The slim-lineSony PlayStation 3 Slim console bundles the top-notch features of the earlier PlayStation 3 into a smarter, sleeker package.
Sony's remodeled PlayStation 3 Slim (originally 120GB; now available in 160Gb and 320GB models) dropped a couple of dress sizes and a few quid off the price of its predecessor, the original PlayStation 3.
For £159 (160GB) and £199 (320GB), you can now have a first-class, BD-Live capable Blu-ray player with 1080p HDMI output, integrated Bluetooth and 802.11g, an upgradable hard drive, gigabit ethernet, 7.1 channel Dolby Digital audio support, and Sony's monstrously powerful custom multiprocessing CPUs. Oh, and the Sony PlayStation 3 Slim plays PlayStation 3 games, too.
On its exterior, the Sony PlayStation 3 Slim replaces the original version's glossy black finish with a duller black matte finish, and it smoothes out its predecessor's design angles. Fingerprints still show if your hands are oily, but far less than before. Our hefting, shaking, and squeezing of the unit led us to conclude that it was just as solid as the original.
The PlayStation 3 Slim weighs 3.2kg and measures 290x290x65mm. Those specs indicate that the new model is roughly 33 percent smaller and 36 percent lighter than the original; but because it's a hair deeper, it will continue to occupy about as much space as a standard rack-style Blu-ray/DVD drive.
Compared to the 120GB model the 160GB Slim's Blu-ray playback is integrated to the PS3 motherboard instead of being a separate chip, and offers better cooling.
Though the PlayStation 3 Slim retains most features from the original system, Sony has altered a few things. Instead of the original model's four USB ports, the Slim settles for two - an unfortunate limitation when you try to play Guitar Hero or Rock Band with more than two wire-based peripherals (microphone, guitar, drums) or when you want to run an external hard drive (or three) while charging two controllers. A powered USB hub solves the problem, but at extra cost and at the loss of a power outlet.
In the PlayStation 3 Slim's box, Sony supplies the same peripherals that came with the original PS3: a composite A/V input and a DualShock 3 wireless controller with a mini-USB-to-standard-USB charge cable. The system's power cable replaces the three-prong connector with an older two-prong plug similar to the connection on the back of a PlayStation 2.
Regrettably, the PS3 Slim, like the earlier PS3, doesn't bundle an HDMI cable. So that's another tenner you'll be shelling out.
If you own a Sony Bravia-brand TV and plan to use HDMI, Sony touts a new sync feature that ostensibly lets you control the PlayStation 3 Slim's XMB (cross media bar) interface with your TV remote. We tested this option on a Sony Bravia KDL-20B4050, which is supposed to support it, but we couldn't get it to work. The TV indicated that it recognised the console in the HDMI setup (you enable the feature on both your TV and the PlayStation), but it refused to acknowledge my attempts to move the cursor around in the XMB interface itself.
On the other hand, the PlayStation 3 Slim did power off automatically when the TV shut down, in keeping with the Bravia Sync's System Standby feature. You can control movies with the wireless gamepad, but for dedicated button access to multimedia features, you'll want Sony's remote.
The PlayStation 3 Slim maintains the original PS3's backward compatibility with PlayStation 1 games, but like the original PS3 it won't handle PlayStation 2 games (of which there are many) - a feature that Sony now says is off the table entirely. PlayStation buffs unwilling to retire their PS2 games will have to soldier on with both units occupying their A/V cabinets and taking up input space on the rear of their TVs.
Also absent is any option to install an alternative operating system like Linux. Most gamers and home theatre buffs probably weren't aware that the original PS3 could accommodate such OSs, however.
Like the original, the PlayStation 3 Slim can stand horizontally or vertically, though you'll want the optional stand if you plan to go with a vertical orientation. The new model's rounded casing and slight main-body overhang make it even easier to tip over than the PlayStation 2. When laid out flat, it takes up less room than its predecessor, but then it won't fit comfortably next to an LCD TV on an average-size A/V stand.
Loading a Blu-ray game or video disc takes about 10 seconds from the instant the mechanism grips it to the moment the disc icon appears on the XMB - about the same as the original. Otherwise, Blu-ray playback remains unchanged from how it worked on previous iterations of the PlayStation 3.
The disc drive itself is whisper-quiet in action. We popped in Metal Gear Solid 4, ran a clean install, and couldn't hear the sound of the drive spinning at all with my head tilted down and nearly flush against the exterior. The noise that the drive makes when loading and ejecting discs is definitely louder, however - and not just because everything else is so much quieter.
On our test unit, the fan emitted a barely audible hum, somewhere in the G-above-middle-C frequency range. We cued Metal Gear Solid 4's introductory briefing - a surefire processor-cruncher - and in a silent room, the PlayStation 3 Slim was significantly quieter than a MacBook Air (with the latter's fan spinning at moderate speeds). Sony's inclusion of a larger 95mm fan with 17 blades and a brushless DC motor allows the system to move more air at lower fan speeds and, therefore, with less machine noise.
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