Sony PlayStation 3 Super Slim (500GB) review: Sony's old console is still a contender

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CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent
  • Overall: 8.1
  • Design: 6.0
  • Ecosystem: 9.0
  • Features: 9.0
  • Performance: 8.0
  • Value: 8.0
Review Date:

The Good The PlayStation 3 still offers palpable gaming and entertainment value, with a nearly unrivaled library of games, strong array of streaming services (including Netflix, Amazon, Hulu Plus, HBO Go and Vudu) and the fact that it doubles as a great DVD/Blu-ray player. Optional add-on services like PlayStation Plus and PlayStation Now add more gaming choices to the mix.

The Bad Sliding-top disc door feels downmarket; no IR port limits universal remote compatibility; PS4 will pick up momentum in 2015 and beyond as it gains more exclusive next-gen titles.

The Bottom Line While it will begin to cede its position to the PS4 in 2015, the PlayStation 3 still delivers impressively strong value for gaming and video entertainment.

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Sony unleashed the PlayStation 3 to the world in 2006. Over the next few years we would see the console go through a number of design changes, although hardware features have largely remained the same. It started with the original PS3 (now referred to as the Fat model), then came the PlayStation Slim in 2009 and finally the so-called Super Slim, which arrived in late 2012. These days the PS3 is available in a number of different game bundles for around $270 in the US, £200 in the UK, and AU$370 in Australia.

Of course, the PlayStation 3 is now the old man on the block. It's coming up on its ninth birthday, while the red-hot PlayStation 4 is brand new. And Sony even has a new PlayStation TV microconsole that you can buy for less than half the price of the PS3 and play Vita games on a big-screen TV. (And that's not even counting the Xbox One, Xbox 360, and Nintendo Wii U , all of which continue to compete for your gaming dollar as well.)

So is it even worth still considering this last-gen system? The answer may be closer to "yes" than you'd think. We'll examine the pros and cons of buying a PS3 in a post-PS4 world, below.

PS3 bundles: What you get right now

Inside of the box you get a Super Slim model with a meaty 500GB hard disk, a wireless DualShock 3 controller, an AC power cord and USB cable (for charging the controller). For reasons known only to Sony, the company also throws in a composite AV adapter rather than an HDMI cable.

Each bundle is basically the same save for the included game. In the US, you can buy it with Destiny, The Last of Us, or -- as of November 11 -- Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham and The Sly Collection (that final one, obviously, being best for young children). There's also a 12GB PS3 that's available solo or (in the US) comes bundled with Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes for around $200. But we strongly recommend that you avoid the 12GB model and stick with the 500GB one. Once you download a game or a few apps, you'll want the extra space almost immediately.

PlayStation 3
The entire PS3 family Sarah Tew/CNET

If you see a PS3 available with different pack-in game (or none at all), it's probably a retailer exclusive or an older bundle that's now "out of print." As long as you're getting that 500GB hard drive (and you like the included game, of course), it's a safe purchase.

PS3 Pros

Even though the PS3 is almost a decade old, it's still got a lot going for it.

It's still adding new features

To be clear: Sony has not abandoned the PS3 now that the PS4 has been released. Far from it. In fact, Sony continues to introduce new features and services to the PlayStation ecosystem. First it was the gaming subscription service known as PlayStation Plus, which offers up discounts and free games each month, and the 3D virtual social platform known as PlayStation Home.

There is now a new service, known as PlayStation Now, that offers up old PlayStation, PlayStation 2, and PlayStation 3 titles for gamers to rent. Most games are available to rent for 4 hours, 7 days, 30 days, or 90 days, with prices in the US ranging from $3 for 4 hours or as much as $50 for 90 days, depending on the game.

You will need a stable Internet connection to use the service. I was hardwired to my 15Mbps down and 5Mbps connection, which performed reasonably well with very little lag. For more information about the PlayStation Now service, be sure to check out CNET senior editor Jeff Bakalar's hands-on article.

There is also the promise of Sony's new cloud-based TV service, which could be the first real option for cable cord-cutters. The company has already inked a deal with Viacom to carry 22 live TV channels, including Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, BET, CMT, Spike, TV Land and VH1. Sony is expected to make the cloud-based TV service available on the PlayStation TV microconsole, PS3, PS4, and select Sony Bravia TVs by the end of 2014. PlayStation Now is already in beta on the PS3 and PS4, and will be added to those other devices and the Vita by the end of 2014.

It's the ultimate set-top box and media player

In addition to all of these new features and services, apps like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and HBO Go, among others, have made their way on to the console over the past few years. These apps have transformed the PS3 into a full-fledged streaming box.

Sony PlayStation 3 Super Slim (250GB)
Sarah Tew/CNET

There is also support for DLNA, meaning you can stream videos, music, and photos from a PC on your network; that's a feature the PS4 still lacks. You can also rent movies and TV shows from the PlayStation Store. And let's not forget that the PS3 is also an excellent Blu-ray and DVD player. (The Xbox 360, for comparison, does not play Blu-rays.)

PlayStation Plus adds real gaming value

PlayStation Plus is Sony's answer to Xbox Live Gold -- but in many ways, it's better. For a yearly $49 subscription fee, Plus delivers a huge list of downloadable games at no additional cost. On the PS4, those games are mostly quirky indie games. But on the PS3, it's a catalog of recent classic triple-A titles such as Uncharted 3, Dead Space 3, NBA 2K14 and Batman: Arkham Asylum. Plus members also get exclusive discounts on more current digital titles.

Note that PlayStation Plus is required for gamers who want to play online on the PS4, but that online gameplay is still free on the PS3. But with that Plus subscription on the PS3, your selection of "free" titles becomes so good that you may well not need to invest in many other titles during the year.

It has a massive gaming library

One of the biggest advantages the PS3 has over the PS4 is its massive gaming library. There are more than 800 games available for the system, including more than 100 exclusive titles. While some of these games can be accessed over the PlayStation Now service, most of them are still only available on the PS3.

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