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Sony PlayStation 3

While it hasn't got the advantage of the close ties between the Xbox 360 and Windows, Sony's support for open standards helps make the PlayStation 3 a strong networked media player. Getting your PS3 to see your PC and visa versa isn't always 100 per cent foolproof, but the Sony console's compatibility with most personal media players, USB hard disk drives and UPnP media servers means that there are plenty of ways of getting downloaded content onto your TV. As Windows Meda Player 11 will act as a UPnP server once you enable Media Sharing from the Library tab, you can stream music, photos and videos to your PS3 without the need for any additional software, though using a third-party app like TVersity will give you more options and enable you to work with more exotic file types. However, as the PS3 now supports (non DRM) AAC, WMA, WMV, Xvid and DivX, along with MPEG 1, 2 and 4(H.264 and AVCHD) that's no longer as big an issue as it used to be.
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The PS3 has other key advantages too. It's a much quieter and less obtrusive console than the Xbox 360, especially when there's no disc spinning in the drive, and Sony's expertise in the consumer electronics field shows in the streamlined and attractive GUI. Perhaps the visual organisation of files could be a little more efficient - it can be difficult to find individual files in a complex nest of folders and at times reaching for the 'Display All' option is your only recourse - but generally the interface is clean, functional and cool.
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Of course, the fact that the PS3 doubles as a Blu-ray player gets all the more interesting as the price of the HD movie discs begins to drop, and its support for HDMI 1.3 and Blu-ray profile 2.0 makes it a very capable player at that. With a built-in PSU there's less clutter around the TV, while the four USB ports and memory card slots make it a great device if you just want to physically plug your media in. For all these reasons, many of us at TR would rather have a PS3 than an Xbox 360 under our TV for everyday media player services (though, to counter that, the situation is rather different when it comes to just playing games).

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