Slowly but surely, Sony's beginning to unlock more and more of that multimedia horsepower under the hood of the PlayStation 3. The 1.80 firmware upgrade--available as an automatic download to PS3s everywhere--adds a variety of features to the console, most of which bolster the system's AV prowess. The main upgrades are as follows:
- upscaling of games and DVDs: DVD movies, PlayStation 1 and PlayStation 2 games can now be upscaled to HD resolutions up to 1080p (games can upscale via component or HDMI, while DVDs are only upconverted via HDMI).
- streaming of digital media to PS3 via home network: The PS3 is now able to stream video, audio, and photo files from PCs and other DLNA-enabled storage devices (such as the Buffalo LinkStation NAS drive) on a home network.
- copying saved data to a memory card: With the addition of an inexpensive accessory, the PS3 has always been capable of reading saved games from the old 8MB Memory Card used on PS1s and PS2s (useful if, for instance, you started a game of God of War II on a PS2, and wanted to continue it on your newly purchased PS3). Now, saved PS1 and PS2 games on the PlayStation 3's hard drive can be transferred back to the older 8MB Memory Cards, for resuming play on an older PlayStation console.
- enhanced photo viewing, editing, and printing: With its built-in multiformat flash media reader, the PS3 is a quick and easy way to view your digital photos. With the new firmware update installed, photo features get a shot in the arm: photos can be zoomed and cropped, and a new slide show style is available. Also, photos can be printed to Epson printers that are connected to the PS3 via USB.
The firmware upgrade also extends the"Remote Play" functionality--the ability to stream videos, music, and photos from the PS3 to the the PSP--from a LAN to the Internet. In other words, you'll soon be able to access your PS3's digital media content from your PSP, whether you're at home or halfway across the world--so long as the PS3 is powered up and online, and your PSP is within range of a Wi-Fi access point. But the PSP will first need its own firmware upgrade--to version 3.50--and that won't be available until "next week," according to Sony.
We're in the process of testing the video and digital media enhancements and will report back with our findings. But the early indications are that this firmware update has gone a long way to enhancing the PlayStation 3's functionality as a living room media hub. And while the PS3 is still thin on actual games that people are excited about playing, there is some movement on that front, with the Warhawk multiplayer beta launching this week as well.