With Blu-ray having soundly defeated HD DVD in the hi-def format war (thanks, in large part, to the popularity of the PS3), all major Hollywood studios are now supporting the format, and Blu-ray releases are ramping up as the format slowly but surely becomes more prevalent. In the meantime, the PS3 also plays (and upscales) standard DVDs.
The PS3 is the only console available with the best Blu-ray player on the market. This is yet another reason to consider it not only a gaming console but a fully featured, hi-def media hub that can easily compete with the Xbox 360 in terms of video quality.
Our only real complaint with the PS3's movie playback is the remote control issue. Accessing Blu-ray and DVD menus with the PS3 controller is functional, but rather awkward. Unfortunately, you won't be able to program a standard universal remote to control your PS3, as it lacks an infrared port, but does have Bluetooth. Not coincidentally, Sony offers a Bluetooth compatible remote for around £15. With the console now only offering two USB ports, you'll be down to one should you choose a USB IR solution.
Sony's version of Web TV
Taking a page out of the PSP's book, the PS3 also has a built-in Web browser. If you connect a USB keyboard, you don't have to type in URL addresses using the system's tedious virtual keyboard. Likewise, a USB mouse lets you point and click your way through a Web page, just as if you were on a PC. Not all Bluetooth keyboards will pair with the PS3, but our favorite keyboard for light text entry is the Logitech diNovo Mini, which interfaces directly via the console without monopolizing one of the precious USB ports. (Likewise, most Bluetooth phone headsets should work fine, allowing you to chat with fellow players during online gaming sessions.)
The browser is fairly robust, and even offers limited Flash support. For instance, YouTube videos work fine, but those on ABC.com and Hulu do not. Overall, the browser is convenient for looking at the Web from your sofa. That said, the sharpness of Web pages' appearance -- and how readable they are -- will depend on the quality of your TV and its size. For example, viewing Web pages on a 60-inch DLP set is going to be more of a challenge than, say, looking at those same pages over a 20-inch computer monitor. And viewing Web pages on anything less than an HDTV at full resolution (720p, 1080i, or 1080p) will be decidedly eye-straining.
The PlayStation Network
Connecting to Sony's online service is free, as is multiplayer gaming, although downloadable games and other content come at a cost. You can, however, get free demos to most games so that you can try before you buy.
In autumn 2008, the PlayStation Network will launch PlayStation Home. Home is an online virtual world, somewhat in the vein of Second Life, where gamers can have their avatars interact with one another in addition to the ability to virtually create your own hip apartment. From Home's interface, you can set up game matches and communicate with friends as well as other gamers. The service also promises to integrate the recently-debuted Trophy System, the PS3 equivalent of Xbox Achievements.
The PSN allows all gamers to play online in multiplayer matches for free. By contrast, Xbox Live Silver, Microsoft's free entry-level service, gives you access to some community options but to play online multiplayer games, you have to upgrade to Xbox Live Gold service, which costs about £35 per year.