New PS3 Firmware 1.80 Adds Great New Features

The new PS3 firmware is much more exciting than anything else released lately. This firmware adds three huge new features that should not be taken lightly, as well as some other features that will help a lot of people.

The first large update is the ability for the PS3 to act as a UPnP or DLNA client. You may be thinking, “Wow, that’s great. I don’t even know what those things are.” Well, despite the weird acronyms, this is actually a VERY useful feature that makes up for one thing 360 used to have over PS3. Essentially, any Windows computer running Windows Media Player 11 can act as a DLNA server. Then, the PS3, since it now supports being a DLNA client, can access any media you have available to your Windows Media Player 11 Library. The possibilities are endless.

Some tweaking is necessary to get things working nicely, however. For example, I keep all of my music in iTunes, and none of it in Windows Media Player. So when I logged into my PC from the PS3, there was no music available. To add music from iTunes into Windows Media Player, you can follow the guide located here. As described in the guide, an applet called MusicBridge allows you to sync playlist and other metadata (such as album artwork). This makes your Windows Media Player library contain all the music from iTunes, and essentially gives your PS3 access to all of your iTunes info such as playlists.

Another important consideration is that of video. The PS3 does not support that much, and most notably lacks DivX/Xvid support, which is the format that most internet-downloaded movies are in. If you want to watch such videos/movies on the PS3, another workaround is necessary. This one requires you to bypass Windows Media Player alltogether, and use Nero MediaHome. This requries Nero 7 Ultra Edition, but I’m sure most people have that since it is the best Windows media burning solution available. A guide for using Nero MediaHome to stream various unsupported video files to PS3 is located here.

With those two things taken care of, the power of PS3 as a media center has just gone up exponentially. This part of the Firmware 1.80 update should make every PS3 owner very happy. Beyond that, it should also attract the attention of many PC media enthusiasts… it has been said that PS3’s interface is much cleaner than that of Xbox 360’s (though I have no experience with 360’s), and should appeal to more people. I think this streaming also verifies why a hard drive larger than 20GB is not currently necessary (not like it matters, since the 20GB version has been discontinued, and an 80GB upgrade to the Premium model is rumored and in my opinion likely in the next three months).

The second huge part of the update is a lot easier to reap the benefits of. It is HD Upscaling for DVDs and PS1/PS2 games. This feature is enabled by default, and can be tweaked under the Settings part of the XMB. Not much to say here, other than it works very nicely for DVDs. I have not tried it with PS1/PS2 games, but there is a comparison of God of War II here (via Digg). This is a feature that also greatly enhances the PS3’s abilities and makes its $600 more worth it.

Finally, the third huge update is Remote Play via the Internet. This will allow the PSP to access anything on your PS3 via the Internet using the Remote Play functionality. Combined with the media streaming, you could access your entire home network’s arsenal of media from anywhere in the world with a wireless broadband internet connection. This will require the not-yet-released PSP Firmware 3.50 update, that I am hoping dark_alex converts to 3.50 OE (Open Edition) custom firmware soon, so that I can try out the Remote Play feature finally!

Other added features include (from Sony Press Release):

  • Copying Saved Data to a Memory Card Users can now copy saved data from PlayStation or PlayStation 2 format software stored on their PS3 system to a Memory Card or Memory Card (8MB) (for PlayStation2), using their PS3 system and a Memory Card Adaptor.
  • Photo Printing, Viewing, and Editing The photo capabilities of PS3 system have been enhanced, allowing users to print digital photos stored on a PS3s hard drive or inserted storage media. Currently, select Epson printers connected via USB are compatible. In addition, users will find a new type of slideshow for displaying photos, zoom functionality and the option to crop images.

The photo printing especially is a pretty important addition. It shows how the PS3 is increasingly becoming a multi-purpose media device. With this combined with the streaming, you could use the PS3’s cool photo slideshow effects to show off photography to family and friends (or clients if you take professional photography) from the comfort of your living room. If they like a certain photo, you could then print it right from the living room to one of the support photo printers. The possibilities are great to think consider.

I think this firmware update shows how powerful the PS3 is, and how it truly is not just a powerful gaming machine. All of these new features add a lot of greatness to the PS3, which will hopefully make it an attractive purchase for prospective buyers while we wait for the wave of 2nd half of 2007 releases to hit stores and give the PS3 much-needed gaming merit.