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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.