November 10, 2006 - Although it was never confirmed, rumors of a semi-active Sleep Mode to be included in PlayStation 3 surrounded the days leading up to launch. It made sense, of course, since the PlayStation Portable uses the same menu as PS3 and has a Sleep Mode, and also the PS3's network features require it (or at least recommend for it) to be plugged in and active all the time. Unfortunately, the final retail PS3 units do not seem to have anything more complex than the PlayStation 2's own Standby Mode.
Standby Mode is your basic PlayStation shutdown sequence -- like PS2, the system shuts down and the lights turn red, and it's off (it just takes a lot longer on this system than PS2 did.) There is also a switch in the back of the system, but as with PS2, you're supposed to leave it in Standby mode rather than switch it off completely -- remember too that you can also start the system up with a push of a button on the controller this time. There is not a nifty Sleep Mode like on PSP, however, which was designed for the portable but could have been very nice on a console as well. Sleep Mode on PSP allows you to flip a switch and turn the system somewhat off -- the screen is black and the disc stops spinning, but the RAM stays loaded so that the system can quickly be turned back on even after you've had it in Sleep for days, picking up exactly where you left off in your game or video playback.
On PSP, this is of course a necessary feature to make the system pocket-friendly, and it also helps save batteries. It's not as necessary on PS3, but we would have liked to have seen it on the system -- it'd make those few minutes waiting for the initial load of huge, streaming games like GTA rarely a problem since you could slip the system into Sleep rather than left on in Pause mode when you finally feel the need to take that hour-long dump you've been holding off for the past three straight, sleepless days while playing.
We haven't been able to test yet to see if the PS3 does anything in its Standby Mode other than await being turned on (it will charge a PS3 controller if it's connected to USB, that's about all we know so far), but at the moment, Standby Mode isn't all that thrilling. There doesn't seem to be any always-on feature like the Wii's Connect 24, and SCE had already confirmed that it has no plans for the kinds of Push Content that will will do (where the system will find media and automatically download it to your machine -- a somewhat intrusive imposition on your storage space that is more than paid off for by the "Christmas Morning" feeling of switching on your system and finding something new installed to it.)
The PlayStation Network is still not yet fully operational, so we haven't tested to see if there is any kind of feature built into Standby with the new online system (maybe it can download files and then shut itself down so you can shop before going to bed?), but we doubt there'll be any surprises there. We are curious to see if the PS3 is at all receptive to PSP commands for the new Remote Player feature, as it would be a bummer to have to leave your PS3 on all day long every day if you wanted to access it remotely to show a friend a video or listen to your music rips while out in the yard. It would be interesting to know if there's any possibility of adding Sleep in future versions of the PS3 system software.
Look for further tests of the PS3's least thrilling features as we play with the hardware more.