Thursday, August 20, 2009

Buying Guide: Playstation 3 Slim

By Benedict Wee

Alright, I gave it one day for the "Ohhhh! Shiny toy!" excitement to wash over me and now that my head's cleared up and am much more sober I'm thinking to myself: would I buy the Playstation 3 Slim? I've already got an Xbox 360 and a Nintendo Wii so would the price cut and a new sleek design be enough for me to fork out another thousand bucks or so to get another console?

Here's a quick buying guide/review.

Why I like it

Does not look like a George Forman Grill:
Let's get the petty issues I've had with it out of the way first. Ever since Sony revealed it's current-gen console I have not once seen an image of the PLAYSTATION 3* without thinking that I could do with a good surf and turf combo with a side of corn. The new model is thinner, lighter, compact and can be held in one hand which makes it easy to fit into my ever-growing tower of entertainment systems and carry around with me in my travels.

*The original name of the console was put in caps so I'm using it to distinguish the older model from the new one.

Swappable Hard Disk:
The Xbox 360's specifically designed HDD is made in such a way that you can only purchase the ones made by Microsoft and they're about twice as expensive as the normal ones you can find in any tech store. That is a huge rip off. Either that or I could just delete the games I've stored in the HDD and re-download them again if I want to play a particular title but that just wastes time and money (for the internet data, you don't need to purchase the game again).

If I ever felt the 120Gb worth of space in my PS3 Slim is not enough I could always buy any standard HDD and plug it into the console which should be the way these things work.

It's the PS3 I've always wanted:
Like I've just mentioned before, the PLAYSTATION 3 was a hulking monstrosity which departed from my traditional view of consoles. It was big, shiny, expensive, a finger-print magnet and used that Spider-man font in caps which clearly meant that Sony was having an identity issue when designing the console.

And it did. With so many PR snafus and empty promises it seemed like the console maker had completely disconnected with the fanbase that made the Playstation and Playstation 2 popular.

The PS3 Slim is Sony's way of saying: "Forget about the last 3 years, lets start over." And it has. With a lower price point and a console which looks similar to the PS2, it's the successor I always wanted it to be.

I don't need to pay to play with other gamers online:
Xbox Live is expensive. It can go from as low as $6.70 to as high as $10.95 per month to upgrade to the Gold membership just so you can play with others online. Combine that with having to pay for the broadband connection and it all accumulates. And it's not like I want to play with people 24/7 so all those lost days/months of not playing online do get wasted.

The Playstation Network is free. Win.

Region Free (And Easy):
Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 games cost around the same price: a lot. But a big difference is that the 360's games are region locked while the PS3's are not. This gives you a variety of outlets (read: the internet) to purchase your games from. Import them from America, Singapore, Japan, England etc. anywhere you can find cheaper games from. It also makes it far more convenient to get the latest game releases instead of having to wait for them to reach our shores. A wait which can take up to months sometimes.


No more manual OS install:
You can't install a Linux OS on the PS3 Slim which wouldn't make a big difference to anyone since a) this is a feature utilized only by a small number of tech experts and geeks, b) no one knew this feature existed anyway.

2 USB ports:
I don't see myself using them anytime soon. Probably for Rock Band but you only need 1 anyways.

I can finally climb aboard the High Definition train by watching my movies/tv shows in glorious full HD. Then again, not everyone has a Full HD television and mine's only HD Ready. Also, blu-rays are still expensive and have not been adopted as readily as DVDs were. The format might have triumphed over HD-DVDs but it has yet to prove itself worthy of following and in a world that is moving towards digital distribution (the downloading of movies/shows/games) the blu-ray might end up a lame duck.

Why I do not like it

Stand Straight Boy! :
The new PS3 Slim cant stand vertically like the old PS3 can: That's alright.
You can buy an optional stand however: Oh ok.
It'll cost you US$24/NZ$35.60, possibly more since you live in NZ: No.

It's a plastic base to hold the PS3 upright for God's sake. Why are you charging me so much for what is -in essence- a bicycle kickstand!? Couldn't you have included it in the set? Are you that desperate to make a quick buck from us?

I recommend waiting for 3rd party accessory makers to come up with their own PS3 Slim stands, they'll be cheaper and you'll get an assortment of colors, designs and extra features (charging base perhaps?) to choose from.

Still too expensive:
It's US$299/NZ$442.76 in the United States, 29980 Yen/NZ$458.61 in Japan and 299 Euros/NZ$479.50 in the EU. Why on earth is it NZ$620 here?! That is a good $140 more than what it costs in Europe. With that extra cash you could get one new PS3 game or 2 used PS3 games or an extra controller with change or 3-and-a-half official Sony PS3 Slim stands!

Seriously though, why are we always getting the short end of the stick? Are we trying for a world record for most expensive electronics sold in a country? High prices are a perfect excuse to resort to piracy and the last thing game developers and console makers want us to do is to start modifying our consoles and getting our games illegally. It's ridiculous.

Fortunately -as I've mentioned above- the console is not region locked so I highly recommend you contact your relatives/friends overseas to help you purchase the system. If you can't find someone there are always online shops that ship to New Zealand.

Another point to make is that though the current price tag of the PS3s is the same as the current Xbox 360 Elite model, we're expecting a price drop for Microsoft's console soon, thus still making the 360 a cheaper current-gen console.

And let's not forget how much the console really costs. The reason why I said I'd have to spend around a thousand dollars for the PS3 slim is because we all tend to forget the extra bits and pieces that add up. Its $620 for the system, another $100+ for an extra controller, games ranging from $55 (old/used) to $140 (new), blu-ray movies from $30 (old/used) to $90 (tv series) and PSN points at $30/$50 to download games can tally into almost paying for the PS3 slim twice over.

Exclusive 3rd party titles are a thing of the past. Devil May Cry, Silent Hill, Grand Theft Auto, Final Fantasy and Resident Evil are examples of popular 3rd party franchises that appear on both the Xbox 360 and PS3. If you already own an Xbox 360 and are a fan of these established franchises chances are you've already played these games. So what could Sony offer you in terms of software that would justify a purchase of another console?

For every Gran Turismo on the PS3 there is a Forza on the Xbox 360. For every SingStar there is Lips, for every Resistance, a Gears of War.

Yes the gameplay differs from each title but they do not make an enormous leap in mechanics to lure gamers from one console to the other.

Not everyone is in the same situation I am so I'm going to give a conclusion into different tiers.

If you already own an Xbox 360: Stick with it. You're not missing out on much as 3rd party developers are making games for both platforms and Sony exclusives are few and far between to not justify buying another console.

I know it has a high failure rate of breaking down but you've got 3 years warranty on the console which does help and the new models that they replace it with are fitted with better chips that prevent it from dying so often. If the warranty period is over you can look forward to a price drop on the Elite model. Also, it may not mean a lot but you'll be giving up your Gamerscore and Achievements you've collected when you were playing those games.

There are other glaring negative points about the 360 as well though don't get me wrong. The silly banning of under 18s from Xbox Live and the ludicrous prices to download games online are totally unfair but it's something that can be easily worked around with (i.e. lie about your age and buy physical games respectively).

If you own a PLAYSTATION 3: There's no point in changing to the newer system. Chances are you got one with the better configuration out there (with PS2 backwards compatibility and all) and Sony systems are made to last. Stick with your behemoth.

If you own a Wii/neither consoles: It's a good time to join the high-definition party and a good way to do that is getting the PS3 Slim. Bear in mind that it is quite a big investment, don't go into a shop with $600 and expect to be ready to experience an onslaught of brilliant graphics and gameplay when you get back. I'd prepare at least $850 for games/movies/tv shows and an extra controller to get myself up and running decently.

If possible import. It'll save you tons which means more games and blu-ray movies.

So there you go. I won't be buying one for myself because I don't think the purchase is necessary but if you're considering getting one think about the time/money that this investment is going to cost. Chances are most gamers have already selected the console of their choice and though the PS3 Slim has a lot going for it, it's been 3 years and it may have come a little too late.

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