While not a must-have upgrade for owners of earlier versions, the current version of the Sony PlayStation 3 retains all of the platform's gaming and media prowess but in a smaller and lighter package. Though it's still an impressive performer, a newer and more powerful console, the Sony PlayStation 4 (Est. $400) , is now available.
It's a PS3. Though the aesthetics have been changed and the Blu-ray drive has been redesigned -- for better or worse -- under the hood it's the same PlayStation 3 as its predecessor. The Cell processor at the heart of the system is unchanged, and that's a good thing, as it provides plenty of gaming get-up-and-go. Video is output in full 1080p high resolution, and 3D gaming is supported. The PlayStation Move Motion controller and PlayStation Eye tracking camera are supported, and together provide useful and usable Wii-like motion control for compatible games.
As for the gaming lineup, the core library is as diverse as that of any gaming console. There are games that the PlayStation 3 can't play because those are exclusive to a different platform, notably the Microsoft Xbox 360 (Est. $200 and up) , but by the same token there are games you can't play on any other device but the PS3. If there are games you feel are must-haves, check compatibilities and let that guide your decision between the PS3 and its direct competitors -- the Microsoft Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii (Est. $130) and the Nintendo Wii U (Est. $300) . For now, the PS3 holds a vast advantage in terms of number of available games compared to the Sony PS4, and the new console can't play PS3 titles -- something to keep in mind if you own a large library of games.
Concerns over the Blu-ray drive. Other than the smaller size, the biggest concern we've seen voiced is over the durability and the usability of the PS3's Blu-ray drive. Gone is the old slot-loading mechanism in favor of a top-loading mechanism with a sliding door. Most who test the 2012 edition of the Sony PlayStation 3 say that the new drive seems flimsy compared to the old. In addition, since it now sits at the top of the unit, it's easy to hear the mechanical sounds of the drive in action. Those noises don't mean anything is out of the ordinary, but they can be disconcerting -- especially in a quiet room made more so by the new PS3's otherwise relatively silent operation.
The sliding door mechanism also presents some usability challenges. Since the door slides to one side to access discs, those who like to house their PS3 in a standard AV cabinet can find access awkward and clearances tight. It also makes things a bit clumsier for those who like to stand their PS3s vertically. This is commonly done with earlier versions, but several experts say it's not the best idea with the PS3, as its reduced width (height when oriented vertically) makes it a bit unstable.
Blu-ray performance is not extensively addressed in the reviews we saw of the current PS3. The previous PS3 was well regarded in that respect, however. The PS3 is no longer the fastest Blu-ray player you can buy, but it's not a slowpoke either, and it has a rock-solid reputation as being less prone to lockups and incompatibilities than some other options. It's a 3D-capable player as well, and has onboard decoders for high-resolution Dolby and DTS audio formats found on Blu-ray Discs. (See our report on Blu-ray players for more on how the PS3 performs in that regard.) If Blu-ray playback is a key consideration in your buying decision, the new PS4 also has a Blu-ray player, but unlike the PS3 it does not play back audio CDs, and support for 3D Blu-ray Discs has been removed.
The PlayStation 3 is also a fairly capable media hub for streaming. You won't find the breadth of content providers found in some TV makers' smart sets, but the majors are there -- including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant and Vudu. Sony also has its own store from which you can rent or buy movies and TV shows. Football fans might be tempted by the inclusion of NFL Direct Ticket, the all-encompassing live NFL game package heretofore only available on DirecTV. For baseball fans, MLB.TV brings in out-of-market games. There's built-in Wi-Fi, and the PS3 is DLNA compliant for streaming your own content from your computer. That's another advantage that the PS3 holds over the new PS4 -- DLNA streaming is not yet on board, and there's no definitive word on when or if it will be added by a firmware update.
Smaller, lighter, cheaper. The smaller footprint of the current PS3 has drawn its fair share of compliments, but has also left a few reviewers cold. Sony claims that it is 20 percent smaller than the previous version, and 25 percent lighter; it measures 11.4 by 2.36 by 9.05 inches, and weighs just around 4.5 pounds.
Most reviewers like the somewhat elliptical profile of the console -- though even that draws a few yawns or worse from some quarters. However, we spotted lots of comments that the glossy plastic will easily draw fingerprints and that the whole console simply has a cheaper look than the matte-black previous-generation PS3. Versions of the PS3 with an azurite blue case are also available.
The Sony PlayStation 3 earns an Excellent rating in its current (2012) incarnation. Jeff Bakalar finds a few shortfalls: The disc tray mechanism is called "odd," and the glossy plastic gives the console a cheap look -- which unfortunately doesn't translate into a cheaper price (though it's been cut following the introduction of the PS4). Still, the PS3 retains all of the positives of its well-regarded predecessor.
Review: Sony PlayStation 3 Super Slim Review, Jeff Bakalar, Jan. 25, 2013
PCMag.com also likes the 2012 revamp of the Sony PlayStation 3 -- so much so that it graces the console with its Editors' Choice award. The smaller size and larger-capacity hard drive for essentially the same cost as the previous versions are appreciated; the flimsier-seeming build quality is not.
Review: Sony PlayStation 3 (2012), Will Greenwald, Nov. 8, 2012
Engadget.com strikes a very different pose than CNET or PCMag.com when it comes to the 2012 redesign of the Sony PlayStation 3. Build quality and the side-sliding Blu-ray drive mechanism -- which makes the PS3 a difficult fit for a traditional home-entertainment console -- are very much panned. Ben Gilbert acknowledges the increased drive size, but doesn't feel that it adds enough value to offset the negatives.
Review: PlayStation 3 Slim Review, Ben Gilbert, Oct. 8, 2012
4. Time magazine
Time magazine's Matt Peckman seems to be of two minds when it comes to the slimmed-down Sony PlayStation 3 released in 2012. He finds lots to like -- including its new, smaller design and that it retains all of the positives of the previous model. On the downside, he joins the chorus that doesn't particularly like how the new Blu-ray drive works, and he adds that it's also a bit noisier than before. He notes that while Sony is saying that the new PS3 is a better value with its bigger hard drive and included game (which varies by bundle), gamers might have been more impressed with a lower price.
Review: Sony's Super-Slim PlayStation 3, Matt Peckham, Oct. 1, 2012
James Rivington reviews a version of the Sony PlayStation 3 that's sold in the U.K. While some technical details differ, and while he spends a bit of time discussing a version with a 12 GB solid-state drive that's not yet being offered in the U.S., core performance and overall design are the same. The site gives the PS3 its Recommended award. Rivington says that it remains a slightly better gaming and media option than the Microsoft Xbox 360; however, it is only really a worthwhile upgrade for those who don't already own a working earlier-generation PS3.
Review: Sony PS3 Review, James Rivington, Sept. 28, 2012
Though this review at Britain's T3.com is a little on the brief side, it's based on a hands-on evaluation. Like many, Michael Sawh is concerned about the Blu-ray drive and the overall build quality. He finds no reason for owners of the last version of the PlayStation 3 to upgrade to this current one.
Review: Sony PS3 Super Slim Review, Michael Sawh, Oct. 15, 2012
Reviews of the PlayStation 3, including different hard-drive sizes and different bundles, can be seen from this page. The latest 500 GB version has been slow to gather feedback, but what's here is generally positive, as reflected in the 4.7-star rating.
Review: PS3 Consoles, Contributors to BestBuy.com, As of March 2014