Just when you think Sony has shown its hand, it pulls out another wild card. Criticized at first for trying to cram too many features into the box and raising the price tag, Sony has continued to deliver even more features while cutting the cost.
While not every model of the PS3 has the full suite of features (memory card readers, WiFi), there are still more than enough new features to help you get the most out of your expensive PS3 purchase. And what Sony doesn't provide, crafty users are there to supplement.
Here are a few of the things we think will help you get started being a PS3 connoisseur.
Say Goodbye to DRM:
iTunes or Napster addicts know what a pain it is to pay for music and then find that you can't listen to it wherever you want. Thanks to DRM technology built into the audio files (something iTunes is slowly abandoning), you normally can't stream those files from your PC to your PS3, thus enjoying your music library in the comfort of your living room.
Well, now you can. After downloading Orb's Mycast technology onto your PC (which you can get for free through WinAmp Remote), and assuming you've already synced up your PC and PS3 over your home network, those music files will now be fully playable on the PS3. Problem solved.
Sony is hard at work on Home, the part social networking, part multiplayer hub that will set the PS3 apart from its console brethren. Whether it's setting up your dream (virtual) apartment, making new friends, or utilizing that longing for cohesive, cross-game multiplayer experience, Home should be worth the wait, and being free, an excellent selling point to help expand the installation base.
Watch High-Def Movies on the Cheap:
While only a month ago the whole high definition war was still being waged against the competing HD DVD format, Blu-Ray has finally taken its seat upon the throne of victory. And considering that stand-alone players are still hovering at around $400, the PS3 is the best solution on the market.
A recent firmware update just added support for true high definition sound, and the updates will assuredly keep on coming, making the PS3 a reliable and affordable means to truly enjoy the HD era in all its 1080p glory. And even if you aren't ready to spend the big bucks on new Blu-Ray movies, if you're connected to your TV via HDMI, you can upscale all your DVDs for optimal viewing.
Take Your PS3 to Go with Remote Play:
After a few years of Nintendo DS dominance in the handheld market, Sony's PSP is finally starting to make a name for itself as a remarkable multimedia device. Now, with Remote Play, the possibilities keep growing. As support for playing DVDs and Blu-Ray movies, PS2 games, and eventually PS3 games over Remote Play becomes a reality in the future, you'll practically be able to take your PS3 in your pocket.
Right now, you can still enjoy your entire media collection on the go, play PSone games streaming from your PS3, and a select few PlayStation Network games via Remote Play, and with new functionality being frequently added, the future looks bright indeed.
Why pay $150 for a 120GB proprietary hard drive (a la the Xbox 360) when you can install a much larger capacity laptop hard drive in your PS3 for a fraction of the cost? Just pop open the side (or bottom, if your PS3 stands upright) hatch on the PS3, take out the default hard drive, and put a much larger one in so that you can enjoy all the HD content you can handle on your living room TV.
Thanks to a recent firmware upgrade allowing DivX content to be played on the PS3, it's becoming more and more like a true all-in-one media device. Since any 2.5" SATA hard drive will work, it's easy to get up and running in no time.
Enthusiasts have been able to port Linux to almost ever platform available. The PS3 currently can run several versions of Linux, including Fedora, Yellow Dog, and Debian, depending on what kind of features you need. Getting the new OS up and running is fairly painless, and using it to run homebrew applications is permitted by Sony, giving tech-savvy gamers all the more reason to start tinkering.
So far, there haven't been any remarkable homebrew apps to whet our appetite, but we remain optimistic, with a few things such as the ability to use ScummVM to play old LucasArts point-and-click adventures and some minor homebrew games already appearing on the scene.
See With New Eyes:
The PS2 EyeToy catered to a fairly niche market, but Sony has hopes (or at least we hope they do) of putting the PlayStation Eye, the PS3's camera, to greater use. There are already some interesting tech demos available to download from the PSN Store for a few dollars, and one downloadable game (Trials of Topoq) that isn't half bad. The first fully featured game was Eye of Judgment, the card battling game that received great reviews and is a lot of fun to play online, and games like Burnout Paradise offers some unique uses.
But whether you want to use it for audio-video chat with other PS3 owners, or await some of the more technically impressive ideas that developers are hoping to utilize in the future, the PS Eye could finally be a console camera peripheral worth owning.
Get Shocked (again):
PS3 fans were shocked to learn that the system's' controller wouldn't include rumble technology. Over a year later the DualShock 3 arrives Stateside, and you can feel the controller rattle and shake with a slew of already-released PS3 titles. The SIXAXIS controllers that originally came with the PS3 will be discontinued, so if you don't want your controller to rumble or prefer the lighter weight of the Sixaxis, you might want to snag one before they're all gone.
As a bonus, those with the SIXAXIS can install a little piece of software to use the controller on your PC. Who said Sony and Microsoft can't get along?
Sony execs say that in 10 years, 90% of all games will be downloaded. It's a good thing that the PS3,(once all its features are in place) will be arguably the most robust online console for the years to come. With built-in WiFi, it's already ahead of the curve, and with no paid subscription required (just sign up for free on the PlayStation Network). It's online features are solid, with a recently updated browser that loads pages faster, and uses Folding@Home to aid in the race to cure cancer.
If you're clever enough, you can sign up for accounts in other territories to download games, demos and betas not available here in the States (such as the Metal Gear Online beta). Now all you need is a wireless keyboard and touchpad to make your living room net surfing experience complete.
Shop Smarter, Not Harder:
The PlayStation Network Store has always been a bit ... cumbersome. Since you could only access the store via the system's Web browser, page loading could be obscenely slow when there was high network traffic.
Thanks to the most recent firmware update, the PSN store is now software-based. The pages load quicker, its easier to navigate, and you can preview videos right inside the store (instead of having to download them first). If you haven't checked it out yet, you owe it to yourself to take a look.
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