Back in 2004, four years after first launching the PlayStation 2, Sony brought out a new, much more compact PS2. Timed to come out just as Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was hitting stores, the redesigned console helped breath new life into the PS2 franchise. It remains on store shelves today — you can pick one up for just $99.
Needless to say, Sony hopes that a trimmed down–and less expensive–PS3 Slim will similarly invigorate sales of the PlayStation 3, which has lagged behind the Nintendo Wii and the Microsoft Xbox 360 and has taken some of the luster off the PlayStation brand (even as earlier versions of the PS3 received high marks from this publication). To many industry observers, the Slim PS3 represents a moment of reckoning for the PS3–a chance at redemption if you will–and clearly some serious engineering has gone into the creation of Sony’s latest black gaming box and media player.
If you’re a fan of the PS3 or have been sitting on the fence, waiting for its price to drop to $299, the good news is that from a features standpoint, the 120GB Slim PS3 is nearly identical to the 80GB and the 160GB “fat” PS3 models that Sony’s in the process of phasing out. Aside from losing the capability to install another OS (Linux) on your PS3, nothing much else has changed. You still get built-in Wi-Fi connectivity (the Xbox 360 Wi-Fi adapter is a $100 add-on accessory), two USB ports for plugging in external storage devices and charging the PS3′s Bluetooth wireless controller (one DualShock 3 controller comes with the Slim), and the same built-in Profile 2.0 Blu-ray player with BD-Live capabilities.
The bad news is that Sony didn’t add new features to the Slim. Alas, while we didn’t think the company would be nice enough to throw in an IR receiver so you could control the PS3 with a standard IR universal remote, Sony has eschewed IR again. Also, if you’re pining to play your collection of PS2 games on Slim, you’ll be disappointed to note that backward capability remains a thing of the past (the option only existed only on some of the earlier PS3 systems Sony released).
The story here, then, is all about design, and it’s generally a good one. For starters, the Slim is 33 percent smaller and 36 percent lighter than its predecessors, and it really does look significantly more compact when you put it up against the “fat” PS3. Beauty, of course, is in the eye of the beholder, and many people, including this reviewer, think the Slim’s new frame is fairly fetching.
Yet, we’ve also heard people say that the new “textured,” or matte, finish gives the system a cheaper look. Maybe so, but pick the Slim up and it feels quite substantial. And while we’re sure Sony doesn’t want people referring to the Slim using adjectives like cheap (except when it comes to the price tag), the company does want this PS3 to appear more “casual” and appeal to a wider audience.
At the end of the day, you can quibble about the Slim’s new casual look, the lack of backward compatibility for PS2 games, no IR port, and such former extras as a built-in memory card reader and extra USB ports (we’d still like one on the back of the unit). But the fact is the PS3 Slim costs half of what the original PS3 cost when it first launched. It’s also smaller, more energy efficient, quieter, and retains virtually all the impressive gaming, multimedia, and home-theater functionality of previous PS3s. In short, there’s a lot of machine here for $299.
The good: More affordable $299 price; slimmer, more compact design with quieter operation; all games in high-definition; easy-to-use interface; doubles as a Blu-ray and upscaling DVD player; built-in Wi-Fi; 120GB hard drive; HDMI output with 1080p support; no external power supply; built-in Web browser; free online gaming service.
The bad: Lacks backward support for PS2 games; no infrared port means non-Bluetooth universal remotes aren’t compatible; online gaming, media, and commerce options still aren’t as fully developed as Xbox Live, though they’re getting better.
The bottom line: With a smaller design, more energy-efficient operation, lower price tag, and built-in Blu-ray and multimedia capabilities, the PS3 Slim delivers a compelling package for an affordable price.