PlayStation3 Blu-ray Disc Player Page 2
But note too that the PS3 plays standard CDs, and you can get sound from them over HDMI or the far less sexy analog breakout. The standalone players from Sony and Pioneer Elite will not playback the poor old CD, so if you like to spin CDs, your dream of either of those players being your single optical disc source is over.
Audio and Video Setup
The PS3' on-screen menus are complex in supporting the considerable flexibility the console allows, but I found them straightforward to navigate and use. The key items to set up are in the Settings area of the menu, and the BD/DVD Settings, Display Settings and Sound Settings sub-menus specifically.
Under Display Settings the first item is Video Output Settings. You first select the type of connection you're using, which in my case was HDMI, then select the maximum output resolution, either Manually or by selecting Automatic and letting the PS3 and your display sort this out for you. I was using the HDMI switching in Anthem's AVM 50 controller, connected to the Sony VPL-VW50 video projector, and the PS3 correctly set the maximum output as 1080p.
The PS3 will output 720p, 1080i, or 1080p when it is native on a Blu-ray Disc or a video game. It can also downconvert from 1080p to 1080i if your display cannot accept 1080p. But it cannot downconvert 1080p to 720p, and it does not have the ability to upconvert lower resolution discs to 720p, 1080i or 1080p. Even when I manually selected 720p or 1080p as the output format, the PS3 would output only 480p with standard definition DVDs.
If you are a serious video gamer, this may be even more significant. Although some games like NBA '07 are encoded to output at 720p, 1080i, or 1080p, many current games are encoded at and for 720p output only, and the PS3 cannot upconvert these to 1080i or 1080p. While HD displays that won't accept and display 720p are likely to be uncommon and long in the tooth, some of you may still be using one. If this is you, these 720p games would only be output to your TV downconverted to 480p. That sucks- these games look amazing in HD. Might as well go back to Atari if you can't have your HD games in HD!
Speculation has been that Sony is losing hundreds of dollars on each PS3, and it's possible that this is one of the places corners had to be cut. Still, all other next-gen players we're aware of offer standard DVD upconversion to at least 1080i, including Microsoft's Xbox360, which offers effective up and downconversion for broad compatibility.
Under the Sound Settings menu you'll find Audio Output Settings, which first allows you to select whether you'll be using the HDMI or Toslink optical Digital Out. Selecting HDMI and then Automatic worked fine with my HDMI switching rig. The supported output formats include Dolby Digital and DTS at 5.1-channels, plus a number of linear PCM channel configurations and sample rates. While the player is spec'd for full compatibility with Dolby TrueHD, this audio format did not appear as an option anywhere. In any case I was not able to test compatibility with Dolby's lossless codec since I am not yet aware of a single Blu-ray Disc with its soundtrack encoded using this format, nor of any BDs encoded with 7.1-channels of audio, period. We'll follow up when we have some software to listen to.
Like Samsung's BD-P1000 one must select either PCM or bitstream for the HDMI outputs, and there is no setting that allows for the native format to simply pass through. For example, if you have a system that can handle uncompressed multichannel PCM, and you select PCM output, then all Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks are converted to multichannel PCM and sent over the HDMI link. I heard no sonic harm whatsoever as a result of this- DTS and DD tracks sounded wonderful converted to PCM, especially the DTS tracks at 1.5Mbps. Again, if you have don't have HDMI version 1.1 switching or later you'll either have to select bitstream or use the Toslink optical output, since earlier versions of HDMI can't transmit multichannel PCM.
For the Toslink digital optical output only Dolby Digital, DTS, AAC, and two-channel PCM (at 44k and 48k) are selectable as output formats.
Usability And Ergonomics- Playing Beyond
While Sony offers a Blu-ray Disc remote control that looks like a standard DVD player remote as an optional accessory, for the time being the SIXAXIS wireless game controller is how you interface with the PS3.
Not being a gamer, this was initially a shock to my system. For the first half hour or so my frustration tolerance level was seriously breached, but that quickly went away. In fact sitting here two weeks out as I write this I'm so fast and comfortable with the SIXAXIS that it wouldn't benefit me at all to have a standard remote. For my wife, it's a different story! Depending on who you are, you might want to place an order for that standard remote when you get your PS3 (which will probably be around February of 2007 unless you "know somebody!").
As a brief overview, the keypad on the left side of the SIXAXIS allows directional navigation, while the four buttons on the right execute commands. The X button is the play, pause and an enter key while the button is stop. The button brings up the disc menu during playback of a DVD or BD, while the button allows graphic access to a wealth of less frequently used commands that you can navigate with the left hand keypad and execute with the X button on the right side. Among them are Top Menu, A-B repeat loops, subtitle, angle and audio track options. The trigger buttons control chapter skip and variable speed scan forward and backward.
There is also a Select button, which has huge geek appeal. And by geek, I mean people like me. During DVD and BD playback I've had hours of fun hitting this button and being treated to a display showing, along with some playback time and status information, the audio and video codecs used on DVDs and BDs, and, drumroll please, the audio and video datarates, in real time! It's been fascinating if less than conclusive to evaluate transfers good and bad, and see what kind of data rates are actually being employed.
Beyond all that, the last thing worth noting on the SIXAXIS is that its range is tremendous- I was able to execute commands from the other room- and it occasionally needs to be plugged back into the PS3 via the included USB cable to recharge its battery.
The PS3 also rocks with startup speed, disc load speed and disc access during playback. In other words, it's ergonomically very Sony. Inserting discs with the PS3 powered down, it took less than ten seconds, at most, to boot to the menu of either a DVD or a 50GB BD, either of which the PS3 does automatically. Sometimes it took closer to half that time- load times seemed to vary with the disc, whether the player is powered down or powered up when the disc is inserted. But when the unit is powered up and a disc is inserted, its icon appears under the Video menu and must be selected to boot into the disc menu and play, which is a little tedious for videos, even if it makes sense for games. This ergonomic performance is a far cry from the more expensive Samsung BD-P1000 standalone BD player, which still takes around 30 seconds to load a BD menu, or the Toshiba first-gen HD DVD players, which can take closer to a minute to load a disc.
The PS3 not only has major scoreboard over competing manufacturers, it even bests Sony's own BDP-S1 standalone player. The BDP-S1 took over 30 seconds to power up and displays its menu on Sony's Pearl projector using an HDMI connection. From the time the drawer closed it took the BDP-S1 between 37 and 40+ seconds to load the first menu from 50GB and 25GB BDs (all from Sony and all directly into the projector with no HDMI switcher of any kind in between), which is even longer than the updated Samsung BD-P1000 which now loads discs as in as little as 20 seconds but can also take as long as 30 seconds.