Thursday, March 06, 2008

Livingroom Standoff: My Playstation3 vs My HTPC, Part 1 (PS3 video)

This entry is one that i've been waiting to do for quite some time now.  Today i'll will be pitting my PS3 up against my Home Theater PC(well, mine is a Frankenstein'd laptop w/o lcd, hehe).  

Sony has boasted about the PS3's multimedia and computer-ish functionality since its launch in 2006, however can it really stand-up to a similarly priced HTPC?  Does the PS3 live up to its multimedia hype? 

Lets find out, read on for more and see the embedded video.

First things are first, what is a HTPC?  A HTPC is a computer that one uses in their livingroom.  The definition that most people/geeks/techies will use involves a pc that can record and playback video/tv/audio.   The advantage that a HTPC can bring to a livingroom is that it can be a ONE-IN-ALL device and in turn replace multiple devices (ie cable dvr and dvd player and xm receiver).  

My HTPC that will be used is really just a frankenstein'd ultraportable Dell X300 laptop.  I have since removed the LCD and have connected my webcam and a wireless keyboard/mouse.  It may not be a very fair test but gives a good example of some of the problems/obstacles one faces when trying to use a computer in the livingroom. 

My Playstation3 is the 60GB model and in turn has the multi-memory stick reader and  4 usb ports (perfect for using any camera's memory card).  I have upgraded the hdd to 250GB.  I also have ripped most of my fav movies to 720p mp4-avc files.  Both machines are connected to the internet wirelessly and gaming will not be compared in this standoff since its obvious that my PS3 will pwn my HTPC.

This Part 1 of a 3 Part series will concentrate on my PS3 and what i can do.  The embedded video below is just a quick look at each feature the PS3 brings to the table from movies on the 250gb hdd to photos and music to web browsing.  the interface is very clean and all is navigated via my bluetooth remote, controller, or keyboard.  the video thumbnails look very impressive when you have a huge collection of videos like i do.

the recent firmware updates seemed to have helped the PS3 handle multi-tasking abilities (atleast imo) such as having music playing and a slideshow showing in the background (done by hitting the PS button while viewing a slideshow w/music playing) and also in turn browsing the music list..   the same can be done w/videos.

one thing i did find out was that the PS3 does have a file limit of 2.5gb for MP4 files but does not have any file limit for MPG/MPEG files.  the same is true with WMV, AVI, DIVX, they have limits of 2.5gb.  when i say limits, i mean that you cannot copy any mp4, wmv, avi, divx file over 2.5gbs to the hdd.  the file CAN still be played from a UDF DVD.  UDF DVD you ask, yes, most data dvds are iso type of disks.  however, iso data discs have a 2gb file limit; where UDF dvds do not have any file limit, rather are limited by the media itself. 

i also am still a big believer in upconverting my dvds to 720p via handbrake vs standard 480... the quality is worth the space (usually about 2gb for a 2 hour movie).

the PS3 offers a very nice interface for serving my music/photo/video needs.  the older models contained the very handy multi-memory card readers and in turn really can shine when friends come over w/digital cameras.  photos look great since they can be show in the full resolution on a HDTV.  :) 

having your fave movies at your finger tips w/o losing quality is very nice.  the web browsing is nothing compared to a real htpc but still is decent for a console.  however, netflix online movies will not work at the moment due to drm and the client/add-on for IE is installs (but they may do a PS3 service/program!).  no email client or ability to add programs are downfalls of the PS3 but are understandable due to the nature of what it was really built to do. 

the PS3 also has the Blu-ray factor on its side vs most people's HTPCs (blu-ray read-only drives are about $180 these days, so not too bad) which do. 

also the ability to use the bluetooth remote to control the PS3 is intuitive but does require a few sit-downs to get acquainted w/the XMBs (cross media bar) interface. 

Yes, the PS3 does a great job at being a media hub. however getting to the end product is not an easy task for the non-committed.  below is a quick look at my final project on my PS3 (250gb hdd upgrade, movies converted to mp4, music vids copies and arranged, music tagged and cleaned up, wallpapers resized to PS3 rez). 

[youtube d4mfsmSHG-g]