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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Review: PlayStation 3 + Accessories

So I succumbed to Amazon's Black Friday sale and bought a Sony Playstation 3 with 2 games for $290. The way things work out, this meant upgrading the TV as well, and my mom's company was blowing out LG's 42LH300C for $575, so I opted for one. This in turned drove the purchase of a HDMI cable and a Wii Component cable as well. This kind of spending cascades is why BestBuy and Amazon have such high revenues.

It took a bit of wiring to set up. The nice thing is that my system is now actually simpler, since the TV comes with its own digital tuner, so the old Tivax and CRT TV got sold. Unfortunately, the Wii component cable did not come in splittable form, so I had to plug the Wii into the TV and then route audio from the TV back into the receiver, resulting in my audio latency being much worse than my visual latency (35ms versus 22ms). Unfortunately, despite the component cables, the Wii doesn't look all that great!

The Playstation 3, however, is a different story. Watching Veronica Mars on DVD looked great, since the PS3 upscales the visual. Plugging the PS3 into my receiver was a cinch as well, and to my relief, I could use both analog audio out and digital TV out (through HDMI), which enabled the sound to go directly into my amp. It sounds as good as you might expect. Stick in a Blu-Ray disc, and the picture quality is nothing short of amazing. It's not quite 70mm quality, but seriously, when was the last time you saw 70mm film projected in a movie theater?

But that's only the tip of the ice-berg. You can rent HD videos for $4.99 on the PS3 (it's hooked up to the internet, either through a wired connection or over Wi-Fi), and even better, I had a PlayOn license for $10 from a Halloween special that enabled me to stream YouTube, Hulu, and any other media sitting on my PC's hard drive to the TV. I guess I will never have to pay for cable TV again. Apparently, you can stream Netflix movies to the PS3 as well, but I'm too cheap to pay for Netflix too, so I'll probably wait until I get a free trial to play with it.

And then there's games. The Black Friday special included inFamous, which is so far quite interesting. I have to set it to easy so I can actually play it --- yes, I'm a lame gamer --- but I've known that ever since John Carmack gave me every weapon in Quake and came after me with an axe and axe-murdered me. When my Dad first heard my system through the PS3 he thought the simulated earthquake on the PS3 was real! The bundle also included Killzone 2, which seems like a game too hard for an oldster like me. Valkryia Chronicles is more my speed. Roberto loaned me a few games (and blu-ray movies) and I'll check them out as well.

The PS3 even supports my bluetooth headset, though I haven't had the occasion to try it out yet in a group game. The one complaint I have is that both the Wii and the PS3 are blue-tooth devices, while the TV, receiver, and soundbridge are infra-red controlled devices. So now my universal remote isn't universal any more (now the PS3 controller has to sit next to it). This is hardly a deal killer, and there are solutions, but I'm done spending money for now.

Which makes me wonder: who the heck is buying the Apple TV? For $70 more, you get a fantastic game machine, a blu-ray player, an upscaling DVD player, and access to pretty much the same movies, plus Hulu and YouTube (for a $30 PlayOn license if you didn't get the $10 license that everyone else gets), and whatever other media you can download to your PC's hard drive. I guess Mac owners can't run PlayOn (though it does run on VMWare) and are made of money anyway.

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