The simplest option turned out to be a Playstation 3. Whilst this is overpriced as a game console, a fact that is causing Sony as lot of problems right now, as a high-definition, home entertainment hub it is actually by far the cheapest opinion. It has an upgradable 60 Gig hard drive to keep MP3s, photos, some games and the (very limited) types of video that it can play. With it’s ability to play back Blue Ray disks (currently the favourite to succeed as DVD’s successor, in my opinion) and SACD’s over an HDMI digital connection, the PS3 is really is a step into the future. For now, I don’t actually have much of either disk, but it can ‘upscale’ video to the size of my TV and ‘upsample’ conventional CDs, all of which means that things look (and theoretically sound) a lot smoother than if the TV was left to do this. DVDs look spectacular on it, thanks to some recent software updates, high definition more so. Watching films has become a much more involving thing, mainly due to the big screen.
So how do I get this fabled High Definition? Well, my version of the PS3 has built in wireless internet. I simply press the button and it takes me to the Sony Store, where there are high-def movie trailers and playable demos of games. So far, the most impressive thing I’ve seen must be the trailer for Transformers. It is so sharp, the effects so convincing; along with the powerful sound you really do feel like you are in a cinema. Also the games have amazing graphics, fully detailed and with intricate 3D. I’m not sure they are much better than an X-Box 360 in this regard, but as that lacks a new type of drive (though they have an optional HD-DVD drive as an add-on) it is out of the question for my needs.
Some day that putting in the Blue-Ray drive is killing the PS3 as it makes it so much more expensive than the opposing consoles, especially the riotously popular Nintendo Wii, but also much more than a basic version of the 360. This may well be true, but if so, Sony’s pain is my gain, as it gives me access to this feature as well as everything else. My main complaint and I hope it is something they fix, is the inability to play back Divx files, or losslessly compressed audio. As a central media hub, I think it really needs this, though I do understand Sony’s reluctance from a Copyright point of view. I have many TV series encoded in Divx that would be great to watch from that hard-drive, upscaled, or even better recorded in high-def, but so far I can’t do that without transcoding to another format, which is a waste of time as it simply makes them look worse due to the artifacts induced, not to mention the time and energy involved.
Luckily, my DVD player can watch Divx and also upscale them over HDMI, so this is what I’ll be doj g for now, though it would be nice if the PS3 did everything, as I am hoping it will do. So come on, Sony, give us support for Divx or Xvid. If a cheap player from Taiwan can handle it, I can’t see why the PS3 can’t. One solution of course is to take advantage of the ‘other operating system’ feature and installing Linux- something which is hampered by the blocking of using the amazing graphics processor in this mode, making watching high-definition Divx impossible on it for now. So please at least free up Linux use, as after all only a few geeks out there even know what it is! Then we really will have what was promised- a computer for the living room. Just thinking of all the emulation possibilities there makes me a little Giddy. Yes, I know I am by name!