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Sony's PlayStation 3 firmware upgrade for 3D Blu-ray arrives in October

The Sony PlayStation 3 will receive the capability to play back 3D Blu-ray discs in October.

The 3D future's so bright for PS3 owners, they have to wear liquid-crystal shutter glasses. Sarah Tew/CNET

Updated September 2, 2010: At the IFA show in Berlin Sony announced that this upgrade would arrive in October, not September as the company had previously indicated. (via Engadget)

People who bought the Sony PlayStation 3 for its built-in Blu-ray player may have another reason to feel good about themselves. Sony has confirmed that in October the multitalented game console will receive a firmware update that allows it to play 3D Blu-ray discs.

"We're launching another Firmware upgrade--and this one is going to upgrade the PS3 to support Blu-ray movies in 3D," said Mick Hocking, senior director of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, at a press event in London late last week. He also mentioned future upgrades to support 3D photos and 3D YouTube videos. The console's update for 3D gaming came worldwide in June.

When the 3D Blu-ray upgrade hits homes this fall, the crucial installed base of 3D-compatible Blu-ray hardware will increase significantly; there are "35.8 million PlayStation 3s out there," according to Hocking. The upgrade, which we assume will be free as usual, makes the cost of upgrading to 3D a bit less expensive than before. Of course, you'll still need a new TV and expensive glasses for everyone, but at least PS3 owners won't have to buy a new Blu-ray player.

Standalone, non-PS3 3D Blu-ray players like the Samsung BD-C6900 and Panasonic DMP-BDT350 are currently quite expensive, at about $400 each. The least expensive such player is actually Sony's BDP-S470 ($199), which along with the BDP-S570 and a couple of HTiBs, was made 3D compatible via a separate firmware upgrade in June. No other maker offers a similar upgrade for 3D.

On a technical note we wondered at CES in January, when we first heard about the 3D PS3 Blu-ray update, whether the console would be able to handle the "full HD" 3D called for in the Blu-ray standard, which we were told needs HDMI 1.4-compatible hardware. Sony told us that despite the older hardware in the console, which was launched before even the HDMI 1.3 standard was available, the PS3 would have no problem delivering full HD 3D.

Hocking backed up that claim with the following quote: "The [June] upgrade basically makes every PlayStation 3 HDMI 1.4 compatible--that's the standard that governs 3D displays."

We're inclined to believe Sony on this one, and we're looking forward to testing the upgrade ourselves.