PSX Beans Spilled

Announced near E3 last May, the PSX was a surprising revelation for Sony. The electronics giant has been pushing to merge video games and more traditional home entertainment for a while now, slowly phasing in more and more hardware for the PlayStation 2 to expand it form a DVD Player/videogame console into an online-capable, CD-ripping, content downloading attempt to compete with the Xbox’s out-of-box goods. The PSX, on the other hand, one-ups all that the PS2 does and adds TiVo-like PVR recording and TV scheduling, as well as DVD-R and DVD-RW burning.

But that much has been known for a while now. Exactly how much of an upgrade over the PS2 the all-in-one box would be was unclear – especially since it appeared to be lacking a couple of the ports the PS2 had. Fortunately, most of the big questions have been answered as Sony had finally seen fit to pull the wraps off the system.

Behold our massive run-down of the pearl white cousin to the familiar black box:

The PSX is, simply put, a PlayStation gussied up with the bleeding edge in storage and recording technology. Offered in two flavors, model DESR-5000 with a 160GB hard drive and another, model DESR-7000 which sports a whopping 250GB drive, the PSX was obviously built to stay ahead of the curve for a while. Couple this with an astonishingly fast 24 speedDVD burner (that’s an hour of DVD-quality video in a don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-it 2 mins and 30 seconds) and the ability to record video in one of six quality modes (HQ, HSP, SP (the PSX’s default setting), EP, LP and SLP) and you’re looking at (33, 51, 67, 103, 137 or 204 hours worth of video in each mode respectively on the DESR-5000 and an eye-popping 53, 81, 107, 164, 217 or 325 hours with the DESR-7000).

Aside from playing PlayStation and PS2 games, the PSX will doubtlessly be used primarily for its PVR functionality. Using a now-familiar TV scheduling system (Sony has said previously that in the U.S. at least, there would be a monthly, yearly or lifetime fee for the downloadable listing), programs can be selected for recording, then left alone to work on their own. Much like a TiVo or ReplayTV, live TV can be paused, rewound, replayed, etc., then resumed later. The built-in tuner won’t decode digital cable or satellite (nor was it ever supposed to, though for some reason that’s become a common misconception), but it does offer an innovative filter to reduce the ghosting effects common with broadcast interference.

While it’s still not clear if the system will allow live TV to be watched independently of a TV program (this would require dual TV turners), it’s absolutely possible to record TV (or any video signal for that matter, thanks to the system’s included S-Video and composite inputs on the back) and watch a movie already stored online. Even more interesting is the possibility of playing games while something is being recorded. All of this is carried out via the PSX’s upgraded version of the core PS2 OS. The imbedded operating system had a cosmetic upgrade to make setting recording and playing back media as painless as possible, while adding slick effects like transparency to the overall GUI.

Like the PS2, the PSX sports a 100Mbps Ethernet port with upgradable firmware to keep it minty-fresh in the future, and to allow for obvious online games when using the PSX as a games console. We talked about it a while ago, but Sony demoed their U.S. plans for the AOL/SCEA tie-in that was announced a couple years back by showing of long-distance calls, and the option to download movie trailers (then buy tickets, of course), music videos, and even live concerts in 5.1 audio. The service was still being tweaked, of course, but if the PS2 will hop online to connect to this system, it stands to reason that the PSX will as well.

Much like the newest PlayStation 2 model that will be released this year, the PSX offers full progressive scan DVD playback, and has actually dropped the nigh-useless i.Link port. With no real use for the DV ports on the PS2, it made sense to ditch them. There is one small difference between the PSX and PS2 in that it only offers a single USB port (USB 1.1, no USB 2.0, sorry, kiddies). Oddly enough, it still sports two controller and Memory Card ports (as well as a Memory Stick slot), and a SPDIF output (that’d be a single coaxial cable for the layman), something the PS2 never offered.

In classic Sony fashion, hardware like the Memory Sticks are fully supported (popping a MS in will switch to a slideshow much like the higher-end Wega TVs out these days should there be images and movies on the stick), as is Sony’s ATRAC3 sound compression (the same audio compression algorithms used in modern MiniDisc technology). The system also appears to be able to rip CDs in ATRAC3 format), and will play MP3s for those not ready to dig into ATRAC.

Weighing in at just over 12 pounds and about 12.3x12.7x3.5inches, the creamy white box isn’t exactly light, but luckily it is incredibly sleek. All of the front ports are hidden under a flip-down panel or on the back of the system, giving it a sexy smooth exterior. Part of the extra size was used to help cool the system down (something that is obviously a chief concern with the PS2 and hard drive, both of which can get mightily toasty with extended use) with a variable speed motor that’s whisper quiet.

Now for the shocker: while the system is obviously cutting-edge, all this technology has a trade off. The 160GB DESR-5000 will retail for 79,800 yen or roughly $720. The DESR-7000 will set you back just over $900. These are, of course, the Japanese prices and they’re likely to change slightly here in the U.S., but it’s still shocking nonetheless. Despite all this new information, we still don’t know when the system will be released in Japan, much less the U.S., but rest assured that once we know, you’ll know. 

PSX Release Details

Pricing info and more on Sony's new high-end hardware.
October 07, 2003 - Sony has at last revealed final pricing and release information on its PSX hardware. The hardware will arrive to Japan this Fall in two forms, the DESR-5000 (160 Gigabyte hard disk) and the DESR-7000 (250 Gigabyte hard disk). The units will come in a variety of colors and be priced respectively at 79,800 yen (approx $718) and 98,000 yen ($882). Outside the different hard disk size, the two models are identical with exception to different colored logos.

First announced earlier this year, the PSX is a high-end electronics device designed to run PS2 and PlayStation games, connect to broadband and record both DVDs and television. The unit will also be capable of receiving satellite broadcast reception thanks to an included satellite TV tuner.

In addition to the pricing, Sony has provided a closer look at the unit. The front of the unit has a flap at the bottom that opens to reveal a USB port (USB 1.1) as well as slots for two PS2-brand memory cards and a memory stick. Two controller ports along with all the requisite video and audio connections are located on the unit's rear. Inputs include composite, S-Video and stereo audio. Outputs include composite, component, S-Video, stereo audio and optical audio. Also on the rear are connections for Ethernet, tuner reception and power.

The PSX will come with a white-colored Dual Shock controller (not compatible with the standard PS2 thanks to a few power and signal issues) and an all new remote control. The remote control, which is also incompatible with the standard PS2, features the standard PlayStation brand "shape" buttons along with a button that allows you to instantly stop a game. You'll also be able to control recording and playback via the Dual Shock using on-screen menus that allow for quick access to recorded programs, pictures and games, as well as video editing features.

Recording is compatible with the DVD-R and DVD-RW formats. Initially, the system will not support recording to the DVD+RW format, but future upgrades downloadable via the system's network adapter, are expected to add this support. Users will be able to dub between DVDs at a rate of 24x.

In terms of gaming functionality, the PSX is equivalent to a PS2 unit that's been equipped with Sony's broadband adapter and hard disk. You'll be able to play games Online, download new content and of course play Offline titles as you please. Games can be played while recording is going on in the background. This includes titles like Final Fantasy XI that are played after having been installed to the hard disk.

Details on the unit's American release have yet to be revealed, although Sony has stated plans for a release in 2004. Pictures of the unit on this page come to us from Japanese site Watch Impress.