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Scratching a $499.99 itch – Playstation 3 hardware review.

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Here are some first impressions from a new PS3 user.

You’ve probably read it elsewhere, but it has to be said after seeing it in person; the Playstation 3 is big and heavy.

The Six Axis controller is remarkably light. However the USB charge cable is stupidly short, which shouldn’t be a problem when you’ve got a full charge; but I sit about seven feet away from my television, so this ridiculously small cable presents a problem should I need to charge whilst playing games. Oh well. Should the situation arise, that may just be a good time to turn off the system and rest your eyes.

Also, the buttons on the Six Axis feel taller than those on the Dual Shock. I could be wrong, but to the touch they feel higher. Maybe that will wear off once I break the controller in.

I briefly look at the manual on the basic connections, and then threw caution to the wind and booted up the system itself.

The first thing I did was find my MAC address and add the system to my home wireless network. Then I tried to test the network connection on the PS3. It didn’t work. Turns out the wireless connection needed to be enabled. After some fumbling through the Network menus and cursing the system, I finally found the option to turn on the wireless network device.

Next thing I did was download the firmware updates for the system. I updated to Firmware v1.82 Total time to download: 10:28s

Time to install: 4:57s

With the firmware updated, I decided to set up my PSN account. I held off on game purchases, opting instead to play around with the game demos available on the PSN store to see what I like first.

Initially the PS3 did not want to connect out to the PSN registration site. I encountered two DNS errors (Sorry, I didn’t note the actual number of the error). I went back and checked the wireless Internet settings and the connection succeeded in both tests.

So I went ahead and launched the web browser to see if there was any network connectivity. The PS3 web browser launched and went straight to the Playstation 3 Portal site. I clicked on the demos link. Hey, Dynasty Warriors: Gundam. I want to try that, maybe I can get it without a PSN account. I move my cursor over the icon and press X. Nothing happens. Again. Nothing happens. Okay how about Ninja Gaiden Sigma? Click X over icon, nothing happens.

Either I’m doing something wrong or you can’t download demos from the PS3 Portal site. So I decide to give PSN account creation another go. My network connection is clearly working.

I hook up my USB keyboard for this part. Sorry, but I’m not going to torture myself with slow and awkward text entry with the Six Axis. I go through the name, address, and such fields. Now it’s time to pick an account name.

What’s this?!

All the nicknames I want to use are taken already. Once you have your account set up and ready to roll, you can choose an avatar from 21 pages of icons (IRC, there were about eight icons per page).

Total time to set up my PSN accout 22:30s.

So now I can connect to the Playstation Network Store. Click on demos.

There’s Dynasty Warriors: Gundam, file size 449MB. I choose Download in background and go browse around some more. I download some E3 videos. And I click on the view Downloads button, but the screen only shows Gundam being downloaded in slot 1 or 1. What? So I go to click out of the menu, and my connection takes a crap on me and boots me out of the store.

I reconnect to the store and queue up the download again. This time I notice the spot to monitor your background downloads. So I leave the store and go check on the downloads.

I was surprised to see my PS3 had queued six downloads for me. Three game demos, and three E3 movies. It also had the second Gundam download I queued, so I pressed triangle and cancelled the duplicate.

All in all, it took 45:28s to download the Dynasty Warriors: Gundam demo. That’s a bit long for a 450MB file, and I’ve read complaints about PSN downloads elsewhere. So hopefully Sony does something to address this in the future. On my connection, that file should finish in half that time with a strong connection.

I installed the demo and proceeded to whup some giant robot buttarks. About 45 minutes later, I defeat Musha Gundam and finish the demo. Fun game!

When I exit the demo, I receive messages that the Unreal Tournament 3, Killzone 2, and Warhawk E3 videos completed downloading in the background while I was playing demo. Nice!

Meanwhile, the Ninja Gaiden Sigma and Armored Core 4 demos are both at around 10% complete. So I decided to mess around with Folding @ Home. You have to download the initial package which is 50MB. After it installs and relaunches, you have to download a smaller patch.

Once everything was patched, I joined in on the cancer curing fun. You get a neat rotating globe graphic that displays other Folding users around the world. And if you move the thumbsticks, you can get a detailed progess screen of your contribution to the cause.

Neat, but is my PS3 still downloading demos? I hop out of Folding @ Home and check my downloads.

Yes!

The downloads are still coming down. Awesome.

So I go back to Folding, turn off my television, and go to bed.

When I wake up seven hours later, the demos are done downloading and I’ve completed one Folding process! Woohoo.

Overall, the Playstation 3 so far is a pretty nice peice of kit. However the issues I had with my wireless connection have me a bit concerned as to how stable the connection will be while playing online games. Further testing will reveal all.

I also still wish Sony had chosen an external power supply. The PS3 runs pretty hot for me, and it’s all coming from the internal PSU.

Right now, the game line-up doesn’t completely thrill me. So I probably could have waited a bit longer, at least until Killzone 2 released to pick up a PS3; but I had a devil on my shoulder coercing me for months; so the $100 temporary price drop and free Blu Ray movies were incentive enough for me to jump in both feet first.

Unless you want to show off your HDTV or want to play Resistance Fall of Man, you would probably do well to wait on more software to show up for the system, or another price drop.

Na razie,

G.A

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