Even before Sony's big unveil earlier this month at Cologne GamesCom, it felt like we already knew the PlayStation 3 Slim quite intimately. A leak from back in May gave us a glimpse of every angle of the hardware's exterior, and even the final retail box. At that point, we didn't know what to make of it, and the change in logo font definitely threw us off. Three months, thirty seconds of video, and a dash of legal paperwork later, and we're looking at that very same leaked device, now taking up space adjacent to our hefty 60GB "Classic" model from launch day. Unquestionably, it's smaller and lighter, but how else has Sony's Blu-ray-playing console evolved -- or regressed -- over these past few years? Read on to find out!
Gallery | 22 Photos

PS3 Slim vs. PS3 original vs. Xbox 360... fight!

Sony

PlayStation 3 Slim

Pros

  • Smaller, lighter, and quieter
  • More energy efficient
  • Matte finish

Cons

  • Blu-ray playback a tad slower
  • No support for OtherOS
  • No PS2 legacy support
Summary



Hardware

Volumetrically, the 120GB PS3 Slim takes up approximately 33 percent less space than its counterpart, and at 7.05 pounds it's about 36 percent lighter, too. Let's be honest, a 11 pound console was absolutely ridiculous, and we welcome the console now joining its competitors in a more reasonable weight class -- though it's far from the utterly dramatic size reduction we saw in the PS2 slimline. You can pick up a stand for $24, a bit steep since it should just come bundled, but even without the console sits vertically with what appears to be relatively good stability. Connectivity-wise, we're looking at the same setup as the most recent PS3 iterations, including just two USB 2.0 ports and 802.11b/g -- no Draft-N, which is a shame.

The good news about the BD-ROM drive? It still keeps your discs safe in the event the console gets moved about -- and if you've ever accidentally tapped your Xbox 360 the wrong way and found that slotted copy of Fallout 3 has now been rendered unusable by scratches, you know exactly how appreciated this feature is. The bad news? It's still just 2x speed, and none of this changes the fundamental use of PS3, meaning all those hassles of installing games while your Xbox 360-owning friends get to jump right in are still there. The AC cord has lost its ground pin and is actually the exact same, quasi-standardized cable that works with the PS2 and many laptop batteries, and just like the PS2 fat-to-slimline transition, the physical on-off switch on the backside has been made redundant and subsequently ousted.

Just above the disc drive on the front, the PlayStation logo can no longer twist to stay upright when the console stands vertically. We're sure not everyone bothered to realign it, but how much cost was really saved by cutting out the option? It's also experienced an inverse "Pleasantville" moment, whereby all its color has been removed in favor of an all-white design. The onetime touch sensitive panels for power and eject have been replaced with physical, matte buttons, ones that actually click when pressed, surrounded by a highly glossy surface. We actually really dig the new buttons and having some physical feedback when we're wanting to swap discs. Directly under that is a front-facing panel that can be removed to access the hard drive (more on that later).
Gallery | 33 Photos

PlayStation 3 Slim unboxing and hands-on!

Of course, the big debate here is gonna be the matte body. The Engadget staff is largely divided over the "toy-like" new form factor vs. the lustrous, fingerprint- and dust-loving predecessor, so much so that we're not gonna give a verdict one way or the other here. It does match the slimline PS2 quite nicely, and good thing it does since you'll have to keep one around if you were planning to play anything from the previous generation of games. The front panel and the sides of the body are still glossy, and even without the more mark-resistant material, you're still gonna leave smudges if you're too hands-on with the thing.

What's missing


120GB PS3 Slim
160GB PS3
80GB PS3
Product code CECH-2000A CECH-Pxx CECH-Kxx / CECH-Lxx
Price $299.99 $399.99 $299.99
Color Matte Black Piano Black (Glossy) Piano Black (Glossy)
HDD 120GB 2.5-inch SATA 160GB 2.5-inch SATA 80GB 2.5-inch SATA
Dimensions 11.42 x 2.56 x 11.42 in. 12.75 x 3.86 x 10.8 in. 12.75 x 3.86 x 10.8 in.
Weight 7.05 lb. 11 lb. 11 lb.
Power 250W 280W 280W
Vertical Stand Optional ($24) Not necessary Not necessary
Compatibility PSOne PSOne, Linux PSOne, Linux
PS2 compat? No No No
BRAVIA Sync (HDMI-CEC) Yes No No
Bundle Wireless DualShock 3 controller Wireless DualShock 3 controller, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, PAIN downloadable game voucher Wireless DualShock 3 controller
Read more about this chart here.

Not every feature made the transition to Slim, but gauging the severity of the cuts depends on how far back in the PS3 classic's timeline you want to go. The only aspect missing from its direct antecedent is the ability to install a third-party platform like Linux or OtherOS. It's a niche feature, sure, and we really can't imagine the average consumer is gonna care or even know that the feature's been ousted -- and if you're the sort of person that does, there should be plenty of used consoles in the market for years to come.

Go further back in the PS3's life cycle, however, and you begin to see just how much Sony's stricken from the hardware since its November 2006 debut. Two additional USB 2.0 ports, flash memory readers, and SACD playback have all met an untimely fate over these last years, but none of them sting quite as much as the loss of PlayStation 2 backwards compatibility. Sony can talk all they want about how people aren't looking at the past, but legacy support is something we've come to expect from our game consoles, and truth be told, the PS2 has one of the most impressive lineups in history of the industry (no offense meant, TurboGrafx-16 fanatics). We get it, Sony, you still haven't figured out how to emulate the PS2 on Cell and you don't want to waste the money / effort on throwing more chips inside the chassis when only a small portion of your audience will ever use it (sound familiar?), but why not give us a second, slightly more expensive model that does play (and upscales!) our old favorites instead of pushing those dedicated fans into seeking used systems from GameStop or eBay?

Noise, heat, and power consumption


Current (ampere)
Power (watt)
60GB PS3 Classic
PS3 Slim
60GB PS3 Classic
PS3 Slim
Plugged in / powered off 0.05 0.06 2 1
Browsing XMB 1.44 0.7 170 79
Downloading from PS Store 1.49 0.7 175 81
Installing LittleBigPlanet 1.40 0.64 162 74
Playing LittleBigPlanet 1.54 0.78 181 89
Playing Killzone 2 1.67 0.86 196 100
Watching a Blu-ray 1.44 0.68 167 75
Where the Slim and its 45nm Cell processor really shine is in the electrical efficiency department. While the results won't be as drastic as when compared with the newer "fat" models, Sony's cut power consumption nearly in half since its initial, 90nm CPU iterations. The results are pretty universal across all applications, with the lone exception being a statistical tie when the models are plugged in and idle. Also reduced is the noise of the machine, and in repeat tests, we stand by our initial results: it's about 2 to 3 decibels quieter on average during gameplay, and up to 10 decibels quieter while watching Blu-ray movies -- nothing to write home about while running missions in Infamous, but during the quieter, more suspenseful moments of Watchmen, there wasn't any loud whirring noises this time to ruin the mood. And regardless, any iteration of the PS3 is gonna be remarkably quieter than the Xbox 360.

The actual temperature hasn't seemed to fluctuate, at least in our experiences: when placed side-by-side on the same shelf under near-identical situations, both consoles hovered at around 106 degrees Fahrenheit when running Folding@Home or playing a Blu-ray disc. Kind of a bummer, but with our electricity bill now marginally lower, guess we can't complain too much here.

Swapping the HDD


At this point, we've probably swapped the Slim's hard drive over a dozen times. It's a quick and painless process as you can see in the video below, but to quickly recap: undo the panel on the bottom front of the console, take out the blue screw, slide off the front-right panel, and pull out the metal enclosure. You can replace with any 2.5-inch Serial ATA of your choosing -- a practice Sony not only supports but encourages, so no worries about voiding the warranty for 1TB of space. If you're swapping for brand new drive, you'll need to manually download the system software update via computer, transfer to disc or a USB drive into a folder called PS3 > UPDATE, and then insert when prompted on screen. Full details and pertinent links can be found on Sony's support site.


See more video at our hub!

Unfortunately for those upgrading hardware, you can't simply take the HDD from your classic system, insert it into the Slim, and have it work -- even with the same firmware update on both drives (2.80), it just won't recognize it. At all. You'll need to use a combination of the PS3 Backup Utility and manually transferring files to external storage if you want to save everything -- sure, it gets the job done, but that's a pretty big hassle for what should be a fairly straightforward plug-and-play job.

Blu-ray playback

Disc-to-XMB
Click-to-video
60GB PS3 Classic
PS3 Slim
60GB PS3 Classic
PS3 Slim
Watchmen
9.6
10
23
27
The International
10
10
31
35
Air Force One
9
9.9
30
32
Nightmare Before Xmas
10
10
25
35
We're actually a bit surprised by the results here, so we checked over these a few times. It seems that the PS3 Slim's Blu-ray player is actually a tiny bit slower than our 60GB PS3 classic from 2006, albeit not by much. As you can see from the chart, the time between inserting the disc (listening for that last little "click" sound) and having it register in the menu was pretty much the same ten seconds each time, but once you click on the disc and actually launch into the movie, the time it takes to get to a non-loading screen was seconds quicker on the classic. Not a drastic difference, but after so many years to improve the BD technology, you think they'd bother to add something with a little more pep here, and certainly not deliver something with less.

TrueHD / DTS-HD MA audio


That handy little chart from Sony Japan was spot-on, the PS3 Slim now bitstreams lossless TrueHD and DTS-HD MA audio. Just to be sure, we ran the console through a HD audio receiver -- in this case a Denon AVR-590 -- and popped in Watchmen Extended Edition. After selecting bitstream from Video Settings > BD/DVD Audio Output Format, the audio output at DTS-HD MA, and "The Times They Are A-Changin'" never sounded better. Frankly, it's not a difference that a majority of consumers are gonna care about, but if you're a home theater fanatic, you'll be more than appreciative.

BRAVIA Sync


Connecting directly to a 32-inch BRAVIA L-Series TV via HDMI gave us the option to utilize BRAVIA Sync and manage the system using our TV remote. Once enabled (via System Settings > Control for HDMI), we were able to do some basic tasks like navigate the XMB menu and control video playback, but other than that, there isn't a lot to see here -- sure, you can turn off both the display and the PS3 with the power button, but you can't use the same method for turning the pair back on, and browsing the PS Store comes quickly to a grinding halt once you realize there's no way to go back in the menus. It's a neat feature, but given the limitations, it's pretty pointless since you'll still need the DualShock 3 handy. Like TrueHD / DTS-HD, this feature only works on the Slim hardware and won't be coming to classic in the future.

Wrap-up

Looking past any potential aversion to matte, anyone picking up a PlayStation 3 Slim is getting a significantly better product than an early or even mid adopter. Sony really has come through with a smaller, lighter, quieter, and more energy-efficient piece of hardware, and at $300, even if your sole interest is a Blu-ray player, it's a hard value to beat. More than anything, it's that price point that's sure to draw comparisons to the now-$300 120GB Xbox 360 Elite, and someone buying their first current-gen system now has a much more compelling reason to pick Sony than they did less than 30 days ago.

It's not all sunshine, though, as Blu-ray has taken an inexplicable performance hit that makes it slower at playing movies than its first-generation ancestor. That said, all signs point to an extension in the traditional four-year console cycle, which might make it a prime opportunity to cajole "Wii60" owners to lay down their arms and give PS3 a chance. Just don't forget to keep your PS2 handy.
Gallery | 6 Photos

PlayStation 3 Slim review