Allow me to explain. The piece of hardware under review here is the third major incarnation of the PlayStation 3 console. Hard drive sizes aside, the original model came in a few different versions under the hood, but we’ve only had two versions of the case design so far.
The original “Fat” model was followed by a “Slim” model, although Sony never referred to them as such. So as soon as rumours of an even slimmer case started bubbling under, it was dubbed the “Super Slim” model. Again, Sony hasn’t referred to it in these terms.
So what’s so different about this new PS3 model then? As you may expect, its a bit slimmer than the previous one, it’s also a bit less deep (from front to back when the console is lying down). This adds up to a reduction in size of about 20%. There’s also a reduction in weight of about 25%.
None of which really matters to you when you’re playing games as long as you can find room for it under your telly. Similarly, the weight doesn’t matter unless you’re planning on hanging it from the wall.
There are three major changes with respect to gaming that you will find with the new PS3: the hard drive, the Blu-ray drive and, in certain markets, the internal flash memory. The cables and controller you get with it are exactly the same and, as we noted in our unboxing video, the new PS3 still doesn’t come with an HDMI cable.
The hard drive is simple. There’s a 500GB version everywhere and a 250GB version in most places outside of Europe. As usual with PS3s, the hard drive is user-changeable, although you’ll have to hunt for it since the manual gives you no clues as to its location. Hint: it’s in the end without a rubber stopper covering an attachment point for a vertical stand.
The Blu-ray drive is another matter. The new PS3 has a top-loader rather than the previous models’ slot loading drives. However, this isn’t a pop-up top-loader like the slim PS2. This drive has a sliding cover that opens from right to left, or top to bottom if the PS3 is standing up.
The cover can be moved by hand if you wish, there’s also an eject button to do the work for you, but there is no software eject from the triangle button menus in the Xross Media Bar (XMB) interface. In addition, you have to close the cover by hand, which can be a bit fiddly if it’s upright, and the PS3 won’t start reading a disc unless you do.
I can’t comment on the utility or performance of the 12GB flash memory version of the new PS3 since the unit Sony provided us with for the purposes of this review is a 500GB hard drive version. However, I’d expect the flash memory to be quicker to access than the hard drive.
Sony says it will release a dedicated 250GB hard drive in the markets where the 12GB PS3 is available to allow users to expand their storage. However, according the the small print on the press releases, you won’t be able to use the 12GB flash memory if a hard drive is connected. It remains to be seen if this is due to the hard drive physically replacing the flash memory in the internal drive bay or if it’s a software limitation to prevent your data being split across two storage devices.
In operation, the new PS3 is very quiet indeed, with the fans only starting up when it is doing serious work and even then they are quieter than the ones that the Slim model is equipped with. Almost all of the noise from this hardware comes from the Blu-ray drive, but this is still not awful, your game or movie will mask the noise of the disc spinning very easily. The most noticeable noise comes when the drive seeks a new area of the disc, such as when starting to load a game, and this occurs infrequently.
Other than that, this is a PS3 and it does what a PS3 does. Games seem to take the same length of time to load, movies too start playing in about the same amount of time as with the previous models. This is perhaps unsurprising since the Blu-ray drive is still rated at only 2X speed.
At the time of writing, prices in the UK seem to have settled at about £185 for the 12GB version and £250 for the 500GB version. Both prices are higher than those for a 250GB Xbox 360 and the 12GB is around the same price as a 160GB PS3 Slim. If you’re technically minded, it’s possible to get a 1TB drive for about the price difference between the 160GB Slim and the 500GB Super Slim models and fit it yourself.
So what is the point of the new Super Slim PS3? It’s slightly less convenient to load and eject discs and it’s not a huge saving in price, but it’s quieter and quite a bit smaller and lighter than its predecessor.
The point, I suspect, has to do with the size and weight, not just of the console itself, but of the entire box it comes in, accessories and all. By reducing the size and weight of the box the PS3 is transported and stored in, the cost per unit goes down and Sony makes slightly more profit on each one. This should, in theory, see a price drop occur sooner with the Super Slim than it would if the Slim model was the only one around.
So should you get one? To a certain extent this question is moot, in a few months time this model will be the only one you will be able to get. Just like the Fat before it, the Slim will fall by the wayside and into the second hand market. However, at the moment you have a choice to either buy a Slim or a Super Slim.
If I was looking to replace my current PS3 Slim (I like the slot loading Blu-ray drive, and it’s difficult to see the advantage over a Slim and bigger drive) I’d still get a like-for-like replacement. This may change if the 12GB version can be fitted with an ordinary hard drive.
In terms of whether this is a successful addition or not, well, Sony has done exactly what it needed to: reduced shipping and warehousing costs while keeping 100% compatible hardware in the market.