PS3 Slim – First Impressions

So even though this is not a holiday season, I must inform you, dear readers, that I have in fact, bought ONE PS3 Slim. I have one in my living room. That’s it.

Jokes aside. I thought I write down some first impressions, just like I did with my XBox 360

Retail Experience
Compared to the horrid 360 Retail Experience, this one was actually quite nice. But of course, this is due to the fact that there was no choice involved: there is only one PS3 Slim set out there. Still, always nice to experience how lack of choice can increase satisfaction. I had the small dilemma of whether to go for an older model or the new one but the choice was pretty straight forward in the end. Backwards compatibility wasn’t interesting for me as my current setup depends on a chipped PS2 capable to play all the exotic titles from abroad in my collection. The availible bundles for the old PS3 weren’t nearly enough to offset the hardware inferiority. I can always buy an additional game, but I can’t upgrade an old PS3 to a PS3 Slim.

One thing that made the whole process extra-spicy was the fact that I tried to get one before the actual street day. I had the afternoon and it was the day before official release. I decided I try my luck to get it one day early. I had a hunch a particular store in Cologne would break the street day. I mean, they were openly offering R4s after all. And indeed! It was exciting being able to get something exclusive. Made the exhausting bike ride home a bit more endurable.

Not much to say here. It’s very boring and functional. Again, no sign of the dramaturgy of Apple products or the Wii. At least the whole thing is very light. Also, I noticed that the cardboard shapes that hold everything in place inside are somewhat well thought-out. So after unpackaging, you still can see how everything is supposed to fit together. I always hated it when after unpackaging a product, you are left with this insane puzzle of weirdly shaped Styrofoam and cardboard bits.

You can tell that Sony is a hardware company. The actual console is well-made. Reminds very much of the PS2, quality-wise. The controllers are almost the same as PS2 but there was nothing wrong with them in the first place. The fact that they use a USB cable for recharging and synchronization is a MAJOR win. In this regard, Xbox360 is still a failure: you need to buy additional cables for recharging and synchronization requires you to press some special buttons. Another hardware failure of the 360 is probably the separate, ultra-expensive WiFi. None of that here. Oh yeah and extra bonus kudos for integrating the AC Brick in the console. Other manufacturers: please copy!

Noise and Heat
YES, the console is surprisingly cool and silent. What a relief! It’s still not totally silent but MUCH better than the Xbox. I would guess somewhat at the level of my old PS2 phat. Due to the reduced noise it will probably take the lead as a preferred device to enjoy movies on. I can even close it inside the vitrine without worrying if it will cause a China Syndrome. How about an Xbox360 Slim, Microsoft?

5.1 Setup
One weird thing happened when I tried to set up my 5.1 system. From what I understand the PS3 has some ridiculous amount of different sound formats that can be sent trough HDMI. I would have expected Dolby Digital to be the correct choice for my setup but curiously, that resulted in very poor sound quality. Automatic detection selected a whole bunch of different formats that sound decent (audibly better!) but aren’t recognized by my 5.1 decoder as “Dolby Digital” either. I spend a whole evening trying to figure out if what I get is actually surround. Funny enough, that proved to be more difficult than I thought. We watched a DVD which had very poor to non-existent sound coming out of the surround speakers. But that could have been the DVD. Downloaded a bunch of test files from the web. Those were surprisingly difficult to find and NONE of them worked on the PS3. I mean, I couldn’t even play them. Some of them (like a DivX AVI file) I would have expected to work. Disappointing! Finally I found a DVD with a good Dolby Test before the movie so I’m pretty sure I have 5.1… I think. Now that I played a couple of games and demos, I frequently notice the surround effects and I could swear they are more pronounced than on the Xbox. So now I have doubts if my Xbox actually produces surround. Why isn’t there a built-in test in those things?

On-line Experience
Uh-oh, here we get into murky waters. I got my console almost simultaneously with the 3.0 Firmware upgrade. From what I understand, that upgrade brought a whole range of features that significantly improved the on-line experience. Indeed, I used the PS3 at work previously and this time around things were more smooth. The shop is a bit better organized and there is more interesting content. Haven’t seen background downloads before either. Also, the registration was totally easy due to the fact that I already registered to PSN on my PSP (one minus I was reminded of was the requirement to have a password with one cypher. GAH! I hate that!).

Having said that, the on-line Experience is pretty bad. Where to begin? The choice of avatars is boring and meaningless. I have a list of buddies but I can’t really see what the do, when they last logged in or what they were playing last. I can only send them messages. They also appear somewhere within the cross-media-bar. An anonymous blip in a monolithic menu hierarchy. The PSN Store is still an array if tiny, colorful icons that blend together into a carpet of meaningless rainbow noise. Doesn’t make things easier that PSP and PS3 content is often displayed mixed-up. There is almost no information about any of the titles. If they are videos, they are tiny and heavily compressed. No screenshots. Demos only occasionally. Some stuff is highlighted in larger banners but they change randomly so there is no feel that there is a editorial process behind it like in the Xbox.

I only purchased stuff I heard about elsewhere. I won’t purchase anything else. The PSN Store is not a place to get information from. It’s the keyboard of a vending machine. It looks like one. Again the same hoops to jump trough to get money into my account. They ANNOUNCED prepaid cards in Germany now. Still haven’t seen any. Don’t care now, have a US Account. At least they use real currency and not fantasy points. But what annoys the HELL out of me that each product has some random taxes on top of the price you see initially. So if you get a 50$ card, you can’t buy 5 games for 9,99$ each. The taxes add up so I’m left with 4 games and some change. Making people leave change in the system is bad enough but I can understand why. Making that not transparent is just randomly moronic. On a positive note, logging in on other systems with your account is easy. Apparently, you can even use it to put the games you’ve purchased on your friend’s systems. Weird! I would have expected them to stuff that security hole.

Outside of the PSN Store, what fequently interrupts the experience are constant requirements to download or install some components. You want to see pictures? I need a 160MB update for that. No, that can’t be downloaded in the background. You want to check out Home? Weeeell, that also needs an update. And then you need to download each area separately as you enter it. You want to test out some demos or games? Well, you need to download them. And when they are downloaded, you need to manually install them (why isn’t that necessary on the PSP?!). And then when you start them, they need an update (that can’t happen in the background either). And then when you are finally in the game, it needs to connect to PSN and – surprise – an update of PSN came out in the meantime which requires you to exit the game and update your system. No kidding, this actually happened to me. I don’t mind the waiting, I expected that there were some updates I needed to download. But what I hate is the fact that I need to manually trigger and confirm each one of them. Why isn’t there a “Download and install everything while I make myself a sandwitch”-button?!

Home is there but is just like they say: insignificant and boring. I went to the theatre and danced to a video of Shakira. It took me two 3 downloads and at least 3 minutes of walking for something I could have instantly on YouTube. Nuff said. There is also this protein folding thing which doesn’t do anything as far as I can tell. Far cry from the simple and fun apps on the Wii.

And then there are the really sucky things. So there are Gamercards but they.. well SUCK!. Tried some third-party Gamercards but they require manual setup since the PSN API seems not to be quite as open. On your PSN account, you are prompted to manually register your hardware. That process requires you to write down some obscure Numbers from the BACK of your consoles and type them in into a form on their website. I wasn’t able to register my PS3 Slim since the drop-down boxes on the form apparently didn’t feature my model. Funny considering how the images on the website already all feature the PS3 Slim. I also wasn’t able to register my PS2. The length of the field wasn’t correct. Screw that! It doesn’t give me ANY advantages anyway, from what I can tell. What the hell was that, Sony?!

All in all, the experience is that of a bunch of half-baked functions that maybe were initially supposed to lead somewhere… but then stopped at the initial stage of development. You can tell that how there is a unifying Strategy behind the Xbox 360 experience. The PSN mess reminded me what I’m paying Microsoft for.

So far I must admit that the experience is that of an upgraded PS2. Hardware looks and feels similar. It has a bunch of menus and isolated, unpolished online functions but that’s about it. It’s not the “you are entering a whole new world of a living, breathing on-Line Community and HD content”-experience I had with the Xbox. But then again, I already had that experience with an Xbox so maybe a person with no prior HD or on-line experience would think differently. I haven’t said anything about games yet. That follows in the days to come.

So what about you guys, if you have a PS3, how does this compare to your experience?

P.S.: My PSN ID is Krystman.

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

8 responses to “PS3 Slim – First Impressions”

  1. Yu-Chung Chen

    re: person w/o previous online experience.
    That’d be my brother. Plus he hates MS anyway, finds things like twittering ridiculous (”I have a life”) and superfluous, so no online-community person. I’ll be watching him when he does the purchase.

    Also Fabricio used to have the PS3 w/o owning the 360 I think.

  2. Falko

    A few weeks ago I bought the PS3 – without having played 360 before. (No, I don’t really bother because of the Slim – I just some time then and needed something to play with, quickly! :D )
    Upgrading from the Wii, which looks horrid on a Full HD, I really got the sense of NextGen. Concerning games the 360 probably would have gotten job done just as well, I guess. And the online experience is obviously better – the PlayStation Store is bad joke. But three things simply blew me away:
    - Uncharted
    - Motorstorm
    - Blu-ray

    Both games are EXACTLY the ones I like. Good for me. And comparing the same movie from BR to DVD … it’s an eye opener.

    I don’t really bother about all the media streaming possibilities of the console. So far I’m really pleased with the PS exclusive games and BR.

  3. Krystian Majewski

    Hm I already watched some HD videos on the 360 but I remember getting them working from a USB Stick was kind of a hassle. So I’m curious how my first Blu-Ray experience will work out. However, I only have HD Ready… :-/

    Being excited by Motorstorm I can totally understand. The demo looks great. Also, I’m a big sucker for racing games. So I got Wipeout HD even though I already own Wipeput Pure AND Wipeout Pulse.

    But Uncharted? Really? Why?

  4. cotheus

    there is so much wrong with this review, i can’t begin to start.

  5. Jorge Albor

    You could have told me your PS3 was actually full of bacon and just kept making grinding sounds and it wouldn’t matter. I’ll be joining your ranks this time next week. Out of curiosity, major titles your looking forward to playing on your new system?

  6. Krystian Majewski

    Mmmmh, Bacon!

    As for major Titles: Gran Turismo 5, Heavy Rain and Last Guardian. Until then, the PixelJunk & LBP will keep me occupied. -_^

  7. Simon Ferrari

    I gotta add you; haven’t gotten on my PS3 in weeks, since the night where I played through Shatter in one sitting. That game is insanely good, if you haven’t tried it. My ID is ChungkingESP if you’re on before me (highly likely). I’m down for PixelJunk and LBP any time, only made it an hour or two into both with my girlfriend before she got tired of them.

  8. Simon Ferrari

    Oh, and Uncharted is good for a rent. There’s nothing important about it, except for maybe a few scenes that were cinematic yet highly playable without being a QTE, if you get my meaning. Other than that it’s just a slimmed down Tomb Raider with bad climbing and great voice-acting.


The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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