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Sony is keen to push the fact that the PlayStation 3 can play Blu-ray movie discs, and when you consider how much a dedicated Blu-ray player costs, that’s hardly surprising. To be honest, I’ve never been one for watching movies on games consoles – if I want to watch movies, I’ll watch them on a high-end player for the best results. That said, the PS3 makes a very good case for itself as a Blu-ray movie player, not least because it’s one of the only HDMI 1.3 equipped devices on the market right now
Although PlayStation 3 hardware will be region locked for Blu-ray discs, none of the discs currently available are region coded – so you should be able to play any disc on any PS3, for the time being at least. Early Blu-ray discs were woefully disappointing due to the use of the MPEG2 CODEC, rather than more advanced and efficient methods of compression. However, those days are behind us and what better way to test the PlayStation 3’s Blu-ray credentials than with James Bond’s latest – and arguably one of his greatest – adventures.
Casino Royale is a stunning example of a Blu-ray movie. Sony Pictures was smart enough to realise that the overwhelming success of the film at the cinema meant that a quality transfer to Blu-ray was well worth the effort. Shipping on a 50GB, dual layer Blu-ray disc, Casino Royale is one of the best looking examples of a high definition movie I’ve ever seen – of course that’s not surprising considering that the bit rate averages around 25Mbit/sec! The PlayStation 3 really did do this disc justice when I watched it on my Panasonic TH-37PX600 plasma TV, despite the fact that it isn’t a full HD 1,920 x 1,080 panel.
The PlayStation 3 also has one major advantage over the Xbox 360 and HD DVD drive combination – it’s very quiet in operation. While the X360 and HD DVD drive produce very good results when watching a movie, the setup makes a significant amount of noise, which can be very intrusive during quiet scenes. The PlayStation 3 on the other hand, while not silent, is quiet as a mouse compared to its main competitor in this area. Less positive is the fact that if you’re using a component video cable to connect your PS3 to your HDTV, all your Blu-ray movies will be downscaled to 480i – the only way to get them to play at full resolution is over an HDCP compliant HDMI connection.
If you’re seriously thinking about buying a Blu-ray player, I would honestly suggest that you save some money and go for a PS3 instead, because it performs just as well as the dedicated players that are available right now. It’s also worth remembering that none of the dedicated players on the market right now have HDMI 1.3 or an Ethernet port. The latter is necessary to access the BD Live online content that should (hopefully) be coming online later this year. If you are planning on using your PS3 as your main Blu-ray player, I would strongly suggest that you invest in the remote control unit, since controlling playback with the SixAxis is just as cumbersome as it was playing DVDs with the PS2 controller.
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