Playstation 3 Model Guide

Update March 2010

I have updated the chart again, this time with a better layout. Since there have been so many models released in North America, I had to make the chart wider than the site itself! You can scroll left or right to see all the features (and price) lower throughout the Playstation 3’s history.

Update August 2009 – Updated to include the PS3 Slim model, new price updates, and some new specs have been added.

Let’s face it – both the Playstation 3 and XBOX 360 are pretty complicated when it comes to differentiating between all the models and revisions that have been released over the past 2 years. This is especially the case with the PS3, as revisions don’t necessarily mean improved features – newer models have supplanted older ones that had better backwards compatibility, more USB ports, and larger hard drives for instance.

In an attempt to make sense of all the models, we have put together this handy chart for your reference. It applies mainly to the North American versions of the consoles. This guide should be a quick way to see which features are supported by which consoles. Curious if your unit is backwards compatible with Playstation 2 games in hardware mode, or if it’s emulated, or if it will play them at all? Get your model # and refer to the chart below:

Now, to make sense of it all. As you can see, there are only two models currently under production; the new 80GB with 65nm CPU and GPU, and the 160GB that comes bundled with Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune and Pain. For a $100 difference, you basically get twice the storage capacity, and a decent game (as well as a crappy one). And that’s it – both consoles suffer from having no PS2 backwards compatibility at all, no flash card reader, no SACD support, and only 2 USB ports.

As of the introduction of the PS3 Slim,  you have two choices: A 120GB hard drive for $299, and a 250GB hard drive for $50 more. The “bigger” version adds nothing more than hard drive space, so it’s up to you to decide whether you think you need that space. For me, 60GB is plenty (even 20GB would be enough) and if there is ever need for more, it’s easy to just upgrade the drive yourself (and $50 is enough to get you a 250GB hard drive anyway).

The Slim also takes away one more feature: Linux support. This is a very niche feature anyway, and not very useful to most people. Still, it’s interesting to see all the features change from “yes” to “no” as the chart progresses to newer models… It still only has a pair of USB ports, which can be limiting if you like to plug in external drives to play media from.

There is still no sign of PS2 emulation being added, but it’s always a possibility.

Whether any of this stuff is important to you is up to you to decide. Personally, in the 2 years I’ve owned my PS3, I haven’t used any of those features besides the PS2 support (there were many PS2-era titles I missed)

As far as the older models go, you can see how they have changed over the last 2 years going from right to left on this chart. It’s clear that the sole purpose of these revisions is to make the console cheaper and more profitable. The CPU and GPU dies have shrunk from 90nm to 65nm (with the CPU finally hitting 45nm on the Slim) which saves Sony a significant amount of money on each console made (and should also lower power consumption significantly. Which is a good thing; the original PS3 is a real power hog).

To save more money, they are removing more and more hardware from the console with each revision; first to go was the Playstation 2 CPU on the first 80GB model. They left the PS2 GPU on there to maintain some level of backwards compatibility, which is a highly sought after feature that Sony pushed heavily when the Playstation 3 was first announced. Unfortunately, it proved to be difficult to get the Playstation 3 to properly emulate the PS2 CPU, as compatibility on that model was extremely poor. On all later revisions, PS2 support was dropped completely, and Sony changed their tune to express that today’s gamers want to play next-gen games, and if they want to play older games they can keep their PS2 or buy a new one which can still be found in stores. Other hardware followed suit, as Sony continued to trim down the extra features that very few people actually used – does anyone actually buy SACD’s anymore? Or regular CD’s for that matter?

As far as how the bundles accessories have changed, it’s good to see that they are including the DualShock 3 now, without increasing the price of the console. However, I have no idea why they haven’t yet started to bundle an HDMI cables or even component cables with what is supposed to be a next-generation video device…

What’s interesting to me is that the original 20GB and 60GB versions may retain their value on the used market better than subsequent models. Those are the only ones with proper backwards compatibility, and drive size is not an issue since it is easy to install a hard drive yourself.

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