TOKYO--Sony took advantage of the Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies (CEATEC), currently under way in Tokyo, to show off its much-talked-about new console, the PSX. The company gave more information on specifications, revealed prices for the Japanese launch, and gave attendees a demonstration of the console in action. After the prices ($725 or $906, depending on the size of the hard drive), the new console's exceptionally fast 24x DVD writing speed was the most interesting new information.
The PSX is a multifunction machine that can play games from the PlayStation and PlayStation 2, play back DVDs and CDs, and record TV shows onto its internal hard drive and dub them onto a DVD.
Sony initially announced plans for the new console in May, but until now it had held back from providing details. Today Sony revealed that when it launches at the end of this year, the multifunction device will come in two versions, one with a 160GB hard drive and one with a 250GB hard drive. They will include MSRPs of $725 (79,800 yen) and $906 (99,800 yen) respectively. The PSX will offer six levels of recording quality. The smaller hard drive will record 33 hours at the highest quality setting or up to 204 hours at the lowest quality setting, while the larger drive will record from 53 to 325 hours at highest/lowest quality settings.
The models can easily be distinguished from one another--the DESR-7000 has a blue PSX logo on the top, while the DESR-5000's logo is white. One odd design element of the new console is the position of the controller ports for the PlayStation, which are located at the back panel of the PSX, along with the antenna and AV plugs. The machine is slightly raised on small legs so that the controller wires can pass under the console and reach toward the front. The PS2 memory card slots, however, are in the front of the machine, as is the USB port and memory stick slot.
Sony claims a startling 24x write speed for the PSX DVD burner, which is fast enough to write a one-hour TV program to DVD in only two and a half minutes. If the drive lives up to its promise, it will leapfrog two or three generations of DVD drives, as the fastest DVD writer available now on Dell's site runs at a comparatively anemic 4x speed. Of course, the rewrite speed will not be as fast as the writing speed. The PSX will write to DVD-RW media at launch, and Sony says it is considering adding +RW compatability at a later date through a downloadable update, but in either case, the company hasn't yet commented on rewrite speeds.
The PSX contains all the functionality seen in top-end HDD-DVD drive models, including a tuner with ghost reduction capabilities, the ability to receive broadcast satellite signals, and the TiVo-like ability to play back footage while recording. Recording can take place while a game is being played as well--including games that use the hard drive.
In addition to the HDD recorder and DVD writing functions, the console offers enough connectivity options to please any gearhead. It features inputs and outputs for component video, S-video, and standard audio, and it also offers optical sound output (SPDIF) and D-terminal video output. The PSX will also feature a USB 1.1 port, a memory stick slot, and slots for two PS2 memory cards. Additionally, it offers recording and playback of the ATRAC3 music format Sony developed for its MD players, and it allows the playback of--but no recording of-- MP3s as well.
The PSX also takes advantage of the PS2 chips and uses a high-quality graphical interface menu, which can be used to browse through recorded media, edit footage, and change machine settings. The console is built around the same processor as the newest PS2s, which combines the Emotion Engine and Graphics Synthesizer on the same chip. This architecture reduces costs and raises the profit margin on the PSX.
While the PSX comes with a 100 base LAN port, there has been no sign that the machine will use its networking capabilities to take advantage of the Internet. Thus far, Sony has only announced that the PSX will use its connection for firmware updates and for playing PlayStation BB compatible games and services.
Although both models of the PSX may seem expensive if they are viewed as PlayStation 2-compatible machines with the capabilities of an HDD-DVD recorder, the table turns if the machines are seen the other way around. As an HDD-DVD recorder, with all the works and the ability to play PlayStation and PlayStation 2 games (which is exactly what Sony is marketing the PSX as), the machine begins to look more like a groundbreaking product. Even so, considering how much leading-edge technology is packed into its shiny case, it's hard to see how this product can provide the bottom-line boost that Sony needs to lift itself out of its current slump, given the PSX's aggressive price point.
Just how aggressive is Sony's pricing for the PSX? Well, Toshiba released its RD-XS41, a combined HDD recorder/DVD burner, on October 1 with an expected street price of $1,365 (150,000 yen). Considering that the cheaper version of the PSX is less than half of that, and throws in a PS2 to boot, it's easy to see how Sony could sell a lot of these this holiday season. It's harder to see how they can make money doing it.