The design of the PlayStation 3 has sparked controversy since it was first unveiled -- some think that it looks sleek and futuristic, while others think that it looks oversized and bulbous. I have to say that I was never a fan of the design when I first saw pictures, and I was even less of a fan when I saw it first hand at E3 last year.
However, now that I've had a PS3 sitting underneath my TV for a couple of months I'e started to warm to its somewhat full figure. It's also worth remembering that although the PlayStation 3 is significantly larger than the Xbox 360, the latter uses a truly massive external power supply, while the PS3's PSU is built into the casing.
Standing the PlayStation 3 next to the Xbox 360 and the Wii really highlighted the fact that the X360 looks more like a computer product than a consumer electronics device. Whereas both the PS3 and the Wii are finished in glossy plastic, that will no doubt complement your shiny new high definition TV, the Xbox 360 just looks a bit dull by comparison.
Of course the down side of the glossy black finish on the PS3 is that it collects fingerprints at an alarming rate -- especially when you have a 14 month old daughter who likes to press buttons! Likewise, the chrome face plate becomes just as grubby in no time at all. In fact even if you can avoid the fingerprint problem, you'll find that the glossy finish will be marred by excessive layers of dust in a matter of days.
The front of the PS3 is dominated by the slot loading Blu-ray drive with the obligatory PlayStation logo mounted just below the slot. As with the PS2, the logo can be rotated, ensuring the correct orientation whether you opt for horizontal or vertical operation. In front of the drive are touch sensitive eject and power buttons -- yes my daughter loves pressing these at every opportunity! To the left of the Blu-ray drive is a hinged door that hides a memory card reader -- this accepts CompactFlash, SD, miniSD and MemoryStick formats. Below the card reader are four USB 2.0 ports -- these can be used for all manner of accessories as well as charging the controller.
At the rear of the unit you'll find a three pin power socket that accepts a standard kettle lead. It's worth noting that the power supply inside my Japanese PS3 is most definitely multi-voltage and is happy with current ranging from 100v up to 240v. I was somewhat nervous about plugging it straight into the mains without a voltage step down unit, but after much finger crossing and breath holding my PS3 didn't blow up and just dutifully went into standby mode when I flicked the hard power switch.
There's also a plethora of connectivity at the rear. The familiar PlayStation AV out is present for analogue connection to your TV, while an optical S/PDIF port will let you pump digital audio to your surround sound system. There's also an Ethernet port for hooking the PS3 up to your home network, and if you've really pushed the boat out with your network installation you'll be able to take advantage of Gigabit speeds. But the jewel in the crown of the PlayStation 3's connectivity is the HDMI port.
Unlike any other games console currently available, the PS3 can connect to your high definition TV via a digital interface, assuring the best possible picture quality. The PS3 is also one of the first devices on the market to sport an HDMI 1.3 port, which means that you'll be able to take advantage of features like Deep Colour for colour depths up to 48-bit and a wider gamut, assuming that you have a compatible screen of course. HDMI 1.3 also allows the full implementation of the new lossless audio codecs like Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio.
With all that high-end connectivity on offer, you're going to be pretty disappointed when you open up the box and find that Sony is only bundling a composite video cable with the machine! So, not only are you not getting an HDMI cable to get the best possible output, you're not even getting a component video cable for analogue HD output. OK, so the Wii only ships with a composite cable, but the Wii isn't a high definition powerhouse, and it¡¦s worth remembering that Microsoft ships a component video cable with the Xbox 360. So, you're going to have to factor in the cost of a high definition cable when if you're thinking of buying a PS3.