Sony’s Super-Slim PlayStation 3: One Step Forward, One Step Back

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Last week Sony released a surprise three-quel PlayStation 3 — an even slimmer, lighter rendition of its six-year-old games console. It then dropped that into a new bundle, raised the price by $20 and declared it “the ultimate gaming and entertainment system choice for those of you looking for the best value this holiday season.” So is it?

That depends on so many things nowadays: What type of games do you like? Do you have a system already? Do you prefer Sony’s exclusives or Microsoft’s? What about Nintendo’s? Which ecosystem appeals more, Sony’s PlayStation Network or Microsoft’s Xbox LIVE? Where are your friends playing? And what about the Wii U?

(MORE: Who Needs a PlayStation 4 When You Can Have a ‘PS3 Slimmer’?)

What I can tell you is a little about the new PS3 from a design standpoint. I’ve been playing with one, and while it’s admirable in many ways, I have a few significant reservations.

The redesigned model resembles the original PS2, though instead of the latter’s boxy right angles, it sports a curved, elliptical frame. Sony says it’s roughly 25% smaller and 20% lighter than the prior slimline model, and that sounds about right when you stand both units side-by-side. It can still be laid flat or positioned vertically, though it’s now thin enough that placing it on its side without a base is probably a bad idea. In a prior post I called it “almost book-sized,” though now that I’ve played with one, I’d say we’re talking more like a coffee table book.

All the basic PS3 features remain: two USB 2.0 ports and a power on/off light along the front, and Ethernet, HDMI, optical and AV multi-out connectors across the back. The power-on/eject switch is now a depressible bar with those functions at either end, almost like a rocker switch (that doesn’t actually rock). The only thing that’s changed is the hard drive size: You’re getting 250 GB here, a modest upgrade from the prior model’s 160 GB.

In the box: a power cable, a composite A/V cable (isn’t it time to retire these?), a DualShock 3 controller plus a mini-USB cable, a copy of Uncharted 3 (Game of the Year edition), Dust 514 (the free-to-play EVE Online-connected shooter) and a voucher for $30 worth of Dust 514-related digital content.

Instead of the prior model’s matte finish, this one sports a broad, ribbed stripe down its middle, which at first blush seems like a style move, when in fact it’s Sony’s boldest design change: To access the Blu-ray drive, one half of this ribbed section slides over the other half, revealing the drop-in spindle. Yep, the automated slot-loader is no more.

I’m guessing this was a cost-saving measure, because it feels like one. You can open the loader manually, which is where the ribbing helps by giving you a fingerhold, or push the eject bar, prompting the sleeve to shoot sideways with a moderately loud mechanical noise. There’s no automated close option, so the sleeve has to be pulled shut manually.

Opening and closing the tray while the PS3 is positioned sideways, as you might expect, feels a little awkward. Sony seems to want this thing laid flat, which — since you can’t slot-load from the side anymore — makes it a problematic choice for those of us who slide these things into narrow spaces or ones higher up, say above your television in an entertainment center cabinet (this is my predicament).

Another unexpected issue with the new PS3 is drive noise. The original PS3′s optical drive was relatively quiet, though the cooling fan could sound like a hair dryer when things got cooking. The first slimline system rectified this, reducing fan noise to a whisper, while the drive remained almost indiscernibly silent.

By comparison, the new PS3′s optical drive is much noisier when spinning up discs. I noticed it immediately playing Resident Evil 6 as the disc spun-up, stopped, spun-up, stopped and so on times a zillion over the course of just a few minutes of play. The stop-start, spin-up/spin-down noise was noticeable enough that I had to turn up the TV volume slightly.

(MORE: Sony’s ‘Day 1 Digital’ Downloads: How Much Longer Until Retail’s Demise?)

Dropping Resident Evil 6 back in my original slim PS3, the drive noise all but disappeared. I’m assuming that’s because the older model employs sound-damping, where in the new model, you’re separated from the drive spindle by just a few millimeters of ABS plastic. We’re not talking a deal-breaker here, and you’ll hear this less the further away you sit (I sit close, usually playing on a 22-inch TV in my office), but it’s worth considering if you’re sensitive about mechanical noise.

Otherwise it’s still very much a PlayStation 3. It supports Sony’s customer-friendly storage upgrade policy, allowing the use of store-bought 2.5-inch SATA hard drives, your pick, instead of locking you into a proprietary part and charging a premium, as Microsoft does. And it gets no warmer than the prior model, venting heated air quietly from the rear.

Speaking of price, let’s talk about that $270. The unbundled 160 GB PS3 is $250. By throwing in Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception and Dust 514 (plus the content voucher), Sony’s seen fit to hike the price of the system $20. Here’s what I wrote about that recently:

Sony’s trying to spin the new PS3 as a “better value” with the bigger hard drive and pack-in game, but the game — Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception – is the third in a series you’ve only ever been able to play on the PS3. Sony’s asking new buyers, who’ve never played an Uncharted, to leap in with a game that depends to a large extent on your appreciation of the characters and their relationships through the first two games. If you want to sell to newcomers, why not include all three in the Uncharted series? Or something with more cross-demographic appeal, like the original LittleBigPlanet and its sequel?

I’m not sure where the “value” is here. You’re asked to pay more for a system that, while further reduced in size, is in some ways a step back from the last model. That, and the pack-in games strike me as appealing more to a demographic that already owns a PS3 than newcomers.

My guess is Sony’s hoping to recoup some of its margin losses, by most estimates significant, on the PS3 over the years. The company is probably assuming Uncharted 3 works well enough as a standalone game (and there’s an argument for that) to lure newcomers intrigued by exclusives like God of War III, Demon’s Souls, Gran Turismo 5, LittleBigPlanet, Infamous, Metal Gear Solid 4, Resistance: Fall of Man and Heavy Rain.

As for Dust 514, CCP’s free-to-play online shooter, it’s technically still in beta, so it’s hard to say whether the $30 in digital content vouchers qualify as “value-add” or as more of a move to lure beta testers (where the “value-add” leans more in CCP’s direction).

While I like the look of the new PS3, it feels like Sony’s still reaching here. It’s not the slam dunk you’d expect from a company that nearly had one with the prior redesign. I’m just not sure the bundle content and cheaper-feeling drive bay get the job done. The price seems high for a six-year-old console, and whatever Sony wants to argue about “total value,” people respond more to price drops. We’re seeing consumer spending on video games trend down, after all.

If you’re a newcomer eyeing one of these, or the $300, 500 GB model with Assassin’s Creed III due at the end of October, it’s not that they’re a bad deal, it’s that I’m pretty sure Sony could have come up with a much better one, especially this late in the PS3′s lifecycle.

MORE: What If Sony’s Next PlayStation Didn’t Arrive Until 2015?

11 comments
jlwgunn
jlwgunn

The new console is so loud. My husband plays in bed with headphones and it was so loud that I could not sleep. Simply turning up the volume or moving away from the console just isn't an option. Very annoying.

shaq
shaq

i have the old ps 3 and it work very well and it run for long and those who buying the new ps3 becarefull it cannot run like the first and second ps3 because when makers ah going small it more sensitive and the fan more small

Nino Brunori
Nino Brunori like.author.displayName 1 Like

I

don't own a PS3 or an XB360.  I still use a PC for gaming which I can

not only control the resolution, play native games as well as thousands

of games through various emulators. I can also update my hardware and

I'm not locked down like a console.

I'm also not slave to DLNA transcoding and that garbage. I double

click on a movie and I'm watching it no mater what server or sources as

long as I have the proper codecs which are consistently being updated by

the community and not when Sony feels like it.

No doubt that this new system plays existing games but what does the

new hardware introduce that you can't get in the older version other

than being slimmer?

Being tech savvy I can probably surmise that yes it has better

hardware and more protections.  I would also surmise that they have

closed as many hacking loopholes they know about so you can't hack the

firmware anymore to play your backups or whatever they use the PS3 for.

So in essence I would speculate that you are buying a system that everything is in Sony's favor.

Like I said, I don't own one but why would I pay more for an already

working mousetrap just because it's thinner and brings nothing

significant to the table..

Go to a pawn shop and buy a used one for half the price because after

all, it's just a video game system.  How many PS2's, Game Cubes, PS1's,

Atari 2600's, Dream Cast's, XBox's and all the rest have I seen at Good

Will.  Get a full PC, you can do more with it and your not spending a

fortune for 6 year out dated hardware.  At least Nintendo is releasing

something new and hopefully this time it will finally play DVD's or Blue

Ray.

Read more: http://techland.time.com/2012/...

 

Hinako
Hinako

I bought an old type two weeks ago...

matt
matt

you keep talking about "newcomers" as if the ps3 hasnt been out for six years and no one knows what the fuck it is.  no one is going to not play an awesome game because the game "depends to a large extent on your appreciation of the characters and their relationships through the first two games" thats not only a complete non-issue, but a huge joke. "ohh im a poor stupid newcomer who cant play uncharted 3 because i wont understand all the intricate character relationships wo is me!!!"

Halid
Halid

My brother is asking me to buy this bundle for him. Is there better ps3 deal out there? Help..

Steven
Steven

Honestly, I would wait to get the Assassins Creed III bundle.

Captain Hindsight
Captain Hindsight like.author.displayName 1 Like

Haven't looked at other bundles, but I'd say Ebay it up. I'ma  big fan of second hand stuff, being a student, it's stupid of me to buy new consoles and games, when second hand ones work just as well. Make sure to buy from a respected seller though.