The PS3 caused quite a stir when it launched thanks to limited supply and crazed gaming fans struggling to bring it home, and now that it's closing in on three years in the market, it's still just as hotly desired but much more affordable. With its cutting edge cell processing ability and sci-fi-quality Blu-Ray disc drive, the PS3 is undeniably the most technically powerful console of its generation, easily surpassing the Xbox 360 and Wii. It's slim, and stylish enough to blend in with your home entertainment equipment, which is perfect: not only is it one of the cheapest and best Blu-Ray players available, but it also serves as a complete entertainment media center for listening to music or viewing photos and movies stored on the device's generously sized hard drive or from any of your other elctronics via bluetooth or a USB port. Best of all, it's unbelievably easy to stream content from the internet or from other computers on a network. The functionality of the PlayStation 3 is ever-expanding as developers find new and innovative ways to use the device's power, which rivals that of some supercomputers.
Three models are on the market today. There are two old-style PS3s that are being phased out. The 80GB PS3, available in black, white, or silver, retails for $299--extremely modest for a Blu-Ray player, let alone an all-in-one media device with thousands of other games and applications. A limited edition 160GB PS3 is also currently available for $399, sold as a bundle with the popular game Uncharted, a DualShock 3 controller, and a voucher for the downloadable game PAIN so you can get your feet wet with one of the many pieces of content available on the free-to-access PlayStation Network. Finally, the most exciting model is the PS3 Slim, a redesign of the system that is about half the size of the original, uses 34 percent less power, has no obtrusive power brick, and has all the same great features, plus a larger 120GB hard drive. Best of all, it still costs just $299.
For more information about the check out our Video Game Console Buying Guide.
* Previous models of the machine played almost all PlayStation and PS2 games, though new models are only compatible with PSOne games. Additionally, the memory cards from the old systems won't work on the PS3. If you want to access old game saves, you'll need to buy an adapter in order to make it work. If you're starting a new game, you can save those files right to the PS3's hard drive or to an external storage device through one of the PS3's USB ports.
* The PS3 is always connected to the internet and will alert you when updates, such as free system updates, are made available.
* Online play is completely free. Unlike the Xbox 360, which has a subscription-based online service, the PS3's PlayStation Network is 100% free to use for all games that have online play.
* In addition to free online gaming, the PS3 offers a near-endless and always growing supply of downloadable content, some free and some for a small fee. This includes TV shows, movies, expansion packs for games, original downloadable games and software designed just for the PlayStation 3, games for the first PlayStation, and much, much more. Sony has said that in the very near future they will begin offering PlayStation 2 games for download as well.
* Access to PlayStation Home, a virtual world similar to Second Life, is also free. You can customize your virtual home and avatar with a near-limitless number of items and interact in real-time with other virtual users from all around the world.
* Features full 1080p HDTV compatibility.
* The RSX GPU roughly equals the quality (resolution-wise) of two top-of-the-line Nvidia GeForce graphics cards, and it will be 30% faster than the Nvidia 7800 GTX. Translation for non-geeks: it has the best graphics of any console available and blows even the highest-end gaming PCs out of the water.
* Plays all types of media: DVDs, Blu-Ray discs and CDs. Memory wise, it supports a variety of formats: CompactFlash, SD/MMC chips and Memory Sticks. Get the PS3 Blu-Ray Remote Control to use when playing Blu-Ray movie discs on your HDTV.
* Through USB and Bluetooth connections, you can access files on your electronic devices: digital cameras, camcorders, MP3 players, and Sony's own PSP.
* The PlayStation 3 features a full internet browser and network connectivity to download or stream media from computers and network devices.
Great PS3 Deals
* Power PC-base Core Cell CPU @ 3.2 GHz
* 1 VMX vector unit per core
* 512KB L2 cache
* 7 x SPE @ 3.2 GHz
* 7 x 128b 128 SIMD GPRs
* 7 x 256 KB SRAM for SPE
* 1 of 8 SPEs reserved for redundancy
* Total floating point performance: 218 GFLOPS
* RSX @550 MHz
* 1.8 TFLOPS floating point performance
* Full HD (up to 1080p) x 2 channels
* Multi-way programmable parallel floating point shader pipelines
* Dolby 5.1ch, DTS, LPCM, etc. (Cell- base processing
* 256 MB XDR Main RAM
* 3.2 GHz 256 MB GDDR3 VRAM
* 700 MHz
* Various hard drive size options