PlayStation3 Blu-ray Disc Player Page 4
As far as 1080p24 and the "judder" distortions eliminated when 24fps is displayed at a direct multiple of that frame rate, I found whatever improvements this brings to be very elusive. I'm not saying it's not there, but that I must be relatively insensitive to it. Horizontal pans and movement looked perhaps a bit smoother at 1080p/24, but these differences were very difficult for me to discern. While this might change over time, I'm not yet so in tune with seeing 24p's improvements that it bothers me in the slightest to go back to the 1080p/60 output of the PS3.
While we don't yet have any test discs for Blu-ray or HD DVD we still have our battery of standard DVD test discs. Looking at these revealed that the PS3 doesn't show signals below digital black or above digital white. If you watch a disc that's inadvertently mastered with information below black or above white you won't see it from PS3. While both the Samsung BD-P1000 and Sony's BDP-S1 show below black and above white, and I'd prefer that a disc player does both, I don't consider this a deal breaker.
I did notice however, that the PS3's 480p output with standard DVD was noticeably soft at DVD's 6.75Mhz limit, and softer than Toshiba's HD DVD players with standard DVD program material overall. Making up for this somewhat was its performance with deinterlacing torture tests, which was excellent, even with video-based torture test material. Only Faroudja and Silicon Optix' solutions are a bit better. Nevertheless, the PS3 is a solid but not stellar DVD player due to being a bit soft.
On the audio front, while the PS3 is spec'd to decode Dolby TrueHD there aren't currently any BDs encoded with this format. Shockingly, this includes the recent Superman Returns from Warner, which is encoded with full Dolby TrueHD on HD DVD but includes only a comparatively inferior standard Dolby Digital track encoded at 640kbps.
Note also that Fox has so far encoded all of its BDs with DTS-HD Master Audio lossless, which cannot yet be extracted at full resolution from any HD DVD or BD player, including the PS3. You get sound from these tracks- but only the "core" DTS stream at 1.5Mbps. Let's hope a PS3 update to support this codec follows soon- the discs are already here!
But so far no standalone player supports either Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio. Panasonic has promised that its DMP-BD10 will offer 7.1-channel Dolby TrueHD decoding via a firmware update by the end of the year, and there are rumors that DTS-HD Master Audio will follow. Sony's BDP-S1, arriving in stores now, will not support either lossless format out of the gate, and Pioneer's web site doesn't indicate its player will support these codecs on release either. So despite the current lack of software offering Dolby TrueHD, those keeping score have to give the PS3 an edge in its audio decoding capabilities, at least for now.
But the big story here is the spectacular sound I've been hearing from the uncompressed PCM tracks on Sony's Blu-ray Discs, which I can extract thanks to the HDMI 1.1-equipped Anthem AVM 50 surround controller. Uncompressed PCM is so spectacular it makes lossy Dolby Digital and even DTS sound like MP3. This is not an exaggeration. The uncompressed PCM tracks on Monster House and Black Hawk Down both set new standards for both sound design and high fidelity in reproduction, and indeed the latter won a deserved Academy award for Best Sound.
As heard over uncompressed PCM these soundtracks were simply amazing with absolutely effortless dynamic swing and power, and both provided more naturally detailed sound than you've ever heard from a movie. But this resolution is sweet and easy on the ears with no hints of strain or stridence whatsoever. These soundtracks just soar with power and unrivalled nuance and make their DD and DTS counterparts sound like paper-thin facsimiles. The imaging was completely transparent in and around the room, with no sense whatsoever of being tied to the physical locations of the loudspeakers. The bass was tight and robust, but also controlled with texture and taut pitch definition. In short, this is the best movie sound I've ever heard.
To be fair, the tracks I've heard on Warner's HD DVD discs encoded with Dolby TrueHD, such as the guilty pleasure Constantine and the recent Superman Returns, were unequivocally in this neighborhood and it's more than likely that any qualitative differences I heard between these tracks was in the original tracks themselves, not the coding methods. I don't even want to touch that because the larger issue is that other than Sony and Fox, the studios are putting out too many Blu-ray Discs with only standard Dolby Digital or DTS tracks. This is the audio equivalent of doing the video on a Blu-ray Disc in really good 480p. Folks, there's a new sheriff in town, and using only garden variety DD and DTS is shortchanging the Blu-ray format and its supporters.
Perhaps the biggest testament to the PS3's all around fine performance is that the only nit I could find to pick is in the relatively high noise from its fan. Yes, the PS3 is noisier than a typical DVD player or even Samsung's BD player due to its need of a fan to keep all that computing power running cool. It is loud, but I haven't found it intrusive even during quiet passages of movies.
Other than playing Tony Hawk on a PS2 a few years back, I haven't played video games since Nintendo the late 80's. This isn't what I do, and since it's not what UAV does either I wont' say much here.
These HD-encoded games are simply mind-boggling to someone like me. Since I needed someone with skills to show me what this thing could do, some gamer friends came over and demo'd the PS3 games Sony sent us, Resistance: Fall of Man and Genji. We also ran some games on the Xbox 360 like Gears of War.
The picture and sound on all of these games was enveloping, dynamic and authoritative. Gears on the Xbox was almost hyper-real and gritty in its detail and dimension, and the actions that characters could make seemed to my untrained eye to be a bit more advanced. The PS3 games were a bit softer, but had more natural edges. Even Resistance didn't appear to be going for quite so realistic a look, opting instead for something that was more obviously distanced from reality.
From the outside, these games were simply amazing to behold, especially for someone who grew up in the Pong era!
The PS3 unequivocally earns its keep as a BD player for a home theater environment, although the non-gamers among you will certainly want that optional Blu-ray Disc remote. It's not quite good enough on standard DVD playback to unseat very good, up-to-date, standalone DVD players, but in all other respects it earns top scores.
Compared to Samsung's BD-P1000 and (briefly) Sony's BDP-S1 as BD players, the PS3 is superior in absolute picture quality to the former, and more than holds its own with the latter. And it kills both in terms of startup and disc access speed and overall ergonomic prowess and stability. It's just bullet proof, and aside from being the coolest looking piece of gear ever, it's the only next-gen player so far that behaves like one in every respect. And of course, its connectivity and audio decoding features are tops too, although you really need an AVR or pre/pro equipped with HDMI 1.1, or later, to unleash its potential.
All of the above would be enough to earn the PS3 a rave review as a BD player even if it were on par with the prices of the standalone BD players. But it's not- even the upscale $600 PS3 is by far the least expensive BD player available.
The PS3 performs like hell and is one of the best deals going. Not that I'd kill or injure someone over one, mind you, but I'm not sure I'd judge anyone who does too harshly after living with it. My thumb's way up on this one- PS3 rocks!
Excellent image quality with Blu-ray
Lightning fast disc loading and access speeds
Superior connectivity to standalone BD players with HDMI 1.3 and Wi-Fi
Superior audio decoding capabilities with 7.1-channel Dolby TrueHD
Software upgradeble plaform- it could keep getting better!
SIXAXIS wireless controller as remote control will give non-gamers fits
Very soft DVD playback
Lacks ability to upconvert DVDs and 720p games to 1080i/p
No multichannel analog outs- you must have HDMI 1.1 or later in your AVR or pre/pro to take full advantage of its audio capabilities