Sony New Zealand was responsible for leaking one major tidbit of news about the upcoming functions of the Playstation 3, namely, that it will be able to be used as a digital recorder, ala Tivo and MySky. Recently I’ve also been looking at some of the great networking features of the PS3… since I wrote this I’ve been accessing my PS3 and laptop at home from wireless hotspots all over the country. I haven’t tried it on an international basis yet but would be interested in hearing the experiences of anyone who has…


by Peter Griffin | from the New Zealand Herald

The PlayStation 3 is back from the repair shop after inexplicably dying on me. Since its return I’ve been testing out Sony’s claim that the PS3 can serve as the multimedia hub for the home.

You see, I want to have all my digital media – music, videos and photos, in one place that I can access, ideally from anywhere in the world. I want the networking side of it to be easy and the interface to be nice to look at. Does the PS3 deliver? Yes, mostly it does.

Sony and the PS3 are part of the Digital Living Network Alliance which has set standards to make it easy for various consumer electronics devices to network together. This is where computers and lounge-centric gadgets like games consoles and digital recorders finally shake hands.

By activating media sharing in Windows Media Player 11 on my laptop, the My Music, My Videos and My Pictures folders were recognised by the PS3. Two icons denoting the laptops now appear on the PS3’s user interface on my TV screen and I can browse, play and copy the contents of those remote folders to the PS3’s hard drive. All of this connectivity is done wirelessly. The laptops beam the files to the PS3 which gains its internet access via the wireless connection provided by my router. The only cables involved provide power.

Then I introduced my PSP to the mix. The PSP is Sony’s underrated handheld gaming device. Released in New Zealand in September 2005, it had the potential for iPhone-like success, but has been hamstrung by its unpopular UMD disc format for movies. A couple of years on, it is still a slick-looking device. The Wi-fi connectivity makes it easy to network and the software updates have kept useful new features coming.

The PSP talks wirelessly to the PS3 so all of that media I’ve assembled on the network can be accessed from the PSP. I now use it for playing media around the house with great results. Even video trailers I’ve downloaded from the PS3 network stream smoothly over the wireless connection. It’s changing the way I access digital media in the home. But using the internet, the PSP is capable of extending that multimedia network to wherever there is wireless network coverage.

So I set off walking in the driving rain down to Courtney Place in Wellington, where between Telecom and CafeNet there’s very good wireless hotspot coverage. At a coffee shop I produced my PSP and logged onto Telecom’s hotspot, then into my home media network. I was impressed and a bit surprised when the PS3’s interface popped up, showing all the music, photos and videos stored on my two laptops and the PS3’s hard drive back at the house.

I could have been doing this from any wireless hotspot in the world. .

But while the wireless networking between PS3 and computers and PSP in the home is fairly flawless, connecting back to your media network from public hotspots is a little problematic.

For starters, most public hotspots require you to log in using a web browser and surfing the web and punching in password details on the PSP can be pretty frustrating. Still, I was determined to make this work but my experience connecting to three different public hotspots around Wellington was that streaming music to the PSP is pretty patchy. Video is much worse. Its easier to load up the Memory Stick slotted into your PSP with music and video, iPod style – at least you’ll get uninterrupted entertainment.

But the good experience on my home wireless network suggests that streaming over private networks delivers better results.

Upcoming PSP and PS3 software updates are likely to allow you to use the PSP to video conference with other PS3 and PSP owners.

Ideally, you’ll be able to make a PSP video call over a wireless hotspot back to the PS3 at home, so you can conference with family members. That would be pretty useful.

For me, the multimedia networking aspect of the PS3 is far more exciting than the console’s gaming capability, which isn’t much different from that of the Xbox 360.

But it has to be cheaper. The console costs US$500 ($630) in the US. New Zealanders are paying $1200. That price needs to be slashed but Sony says there are no immediate plans to drop the price in New Zealand.

Whether the PS3 emerges as the leading multimedia hub for the home is up in the air, but at the moment it is perhaps the best example of a user-friendly consumer electronics device that serves that purpose.