PS3 Super Slim Review

The PS3 Super Slim is the third major redesign amongst many generations of minor hardware updates to the PlayStation 3 console. You may even call it the seven year old itch of sorts, but then, you’d be wrong because that would involve replacing the older model with a younger, sexier one. Unfortunately, the new PS3 is anything but that.

The new shape is an acquired taste

The Super Slim PS3 looks unflattering when compared to the outgoing model, despite being 25 percent smaller and 20 percent lighter than it. To be honest, it looks less like a video game console and more like an outdoor grill. The PS3 Slim was a major size and weight reduction from the monstrous original, but any further miniaturisation follows the law of diminishing returns. I don’t see any reason why one would choose the Super Slim over the Slim for portability alone, especially since a console isn’t exactly meant to be lugged around like a laptop.

That Shrinking Feeling

What would make the Super Slim worth an upgrade, however, is if it were to incorporate a die shrink just like its predecessor. When the Cell processor was shrunk down from 90nm to 45nm and the RSX GPU from 65nm to 40nm, it resulted in a significant reduction in the size and weight of the console, in addition to a tremendous decrease in power consumption as well. Die shrinks not only allow the consoles to run cooler and more reliably, but most importantly, they cost considerably less to manufacture. These savings were passed on to the consumers with the Slim. Unfortunately, that doesn’t hold true for the latest PS3.

With 15 million Move kits shipped till date, including just two UBS ports is woefully inadequate

At Rs 19,990, the 500GB Super Slim bundled with Gran Turismo 5 and Uncharted 3 costs exactly the same as the 320GB Slim Medieval Moves bundle replete with PS Move hardware. Even the barebones 12GB Flash memory version incorporating the Move bundle costs Rs 18,990, which isn’t exactly cheap for a console that lacks a hard drive. Does that mean the latest iteration isn’t a die shrink? Well, while there’s no official confirmation from Sony regarding this, various teardowns and comparisons point towards no change in the die size. This is further corroborated by power consumption figures that have remained largely unchanged over that of the previous model. The reduction in heft essentially seems to be the result of an efficient mainboard redesign.

Cutting Corners

In the transition between the first gen PS3 Fat and the outgoing Slim version, Sony has dropped significant features such as Linux support as well as backward compatibility with PS2 games. The Super Slim does away with something equally important, if not as functionally debilitating—the slot loading Blu-dray drive, which has been replaced by a top-loading eyesore. Hidden behind a spring-loaded sliding mechanism, the door opens with a mechanical eject button and has to be closed manually. This is a raw deal for consumers because Sony has basically opted for a flagrantly cheaper alternative in the form of undignified disc loading mechanism, albeit without the cost benefit being passed on to the consumer. The difference is as profound as going from the USS Enterprise’s tractor beam to the Maruti Omni’s sliding door.

Sony’s propensity to cut corners with the new PS3 is evident in its construction quality as well. Unlike its solidly built predecessor, the Super Slim’s chassis rattles and feels flimsy. The classy matte black body of the Slim has been replaced with shiny plastics that turn into a smudgy, fingerprint-riddled mess in a matter of minutes. The sliding door on the top of the blu-ray drive is corrugated for better grip, but the assembly has a lot of play. The door mechanism is prone to accidental opening when the console’s moved around, thereby exposing the lens to dust and moisture. Curiously, the soft eject mechanism of the spring-loaded slides gently only when the console is vertically mounted.

The top loading Blu-ray drive is downright cheap

New Bottle, Old Wine

The button layout on the console has been drastically revised and deliberately does away with large, conspicuous power and eject buttons found on the Slim. The power and an eject buttond flanking the PlayStation logo instead blend seamlessly with the front fascia. The rear is quite similar to the predecessor, with Ethernet, HDMI, optical (S/PDIF) and AV multi out ports situated next to the AC power input. Disappointingly, the Super Slim doesn’t address the previous model’s lack of USB ports. This is especially painful for those owning a pair of DualShock and Move controllers, because then you have only one free port (Eye camera is USB powered, remember?) for charging all those controllers.

Since this seems to be nothing more than a cosmetic revision, I found no difference in performance between the Slim and the Super Slim. The 2X Blu-ray, 8X DVD and 24X CD ROM read speeds are on par with the prior model, and therefore I noticed no change in the Blu-ray load times either. The Super Slim, however, is noticeably quieter than both Fat and the Slim versions. Just like its predecessors, swapping hard drives is allowed, but the Super Slim makes a very easy job of it thanks to easier access to the HDD.

Bad Timing, Wrong Pricing

At the end of the day, the PlayStation 3 Super Slim remains a cosmetic redesign of what’s essentially seven-year-old hardware. If the lack of innovation or any kind of hardware optimisation wasn’t bad enough, the very obvious instances of cost cutting are made worse by the fact that the benefit hasn’t been transferred to the end user at all. This redesigned console seems to be an anachronism, because it clearly has been released at the wrong time and at the wrong price. It would have made more sense a couple of years from now, as a low-cost alternative to the PS4 aimed at the developing markets.

Irrespective of it chronology, the Super Slim offers nothing over the much better looking Slim console. The bottomline: if you are in the market for a new PS3, or just upgrading from the first gen fat PS3, opting for the PS3 Slim 320GB Medieval Moves bundle makes more sense over the PS3 Super Slim 500GB version priced at a similar Rs 19,990. It’s best to avoid this update until Sony decides to drop the price.

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