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Holidaze 2008: PlayStation 3 SKU chart, revisited

Ross Miller

We'd love to say picking up PlayStation 3 is as easy as going to the store and grabbing the first box with the console's name on it. For better and for worse, this generation of consoles gives consumers many choices at the (potential) expense of causing confusion at the store. In all, there have been six different hardware configurations for the PS3, with two of those currently in production.

So, it's with this in mind that we present to you a handy guide for discerning the difference between the various PlayStation 3 versions (aka SKUs) out there. Please note that the red and green coloring is not only festive decor for the holiday season, but a subjective highlight of what each version excels in (or subsequently lacks).

160GB 80GB
(Aug. 08)
(Aug. 07)
Model #
Price $499.99 $399.99 $499.99* $499.99* $399.99* $499.99*
Chrome trim Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
USB 2.0 slots 2 2 4 4 2 4
802.11 b/g Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Flash card
No No Yes Yes No No
Bundled Accessories
Ethernet cable Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Video cables Composite Composite Composite Composite Composite Composite
Controller DualShock 3 DualShock 3 Sixaxis Sixaxis Sixaxis Sixaxis
Backwards Compatibility
PS2 No No Software** Yes (NTSC),
No Yes
PS One Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

*This model is discontinued. The price on the chart represents the listed price before Sony axed it.
**See explanation in F.A.Q. below.

Alright, Joystiq, time to answer your own questions.

Let's do this.

Is this FAQ going to be a rehash of the previous Holidaze entry?

More or less, with some new additions.

Such as?

Such as color!

Let's say I plan to buy a used PlayStation 3 without a box, how can I tell how big the hard drive is?

Unfortunately, you'll have to take the word of whoever is selling you the system. If it's GameStop or some other local used game retailer, chances are they'll let you boot it up in the store to check the listed drive space. Remember, though, that the HDD is easily upgradeable, so you may want to go ahead and buy a 2.5-inch SATA drive and install it yourself.

How do I go about replacing the disk drive in my PS3?

There's a great tutorial, with pictures, right here.

What if I want to upgrade my current PS3's hard drive? Can I back up my save files?

Yep! From the XMB menu, go to Settings, then System Settings, then Back Up utility. From there you can either back up your data or restore information. (This will not save disc installations à la Devil May Cry 4.) You'll need an external hard drive -- FAT32 Windows formatted -- plugged in.

Why do some systems have full backwards compatibility, some partial, and some no compatibility with PlayStation 2 titles?

You can find a more thorough explanation here, but the gist is internal hardware: the initial PlayStation 3 consoles (20GB and 60GB) shipped with the core PS2 components -- the CPU and GPU -- and as such functioned as a PS2 for emulation. Hence, full backwards compatibility.

The 80GB model (and 60GB model for PAL territories) did not include the PS2 CPU and instead had written software that relegated the Cell processor to handle CPU duties. (The GPU remained within the system.) The process isn't perfect and there are hiccups, but it does play most PS2 games.

The 40GB model eschews the PS2 hardware entirely and does not include software for emulating the GPU. Therefore, no PS2 compatibility whatsoever. Both models currently in production (160GB and 80GB models made after August 2008) lack PS2 compatibility entirely.

What about PlayStation (PS1) games?

PS1 games are backwards compatible on all versions.

How can I determine backwards compatibility on a used, unboxed system?

The 20GB model doesn't have the chrome trim (and also lacks a flash card reader), so you can be guaranteed backwards compatibility with that one. On the other end of the spectrum, the 40GB only has 2 USB 2.0 ports, so you can tell which model has no PS2 backwards compatibility.

If you want to get picky, however, another way to do is by checking the model number, located on the bottom of the console (see picture below). The fourth letter defines the model -- for example, in the picture below, CECHG01, represents the 40GB model and therefore has no PS2 compatibility. "A" (60GB) and "B" (20GB) have full compatibility, and "E" designates compatibility via software emulation.

Isn't answering questions you posed to yourself a bit schizophrenic?

Who am I answering?


Just don't tell me to burn things.

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