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The original "Fat" CECHA0X model.
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/ps3_slim_console.png
The CECH-200X Slim model.
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/sony_playstation_3_4001b_wcontroller_l.jpg
The CECH-400X Super-Slim model.

"If only there was a game console that was also a Blu-ray player."
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The third iteration in Sony's PlayStation console line for the Seventh Generation, the PlayStation 3 (stylised as "PLAYSTATION 3" until 2009) tried to do with Blu-ray what PlayStation 2 did with the original DVD format. They succeeded, but it took a significantly longer period of time. Sony knocked HD-DVD out as a competitor, but primarily did so by rallying market support towards Blu-ray rather than offering any real innovation one way or the other; as detailed on the main page for Blu-ray, this lack of innovation ended up being a huge limitation for the format, as there was nothing Blu-ray Video could do besides higher picture and audio quality that DVD Video hadn't already accomplished (compared to the launch of the DVD format itself, which offered a much larger amount of interactivity than VHS and LaserDisc, and offered many more practical benefits over the far more dominant former like the lack of degradation and being able to skip to wherever you wanted). The recession a couple years after the PS3 launched slowed down the sales of HDTVs, which meant the synergy needed for Blu-ray to take off was hurt (regular DVD didn't need anything other than people having TVs with audio/video plugs, or adapters if they didn't). It also represented a last desperate attempt by Sony to save the Super Audio CDnote  and the first couple of generations were compatible. This failed utterly and the feature was quietly dropped along with PS2 backward compatibility with the CECHG revision.note  Overall, these circumstances led people to view the PS3 as a Trojan Horse for Blu-rays and SACD, with the general public being apathetic to both formats overall at the time. As HDTVs have since gotten cheaper and caught on, this problem healed somewhat, but not completely. The opportunity for PS3 to ride the wave of HD enthusiasm from launch was lost forever.

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But the PS3 itself had bigger problems. The system was built with the dream of being an affordable supercomputer. Unfortunately, supercomputers are judged more by their relative processing power compared to computers of the age than by design, affordability, and the ease of programming them. Even though the cell processor has a lot of speed, making an actual supercomputer from the system's parts requires linking several together. While several groups have done this, the need for multiple console units does defeat the notion of an "affordable" supercomputer.

But by going with this design, the system cost a lot more to make than previous PlayStations. It launched at $500 US for the low-end CECHB 20 GB model and the infamously high $599 for the high-end CECHA 60 GB revision. Not only did this make the PS3 one of the most expensive consoles ever (in Europe and Australia it was on the level of the 3DO, CDi, and the Neo Geo), but even with the high price tag it was still being sold at a loss;note  Sony required the sale of five games per console before they could break even. The plan was to make this up with Blu-ray sales (at least Sony Pictures movies, partly why they were so aggressive in getting rid of HD-DVD), but adoption of the format were slower than the transition from VHS to DVD, and game sales, while decent, used to be below those of Xbox 360 games thanks to a mediocre launch library, although this became less so as time moved forward.

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The Cell processor was also notoriously difficult to learn how to program for, which meant more time, effort, and money spent on game development. (Gabe Newell of Valve fame famously called it "a total disaster on so many levels".) At a time when game development in general was becoming more complicated and expensive with the jump to HD, this didn't do the PS3 any favors. While it had many advantages over the 360 despite these difficulties, the 360 also had a year's head start and didn't cause any notable development headaches. Devs would thus elect to program Multi-Platform games for the 360 or PC first and then hastily port them over to the PS3, where they frequently ran worse due to lack of optimization. The issues with Multi-Platform games would smooth out over time as the Cell processor became better understood, but those early games did not help the PS3's reputation during its first couple years. Cell's complicated architecture would also stifle any future attempts at PS3 emulationnote , to the point where the PlayStation 5 cannot run PS3 games natively despite being backwards compatible with the PlayStation 4.

While it wasn't so bad in the console's later life, early on these factors severely hurt the PS3 as it was and came in addition to an already bad PR problem caused by Sony's pre-launch marketing. The company came across as arrogant, with Ken Kutaragi (the creator of the PlayStation) making statements such as Sony would sell 5,000,000 systems even without games, and that he wanted people to want the PS3 enough to work harder to earn it. There are a couple of other infamous lines, but most of those simply became Internet memes instead of hurting the system's reputation.

Another source of pre-launch controversy was the fact that many of the system's early tech demos and trailers weren't rendered on the console itself, but instead used a variety of different hardware and rendering methods, ranging from real-time rendering on hardware similar in capabilities to the final console, to real-time rendering on hardware above the console's capabilities, and even pre-rendered footage on professional computer animation hardware. While some of this was due to the console's hardware being unavailable or unfinalized at the time of its initial announcement, it caused a lot of controversy when the public found out due to the borderline to outright fraudulent nature of the latter two categories.

Like the Xbox 360, early PS3s were of notoriously poor build quality and came with severe reliability issues that would cause a yellow blinking light, nicknamed the Yellow Light of Death. note  Though initially blamed on low-quality solder since the Xbox 360 had the same issue (and while it was definitely a contributing factor, it wasn't the only point of failure) and led to PS3 owners throwing their motherboards in the oven to reflow the boards,note  it was discovered much later that one of the potential causes in the early units were NEC/TOKIN capacitors that, while smaller and more compact than traditional capacitors, were known to gradually fail over the years and lead to hardware failure as they would no longer provide enough current to the CPU or GPU. This also caused compatibility issues with later, more demanding titles such as The Last of Us and Gran Turismo 6 on earlier units, which may crash otherwise functioning consoles due to the capacitors struggling to provide power to the chips. Adding to this is that there are reports of laptops with NEC/TOKIN capacitors installed inside failing in the same manner, leading to the capacitor falling out of favor with electroics manufacturers later in the decade. This led to users removing the NEC/TOKIN capacitors from their consoles entirely and replacing them with tantalum capacitors used on later system revisions. note 

Another design flaw was the original power supply used with the early models were very power inefficient, leading the system to draw more power than necessary and generating excessive amounts of heat. The final revisions of the original console design replaced it with a smaller, more efficient power supply. Adding to this was that the fan to cool the system was deliberately slowed down by Sony so that it would run quiet rather than properly keep the system cooled, as the fan would only ramp up to properly cool the system when the internal temperatures were already dangerously high for operation. Chip revisions would later offset this due to being more power efficient and generating less heat. Some early shipped consoles also tend to have defective RSX GPU's that die with use leading to graphical artifacting and freezing before ultimately perishing from heat damage or internal distortion.

In addition, Sony used low-quality thermal paste in the system, which led to it drying out overtime and causing the processors to no longer make good contact with the heatsinks. Worse is that this same low-quality paste was also used under the Integrated Heat Spreads (IHS), sheets of metal that are glued over the processor dies to better distribute heat from the processor. This made the early models notoriously prone to overheating and damaging the RSX, which led to the fans running very loud and the system periodically shutting down to protect itself from heat. The best way to solve this would be to delid the CPU and GPU and replace the thermal paste, but the type of glue attaching the IHS to the CPU made this an especially dangerous job even for skilled experts, as one wrong move in removing the IHS could permanently brick your PS3 note  , so please Do Not Try This at Home. Sony themselves would solve this problem by placing a thin, non-conductive sheet of plastic under the CPU die to ensure that the CPU would make proper contact with the IHS, which PS3 owners replicated at home by slicing up office erasers and placing them under the CPU. Later revisions of the CELL processor would be soldered directly to the IHS, fixing this problem permanently.

It was discovered in 2021 a launch CECHA model was refurbished by Sony in Japan that swapped the original 90nm RSX chip for a 40nm revision of the chip. note  making the system far more reliable and efficient. Through a community effort including a team of engineers from Indonesia they reverse engineered a way to replace the original, prone to failure 90nm RSX chip with a 65nm or 40nm revision. This originally required a "Orbis" modchip to fake the ID data to the system so that the Syscon would think it was the original RSX revision, but in early 2022 patches were created for the Syscon note  itself to add support for the later chips directly, mitigating the need for the modchip.

While the system itself had a strong design and reliable capabilities (it was also a very viable Blu-ray player alternative, particularly in the first few years when it was the cheapest on the market), it failed to reach the heights of its predecessors, with Sony winding up losing the console gaming throne it held with the first two PlayStations. The console launched in late 2006, but didn't turn a profit for Sony Computer Entertainment until the third quarter of 2008.

In August 2009, a new variant of the PS3 was released — the Slim, a smaller device with most of the same features and a relatively significant reduction in power needs. In addition, Sony replaced the NEC/TOKIN capacitors with standard tantalum capacitors and revamped the console's internal cooling system, which greatly improved the lifespan of the units. More importantly, this led to price drops all around, putting the PS3 within striking range of the Xbox 360. Since PS3s are still more technologically advanced than Xbox 360s, and Microsoft discontinued its midprice 360 model in the meantime, the fortunes of the PS3 improved by the end of the generation (as in, more releases). During this timeframe, media streaming began to play more and more of a role, as Netflix and various other streaming services, including Sony's own Crackle, created apps for use on the system. In Europe and Japan, TV tuner add-on devices were also released (the US never got one due to their digital TV system not working like most other countries' and, until cord-cutting became popular a few years later, not being a very common choice for people). This led to the creation of the successful and on-point "It Only Does Everything" campaign, featuring the fictitious VP Kevin Butler.

If there was anything that led to disappointment during this time frame, it was 3D TV's introduction. Sony introduced 3D support with the 3.50 update, as well as a PlayStation-branded 3D display, and games like Gran Turismo 5 and Killzone 3 took full advantage of it, but 3D TV ended up dead in the water as another "next big thing" that never became the next big thing, though that's a story of its own.

In September 2012, an even slimmer model of the PS3 was released. Dubbed the Super-Slim, this model cut costs even further by removing the front-loading slot drive in favor of a top loading drive (similar to its predecessors — the PS2 Slim and PSOne — before) and shrinking the unit size even further, and a value model with 12GB of flash storage instead of a hard drive was made available for purchase (mostly in Europe) along with a 500GB hard drive variant of the same model.

The PS3 was notable for avoiding Region Coding, this maneuver comparable to that on the Nintendo DS. With a few exceptionsnote , all PS3 games and downloadable PS1 games are region-free, and although the PlayStation Network store is picky about accepting credit cards from other regions, PSN games downloaded from it are not region coded. Blu-ray Discs (or BDs), DVDs, PS2, and PS1 discs remain region-locked. An HDTV is needed to guarantee playing all out-of-region games — while some PAL games will also run on NTSC televisions and vice versa, others will not. Several publishers attempted to publish region-locked games in the past, but backed out after outcries and threats of boycott.

However, this doesn't mean that the game can't detect what region the console it's running on and react accordingly: The Country Switch trope entry has anecdotes of PS3 games that do detect the region of the console they're running on, although the most drastic thing these detections do appears to be simply disabling blood and gore if the console's detected to be Japanese. Which is funny when you consider another, somewhat unrelated, trope.

PS2 support for the console and Linux support were dropped on the Slim and later models. The PS3 does have the ability to emulate PS2 games in software, but because of difficulties emulating games made for the PS2 due to its esoteric hardware design and games abusing certain hardware feature's outside of guidelines, Sony limited this to a handful of downloadable "PS2 Classics". Older versions of the consolesnote  were still able to enjoy PS2 support, however. As of firmware version 3.21 (released on 1 April 2010), the "OtherOS" support was dropped from the older models. Despite claims that the removal of the feature was a security measure (and some had said it was an anti-piracy measure), the removal of the OtherOS function had gotten Sony some backlash and even at least six lawsuits including one by the Dutch governmentnote . The move sparked a heated yet ongoing debate about how a console can be used by the end user after the initial purchase is made.

Oddly enough, despite the issues with compatibility in regards to its direct predecessor, all models of the PS3 can still play PS1 game discs just fine with just a few out of its massive library noted to be unsupported.

At the 2010 Game Developers Conference, Sony unveiled the PlayStation Move, a device similar in concept and design to the Wii, but which has more functions in addition to being both HD and 3D compatible, as well as having a high level of precision. Two controllers can be used at once, some games using two of the primary controllers (the ones with the color-changing sphere on the end) at once to simulate two handed actions, and others may instead use the secondary remote with the control stick and d-pad. The secondary one, called the Navigation Controller is not required, as the left side of the DualShock 3 aka Sixaxis can be used instead. It did require adding a PSEye camera to the system, though. It's also worth noting that regardless of whether the Wii was anything of an inspiration, or how much of one is disputed, development actually began as early as 2001.

However, despite high hopes from Sony and generally positive reviews from critics and audiences, the PS Move failed to win the market over the same way the Wii and the Kinect did. A few reasons can be chalked up for this — it lacked a proper Killer App that could easily demonstrate what the system was capable of (for example, the game that was demoed in most stores could essentially be chalked up to "Wii Sports but better," which was just not enough to capture the interest of the average consumer; compare the Kinect which had games such as Kinect Adventures, which felt much more like its own unique experience), and many of the ones planned to be such ended up receiving mediocre reviews such as EyePet. Couple that with the fact that despite it being far technologically superior, the idea was just too similar to the Wii in concept and execution at the end of the day, which led to the average consumer questioning exactly what the need for it was. It did sell marginally well, mind you — 9 million units after a year on the market — but compare it to the Kinect which sold about that many in only two months, and it soon becomes apparent why it ended up being forgotten in the long run. However, the Move controllers have since re-emerged as key pieces for the PS4's PlayStation VR setup (though the Navigation Controllers and other peripherals aren't supported).

The PS3 was also the center of political controversy several different times. Among these times, the PSN was once shut down for weeks at a time due to a security breach, and LG once got the PS3 banned in the Netherlands for 10 days.note 

Although it's remembered as the loser of the Seventh Generation, the PS3 actually managed to beat the Xbox 360 in the end. Microsoft spent the second half of the generation focusing on the Kinect to fight the Wii for the casual market, leaving the primary gaming audience wanting for good first-party games. This left Sony basically unopposed to lure the hardcore gamers back to them and Win Back the Crowd, which they did thanks to the system price cuts and pumping out loads of high-profile exclusives. The result is that the PS3 ended up selling 87 million units compared to the 360's 84 million.

In February 2013, Sony announced the PlayStation 4, which was released in late November 2013. Learning from the difficulties faced by the PS3, Sony went in a very different direction when designing the PS4; it used a much more standard internal architecture based around an x86_64 system-on-a-chip created by AMD, which Sony described as a "streamlined PC architecture". This decision paid off rather quickly, as the PS4 made a profit for Sony in December 2013, after just a month on the market, compared to its predecessor which took about two years to become profitable.

Sony eventually announced the closure of the PlayStation Network Store for the PS3 on July 2, 2021 after 14 long years of service. Unsurprisingly, game preservation advocates were not happy about this, especially for the digital-only games on the platform and the PS3 exclusives that were never ported to future generations. As a result of the outcry, Sony decided to reverse course, and on April 19 announced that the store would remain open.


Technical Specifications:

Processors:

  • CPU: Big Endian IBM POWER5-based Cell Broadband Engine, CELL B.E. or just Cell, running at 3.2GHz and rated for 230.4 GFLOPS.
    • There's one central Power Processing Element (PPE), which acts as a controller for the smaller processors with 2 physical cores using the VMX instruction set and can either execute double precision or eight single precision operations per clock cycle.
    • There are 8 Synergistic Processing Elements (SPE) also running at 3.2GHz. These do the bulk of the work. 6 out of 8 are available for games & applications, with the 7th one reserved for the OS & kernel hypervisor. The 8th SPE is disabled at manufacturing to increase chip yields from each batch.
    • 64KB L1 cache split between 32KB instruction and 32KB data caches with 512KB of L2 cache with a 64bit based memory bus width.
    • Each SPE has 256KB of local storage for instructions with 128 registers capable of executing 2 instructions per clock cycle with double or single precision.
  • GPU: Little Endian NVIDIA GeForce 7800GTX based "Reality Synthesizer," or RSX, running at 500MHz.
    • 24 parallel pixel shaders running at 550MHz with 8 parallel vertex pipelines, 8 output render units and 24 texture filtering units coupled with 5 ALU operations per parallel pipeline and 2 ALU operations per vertex pipeline.
    • CELL FlexIO interface allows the RSX to offload computational work to the CELL SPEs. This became a common trick in later developed games to offset some of the disadvantages the RSX has compared to the Xenos GPU present in its rival. Although reading from the CELL to the RSX' GDDR3 memory was far slower than going from XDR memory itself so it was commonplace for the RSX to pull data from the XDR memory instead of vice versa for parallel graphical operations.
  • Custom Southbridge processor to handle low level IO operations between the CELL and Starship 2 (Blu-ray drive, hard drive, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Multicard Reader, Ethernet and controllers)
  • Custom Starship 2 processor to handle all NAND and NOR memory based operations.
  • Custom ARM7-TDMI note  or NEC-78K0R note  based System Controller or "Syscon" processor that handles low level hardware operations for CELL, RSX and Southbridge.
  • The first iteration of the PS3 note  have a combined Emotion Engine and Graphics Synthesizer chip plus 2 16MB RDRAM chips for hardware backwards compatibility purposes. Although the MIPS R3000 IOP and the SPU 2 are emulated on the CELL's SPE's.
    • The second iteration PS3 models note  included only the Graphics Synthesizer. As a result the Emotion Engine was emulated on the CELL and due to using a flawed rounding system for the PlayStation 2's notorious non standardized vector units, cycle counting miscalculations and missing Emotion Engine cache support this had a sizeable effect on game compatibility. This was finally dropped off from all PS3 models introduced after the 40 & 80GB CECHGXX revisions.

Storage:

  • Two memory pools:
    • 256 MB of XDR memory at 3.2 GHz with 15GB/s write and 20GB/s read bandwidth. This is shared between the CPU and GPU using the FlexIO interface.
    • 256MB GDDR3 memory at 700 MHz with 22.4 GB/s bandwidth. This is used by the GPU exclusively but the CELL can read from it for parallel graphical operations but not write to it. 4MB of this is reserved for keeping track of the RSX' state and command list.
    • The total of 512 MB is equal to the amount of RAM in the Xbox 360; however, developers have noted that having two separate RAM pools is one of the things that makes the PS3 more difficult to develop for than the Xbox, which has all of its memory unified into one pool. Not helping was accessing the GDDR3 memory via the CELL was incredibly slow compared to the XDR memory and the complex bus interfaces between both chips adding extra latency.
  • Stock hard drive sizes ranges from 20 to 500 GB, but any 2.5" SATA drive up to 1TB can be installed. Although the system can read 2TB drives. The system file intregrity checks fails to function on any drive size above 1TB meaning if the system has to ever check the drives file integrity it can lead to a softbrick until the drive is formatted or replaced with a smaller drive.
  • 256MB Internal NAND storage for Kernel and VSH Firmware data. This was later changed to 16MB NOR storage starting with the CECHHXX models with the remaining files being stored on the hard drive instead of flash memory.
    • The budget super slim model ships with 12GB of flash memory instead of a hard drive, though one can be installed later.
  • 2x Blu-ray drive. Blu-ray movies, DVDs and CDs are all supported. Games came on either single layered (25GB) or dual layered (50GB) discs.
    • Bandwidth is 9 MB/s at a x2 read speed. This is why Metal Gear Solid 4 took up to 20 minutes to install between chapter's before it was patched to allow full installation. note  This is quite a bit slower than it's rival the Xbox 360's DVD drive which run's at a x12 read speed with bandwidth of 16.5 MB/s. Later games would allow partial installation to the internal hard drive to offset this or full installs to reduce loading times although this was up to the developer.
    • The first two generations of the PS3 note  also played the rare Super Audio CD, an ultra-high-fidelity audio disc format.
      • These early models also supported PlayStation 2 games. The CECHA and CECHB models had most of the PS2 hardware built into the console, ensuring full compatibility. note  The CECHC to CECHE models lacked the PS2 Emotion Engine CPU and RDRAM and so emulated it in software, causing compatibility issues with certain games. All future console revisions lacked PS2 circuitry altogether and were not compatible with PS2 game discs at all.
      • Curiously enough, Sony developed a complete software solution to running PlayStation 2 games on any PS3 called PS2_softemu built upon the software note  used for the CECHC & CECHE models after their discontinuation. It supported both PS2 disc format's but was never officially used and silently abandoned in the firmware until it was removed due to poor performance and game compatibility until the "PS2 Classics" series was unveiled using a newer incarnation called PS2_netemu.
      • All models of the PlayStation 3 also support PlayStation 1 games in both disc and downloadable format.
  • The CECHA, CECHC & CECHE models note  had a Memory Stick, SD and CompactFlash card reader. In models without a built-in memory card reader, a USB reader may be used instead.

Graphics:

  • Can support resolutions up to 1080p native for some games. But most games were 720p or sub-720p (sometimes as low as 480p) upscaled to 720p.
  • Supports OpenGL ES 1.1 with some NVIDIA's Cg.
  • It cannot support HDR and antialiasing at the same time, though the former can be faked convincingly.
  • Supports "quincunx" antialiasing, which is 2x MSAA + the values of 3 neighboring pixels. This results in an image with fewer "jaggies," but is slightly blurred.
  • Video acceleration is not supported on Linux, due to Sony restricting hardware-level access to the RSX via a hypervisor so all video acceleration had to be done entirely in software on the CELL's SPE's.

Connections:

  • AV outputs to either the HDMI port or the proprietary A/V port with composite, S-Video, RGB SCART and component support.
  • 4 USB slots, dropped to 2 with the release of the CECHGxx revision.
  • 1 Gigabit Ethernet port
  • 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, except the NTSC CECHBXX 20 GB revision.
  • 1 TOS-LINK optical output.


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PlayStation 3

The PS3 load-up screen.

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