Commentary: Sony has just released pricing details for its upcoming Playstation 3 console. Randolph Ramsay isn't impressed.
One of the biggest stories to come out so far at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) was the unveiling of specific release dates and pricing for Sony's PlayStation 3 (read the full story here). The good news for us was that, for once, Australia won't have to sit by and wait as other countries receive top tech goodies first - Sony has confirmed that PS3s will go on sale locally on the same date they go on sale in the US, Europe and Japan - 17 November.
The news isn't so hot on the price front. Most people were expecting the PS3 to be an expensive little unit, and Sony certainly didn't disappoint. The games console will be sold in two bundles - an AU$829 one which comes with a system with a 20GB hard drive built in, and an AU$999 one with a 60GB hard drive.
We don't yet know exactly what else you get in terms of extra accessories with either bundle (such as how many controllers, remotes or cables), but from the specs list Sony released at E3 this week, it seems clear that the more expensive option is the most sensible one to purchase. And it's not just because of the extra capacity.
The more expensive PS3 has some significant extras over its cheaper sibling - memory card slots (Memory Stick, SD, Compact Flash), built-in 802.11b/g wireless and the ability to output via HDMI. The lack of memory cards and Wi-Fi capability on the cheaper PS3 truly hampers the machine's goal of being an all-purpose entertainment centre - having card slots allows easy and instant transfer of media files between the PS3 and devices such as cameras or mobile phones, while wireless could help the PS3 mimic the Xbox 360's media centre capabilities.
But the biggest downside in my mind is the lack of HDMI on the cheaper PS3 option. Sony has for a long time been plugging the concept of high definition gaming - the PS3's specs are a veritable HD-lover's nirvana. Not only do you get the latest of the latest with the machine's built-in Blu-ray drive, the PS3 can also output its content at an eye-boggingly impressive 1080p. As a HD machine, the PS3 is about as future-proof as you could ask for (unless Blu-ray's competing standard, HD DVD, wins the next gen DVD race, of course).
And that's the key term: future-proof. Hand in hand with HD technologies such as Blu-ray is the connection that takes place between home entertainment devices. HDMI is an all digital connector that carries HD images and surround sound on the one cable - without HDMI, the cheaper PS3's future-proof image looks decidedly shaky. Of course, the PS3 will still work perfectly well without HDMI, but to get the most out of Blu-ray, HDMI is almost a must. It's like putting cheap second hand tyres on a Ferrari - you can still drive it, but you really should be on better tyres.
When you're paying more than AU$800 for a console, it's reasonable to expect that you're getting the bee's knees when it comes to technology. And for the most part, you are receiving exactly that with the PS3. It's a pity they didn't make HDMI standard on both PS3 bundles - the AU$829 PS3 may be cheaper, but if you're serious about the next generation of gaming and DVD, you'll have to save a little more cash to get the right package.
Are Sony's prices for the PS3 too expensive? Have the prices turned you off from buying one? Or are you willing to pay the price? Tell us your thoughts below.