September 2009 update: Sony releases the PS3 Slim that is a redesigned console featuring essentially the exact same features as the "phat" PS3 but in a smaller, lighter body. Furthermore, Sony is simplifying the product line to have only one SKU, the slim that has a 120GB hard drive built in, available for $299. The Playstation 3 (PS3) is Sony's third console and successor to the massively popular Playstation 2. PS3 is part of the seventh generation of consoles which includes Microsoft's Xbox 360, and Nintendo's Wii. The biggest changes that the PS3 sports over the PS2 aside from massively increased processing and graphical capabilities is the use of Blu-Ray discs which have a maximum capacity of 50GB, as well as adding motion sensing capabilities to the controller.
The SIXAXIS controller features the same form factor as the standard PS2 Dual Shock with some significant changes on the inside. The controller no longer "shocks" as rumble is absent substituted by six-degrees of motion sensing (x, y, z translation and pitch, yaw, roll rotation). The rear shoulder buttons are replaced by analogue triggers. Lastly, the SIXAXIS is noticeably lighter than most controllers, even lighter than the Wiimote.
PS3 supports up to seven connected bluetooth devices which can be a mix of game controllers or other bluetooth devices such as compatible headsets and keyboards. Connecting to your LAN is accomplished through the integrated gigabit ethernet adapter, or an optional wireless adapter for the 20GB model, and the integrated B/G adapter on the 60GB model.
Both DVD playback and high-definition Blu-Ray playback are supported standard, making the PS3 one of the least expensive Blu-Ray players on the market. DVD upconversion is also possible but only available through an HDMI connection.
Composite, S-Video, Component and HDMI are all supported output types of the PS3 with a variety of resolutions available such as 720p, 1080i, and 1080p. Both stereo and optical output are supported with many formats supported including Dolby Surround Sound and uncompressed LCPM.
Out of the box the PS3 is the most backwards compatible out of all the systems, as almost every single Playstation 1 and Playstation 2 game plays properly. Early North American and Japanese consoles have PS2 compatibility built into the hardware with all European versions using software emulation. Later versions of the PS3 in all territories are expected to use software emulation instead of hardware.
Another feature that is unique to the PS3 is the ability to swap out the included hard drive with any standard SATA 2.5" laptop drive. Any SATA drive can connect and be used with the PS3, however the slot can only fit a 2.5" drive.
Similar to the Playstation Portable (PSP) the PS3 uses the Cross Media Bar (XMB) interface to access the different functions and services the PS3 offers. Similar to the Xbox 360 the PS3 provides a vast array of services right out of the box that span the gamut of game playing and multimedia playback.
An online distribution system, known as the Playstation Store, is accessible for free which lets users download game demos, Playstation Network titles, movie and game trailers, as well as extra software to enhance the PS3 experience. One of these free software packages is Folding@home. In Fall of 2007 Sony will be releasing Playstation Home which is a Second Life kind of virtual world where users have properties that they can customize and share with their friends.
A feature that is totally unique to the PS3 is the ability to load on custom operating systems. Linux is the only operating system that has been developed to work with the PS3 with a few flavours being available, the most popular being Yellow Dog Linux which has a distribution that is customized specifically for the PS3.
The Playstation 3 has undergone various revisions and SKU releases in different markets, some with major changes, sometimes with subtle differences.
PS3 Slim ($299) - exact same features as the 80GB model, except no backwards compatibility with an extra 40GB for a total of 120GB hard drive. On the outside the console undergoes a major redesign to make it smaller, lighter and thinner.
Discontinued as of September 2009
80GB ($299) - 80GB hard drive, all the options including integrated WiFi, 4 USB ports, and the memory card readers. PS2 backwards compatibility hovers around 80% with enhanced graphics and scaling on supported titles. PSOne compatibility is near 100%.
160GB ($399) - the exact same as the 80GB hard drive except it comes with a 160GB hard drive standard, and Uncharted the game packed in.
40GB - Contains the core Playstation 3 services such as Blu-Ray movie support, and playing PS3 games. Contains 2 USB ports (down from 4), no memory card reader, and the biggest change is the total removal of PS2 backwards compatibility. Compatibility with the original Playstation remains at near 100%. Integrated WiFi remains part of the hardware, and comes with a built-in 40GB hard drive.
60GB - The original "Premium" version of the PS3 that contained all the integrated hardware options, and full PS2 compatibility.
20GB - The original "tard pack" version of the PS3. Features a 20GB hard drive but no WiFi, or memory card reader.