The PlayStation 3: 24 things you need to know

(Reprinted from GamePro.com. For the original version of this story, visit GamePro.com.)

With all the hoopla and wahoo about Sony’s Playstation 3 getting passed around like a hot potato, it can be difficult to keep things in perspective. It’s also easy for little details to get lost in the shuffle. Have no fear, though, because GamePro is to the rescue with a handy cheat sheet of little known facts and new information about Sony’s Cadillac of a console. Can you dig it?

Touch-sensitive power and eject buttons are a nice touch — literally

The eject and power on buttons on the face of the PS3 are touch sensitive, not unlike the iPod’s wheel or the Chocolate phone’s softkeys. It’s a nice, classy addition that helps give the PS3 a more cutting-edge look and feel, especially compared to the somewhat clunky “clicky” Xbox 360 power and eject buttons. A small detail, perhaps, but on worth noting.

15,000 kiosks across the nation by the end of November

Sony is doing a huge retail rollout of their newfangled system, and these units will be networked to provide updates and new content when necessary. Phil Harrison says that the days of promo discs inside these units is pretty much over. No more physical distribution hassles; new demos can be deployed nationwide in a matter of hours, securely, without assistance by us mere mortals. An elimination of demo discs also means more space on the delivery truck for things that can actually be sold, rather than being dedicated to promotional material. Also, the kiosks will use Sony Bravia HDTVs, which we understand are rather sexy.

We predict that SkyNet will be fully operational just in time for Christmas. Hope you’re not on the naughty list!

The PS3 is not just a cheap Blu-ray player

Nothing about the unit looks or feels cheap. The build quality of the console itself seems to be sturdy and substantial. The familiar red and blue/green LED lights, which indicate the system status, make a return from the PS2, but look more slick and futuristic. There are also tiny “feet” on the unit’s left side — handy for standing it in a stable vertical position. And the chrome trim is a surprisingly cool bonus on the $599 premium model, for purely aesthetic reasons.

Not all games will be 1080p

Although the hardware is certainly capable of delivering 1080p at 60 frames per second, certain titles will not reach this destination. In some cases, it’s a matter of not having enough time or resources before launch to include the feature. In other cases, the game is so visually complex that ensuring 60 FPS 1080p might be more trouble than it’s worth. We were informed that Resistance: Fall of Man maxes out at 720p — but this is understandable in light of its ambitious multiplayer. The game uses some pretty advanced physics calculations that require a ton of horsepower. Motorstorm also does not support 1080p and requires some serious calculation for its crash sequences, if appearances are any indication.

The Sixaxis controller doesn’t feel too light

In fact, it feels just about right; light enough to move easily for motion-sensing controls, but still sturdy enough to withstand some serious grip pressure (we tried). So much for those other reports that called it “cheap, plasticky” and “uncomfortable,” huh?

Speaking of which, the Sixaxis motion sensing takes some getting used to.

Don’t get us wrong: it’s a blast guiding Lair’s dragon around using tilting motions on the controller. But the controller seems to respond a bit better to subtle, gentle motions (tipping the controller slightly left made the dragon veer left; gently dipping the top forward made the dragon descend). Wildly jerking the controller around will not only clip your wings, but raise your temper. Remember: easy does it!

The PSP will connect via Wi-Fi to the PS3’s hard drive

While using the PSP as a rear-view mirror in Gran Turismo would necessitate a mutation of controllable limbs, Sony has come up with something much more intriguing lately. You can access the PS3’s system menus via the PSP, wirelessly, using a feature called “Remote Play.” Big Kahuna Phil Harrison also says that the PSP will eventually be able to access the PS3’s hard drive from any Wi-Fi spot in the world, rather than just on your local wireless network.

The Sixaxis gets roughly 30 hours of battery life

Though there doesn’t seem to be a way to swap out the battery once it’s been exhausted. Oh, well — we officially entered the age of “disposable technology” with the iPod anyway.

There’s no “lag” on the wireless Sixaxis controller, either

Bluetooth technology has come a long way, apparently; to see an example of poorly implemented Bluetooth wireless controllers, just check out the wildly erratic performance of Apple’s Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. But there’s no need to worry about the Sixaxis — in our experience, it stayed smooth, lag-free, and responsive in wireless mode.

The Sixaxis’s wireless range tops out at over 65 feet (20 meters)

This should be plenty of room for players with big, huge living room setups (that’s surely not us…curse tiny San Francisco!).

A new controller will set you back 50 beans

Sony confirmed this bit of news in their Gamers Day ‘06 presentation. The price is roughly in line with the Xbox 360’s wireless controller, though in the case of the PlayStation 3, there’s only one version of the controller.

Your PlayStation 2 save game files can be transferred to the PS3

With a $14.99 adaptor, you’ll be able to move over all your saves, something you can’t do with the Xbox 360. Backwards compatibility in the PS3 is a hardware solution — there’s actually PS2 and PS1 silicon inside that shiny black machine. Because of this, neither the games nor their saves have to be altered to operate on the new system. (The 360 requires its developers to go back on a case-by-case basis to add support for each title.)

The Blu-ray disc drive is slot loading, and it works like a dream

When nobody was around, we tried using the PS3 eject button to eject a demo disc (we’re naughty like that). It shot right out, MacBook-style, and the game (Formula One) kept right on playing. No, we didn’t keep the game, though it was printed on a BE-ROM disc.

One LED on the PS3 seems dedicated to tracking hard drive activity

This isn’t exactly a sexy revelation, but it does prove two things. One, that Sony has structured the entire system around having a standard hard drive. And another, that the PS3 is a notch closer to a personal computer than any video game console yet.

The first 500,000 PS3s will be packaged with a free Blu-Ray feature film

And no, it’s not titled “How Staggeringly Awesome Sony Is, Part One.” It’s “The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,” starring Will Ferrel as a NASCAR driver. It might not be your cup of tea, but it will definitely show off the capabilities of Sony’s new media format. You’ll get your fancy 1080p visuals, support for 7.1 surround sound, and hey, a free movie that you didn’t have to download from BitTorrent like a frickin’ pirate. Besides, it would have taken a week to download all that data anyway. Those audio channels don’t come cheap! On a side note, the BD-ROM spec goes up to 200 gigabytes. That’s a lot of… family-friendly home movies.

There’s still a hard “power-off” switch on the back of the system, just like the PS2

We used it at one point to power down the system manually when the unit wouldn’t shut down during a loading sequence. It works just like you’d expect.

The PS3 is very, very shiny

So shiny that it’s hard to take photos of it without capturing a mirror like reflection of a nearby light source. But it’s an interesting design choice, and should look super-sexy in a living room lineup.

As a whole, the PS3 itself looks incredibly sexy

It’s a unanimous opinion from the journalists we spoke with at the Gamer’s Day event that the PS3 is one slick piece of consumer electronics magic. It’s big, but beautiful, with an elegant shape and a certain undefinable “presence.”

The PS3 is super quiet

At a rating of just 22 decibels, it’s only slightly louder than a human whisper. All we know is that we could barely hear it running. That’s definitely worth something.

You may have heard rumors on the Internets that the PS3 was practically setting people on fire at last month’s Tokyo Game Show. Whether or not that’s true, we witnessed dozens of units performing flawlessly for several hours at a press event recently. While the air conditioning struggled against a small army of PS3s, enormous HDTVs, and excitable game reporters, the PS3s themselves hummed along quietly and solidly.

Of course, there’s always the possibility that one of them burst into flames just as we were leaving. But we’re pretty confident in the system’s ability to stay cool under pressure.

You can plug in a USB keyboard and surf the ‘Net

The PS3 will come packaged with a free Internet browser. The “front end” has been highly customized, to the point where it’s impossible to tell if it’s using Mozilla, Opera, or Internet Explorer (but since the console runs on Linux, it’s probably not IE). You can place multiple Web pages within view and stream media from several Internet locations simultaneously. However, it’s unclear right now if any USB keyboard will work, or if you have to get a Sony-approved model. They have not announced a USB keyboard of their own.

The power supply is integrated directly into the system

Phil Harrison told us that Sony made this choice for performance reasons, to keep the power supply as close to the CPU chipset as possible. And though the Xbox 360’s external “power brick” is hardly a massive disadvantage, having the power supply integrated in the main chassis is sleeker, slicker, and all around preferable. We like, we like.

Re-download all your merch to someone else’s PS3

The stuff that you bought on the PS3’s online store won’t stay imprisoned on your console. Just log in with your account info on someone else’s unit, and you can pull everything down — although each item has a limit of five transfers before Sony smacks your grubby fingers with a ruler.

First-party games are priced at $59.99

Which is in line with the Xbox 360 software pricing structure. This is comforting news, as there have been rumors that the games would cost even more thanks to more expensive Blu-ray manufacturing. No word yet on third-party game pricing; it’s still possible those prices will lean higher.

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