Digital Surround Audio

PS3 in/out ports
PS3: SACD was a good call

Unless you have a home theater receiver with HDMI I/O, you'll need to use the Playstation 3's optical output for digital surround sound. HDMI carries audio and video information, but for those of us who haven't bought a high end receiver in the last three or four years that HDMI cable will go directly into our HDTV. The optical cable is another thing you'll have to buy before heading off to the car with your PS3.

Advertiser Links for Surround Audio

Again, there is no benefit to the ultra-expensive "official" Sony optical digital cable, so don't spend anything approaching $100. The store giving you a great deals on the PS3 a few games and a Blu-ray movie will make you drop your soap in the shower with the cost of cables and an extended warranty.

PS3 is capable of Dolby Digital, DTS and their respective extended versions (including lossless audio versions for Blu-ray). Sony also included compatibility with its proprietary SACD format (the competitor to DVD-Audio) for high resolution audio. We'll give Sony a point for SACD; it's an underused disc format, but an important option for lovers of multi-channel audio. Dig through that old CD collection and you may even have a dual layer CD/SACD. Using PS3's HDMI output to a hi-fi receiver with an HDMI input will get you the kind of pristine lossless, multi-channel hi-fi that only few short years ago would have cost audiophiles thousands of dollars.

Blu-ray

If you've been living in an abandoned subway tunnel under New York City for the past two years, it might come as a surprise that DVD is not a high definition video format. To answer the call for a high definition disc format, the world decided upon something called HD DVD. It was then that Sony figured it could make quite the profit if everybody instead used their own proprietary format called Blu-ray. One of the reasons for the PS3's delay and steep price is its internal Blu-ray player. In the home theater community, Blu-ray vs HD DVD is a nasty format war. Pundits on either side have been fighting furiously for some time over which will deliver prettier moving pictures in full 1920x1080 pixels.

For the average gamer (even an HDTV owning gamer), the inclusion of Blu-ray is probably only a curiosity at best. But, when said gamer picks up a copy of Fox Film's X-Men: Last Stand on Blu-ray he'll be in for an awakening worthy of Plato's Allegory of the Cave. If you're not sure what Allegory of the Cave is, you should probably read more or see the Matrix (which ironically is only available on HD DVD).

Sony's Playstation 3 gets no extra points for Blu-ray. It's the source of extra cost and delays, making it arguably more hindrance than help for the console. Besides, Microsoft's Xbox 360 now has an HD DVD add-on, making the total cost of that system (with its high def addition) about the same price as a PlayStation 3.

Operational Status - It Lives

With the PS3 all connected, it was time to fire it up. A master rocker switch in the back puts the console in standby where its on/off functions are controlled by a touch pad on the front. The same, slick, touch sensitive pad is used to eject disks from the machine. The first and second thing you'll notice when working with Sony's PS3 is how darned quiet it is. This big machine obviously conceals some serious fan-work; this is evidenced by a rear-mounted exhaust that blows some very hot air. From the typically gaming position you'd almost never know how much was going on under the hood. Sony did a very good job at making its system run quietly, which is more than can be said for the 747 engine Microsoft put inside every Xbox 360.

PS3: Silent operation

The second thing you'll notice about the Playstation 3 is how hot it runs. Right now, it's too early to say whether or not we'll see an onslaught of returned PS3s due to overheating issues as witnessed with the Xbox 360 last year. There's more heat blowing out of the PS3 than nationally syndicated AM radio.