The PlayStation 3 can still hold its own almost 10 years after launching.
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.
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.
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.
Even though the PS3 is almost a decade old, it's still got a lot going for it.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
In addition to its huge back catalog, new games are still being released for the system. The highly anticipated game Destiny came out for the PS3 recently, as well as a new Madden, FIFA, NBA and NHL games. You can also expect to see the new Call of Duty make its way to the PS3 in November, along with Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor.
Despite being nearly 10 years old, the PS3 still delivers very impressive HD graphics. They may not be on the same level as a high-end computer, the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, but you won't be disappointed after spending a few minutes looking at a game like Beyond Two Souls or The Last of Us.
Yes, there's still a lot reasons to recommend the PS3, but there are some caveats.
It starts in February with two highly anticipated titles: Bloodborne and The Order: 1886. Both of these games will be released on the PS4 only. Then, its Batman: Arkham Knight and Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, both of which won't see the light of day on the PS3. (Arkham Knight will be on the Xbox One, however.) It's around this time that owners of one of Sony's older consoles may begin to feel some buyer's remorse.
In other words, You may be better off spending the extra $130 on a PS4. At least, this will future proof you for the next five to 10 years.
And while the PlayStation Plus library is currently much better on the PS3, we fully expect the PS4 to see some better offers in the future.
While you could argue that the PS3 may have some better titles than the PS4, most people will agree that Sony's latest console easily wins in a head-to-head matchup for graphics and performance. It's as if you are playing a completely different game when you compare a copy of Destiny on the PS3 with a copy of Destiny on the PS4. And while games like Grand Theft Auto V and The Last of Us look great on PS3, their PS4-remastered versions are downright jaw-dropping.
PlayStation Now isn't just available on the PS3. You will find the service on the PS4, PlayStation TV, PlayStation Vita and select Bravia TVs. To make matters worse, the PlayStation Now streaming library is still relatively small. When I tested it earlier this month I was disappointed to find it didn't include a lot of games I actually wanted to play -- no God of War, Gran Turismo or any Grand Theft Auto games.
Sony has said that it hopes to have more titles available on the service in the future, but until then it may not be very appealing to most gamers.
If you want to use your PS3 as a disc player or streaming box, be prepared to use the DualShock controller. But because the PS3 has no infrared port, your alternatives are limited to Bluetooth friendly models: you can invest in Sony's proprietary $20 remote , or spend seven times that on a higher-end Harmony (like the awesome Harmony Home Control ). But a $20 universal remote you can buy at the drugstore that controls all your other AV components -- including the Xbox 360 -- won't work.
Meanwhile, the current PS3's weird top-loading disc tray isn't the best option for many living room setups. Unlike front-loading disc players that can fit into tight confines, the PS3 needs enough topside clearance for you to swap discs in and out and close the sliding cover. (And while we're at it: that whole design just looks and feels cheap compared to the earlier PS3 hardware designs.)
The PS4 has access to Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus and other video streaming services. Movies and TV shows can be downloaded from the PlayStation Store, although unlike the PS3, the PS4 does not currently have an HBO Go app or support for DLNA media servers. We do expect both to make their way to the system in the near future, but even without HBO's streaming service the PS4 is still a very good set top box and Blu-ray player.
The PS3 isn't the only older (and cheaper) console available. The Xbox 360 is priced similar to the PS3, while the Nintendo Wii U is only slightly more expensive. Both systems can still be appealing because of their exclusive content. Despite the lack of support for Blu-ray discs, the Xbox 360 has the Halo and Forza series, while Nintendo has a slew of Mario and Zelda titles on the Wii U.
I'm a bit torn on whether to recommend you buy a PS3 or go ahead and splurge for a PS4. The cheapest PS3 option available -- the 12GB model from Walmart -- isn't worth it. The storage will be filled up in no time with game saves and downloads. Your only other option is to buy one of the $270 bundles, which after sales tax comes close to $300. I've seen the PS4 available for as low as $359, which is less than the MSRP of $400 even after you apply sales tax. Even at full price, for roughly $100 more, you are buying access to the future through software updates and access to the latest and greatest games.
Don't get me wrong, the PS3 has great games and it has a ton of video streaming apps. If you have one you may not have a need to upgrade to a PS4 right away, but most gamers shouldn't pick one up. While the PS3 is still a great system, its future is bleak. Come 2015, you may be left with nothing more than buyer's remorse if you pick up a new PS3 instead of a PS4.
I do think the system still holds value, however, with younger buyers. Parents looking for a game console for their children that won't break the bank, the PS3 is still something to consider.