While shopping at my local Costco today I happened to come across a PS3 sitting in the case with the cameras, iPods and other electronic goodies. At first I was a little taken aback, but I gathered my senses enough to ask a nearby employee if that was an actual PS3 for sale?
Well, as you can guess by the title of this post, it was, and I bought it. Apparantly it had just been put out a little earlier, and when I got home and opened it I see that it seems to have been previously opened, though its in perfect condition.
Now, I honestly have no use for a game console as I just don’t play them. But I find two things attractive about the PS3. First, it’s a cheap Blue-Ray disc player. Secondly, there is supposed to be a blazingly fast Folding@Home client which you can download and run on the machine when you’re not using it for something else.
So, as I mentioned, I bought it and took it home. When I unboxed it I immediately noticed that the unit does not come with an HDMI cable, nor does it come with a digital optical audio cable. It seems silly to me not to include these you are touting a game system that can take advantage of 1080p… but no problem, I supplied my own cable.
I decided to connect the PS3 to my Sharp 42″ Aquos LCD which is a 1080p display. Connecting it was simple to say the least. I plugged in the power cable, then plugged an HDMI cable in between both devices, and that was it.
Next, I powered on the PS3 and it started right up into a very user friendly menu. After having me plug in the wireless controller via USB, the PS3 told me it detected HDMI and asked if I wanted it to auto-configure the audio and video to the optimal settings. I said yes, and then it switched into 1080p mode.
At some point after that I figured out that I could disconnect the USB cable, and I began operating the PS3 wirelessly with the controller.
Next, the system asked me to create a login name. Now this is where I had a little difficulty. I’ve never used one of these playstation controllers before, and the on screen display didn’t tell me which buttons did what, so I had to really go by trial and error (emphasis on the error) to get my simple name in there.
Finally, the system presented me with the PS3 menu which I initially found to be pretty intuitive. I navigated over to the Internet settings and configured it for my wireless network, after which it informed me that it needed to download a system update.
I gave it the go-ahead to update the system, and then proceeded to wait for what must have been half an hour. This is over a cable modem connection mind you… When it finally finished the download process, it made me hook the wireless controller back up using USB and then had me accept a user agreement for the update to install.
When it was about half way through the install process I decided to disconnect the controller again and go sit on my sofa to wait. This was a mistake, because when it finished the update it wanted me to push a button on the controller to reboot, but it wouldn’t work. Even plugging it back in had no effect. So, I power cycled the unit, and luckily it came back up… again asking me to connect the wireless controller via USB.
I’ve never seen a wireless device that had to be tethered so much in my life! :-)
After the reboot it informed me that the update had been aborted, and it needed to re-try the update. So I let it do it’s thing, this time without disconnecting any damn controllers.
Finally, about an hour after I first plugged it in, I was ready to try out the actual machine!
Although I got a game with the unit, I was most interested in testing out the BlueRay player and getting the Folding application running on the machine. So, the first thing I did was launch the Web browser! But wait… it didn’t work.
Huh?!? You’re telling me the machine was able to download an entire OS update, but now it can’t pull up a simple web page? Yes, that’s what I’m telling you. Fine… we’ll table that for now and just go and get some tasty BlueRay goodness.
So I pop in the included Talledega Nights BlueRay disc and fire up the video. Just as the movie is getting started I accidentally knock the wireless controller onto the floor and all of a sudden the movie goes nuts!
Apparantly the fast forward button must have been hit ’cause the movie is flying by! At this point I’m looking for the button to stop it, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t completely impossible to figure out which button that is!
I’m not kidding, they couldn’t have laid out the buttons for BR/DVD control any worse on this thing. In addition, there aren’t any labels for playback anywhere.
Finally, after about 5 minutes of trial and error I manage to get the movie back to the beginning and started all over. At this point I’m ready to enjoy some of that completely eye popping video that everyone’s been talking about. So I sit back, watch… and become completely underwhelmed.
Seriously, is that it?!? At best I’d say the picture is maybe 25% better than watching the exact same DVD (which I own) on my upconverting DVD player. What a letdown. Well, maybe it’s because I’m only viewing it on the 42 incher. I guess I’ll have to hook it up in the media room where I’ve got a 120 inch HD projector to see if it makes more of a difference.
…So, I go back to the task of attempting to get the Web browser to work, but nothing I can manage to do will allow it to connect via the wireless network. Luckily, I happen to have an ethernet span run to the media center from the office, and when I connect it the Web launches without a hitch.
So, the machine defaults to the Playstation 3 Portal and when I arrive it asks if I’m viewing in standard definition or high def. I choose HD of course. I’m then presented with a bunch of crappy little squiggly icons, which -when selected – present text that even on my 42″ bad ass TV is too small to read from even 10 feet away. Meanwhile, the wireless controller makes a terrible mouse.
This just keeps getting worse…
So, I mosey on over to the Folding@Home site to see how to get my PS3 client – which I read was supposed to be out sometime near last November – and lo and behold, it’s not yet released. In fact, the best case rumor is that it won’t be out for another couple of months! That’s like 6 months after they originally announced it was coming!
So, basically everything I was looking forward to using this machine for seems to be a complete let down. The BlueRay seems only slightly better than a good upconverted DVD, the Folding client may never be released at this rate, the Web browsing function sucks, the wireless connection is impossible to figure out and the remote is difficult to use and changes for each application.
Bottom line. It’s going back to Costco.
Perhaps someone who just wants to buy the world’s most expensive video game system will find something useful here.