Editorial: A slimmer, cheaper, better PS3. Was that so hard?

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Editorial: A slimmer, cheaper, better PS3. Was that so hard?
I've wanted a PlayStation 3 since forever. It plays Blu-ray movies, it has some great exclusive titles, and it looks like it could beat somebody up without breaking a sweat across its glossy matte brow. But it's always seemed out of reach price-wise. As my desire grew stronger over recent months, I found myself unable to pull the trigger: I just didn't want to pay $400 for a video game console that came out in 2006. The fact that I could get a lot more for my $400 than $500 would've gotten me at launch was hardly consolation, given that the PS3's main competition, the Xbox 360, has been available in a "full fledged" edition for $300 for a while. Luckily, the PS3 Slim has come at last to save me from all this heartache. Follow along, as I journey from the mire of indecision to the glories of console love... but really, it's all about the price drop.

Minimum price for a "usable" SKU.

A good deal or not, most of my price hesitation has been based on the fact that the PS3 has always seemed "overdue" for a price cut (as demonstrated on the chart above). That's why, despite Sony's incessant claims of "bang for buck," it's never seemed the right time to buy: I didn't want to be sucker and waste a hundie with a pre-drop purchase.

My price gripes actually had very little to do with what you get for the money, all other factors removed. I currently have a PC-based solution for playing Blu-ray movies, but I'd love the convenience of using my PS3 to view my slowly expanding Blu-ray collection. The networked media features of the PS3 are quite alluring, I like the idea of using the PS3's browser over an HD plug rather than my Wii's low-res browser when showing a must-see YouTube video to guests (something my 360 can't do), and I could even see myself spending a few minutes now and then arranging furniture and watching my avatar get molested on PlayStation Home. Unfortunately for Sony, I've owned a 360 since 2005, and a Wii since a few months after the launch, so I've been pretty much covered in the games department for a long while now.

Still, there's a growing stable of PS3 exclusive titles that I've been eying jealously from behind my big white Xbox 360 controller. Metal Gear Solid 4, Uncharted, Killzone 2, Valkyria Chronicles, Wipeout HD and LittleBigPlanet all quickly spring to mind, with games like EyePet and The Last Guardian (pictured) hopefully not too terribly far off. PSN titles (Wipeout HD included) are also a major draw, with Sony seeming to attract the "right sort" of indie titles into its fold. It probably won't be enough to pull me away from the Xbox 360 on a constant basis -- between my Live Arcade investments, 360 exclusives and existing Live buddies, there's plenty of reason to stick around -- but it's going to be nice to have the option to fire up the PS3 for a little bit of Fat Princess now and then.
In truth, I'm feeling a little smug now for waiting so long. The PS3 Slim's quieter operation, lower power draw and size advantages are a major perk in my eyes. It's taken a few years, but the hardware, services, library and (finally) price have all matured considerably. I'm one of those weird people who waited for the PlayStation 2 slimline before jumping into Sony waters, and consider it one of my best gaming investments ever -- my friend's PS2s were dying as my slim new unit was just beginning to live. Even more exciting is the forthcoming launch of the PlayStation Motion Controller next year, which really "spoke" to me on a personal level a lot more than the gimmicky Natal demo and the been-there-done-that MotionPlus display. For all I know I could be jumping on board right in time for a renaissance of the PS3 -- or perhaps another crushing defeat at the hands of Nintendo and Microsoft, but at least I'll have my Blu-ray discs.

What's been keeping me up at nights in the run-up to the PS3 Slim launch was Sony's heavy handed treatment of the PSPgo. In as many words (trust me, I've asked), Sony basically realized the PSPgo was desirable due to its improved form factor and lighter weight, and decided to overcharge accordingly -- pegging it at $50 more than the basic PSP 3000, though it lacks the UMD drive of its progenitor. Meanwhile Nintendo has continually drilled down its DS pricetag, while simultaneously introducing substantial improvements to the form factor in the DS Lite and functionality in the DSi. It's pretty crazy that now I can get a PS3 Slim (which plays Blu-ray movies in case you didn't know) for only $50 more than a PSPgo.

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
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.

Of course, it's not all roses for me: the PS3 Slim kicks out the ability to install an alternative OS onto the system, something I was sort of looking forward to tinkering with, and there's also no hint of backwards compatibility: it would sure be a joy to see my copies of Persona 4 and Shadow of the Colossus upscaled to glorious 1080p, and I've certainly considered springing for an old backwards-compat system to stretch my legs on. My fellow Engadget writer and dear friend Nilay Patel just scored a $275 60GB backwards compatible system on Craigslist, and I've thought about hunting down something similar, but in the end I like the lower fan noise and reduced power draw of a PS3 Slim more than I care for upscaled PS2 titles.

If I had to look at it objectively, and I was coming at this generation fresh with zero investment in any of the systems, I'd probably still pick the 360 over the PS3 -- Microsoft just seems to want it a bit more than the other guys. Its stable of hard-won exclusives, timed exclusives and extensive Live functionality (and Netflix!) make the system easily worth the price. Still, for the moment Sony is selling a console with a 120GB HDD and a Blu-ray drive up against Microsoft's DVD-playing Xbox Pro with a 60GB HDD for the same price. Microsoft will probably be rectifying the HDD discrepancy before the Slim even hits the market, but will have to hope that online movie titles will make up for the Blu-ray gap -- and let's not forget a history of hardware faults that might have informed consumers a little wary to begin with.

Overall, I think the PS3 Slim fits me quite nicely at this point in time, finally fulfilling my "three pillar strategy" of console ownership without making me feel like a sucker in the process. I'm looking forward to meeting all the nice folks on the (free) PlayStation Network who've never had the pleasure of virtually shooting me in the face, and the DLNA-friendly console should be able to manage my 360's Windows 7-powered media streaming duties just nicely. I'll never again find myself plastered to any side of a console fanboy fight (until the next next gen, of course), and I can stop humming loudly to ignore all those peskily glowing reviews for the occasional PS3 exclusive. Sony has finally converted an old-fashioned "Wii60" man like me, and suddenly the world is a happier, gentler place.

See more video at our hub!

Further reading: Check out all of our PS3 Slim coverage from yesterday, including our unboxing and hands-on!

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