Editors' Note: For a more recent (May 2008) update on this topic, check out 12 ways to make the PS3 perfect.
This is a column I've hesitated to write. Not because I revere Sony or anything like that. But I was afraid I'd sort of overdone the whole 10-things-I-hate concept, having already knocked out three of them--for the PSP, the Xbox 360, and HD DVD. However, in response to my last column, which covered my conspiracy against HD DVD, several readers requested--or, in some cases, demanded--that the PS3 get the hate treatment. And so, by popular demand, I've capitulated.
First, the usual disclaimers: For those of you who are new to this column, I have a tendency to write somewhat sensational headlines because they seem to get people to actually read the column--what a concept! So, before you guys go hauling off and accusing me of hypocrisy for rating the PS3 so high in the first place, then ripping it here, understand that I think the PS3 is a very nice piece of gear--but it also has some issues that need to be addressed, hopefully sooner rather than later. So a more apt headline might be "10 Improvements to the PS3 I'd like to see" or "Sony, please make these changes in your rumored March firmware upgrade."
I've ordered my peeves beginning with the mildly bothersome and finishing with really irksome. As always, feel free to add your own gripes, as I'm sure I've left many off the list.
1. The price
A lot of folks have made a big hullabaloo about the PS3's lofty price tag, and I agree: it's an issue, though not necessarily a huge one if you look at the situation rationally. Compare the $500 base PS3 model to the $400 Xbox 360, and they're very similar from a features standpoint. Both models have 20GB hard drives and built-in Ethernet (no Wi-Fi), and they come with a single wireless controller. For $100 more, though, you're getting a Blu-ray drive and HDMI 1.3 connectivity in the PS3. By comparison, the Xbox 360's HD DVD add-on costs $200 and there's currently no HDMI option, despite persistent rumors. So when you factor in the fact that you're getting an excellent HD movie player built into the PS3, the difference in price between isn't as great as some say it is.
Sony can make the PS3
That said, in the consumer electronics world, hitting a certain price point can make or break a product, and getting to $399 is certainly going to help Sony move more product faster. The hitch is that it's already losing money on every PS3 it sells--more than $240, according to at least one report
. The company doesn't want to slash prices just yet, particularly as it gets ready to meet demand for the European launch of the console in March. If it's any consolation to U.S. customers, folks in Britain, for example, are looking to pay upward of $800 for the PS3. So you could argue that $600 for the 60GB (with Wi-Fi) model
is not such a bad deal after all.
2. No must-have exclusive games
As with any new console launch, the game selection is rather limited, and Sony hasn't produced any PS3-exclusive titles--either through one of its own studios or through a third-party publisher--that make you feel you need to run out and go buy the system, especially at $500 to $600 a pop. (Yes, Resistance: Fall of Man deserves props, but there's only so many first-person shooters I can handle.) That should start to change in the coming weeks, as a trickle of new PS3-only titles hits stores, including Formula One Championship Edition, Virtua Fighter 5, Lair, and the highly anticipated Motorstorm. That last offering may not have the hit potential of a Grand Theft Auto or Halo 3, but it's a fun, unique game that does a great job of showcasing the PS3's graphical horsepower.
3. No background downloading
At launch, the Xbox 360 didn't allow you to download files (videos, game demos) while you did something else on your Xbox 360. A subsequent system update fixed the problem, and now you can. You should be able to do the same with the PS3, especially since system updates (see no. 4) and game demos seem to take forever to download.
4. System updates are a hassle
Downloading a system update directly to your PS3 is a dreadfully slow process, and it's annoying that you have to plug your controller back into the console in order to update your system. One option that helps a bit is to use your computer to download the update, then transfer the file to a memory card (which you then insert into the PS3's memory card slot to perform the system update). For some reason, it's two to three times faster to download the update via your PC--on the same broadband Internet connection. I just don't understand why that's the case.
5. The Web browser needs work
What little things irk you about the PS3? Any suggestions for improvements?
The PS3 has a built-in Web browser that's very similar to the one you'll find on the PSP (it's a version of the NetFront browser by Access, the Japanese company that now owns the Palm operating system). That's a nice option, but it has some major issues
and needs to be dramatically improved. Probably the biggest infraction is that you have to hit the PlayStation button on the controller to call up the address bar, which means you can't surf with just a keyboard and mouse; you always have to have your controller nearby. And while it's nice that you can have six Web pages up at once, we couldn't find a pop-up blocker, and the browser treats pop-ups as separate Web pages. On top of that, Flash support is sketchy, so playback of YouTube or CNET TV
videos may work, but the video can be choppy and unwatchable. On a separate but related note, Sony should have put out a special PS3 Bluetooth keyboard with a built-in touch pad/mouse at launch. It's still AWOL as of this writing, and the Logitech Cordless MediaBoard
doesn't quite fill the bill.
6. PS3 downscales 720p on TVs that don't support the resolution
Right after it launched, word quickly got out that if you had an older HDTV that supported only 1080i resolution for HD, the PS3 failed to upconvert 720p games to 1080i, Instead, it downconverted the games to 480p. For those who have no idea what all these numbers mean, the bottom line is that a game that was supposed to be displayed in its full high-definition glory was actually being displayed in DVD-level enhanced definition. While the bug, which has yet to have been fixed, didn't affect everyone, it's still annoying.
7. No DVD upscaling
This one really gets under my skin. The fact that the PS3 is a Blu-ray/DVD player with HDMI connectivity but doesn't upscale DVD movies to 720p or 1080i the way just about every HDMI-enabled DVD player out there does is disappointing. Depending on your TV, the difference in picture quality would probably only be slight, but that the PS3 lacks this feature is still upsetting, especially when standalone Blu-ray players and Toshiba's HD DVD players do offer upscaling.
8. No IR support
A lot of people like to complain about the lack of rumble in the PS3 game controller, but I'm more irritated that Sony left IR (infrared) off the PS3. The lack of a little IR sensor on the console's front end means you can't control the PS3 with a universal remote. Since the PS3 is intended to be integrated into a home theater setup (that might even include some Sony home-theater gear) you'd expect Sony to serve up some IR support in one form or another. Alas, no such USB dongle exists, so you're left to use either the PS3's Bluetooth wireless controller or Sony's optional Bluetooth remote in conjunction with your universal remote. That hurts.
9. HDMI issues/overcomplicated audio options
You can't blame Sony for HDMI's shortcomings, but the company did make a big deal about HDMI connectivity, so it's inevitably going to take some heat when that connection leads to audio cut-outs and picture blinking. Most of those issues are related to HDCP and its dicey handshaking skills, which may or may not be resolved as new TVs and receivers get upgraded with HDMI 1.3 (the PS3 has HDMI 1.3 but it won't be working its way into HDTVs and A/V receivers until later in 2007). Some folks have reported that the easiest way to fix the no-sound or blinking problem is to simply unplug--then replug--your HDMI cable. When I sometimes don't get any sound, I go into the audio setup menu and reapply the "automatic" setting for HDMI to get the sound to work. I don't know if Sony can do anything about this or not in a firmware upgrade, but what it can do is try to simplify the labeling on some of the sound settings. There are so many options--27, to be exact--you need an audiophile to help navigate your system. (It's so confusing, in fact, that I mistakenly assumed the PS3 couldn't play back my SACD discs properly--a misapprehension our readers quickly corrected.) If you happen to be an audiophile, all those settings are a real turn-on, but even for a knowledgeable enthusiast, Linear PCM 5.1 Ch. 176.4kHz isn't really very helpful. Describing the audio options in something approaching real-world English (SACD 5.1 surround) would be a big improvement.
10. Anemic PlayStation Store
I could probably write a whole column just on this item alone. Much has been made of how Sony is nowhere near where it should be in terms of downloadable content, and its PlayStation Store is a joke compared to Microsoft's Xbox Live and Apple's iTunes Store. To make matters worse, navigating the online storefront is a chore as you attempt to center the cursor on a desired icon or button and select it with the X button. While Sony continues to add new content weekly, the rumored arrival of a totally revamped Connect service with music and movie downloads has yet to materialize. (Remember, Sony owns a music company and several movie studios, so it already has plenty of content.) And while I'm taking shots, I should add that it's truly ridiculous that you have to use the PS3 to download retro PS One games that then need to be offloaded to your PSP (the PSP has a built-in Wi-Fi connection, so why not use it for direct downloads?). As a proponent of subscription services, I'd like to see Sony go to some sort of subscription model for music downloads and movie downloads. And if it can't get its act together soon, it should just incorporate Rhapsody into the PS3, split the revenues, and call it a day. Of course, that'll never happen, but hey, I just had to throw it out there.
What little things irk you about the PS3? Any suggestions for improvements? Get your two cents in by clicking on the TalkBack button now.