been running for over 30 days without a restart. I reboot my Mac at least as much as my PCs, despite the fact that I use it a lot less.


Security is a big issue that Mac owners like to bring up when talking to Windows users. Their claim is that the Mac OS is more secure and that you don't need antivirus, antispyware, and other such software on their computers. It is definitely true that there are a lot fewer Mac viruses out there – to the point that most Mac owners haven't ever encountered one. So indeed there may be something to those claims. What scares me, though, is that this rumor has been misconstrued to the point where many believe that OS X itself is not vulnerable to viruses, so no precautions need to be taken. So what you end up with is a false sense of security, because most viruses and spyware don't rely on holes in an operating system to perpetuate themselves (worms are another matter); they use what is called social engineering to spread and do their damage – they trick you into installing them on your computer. Anyone who wants to could easily write a virus for a Mac and because most Mac owners do nothing to protect themselves, if a virus does get out it could turn into something really nasty. Most Windows users, on the other hand, are aware that precautions must be taken, and most of those users purchase the appropriate software to protect themselves. For the time being, since Mac viruses are so rare, everything is fine in Macland. My fear is that someday things may change and those who believe the Mac OS to be inherently more secure may be in for a rude awakening. It is just a matter of time. Windows has been a victim of its own success; should OS X ever catch on at the same level it will have the same problems.

Other Issues for Switchers

There are a few other fundamental differences between the Mac OS and Windows that those who switch from one to the other will need to keep in mind until they become routine. For example, most Mac applications don't close automatically when you close the last window; you need to use the Quit command in the File menu to close them down completely. And when you do this make sure you remember to Quit the application right away; otherwise you probably won't be aware it is running in the background potentially slowing you down. On Windows the default behavior is usually the opposite; most applications close completely when you close the window. For those who are learning the Mac I suggest getting used to using the File / Quit all of the time instead of closing windows, just so you know that your apps are actually closed.

Another thing that still frustrates me is that on Macs there is no hard drive activity light or other visual indicator that the computer might be busy doing something. I couldn't tell you how many times I have double-clicked an application to open it, thought nothing was happening (remember that slow response time with no on-screen indication that the application is loading), started to double-click again only to find that the application had been loading and I just couldn't tell. And I wasn't ever able to figure out a way to make my Mac reconnect network connections to my server at startup; I still have to manually reconnect to get access to my documents and other files (fortunately you can tell the Mac to remember the network address so at least I don't have to retype it each time). And if you have an Exchange email server like I do, configuring the included Mac applications to talk to it is deceptively difficult and time consuming despite the fact that these applications appear to support Exchange connections.

Running PC Software

With the availability of Bootcamp and Parallels (and even Crossover), Mac hardware is able to run Windows and therefore Windows applications. I don't think I would call this ideal for several reasons which differ based on which of the above solutions you choose to run. Bootcamp, for example, currently doesn't provide drivers for all of the Apple hardware and requires you to restart your computer in order to use a Windows application, so you can't run Mac OS X and Windows simultaneously. Parallels addresses this problem by running Windows in a window on your Mac OS X desktop, at the expense of requiring a great deal more memory on your computer or performance in both OS X and Windows really suffers. And once you do have enough memory, Windows applications don't quite run at full speed, and OS X takes a small performance hit as well. Crossover would address both of those issues, because it attempts to run Windows applications under OS X through an emulation and translation layer, but it really doesn't work very well for anything other than a handful of software applications. And for both Bootcamp and Parallels you are required to purchase a license for Windows (XP Home is $179.99 and XP Professional is $269.99 at in addition to the $80 price of Parallels if you choose to go that route. And if you are running any Windows applications on your Mac you will probably want to invest in a real PC mouse since the only decent Mac mouse only doesn't have a right button. So, yes, you can run PC software on your Mac, but it is going to cost you, either by making your wallet lighter or in machine performance.

In Conclusion

The overall feeling I get from my Mac is that it is telling me, "You aren't smart enough to use a computer. Here, I know what you want to do, so let me do it for you instead," when for the most part the assumptions are wrong and it just takes me longer to do what I really wanted in the first place. Apple's OS X is fine for some people, but it certainly isn't right for me as a primary machine. Because of the way it is designed it just gets in my way, isn't nearly as customizable, and well, just doesn't have as much software available for it as Windows does, much of which I use as part of my daily routine.

I don't want to be too negative about OS X, though, because it is a nice operating system. It looks nice, Apple's software is more consistent in the way that it works than Windows is, and it is pretty stable, rarely requiring a reboot. And Apple always has nice hardware designs; you'll never have to hide a Mac because it's 'ugly.' And in the past Apple has used high quality hardware to build their machines (though this is changing to some degree since the move to the Intel platform).

So now when people ask me if I think a Mac would be good for them I have to ask them what they will be doing with their computer. So if you were to ask me now, I'd have to say that if computing needs are modest—if you just browse the web, check email, listen to music, copy pictures from a digital camera, and don't share files with other people, the Mac OS may be just fine for you. But if you are like me and are a computer power user, you may too find that OS X is just too limiting for the types of things that you might want to do. My gut feeling here is that the approximately 5% market share that OS X occupies isn't far off from what percentage of the population OS X is right for as it exists right now (especially when the higher cost of Mac hardware is taken into consideration). So if you are among that 95% that needs more from their computer or doesn't want to pay too much for it, something other than OS X may be a better choice.


Sony Playstation 3

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 Compatibility

  • 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.

Other Stuff

  • 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.


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