Sony PlayStation 3 Game Console/ Blu-ray Disc Player Page 2

The PS3 initially supported 1080p/60 for Blu-ray playback, but it now supports 1080p/24 as well. Initially, the PS3’s 24p output had only an auto setting that relied on a proper HDMI handshake to enable it. It now offers a forced 24p output mode (24 hertz On), in addition to the Automatic mode in case the HDMI handshake doesn’t result in 24p output.

While the PS3 now upconverts standard DVD up to 1080p, it won’t convert native HD content at all. So, if a disc is native 1080i, that’s how it goes out over HDMI. But if you have the output set to 1080p/24 Automatic, the player will output a 1080p/24 disc as 1080p/24 and a 1080i disc as 1080i. This is a plus, since many concert videos are 1080i. Players that force 1080p/24 output for 1080i discs require a trip back into the setup menu to play these discs properly.

The DVD upconversion operates at 1080p/60, even if you’re in the 24p forced mode. This is to be expected, but I point this out because Toshiba’s 1080p-capable HD DVD players offer 1080p/24p output with standard DVDs.

Setup Oddities
Setting up the PS3 for the best Blu-ray playback isn’t always as transparent as it could be. It’s pretty clear that the Sony gaming division isn’t always hip to our lingo. Among the odd choices you’ll need to navigate is the DVD Upscaler setting (in the BD/DVD Settings menu), which offers choices of Double Scale, Normal, and Full Screen. You can only use Double Scale at 1080i or 1080p, and it doesn’t alter the aspect ratio of the material. For example, 4:3 will appear in the center of the screen with black bars at the sides. Normal operates the same way, but for 720p output. Full Screen stretches upconverted 4:3 images to fill a 16:9 screen.

In the Display Settings menu, selecting RGB Full Range (HDMI) to Limited will ensure that the PS3 outputs proper black and white levels with HDMI-to-HDMI connections. If you’re using an HDMI-DVI breakout cable, Full might be necessary. In addition, setting Y Pb/Cb pr/Cr Super White (HDMI) to “On” guarantees that the PS3 outputs video information above white if present in the signal.

For my setup, I used the Limited RGB Full Range setting and set Super White to On. This resulted in proper black and white levels (16 to 235) and allowed me to see information encoded below black and above white with a variety of displays capable of doing the same.

The PlayStation 3’s 1080p output with Blu-ray Disc is essentially perfect according to the test patterns at my disposal, right out to the very limits of the format. One-pixel-on/-off luma and chroma bursts at 1080p show such perfect resolution that it is far more likely to be compromised by the display it’s connected to.

Early on, the PS3’s video output with Blu-ray Discs sometimes looked a smidge less sharp than the best standalone players. This gap was always small, but it has gotten even smaller over these many months and firmware updates. The PS3’s image is incredibly sharp, detailed, dimensional, and colorful, especially at 1080p/24, which is how I’ve been watching it for months. It’s good enough to make me wonder whether something that appears sharper might be doctored in some way. The best Blu-ray Discs are just mind-blowing on the PS3.

As far as I can tell, the 1080p/60 output here converts 1080p/24 native Blu-ray material directly to 1080p/60 without interlacing in between. I looked at challenging program material like the Vatican sequence in chapter 7 of Mission: Impossible III, and also at 1080p/24-encoded test clips. The tests I used have tripped up the 1080p/60 output of other players, revealing the apparent 1080i step. The PS3 passed.

However, when you choose 720p as the maximum display resolution, native 1080i material, such as concert videos on Blu-ray, will be deinterlaced poorly on the trip downward in resolution. When I looked at native 1080i test and program material on Blu-ray that the PS3 converted to 720p, I saw primitive performance with both film- and video-based content with no apparent recognition of 3:2 pulldown.

DVD upconversion to 1080p has strong resolution and very little ringing or other enhancement-related artifacts. It’s very clean and natural—and an immense improvement over its non-upconverted DVD playback on release, which was very soft.

Deinterlacing of DVDs is also good, only stumbling on some purpose-built torture tests. Most real program material looks quite impressive, even on my large-screen (16:9, 80-inch-wide) projection rig. A player that performs this well with the basics will make most people happy just about all the time. The very best DVD players will eke out more dimension and textural detail, but it’s hard to find fault with the performance on its own—a little soft but natural and not over-enhanced.

When it comes to Blu-ray playback, ergonomics, and speed, the PS3 is a next-gen device, while most of the standalones are circa-1983 Atari in comparison. While the standalones are still strangled by startup times that last minutes on many Blu-ray Discs, the PS3 can start up and play anything in 30 to 40 seconds at most. On top of that, when you press a button on the remote, something happens. Immediately. You don’t have to hit it again wondering if it’s actually going to do something, as you do with so many of the standalone players.

But more importantly to me, in the year I’ve had the PS3 in my system, I’ve yet to be affected by a disc that won’t play back, or one that hiccups during playback. Personally, I go ape when I try to watch a movie I haven’t seen and experience playback glitches. Many standalones have come in here and have gone, unforgiven after such an episode. I want DTS-HD MA, but not badly enough to give up the reliability of the PS3. I’m willing to wait.

Some enthusiasts balk at putting a game console in their home theater system. I pity them the sacrifices they’ll have to make to stick to that. For those with HDMI switching, the PS3 involves far fewer compromises compared with the standalones, most of which are “way back machines” in comparison. Simply put, the PS3 costs less and does more, and does it better.

The PS3 remains my first choice in a Blu-ray Disc player, and by a wider margin than ever, more than a year after its introduction. Not bad for a Blu-ray player whose day job is being a game console.

Standard setting speed and reliability with Blu-ray playback
Outstanding pure picture performance with Blu-ray Discs
Very respectable upconverting DVD performance
Wi-Fi Internet for Web interactivity and system updates
Loaded for interactivity; meets Bonus View and BD-Live specs
Lacks bitstream output for TrueHD and DTS-HD MA

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