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As a Blu-ray Player:
The Slim Playstation 3 has been put through a battery of high-definition tests, ranging from stop-motion animation and foreign drama to thunderous epic-scaled adventures. No matter what was thrown at it in the high-definition spectrum, the quality was overwhelmingly strong – both on visual tangibility and, more importantly, on the audio side of things. The big point to convey is that the new Playstation 3 does bitstream advanced audio options to applicable receivers. That means no more Multichannel registry on your receiver when the Dolby TrueHD function has been selected. Along those lines, it’s also noticeably cleaner and crisper than the internal decoding, as to be expected. Keep in mind that the system still internally decodes the audio functions, if desired.
Universal’s Coraline was the first to test the range of the PS3’s capabilities. Framed at 1.85:1 and sporting a DTS HD Master Audio track, it’s been heralded as one of the better demo discs around. Boy, it showed; the textile elements in the animation, from granules of fabric against Coraline’s doll to the intricacy of the house’s design looks jaw-dropping. When colors are featured in the presentation, such as bright blasts of neon shades, gradients of color look fantastic. Furthermore, this Master Audio track absolutely barrels out over the soundstage with activity and lower-frequency splendor, acing the internally-decoded track by a few degrees.
Shifting things up a bit, Fox’s high-definition presentation of Kingdom of Heaven found its way into the player. Though it’s an older disc, the quality still stands strong as a crisp, finely detailed rendering of 2.35:1 material. Blue shades absolutely dominate Ridley Scott’s intended color timing for the cinematography, and it all looks rather good through the PS3. Though details aren’t as strong as I’ve seen on other players and some of the motion renders a bit of artifacting, they’re still exceedingly film-like and very natural. Something many might not realize is that Kingdom of Heaven comes with a DTS HD Master Audio track, a fact that might have been overlooked upon its release since very few players could actually handle the tech at the time. The detail present in this track is astounding, ranging from clanks against a hot iron to water (among other things) rushing down a river.
Next, Sony’s own presentation of The Fall was given a whirl on the player. It’s an extremely colorful fantasy picture featuring beautifully-shot images that replicate exotic, oasis-like settings. Sony’s 1.85:1 AVC encode is a stunner, and the PS3 replicates the film grain, astounding dimensionality, and robust bursts of color with exceptional grace. Furthermore, it sends the TrueHD track splendidly to the receiver, replicating the clanking of blades, verbal clarity, and sweeping musical cues to the tune of tremendous fanfare. It fills the soundstage elegantly.
To give a tougher disc a try, Criterion’s Chungking Express was given a spin. It’s labeled a “tougher” disc since it’s not one of those absolutely pristine prints that showcase the merits of Blu-ray technology to its pinnacle, but more of an appropriately excellent rendering of the film’s intended visual style. Film grain is preserved extremely well, only getting a shade on the murky side on a few occasions on the PS3. It also contains an elegant DTS HD Master Audio track filled with kitschy music and fluttering voiceovers, all of which sounded extremely good.
Finally, to challenge the player’s endurance, Warner Bros’ Blu-ray presentation of Fringe: The Complete First Season was run in its entirety. Several times, the unit was running at 5-6 hours at a time between episodes, and the quality never faltered. Warner’s VC-1 visual treatments looked great, while the Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks all sounded crisp to the ear.
For reference, Sony’s Playstation is Region A-locked – as tested by popping in a B-locked copy of The Fountain from the UK. It also cannot handle PAL-encoded special features, defaulting back to menu whenever a supplement is selected on the menu for I’m a Cyborg.
The slim PS3 also utilizes the supplemental functions of Blu-ray’s BD-Live and BD-Java functions just as well as the previous unit – as to be expected, since the software hasn’t really changed. Accessing both WB (on the fifth disc of Fringe) and Disney’s (on Pinocchio) BD-Live functions worked with very little fuss, while the PiP functions on WB’s The Matrix and Sony’s own The Da Vinci Code popped up with both video and audio working seamlessly.
As a DVD Player:
Here, however, is where the high praise crescendos down to little more than a whisper on the cinematic front. Though most home theater enthusiasts have their upscaling machine of choice, some might think it’d be worth the cash to spring for the PS3 if it’ll stand up on standard-definition levels as well. As a 1080p upscaling DVD player, though, the PS3 has always been very mediocre – and the slim PS3 is more of them same, if not just a hair worse. Tested with copies of Universal’s DTS presentation of Jurassic Park, The Weinstein Company’s The Mist (in color), and Sony’s Redbelt, it just doesn’t handle fine detail and film grain extremely well.
Blocking and edge enhancement appear with varied frequency, while detail in and around facial structures get a bit muddy. It still does a fine job of tightening colors and some details, but it’s very weak in comparison to other dedicated machines. This becomes more pronounced with the age of the disc, naturally, as Redbelt actually looked rather good in sharpness, detail, and grain levels while Jurassic Park just looked flat and blocky. The range of Dolby Digital and DTS tracks sounded rather good, though the lower-frequency items rumble on a looser, louder level in comparison. It’ll serve the purpose if necessary, but the quality’s just not there to recommend it as a very good upscaling DVD player.
Furthermore, Sony’s Slim PS3 is a Region One locked machine, as tested with a Region 3 copy of Memories of Murder. It also cannot handle Region-free PAL DVDs – or any PAL DVD signals – as tested with a copy of A Bittersweet Life from the UK.
As a Gaming Machine:
A fair amount of endurance testing was also put on the PS3 under its “primary” function as a gaming machine. What better to exercise it than the engrossing new game from Eidos, Batman: Arkham Asylum, and an old classic, Bioshock. Arkham Asylum features quick motion, high-quality cinematics, lots of color, and plenty of engine-testing on the Playstation’s new, “less-expensive” cell chip. Though slight, it carries a marginally better grasp on motion and runtimes between loaded materials. Moving downwards on Batman’s costume during the loading screen showcases a perceptible difference in the chip’s capacity to smoothly and seamlessly render graphics. Bioshock, a colorful and atmospheric first-person shooter, looks rather good, though it still showed off a few instances of jagged lines against contours. Bear in mind that other great PS3 exclusives, like Little Big Planet, are also available. Textures and such, however, pretty much looked identical between units.
The slim PS3s can endure also hours of gameplay at a time without faltering. One of the most disappointing shifts between thick and slim PS2s was the unit’s problems with glitches after a larger number of hours running the system – something remembered by this reviewer after a few length bouts with Final Fantasy X. Though timeliness with this review can’t permit me to fully test the range of its endurance, it’s safe to say that the transition to a more cost efficient framework hasn’t sacrificed its prowess. It does, however, get a bit hot when running for prolonged periods of time and can actually heat up the disc upon ejection. Standard rules for ventilation and such that you’ve implemented on gaming systems beforehand should apply here as well.
Here’s the biggest speed bump in the process: the slim PS3 is not backwards compatible with PS2 games. Users who have relied on the 20 GB or 60GB PS3 for that very purpose will have a bit of a decision to make. It does, however, play original Playstation games. Copies of Silent Hill, Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII worked like a charm in this system. Though playable, you can also download PSOne games via the Platstation Store (detailed a little later) – which currently includes the like of Final Fantasy VII and Tomb Raider.