So you can imagine the mixture of joy and trepidation that greeted the box that arrived on my doorstep Wednesday. For around $400, I got:
- 60GB PlayStation 3, refurb
- One standard Sixaxis controller
- A/V cables that I won't actually use
- One of the worst manuals I've ever seen in my life
The auction advertised that the unit is pulled from a lot of open-box and refurb PS3s, and while its functionality is guaranteed it may have "minor scratches". This is like Britney Spears guaranteeing that you'll enjoy fucking her, but that she may have "minor issues". The unit is cosmetically scuffed all to hell, though this really only shows in the light and I have yet to notice it from where I'm sitting on the couch. Thus far I have yet to identify any way in which the functionality is affected by its superficial condition, and while I'm retaining the box to be on the safe side, I am starting to dare to hope that I was not screwed.
When I say that the PS3 comes with what may be one of the worst manuals I've ever seen in my life, I'm not kidding. Perhaps there is a better manual that comes with a brand new unit in the box, but what I was given was Sony's quick-start guide that apparently also comes with it. This manual has a table of contents that lists all manner of useful topics, but when you flip through it you will quickly learn that half of them--including most of the important ones--are missing. I have no idea what was intended here, but it is a booklet made of epic fail. It was pretty much between me and the Internet to figure out how to get started on this thing.
This was harder than it sounds. I've owned and used a PSP, so I'm no stranger to the XMB interface. Nevertheless when I first booted up the PS3 I was presented with a choice of three users, with names like Bluntman, PwnedUrAss420, and so on. (No, not literally, but pretty close. The 420 and Blunt parts were in there.) Suddenly the cosmetic condition of the console started to make sense. There is really no intuitive way in the interface to know how you're supposed to manage user accounts, nor any way to delete accounts without logging into them; the user accounts apparently have no concept whatsoever of admin or permission levels. After much fumbling I finally sent RunsWithBlunts420 and his friends off to the Recycling Bin of history, and got my own user account set up.
This is where the parade of suck and fail that has plagued this upgrade turned the corner into awesome and win. But first, it was time for one (hopefully last) shopping trip.
I had to run out and get groceries anyway, so while I was at it I stopped by Best Buy and Gamestop for some planned purchases. I was currently getting sound throught the HDMI cable to the TV, but since we use the home theater system and not the TV speakers, I needed to get an optical cable to split the sound out to the receiver. We also needed a second controller, an adapter to let us copy our PS2 memory card data onto the PS3's hard drive, and while not strictly necessary I was in love with a slick charging station for the wireless controllers. I also picked up a PS3 game to QA the PS3 with. Time to start testing stuff!
Once again my faithful Sony receiver attempted to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory: I still could not get 5.1 surround, even through the optical cable. More specifically, there was no sound from the rear speakers. I spent a good portion of the duration of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within futzing with the receiver's settings, and finally figured it out: somehow, the place where I set which speakers are connected had lost the setting for the rear speakers. An easy fix, but one that required navigating the obnoxiously bad menu system on the STR DG-800. Anyway, problem solved.
The verdict: WIN.
The PS3 has a remarkable degree of personalization in its interface, one aspect of which was that I was able to copy a PNG from my computer to a thumb drive, then plug the thumb drive into one of the USB ports on the PS3, and set it as a wallpaper. I now have a Weighted Companion Cube on my PS3 UI. Sweet.
Which is all well and good, but that's just a cosmetic feature that, like Windows desktop wallpaper, I'm likely to set back to a default solid color eventually anyway. What about the glory of 1080p?
I will probably review the Blu-Ray movies I bought individually, but for right now suffice it to say: there is a real difference to the eye. Anyone who tells you there is not is either watching an older movie with low-resolution source material, has A/V components incapable of or misconfigured for 1080p, or is not paying enough attention for their opinion to be worth listening to.
It depends on the scene, too. In some fast-moving action scenes it can be tough to spot details. Close-ups on people's faces tend to bring out a lot of detail, as do wide panoramic shots. Because of the crispness, man-made objects with hard edges and sharp lines benefit more than softer, more organic objects.
But so far, overall, my jaw has been duly dropped. I'm probably not going to buy any more SD-DVDs unless it's a lower-quality source, or something like an 80's cartoon or comedy that won't really benefit significantly from being in high-res. Unfortunately BD-DVDs are still pretty expensive--the cheapest are around $15, and that's for older or more obscure stuff. Most are $25-35.
As for the upconversion of PS2 games, so far I remain unimpressed. I tried FFXII and War of the Monsters, two games that should have benefited from a higher resolution due to their reliance on 3d modeling, and just didn't notice a lot of difference. This fortunately wasn't a big selling point for me, but it would've been nice to be able to play some of these older games on a TV this big without having them so pixelated that they actually look worse than on a smaller TV.
I did buy one PS3 game, though it's mainly for Tadlet and Jess: the Lego Star Wars Complete Trilogy. I haven't really played it much, but I did test it out and it looked fantastic. Some of the UI elements that were sprite-based looked a little blurry, but all of the in-game graphics were crisp and beautiful as only high-res 3D-rendered Lego elements can be. As a bonus, there appear to be parts where you can use the motion sensing abilities of the Sixaxis controller to maneuver vehicles.
Finally, the upconversion of DVDs is so far a success. Transformers looks great--although the difference between it and a real Blu-Ray movie is quite obvious in direct comparison. Supposedly it's to be released on Blu-Ray sometime this fall.
I haven't had time to see if fixing the rear speakers gets 5.1 working on my computer when hooked up to the receiver, but I'll check it out when I get a chance.