Here it is, Sony’s swansong for the generation – bold, brave and distinctive, how does the new PS3 hold up?
We take a first hand look.
Within 30 seconds, that glossy charcoal black exterior is covered in smudgy fingerprints, losing most of its shine in mere moments. Of course, I’m handling it in ways it won’t be handled once in position – flipping it over, examining those distinct ridges, checking for the usual ports. It’s that new hardware rush, like a doctor quickly checking a fallen patient, running through a pre-meditated checklist as quickly as hand and eye can coordinate.
The new PS3, out in just over a week, is strong, bold and desperately trying to be different, but seems to be facing something of an uphill struggle with gamers used to sleek, curved lines on their consoles. It’s that top section, ridged, cutaway, scooped out like an eighties Bang and Olufsen project but without much of the refinement commonly associated with high-end hi-fi equipment – you can’t miss it, it’s a defining feature.
Cast your mind back to the original PlayStation – its mark was the singular, central disk lid. PlayStation 2? A solid, bulky, square affair with – remember? – ridges galore. The PS3? Curved, piano black sweeping lines and touch sensitive buttons. They’ve all been as different as consoles can be, and since then Sony have tweaked, pushed and squashed what made the PS3 the PS3 into svelter, smaller versions. With some success and widespread acceptance.
But think of this: the ‘Slim’ was known for being smaller, but it was actually otherwise rather unremarkable, a thinning down of some considerable design decisions into something approaching safe; that’s been cast aside with this 2012 remix – it’s anything but conservative and it’s actually, having stared at its lines and grooves for some time, rather outspoken.
It’s a centrepiece, a talking point, a statement.
Even the PS3 logo takes a back seat, muted as it is atop the disk tray. Indeed, this model is all about the new, gone is the elegant, hungry drive slot and in its place is a full width old-fashioned sliding piece of plastic which flicks to the side, revealing a circular, gaping area for your disk. It’s deeper than you might think, just shy of 10mm, the twin (DVD and Blu-ray) lasers sitting proud and naked bottom centre amongst the other plastic mechanics.
The action isn’t hugely smooth, it’s spring loaded (and triggered via a long horizontal rocker on the front of the unit) and the cover moves a little quicker than I’d like. Returning it is entirely manual, too – there’s little force needed but you can feel you’re pushing against resistance, the lid snapping into place with some authority. There’s a bit of play when a disk is in, too – I can see games getting some stick after a few beers, and getting one out requires nimble fingers to get behind the left hand side.
At least it’s quiet, both the drive (which barely registers a click and a whir) and the main unit, which is next to silent on boot and rarely gets excited. As a media centre this would be perfect, the noise levels really are low.
It’s small, though, the unit itself. Considerably lighter than expected, too, and a quick shake resulted in no movement other than a slight shuffle of the loading cover as it tapped the sides of the runners. In place, on a media centre surrounded by a slimmed down Xbox 360 and a black Wii, it sits somewhere between, dimensionally and aesthetically, its odd juxtaposition of old and new actually quite dominant. I get it. I didn’t think I would, but I do – it’s quirky enough to warrant further attention and the generous hard drive size means it won’t need swapping out for the remainder of the current generation.
Internally it’s business as usual.
This is, after all, just a PS3. It’s a new case, a new design, but internally it’s business as usual. With Uncharted 3 in the drive you wouldn’t know any difference on-screen, but in the living room Sony have managed to craft something that not only catches the eye but managed to also ensure that it keeps getting occasional glances down the line too.
There’s a sense that it’s cheaper to build, for sure – you can’t escape the fact that that top-loader is an oddity and feels a little flimsier than a slot-based drive does, and the absence of a HDMI cable is a bit cheeky – and retro-wise I’d have preferred a smoked glass cover instead of solid plastic to go all the way, but this new PS3 is a striking, coherent new design. Closing off the generation in a distinct, diminutive manner, Sony have squeezed a lot into this package.
And I rather like it.