Sunday, November 19, 2006

Why PC pwns PS3 -- part 2

PS3 has arrived on Japanese and American shores. Lines of frienzied users have braved the night to get their grubby mitts on the latest black box of Sony.

After reading the initial specs, I was willing to do this. Now, I just pity the fools. Picture courtesy of

Initial letdowns are inherent to any console (XBOX360 disc scratching, PSP/NDS dead pixels,..) and the PS3 doesn't dodge this bullet either. There are a number of defects amongst launch units, these being the most important:

Incomplete backwards compatibility for PS1/PS2
Scattered reports of overheating issues
HDMI failure
Broken/unsupported upscaling for DVD, BD and PS1/PS2

The latter is of course a huge bummer. PS3 is not able to upscale 480p DVD movies or PS1/PS2 games to 720p, 1080i or 1080p. FYI, for all pc users out there: 480p is 640x480 or 720x480 (depending on aspect ratio). 720p is 1280x720, a resolution supported by the majority of recent flatpanel televisions. 1080i is 1920x1080 interlaced, with the actual vertical line count being 540 pixels, and lastly there is 1080p, or 1920x1080. P stands for progressive: something unusual for TV sets, but common for all pc monitors.

This all means that your shiny, $600 PS3 will still make your entire DVD collection and your PS1/PS2 stock look lame on that fancy $2000 HDTV you bought. Of course, this is rather logical, the pc can't magically add pixels or detail to lower resolution video material either. But because Sony had always implied that the PS3 could, it's still a bummer.

What's worse, PS3 games, or at least the launch titles, will have resolution issues as well. The majority of these games are programmed to run on 720p. Ok, no problem you'd say. The problem is that many older generation HDTVs (amongst which many plasma and rearprojection televisions) support 1080i rather than 720p. And here's the booboo: PS3 doesn't scale from 720p to 1080i. What happens is that the shiny new launch games will run in..480p. Read: PS2 resolutions. I can imagine people getting a tad infuriated after having spent hundreds of dollars/euros on stuff (PS3, tv,..) and then being swindled like this.

Ultimately, this is probably a driver (or in console terms: "firmware") issue. RSX (nVidia's PS3 graphics chip) probably has an early set of drivers, in which resolution switching and compatibility with tv sets isn't properly implemented yet. In the worst case scenario, RSX may simply not be able to switch resolutions, and then people are really screwed over. It's like a Ferrari being forced to look like a Datsun.

A Datsun Cherry. Yes, it's this ugly.

The moral of this entire charade? For the same price, you get a GeForce 8800 GTX, which delivers faster, better and fully scalable graphics for a better platform (ie, the PC). You don't have to deal with constant letdowns, ignorant consumer hotlines ("Did you try to turn your console on and off?") or obnoxious forums full of fanboys ("Hah, Wii pwn0rsR0x0rs yoo sOnY bi***es"). If you want a different resolution, simply adjust it in Windows/Vista. If you want to play an older game, there's no fuss or worrying about "backwards compatibility" (or at least it's fixable with easy solutions). In short, you simply plug things in and play. And that's what it's all about, right?

PS3 killer

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