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More Than Just A Games Console?

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I have a confession to make: I own a PlayStation 3. In fact, since Andy already outed me in his recent gaming round-up, I'll spill the beans. I traded my Xbox 360 for a PlayStation 3 on UK launch day. You see, I like to think of myself as a man of faith and of my word. When I purchased my Xbox back in October of 2006, it was as a stop-gap to eventually getting the PS3, which had just slipped back to a March 2007 release for us British types. Anyway, to cut a long story short I came back from town that fateful day one Xbox short and one PS3 wealthier.

All well and good then, and you probably expect me to tell you how I spent the succeeding nine months up to now thoroughly enjoying myself and getting full use from my console. Well sorry, but no I haven't and I fully suspect that were I not a ‘techy' person I'd probably have a hard time finding the thing under the pile of dust that would now have magically magnetised to it.

So just what use is a games console that doesn't have any really good games (well, maybe the one) out yet? Well, if you're willing to devote a little time and patience the answer is quite a lot. On that note, then, let us delve into the weird and wonderful depths of the PlayStation 3.

Common convention (and sense) suggests that the best place for us to start is at the beginning. Given the context of this article I guess that means explaining what you can do with the console before fiddling around with more complicated things like Linux (yes I did just ruin the surprise on page three).

Seeing as Sony itself has made such as fuss over it, I guess I should start with Blu-ray. Say what you like about whether including a Blu-ray drive in the PS3 was the right decision or not, as soon as you watch Casino Royale or Spider-Man 3 in Full HD, 1080p glory on a decent TV you will know that this is how films are supposed to be seen.

Even a year since its launch the PS3 is still the best Blu-ray player available. It has built-in storage, a network connection, an HDMI 1.3 port and easily upgradeable firmware. Therefore it is able to meet the controversial Profile 1.1 standard, the same of which cannot be said of many stand-alone players. While there aren't any discs out there yet which make use of the interactive functionality allowed by the new profile, they will be coming.

Another important consideration is the noise level. Try watching a DVD on an Xbox 360 and unless you don't mind listening at volumes likely to threaten the structural integrity of surrounding buildings, the persistent drone of the console's fans and spinning disc will be enough to drive you to distraction. Plug the separate HD DVD drive in and the problem is exacerbated. The PlayStation 3, by contrast, is near-silent in operation. While the fans are arguably still annoyingly loud when they spin up, that only happens when playing games - watching films you'll get only a pleasant hum - inaudible over, say, a fraught game of poker.

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