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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Tips for a PS3 Noob

When I first got a PS3, there were a few things I wanted to check out on it but 'twas a while before I got a hang of it. Perhaps listing those things out here will help someone who has just bought the black beauty.

  • Checking HDD space

No, you cannot browse the PS3's hard drive like you would on MS Windows' explorer. Here everything is grouped according to the type of data - Music, Video, Photos etc.

So if you want to do a quick check on how much space you have left just head over to Settings --> System Settings ---> System Information.

And the hard drive on any PS3 can be replaced with a regular 2.5 inch (laptop) SATA hard drive at 5400rpm, if you wish to upgrade it that is.

  • Playing Media from a USB Drive

I initially tried plugging in a 16gb pen drive with videos on it and the PS3 wouldn't detect it. I thought "Maybe the pen drive ain't so good". Later I found that the PS3 can handle only FAT32 formatted devices. So format every drive you intend to use with the PS3 as FAT32. This will also limit file sizes to 4gb.

Furthermore unless you put video files in a VIDEO folder, or music under a MUSIC folder on the drive, the console won't show you the files directly. What you have to do (as an example I'll use divx files under the root directory) is go to the video section, scroll down to your drive, then press triangle and choose "Display all". This will show you all the compatible files that you can open.

The same procedure is applicable for opening music or photos.

And you would do well to use a USB 2.0 drive if you want to play HD videos off it.

  • Copying files

You might notice that while downloading from the PSN store you'll be able to allow a download to go on in the background. This cannot be done while you copy data between the PS3's hard disk and an external disk. Once you set it to copy a file, it will not let you do any other operation until either the files have been copied or the operation has been canceled. Background downloads will still continue while you're copying though.

  • Changing OS

You can install Linux on your PS3, a quick google search will get you all the info you need. But note one important point before you even consider changing your OS to Linux --- You will lose all your data (apart from what you've backed up) and you'll have to download add-ons and updates for games, game demos etc. all over again.

  • Changing between TVs

Look at this scenario. You've got the PS3 connected to a HDTV (an LCD or Plasma) via HDMI. One fine day you take it along with you on a trip and try connecting it to a Standard Definition TV which has composite inputs. What you'll get is a blank screen even after powering on the PS3 and you'll be clueless as to the solution.

This is pretty simple to set right. From standby mode (that is with the red light on) just hold the power button 4-5 seconds until you hear the second beep. Then release the power button and the console will switch itself on and reset its video and audio output settings. This way you can set your PS3 up to work with the new television. Don't worry this won't damage your PS3 in any way or reset any other settings or saves.

  • Audio output - 2.0, 5.1, 7.1

The PS3 can only output 2.0 audio from the composite out port. The optical audio output will again only support 5.1 audio out, whereas 7.1 will be available only when you use a hyper-expensive receiver which supports HDMI audio input and can pass the HDMI video out without doing anything to it.

Now there'll be people saying "So what, 5.1 is good enough for me, I can get DTS-HD or Dolby TrueHD tracks in 5.1 from a Bluray via my optical input-equipped speakers!". Wrong.

LPCM 5.1 or DTS-HD or Dolby TrueHD has too much data to be sent via an optical cable. The only tracks you'll end up getting via optical out will be normal DD 5.1 or DTS, in other words DVD-Quality surround audio.

Here's a complete audio compatibility chart. The source of this chart is

PS3 CompatiblityBitstream (HDMI)LPCM (HDMI)Bitstream (TOSLINK)LPCM (TOSLINK)AV Multi
Linear PCM 7.1YesYesNoNoYes (Stereo)
Dolby TrueHD 7.1NoYesNoYes (Stereo 44.1kHz)Yes (Stereo)
Dolby TrueHD 5.1NoYesNoYes (Stereo 44.1kHz)Yes (Stereo)
Dolby Digital PlusYesYesYesYes (Stereo)Yes (Stereo)
Dolby DigitalYesYesYesYes (Stereo)Yes (Stereo)
dts-HD MA (7.1)NoYes (5.1)NoYes (Stereo)Yes (Stereo)
dts-HD HRA (7.1)NoYesNoYes (Stereo)Yes (Stereo)
dts Digital SurroundYesYesYesYes (Stereo)Yes (Stereo)
SA-CD 5.1NoYes (176kHz)NoYes (Stereo 44.1kHz)Yes (Stereo)
SA-CD StereoNoYes (176kHz)Yes (Stereo 44.1kHz)Yes (Stereo 44.1kHz)Yes (176kHz)

If you're wondering what TOSLINK is, its nothing but Optical.


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