Welcome to a technical introduction to the Sony PlayStation 3. The Sony PlayStation 3 (or PS3 for short) was first introduced to the Japanese market in November 2006, approximately one year after its main competitor, Microsoft’s Xbox 360. The PS3 was designed and developed by Sony Computer Entertainment as a successor to the highly successful PlayStation 2 games console which to date has achieved total worldwide sales of 97.5 million units (as of January 2009). The PS3 however is designed to be more than just a traditional games console. It is a home entertainment computer that can be used for all of your digital media requirements and as a result it’s specification is vastly superior to that of its predecessor. The main areas of advancement compared to the previous generation PlayStation consoles are as follows:
The technical heart of the PS3 is a specially designed CPU (central processing unit) named the Cell Processor (standing for Cell Broadband Engine Architecture) which was jointly developed by Sony, Toshiba and IBM over the four years from 2001 to 2005. The Cell Processor combines a general-purpose processor with additional processing elements which serve to greatly accelerate multimedia and grapical processing capabilities, making it an ideal choice for use in a gaming or multimedia device such as the PS3. It is this processor that gives the PS3 the power to process and display games in high definition at resolutions at up to 1920 x 1080 pixels. The Cell Processor is also intended for other uses in both Toshiba and IBM products, although the PS3 represents it’s first commercial application.
The console introduces a built in hard drive for the first time in the PlayStation family. The size can vary from 20GB to 160GB depending on the specific model. The drive can also be easily upgraded by the user to a maximum capacity of 500GB at the time of writing. This enables games to be partly installed on the integrated hard drive for faster loading and saving without the need for external memory cards as in the previous generation PlayStation consoles. Coupled with the consoles internet connectivity the hard drive can also serve as a store for downloaded content including games and movies.
A major feature of the PS3 is the inclusion of a Blu-ray optical drive. In this respect the console was well ahead of its time when introduced in 2006 as no stand-alone Blu-ray players had even been launched. The inclusion of a ‘free’ Blu-ray player in the PS3 is seen by many as the reason for the demise of Toshiba’s rival high definition format, HD-DVD. The console is also able to play regular DVD’s and CD’s.
The PS3 also introduced a number of other firsts to the PlayStation series including Bluetooth-powered wireless controllers, USB 2.0 ports, a HDMI output for connection to your HDTV and a built-in wireless 802.11 network connection. A wired Ethernet port is also available, a feature carried over from the PS2. It is these network capabilities which also allows the PS3 to receive regular updates by Sony, generally to introduce new features, especially concerning the ever-evolving Blu-ray playing capabilities of the console.
The PS3 currently retails for f299.99 in the UK and $499.99 in the US.
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