Our retail PlayStation 3 system arrived last week, one week after we received the first debug system we used in our live PS3 marathon. The debug system played games fine, but we had to wait for the retail unit to arrive before starting our official evaluation because the test system didn't have the full functionality of a retail system, specifically the Internet features. To be fair, the debug system totally made up for that weakness by being able to play prerelease game code.
The retail box is pretty much what you'd expect from a console box--sturdy cardboard construction and a plastic handle for convenient transportation. The front of our 60GB PlayStation 3 box shows the chrome-trimmed 60GB system with the HD size printed in the lower left corner and a big Blu-ray Disc logo right beneath the console picture. We also found a sticker announcing that the package includes a Talladega Nights Blu-ray movie disc. That's right, kids. Will Ferrell's face will be right there on every single retail box for the most desirable, hard-to-find gift this holiday season. The back of our region A/1 box has a basic features list in English, French, and Spanish, along with six individual screenshots for Lair, Heavenly Sword, Resistance: Fall of Man, Warhawk, Genji: Days of the Blade, and MotorStorm.
The package includes the PlayStation 3 system, one wireless Sixaxis controller, a USB cable for charging the controller, an AC power cord, an Ethernet cable, an RCA A/V cable, a bundle of documentation, and the aforementioned Talladega Nights Blu-ray movie. We're a little upset that Sony isn't bundling any kind of HD video cable with the console. After all that 1080p talk, you would think that the package should include an HDMI or at least a set of component cables. One omission we're not upset about is the lack of an obnoxious power brick. The PS3's power supply is built into the system. Hook up a standard AC power cord, and you're ready to go.
Sony knows how to put together a consumer electronics device. The PlayStation 3 is a great-looking system that is loaded with plenty of style and sophistication. The pictures already show how beautiful the system looks, but actually handling the system reveals a lot about the machine. The system has a heft to it that feels almost reassuring. You can literally feel the weight and stiffness of the metal casing through the glossy plastic exterior while holding the console. Sony added some nice design touches to make the PS3 feel like a next-generation system. The power and eject buttons are touch sensitive. The machine powers up if you just slide your finger over the power symbol. The Blu-ray drive is a slot-loader, which means that you insert and eject discs directly from the slot instead of using a disc tray. The system is extremely quiet in comparison to the Xbox 360. It does emit some fan noise, but it's very faint because the system only uses a single, large-diameter, slow-RPM fan. Disc access noise is also minimal, especially compared to the Xbox 360's disc reader.
The front of the system features the Compact Flash, SD/miniSD, and Memory Stick memory ports, as well as four USB ports. If you don't see any flash memory slots on your system, you probably have a 20GB model. The 60GB version is the only model that comes with flash memory readers, built-in Wi-Fi, and a fetching chrome trim. Both system models have identical ports on the back: HDMI out, Ethernet, SPDIF digital-optical out, and the Sony proprietary A/V out.
We were able to play games and play Blu-ray movies at 1080p and 1080i over HDMI. Component cables allowed us to play games at 1080p, but dropped the resolution down to 1080i while playing Blu-ray movies. We also popped in a regular DVD movie to see if the PS3 could upscale the picture to HD resolution, but could only get movies to play at the standard 480p resolution. We haven't had a chance to test out the PS3 on older HDTVs that only support 1080i, but other web sites have reported that the PS3 will downgrade games to 480p on older HDTV displays that support 1080i, but not 720p.
PlayStation 3 Hands-On: Hardware, Media, and Online
We get hands-on with the Sony PlayStation 3. Find out what $600 worth of hardware can and can't do.