Is the PS3 finally the world's best console?

It's more than just a games machine

The Sony PS3 is likely going to drive Blu-ray DVD equipment sales for the near future, as people jump into the fray — if you're really interested in Blu-ray, why not also buy a system that can play games? It's also worth noting that, because of its built-in network connectivity and hard disk, the PS3 is one of the few players on the market capable of upgrading to Blu-ray BD-Live Profile 2.0. Due to its robust hardware configuration, the PS3 is considered by many to be the premier Blu-ray player on the market today. It also now supports DTS-HD output; if you're an audiophile, you're likely to appreciate this.

The system is 'more affordable' than before

When the 40GB PS3 launched in 2006, the $999 price tag (compared with $399 for the Nintendo Wii and $649 for the Xbox 360) took a lot of potential buyers out of the market. While Sony said the PS3 was good value, it was a hard sell considering the lack of good games and the uncertainty of the high-def drive. Sony then dropped the price of the PS3 to a more reasonable $699 for the 40GB model and $999 for the 60GB model.

Sony's online network has improved greatly

When the Xbox 360 and Sony PS3 launched their devices in 2006, the general consensus was that Microsoft's Xbox Live service was far superior to Sony's PlayStation Network (which was free, but didn't have lots of features and was tediously frustrating to use).

Sony has since dramatically improved the online service, and allows users to access the network without having to pay for a yearly service. The system is now quick, elegant, and highly intuitive. Currently, the store includes software for PS3 and PSP (including a variety of free trailers), online-only games, movie trailers, and some very cool things programmers are starting to do with the PlayStation Eye and Eye of Judgment PS3 game.

There are a variety of other features available as well. While PS3 users still can't download movies and TV shows (although you can download a few movie trailers, hopefully a sign of things to come) like they can on Xbox Live (although Sony is allegedly in talks with content providers about allowing for such content/this service has now been confirmed for Europe, you can still download game demos, add-ons to games (with more added all the time) and chat with friends. Speculation is rampant that when these video services become available, users will be able to transfer said material to their PSP's in much the same way they currently transfer music).

If online play and socialising with friends matters to you, it's hard to argue against free vs pay, when the features available are pretty much the same. There's also something to be said about telling users how much a downloadable game costs rather than using a point system and trying to hide the cost of the game (which Microsoft and Nintendo does, although Sony is rumoured to offer the card/point system in addition to their current credit card model — this will allow those without credit cards to take advantage of the network's many new offerings. Also, because Sony opted for a standard 2.5in hard disk, users are free to upgrade to higher storage capacities at their leisure, without being subject to buying Microsoft's restrictive proprietary disk format. This is significant for a number of reasons, among them price, choice (up to 320GB currently), and simplicity.

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Keith Shaw

PC Advisor (UK)

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