On the front, you'll find two USB ports for connecting (and charging) controllers and other accessories, including USB keyboards, thumbdrives and the PSP. Unfortunately if you need more than two ports, you're out of luck as only the older versions of the PS3 came with four. This will certainly become an issue if you want to charge your controllers as well as use an accessory such as the PS Eye. The PS3 still doesn't come with USB ports on the back of the unit -- something we've desired for a while. Both new versions of the PS3 also now lack multiple flash card readers. While we could see this feature being dropped for a reduced price, even the 'deluxe' 160GB model will not come with it.
Around the back is where you'll find ports for Ethernet, HDMI output, optical digital audio output (SPDIF), and the proprietary PlayStation AV output for analogue audio and video. A composite AV cable ships with the unit, and because it uses the same connector as the PlayStation 2, that system's S-Video and component cables should work with it as well. To get HD video, you'll need component or HDMI, which leaves us asking why Sony does not ship the console HD Ready out of the box. Unlike the proprietary snap-on hard drive of the Xbox 360, the PS3's internal hard drive is user replaceable with any off-the-shelf laptop drive. The only caveat: it uses the smaller 2.5-inch drive size, which are twice, or even close to three times as expensive as the larger 3.5-inch hard drives that go into a desktop computer.
The Sixaxis DualShock 3 Controller
When the PS3 was first released in spring 2007, gamers gave Sony grief over the included Sixaxis controller lacking rumble (vibration) support -- a feature found on the controllers for the Xbox 360, Wii, and even the older PS2. Sony has since corrected that with the DualShock 3 controller, which is basically just the Sixaxis with rumble. Starting with the new 80GB core system, all new PS3 versions will include a DualShock 3 controller by default.
With the exception of its included rumble support -- and slightly more weight as a result -- the Dual Shock 3 is otherwise pretty much identical to the Sixaxis. Fans of the older Sony consoles will note that it even looks identical to the older PlayStation controllers, but there are some differences. For starters, it's wireless. You can connect as many as seven controllers via the system's built-in Bluetooth, which Sony claims offers a 20m range. Recharging the built-in battery simply requires connecting the included USB cable between the console and the controller. You can continue to play as the battery juices up (Sony pledges 30 hours of gameplay between charges), but the cable's somewhat short 2m length will put you right on top of the TV.
That said, the controller has a standard mini USB port similar to the one found on many digital cameras and PC peripherals, so swapping in a longer cable -- or using a USB extender -- shouldn't be a problem. We should also note that we had some success charging the DualShock 3 on a number of PC USB ports and even the port on a cable box. Unfortunately, the battery isn't removable, which means that if it dies -- as inevitably it will some day -- you'll have to replace the entire £35 controller if you want to play wirelessly. By comparison, the 360 and Wii controllers offer user-replaceable batteries: AAs or proprietary rechargeables for the 360, and AAs for the Wii.