Sony PS3 £249.99
8th Jun 2010 | 15:05
The Sony PlayStation 3 is still selling well, but should you wait for the PS4?
Stop! We've reviewed the latest version of the PS3 here: PS3 review
The Sony PS3 Slim is the latest incarnation of Sony's opinion-dividing PlayStation 3 games console.
It's essentially the same console as before, but with slimmed down components and a new, smaller chassis. The key improvements in the new PS3 are the 120GB hard drive, up from 40GB and 60GB in previous UK versions, and it's also 36 per cent lighter, 33 per cent smaller and it consumes at least 34 per cent less power (it's probably even more efficient than that).
So why is this such a big deal for Sony?
The answer is that the PS3 Slim represents a new age for Sony's gaming arm – one that could well herald the start of a new profit-making era.
The vast majority of PS3 consoles sold to date (Sony has shipped over 24 million of them so far) have been sold at a loss - even the original 60GB version which retailed at £425 made a thumping loss per unit.
However, new manufacturing procedures have changed this recently, and a redesigned 45nm Cell processor along with other similarly small and power efficient components have reduced Sony's manufacturing costs significantly.
IN THE BOX:You get the console, a DualShock 3 controller, power cable, AV cable and USB cable - but no HDMI cable
So coupled with the fact that the PS3 Slim is selling for £250 in the UK – only marginally cheaper than the bigger, fatter PS3 original – you can see that Sony can finally expect to start making a return on its investment. And it's about time.
But really, the questions are: should you care about that? And should you buy the new PS3 Slim?
Continue reading our PS3 Slim review to find out.
The first thing to note about the PS3 Slim is undoubtedly the design. It's split opinions in the office so far, and although this reviewer thinks the design is an abomination, others think it's actually nicer than the original.
The differences are: the design is very similar, but one third smaller. So it actually looks like something of a smaller brother to the original PS3.
Instead of a nice glossy finish, what we have here is a dull matte, flimsy plastic casing that neither feels classy nor sturdy.
Gone, too, is the sexy chrome trimming, with the silver 'PlayStation 3' writing being replaced by a lacklustre 'PS3' logo embossed on the top of the case.
The on/off and disc-eject touch-sensitive buttons are also conspicuous by their absence, and they've been replaced by real buttons that give way when you push them. How boring is that?
You've still got two USB ports round the front, and round the pack there's the usual HDMI, AV multi-out, optical-out and ethernet ports. The kettle power cable has been replaced by a slimmer two-pin cable.
The problem with the PS3 Slim is that it looks so cheap. Sony has taken the opportunity to strip out all of the cool, aesthetic design features from the original, in what can only be a cost-cutting measure.
We're not totally against this, although we'd have liked some more of these savings to be passed on to us - the PS3 Slim is still £50 more expensive than the newly-priced £199 Xbox 360 Elite.
Consider also that the PlayStation 2 spent the vast majority of its life selling for $199 in the US and £199 in the UK. Nearly three years into its life, the PS3 still costs £250 – that's a lot of money in the scheme of things.
Once you get over the new-look design, and despite the slimmer, more power-efficient innards, the PS3 is still essentially the same beast.
Once you've turned it on, the differences end. The interface is the same. The controller is the same – although you do get a DualShock 3 controller instead of standard SIXAXIS – and the user experience is the same.
We did some very basic real-world benching and found that the PS3 Slim does actually boot a couple of seconds slower than our original 60GB PS3, although in practise that makes zero difference. The time it takes to load games and play DVDs are exactly the same.
One of the main gains you'd expect from a more power efficient PS3 would be that it would operate a lot more quietly. After all, with less energy being wasted as heat, the fan doesn't need to work so hard and thus pumps out less irritating white noise.
While we didn't measure the exact volume of the PS3 Slim's 17-blade fan, 95mm fan, it did seem to our trained ears to be slightly quieter when playing games. However – the PS3 has always been pretty quiet. Compared to the Xbox 360, the PS3 can be considered an extremely stealthy console.
The main noise actually comes from the disc drive. When you're watching a DVD, the spinning disc makes a lot more noise than the cooling fan. And this hasn't changed much – if at all. It's still loud enough to be annoying during those quieter scenes.
Of course, as before, the PS3's major trump card is its built-in Blu-ray drive which gives you the power to play back Blu-ray movies in glorious full HD 1080p.
The major new home cinema feature inside the PS3 Slim's new components, though, is its ability to bitstream Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio to a receiver over HDMI. This will seriously please the audiophiles, but for the rest of us it'll make almost no difference at all.
One slight disappointment with the PS3 Slim is its performance as a CD player. The original was a pretty decent CD and DVD spinner – but the Slim's thinner Blu-ray drive has proven to be a bit of a let-down.
Our colleagues at Home Cinema Choice actually measured the audio jitter of the slim – which returned a figure of over 460ps – a world apart from the original PS3's 138ps.
The audio in DVD playback was also disappointing from a perfectionist's point of view – with a measured high frequency response of -6.14dB. Will you notice this if you haven't got a top of the range hi-fi set up and a perfect set of ears? Probably not.
Still, though, the PS3's ability to upscale DVDs remains. The console uses its Cell processor to upscale DVDs to 1080p high definition, so even your DVD movies will look fantastic on an HD display. The Cell's enormous processing power can also be used to clean up fuzzy, blocky or grainy parts in DVDs or downloaded movie files.
Media and gaming
The PS3 is also compatible with a wide array of file formats which means you can play almost any media file – picture, video or music – without a problem. Popular DivX and Xvid video formats are supported out of the box so playing your digital movie collection is pretty straight forward.
And you can do that in two ways - you can copy them to a USB storage device and plug it in, or you can stream them from your PC over your home network either wirelessly or via Ethernet.
All media can be accessed in this way, which means if you've got a lot of photos, music and videos on your computer, you can view them on your PS3 as though they were stored locally.
As a gaming device, the PS3 is arguably slightly more powerful than the Xbox 360. So technically, in terms of graphical fidelity, the PS3 is as good as they come.
However, three year's into its life cycle, the PS3 still lags far behind the Xbox 360 as a gaming device, and that's because of the games available.
The Xbox 360 launched over a year before the PS3, and so was able to build up a large catalogue of games before the PS3 even made it into one living room. And even since then, the Xbox 360 platform has seen more games launched.
And that's before we even mention the differences between Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network (PSN). Comparing the two services is like comparing a fine wine to a bottle of Lambrini. For multiplayer gaming then, the 360 has it.
But the PSN on the PS3 is catching up, with big updates expected very soon.
The PlayStation 3 does, of course, have plenty of gaming exclusives of its own. Series' such as Metal Gear Solid will only ever be available on PlayStation consoles, and then the much-mooted Gran Turismo 5 will be launched on PS3 this Christmas.
You also need to remember that other than the original 60GB model, no PS3 is compatible with PS2 games. So beware if you're thinking of ditching your PS2 and upgrading - you'll need to hang on to your old console if you still want to play all your existing games.
So if gaming is your main consideration when buying a console – and it seems likely that it is – your best bet is just to look at the games available for each platform and make a decision from there. Who knows, maybe you'll realise that what you've wanted all along is actually a Nintendo Wii?
The jury is out on whether you should buy the new PS3 Slim. If you've already got a PS3 in either its 40GB, 60GB or 80GB flavours, it's almost definitely not worth upgrading to this slimmer 120GB version.
Unless you're desperate for more storage, there's not much here to justify spending another £250 on the newer model.
However, as a games console and media device, the PS3 is an unbelievably powerful contraption. It's an unrivalled living room media machine, and a powerful games console.
We do have serious concerns about the price, though - £250 is a lot to spend these days, especially when you can get the 120GB Xbox 360 Elite for less than £200.
Even though we don't like the aesthetics of the design, the smaller size is great – at last, here's a PS3 console that isn't so big that it dominates any room you put it in.
Other than that, it's business as usual. We loved the PS3 before the PS3 Slim came out, and we still love it. The Blu-ray drive is great as ever, but what we really love is the ability to stream almost any media file format from your PC or memory stick.
We also like the fact that you can use almost any Bluetooth device with the PS3. You can use any Bluetooth headset to chat with your friends. And you can use Bluetooth keyboard and mouse to navigate the built-in web browser.
Yeah, we think the design is ugly. But hey, you might like it – some do, some don't. But even if you do like the look of it, it's impossible to appreciate the general cheapness of its build. The original PS3 felt bullet proof. The new one feels like it might break if a moth landed on it.
Considering the reduced manufacturing costs associated with the PS3 Slim, and the horrible, cheap plastic it's encased in, we'd have expected a price closer to £200 – so cost is another big drawback.
Over all, the PS3 Slim is a phenomenal piece of kit. It's amazing that something so small can do so much. And so if you've just bought a new telly, that extra £50 you'd have to spend over the cost of an Xbox 360 Elite will be worth it just for the Blu-ray player.