Better By Comparison

Size is a funny old thing. We speak about it as an absolute, dividing the world and the objects that dwell upon its surface into three categories: small, medium and large. Relativity is often thrown out of the window altogether in favour of this Triforce of concrete definitions, with the S-M-L system employing the confounding trick of using itself as a reference point. If you decide to classify a planet as small, then you’re perfectly entitled to label the galaxy it inhabits as medium and the universe surrounding the whole mess as large. Problem is, as soon as you mark out the universe as a reference point for the concept of ‘large’, suddenly everything else is small. Very small. So small, in fact, that the word loses all meaning, the five letters appearing to tower gargantuan on the page, its form a mockery of its own definition.

In the ongoing battle for console supremacy, size is a powerful weapon. Nintendo and Sony know only too well the persuasive and lucrative power of the shrink ray. The handheld wars have been fought using words such as ‘slim’ and ‘lite’, with consoles now being marketed to us via terminology usually reserved for health foods. It seems that when sales start to flag the boffins gather round their creation, wrap a belt around its waist, tell it to take a deep breath and then pull until it vomits up a puddle of money. The PS2 was subject to such a makeover, as was the Nintendo DS. The PSP has been the victim of two separate pound-shedding interventions, with the PSP Go primed to steal the 2000 Series’ streamlined thunder.

In truth, I have remained fairly indifferent to the slimming trend that console manufacturers are currently engaged in. Sure, it’s nice that the technology is improving in such a way that we can cram the same volume of digital wizardry into a progressively tinier space, but I’ve never felt the urge to replace my stocky old PS2 with a skinnier model. When we’re talking about a functional, stationary object, one that sits on a unit beneath your television or stacked on the carpet with its console brethren, the promise of an extra three square inches of floor space is not enough to make me consider shelling out more cash to downsize. There are other benefits to the new, more svelte models: some offer increased functionality, others are less power hungry than their predecessors. Still, enticing though some of these adjustments may be, none have prompted me to eye my current model with disgust, kick her fat ass down the stairs and shack up with the new girl and her slightly more prominent cheekbones. Until now.

PS3 Slim

Statistically speaking the PS3 Slim trumps Sony’s original effort in every conceivable way. Thanks to a new 45nm Cell processor and complete reworking of the internal components the PS3 Slim is 33 percent smaller and 36 percent lighter than the PS3 Fat (I’m not being catty, that’s what people are actually calling it). It now boasts energy saving credentials, requiring only two thirds the power of the older unit. A 120GB hard drive comes as standard and Sony have adapted the casing to give the modding crowd easier access, allowing them to swap the drive out for a bigger one without voiding the warranty. The RRP has also been cut down to a trim £249.99, with some stockists listing it as low as £229.99 since launch.

Yet none of these improvements are the catalyst for my change of heart. The PS3 Slim is an attractive proposition by default; not because the new unit is beauty incarnate, but because the PS3 Fat is arguably the single most oversized, overweight and downright hideous console that has ever been put to market. Granted, the PS2 was no looker, but after years of dominance I assumed that Sony would have invested serious man-hours and a substantial quantity of Yen to guarantee that their Third Way would be a super-sleek, super-sexy Microsoft-destroyer.

So it was with no small amount of horror that I unboxed the most cutting-edge console available to humankind, only to discover that I had purchased what appeared to be a 10-ton PS2 unit with a glossy paint job and George Foreman Grill glued to the top. To this day I have never heard one person argue that it was a handsome machine, never encountered a single soul who didn’t try to hide theirs in a corner or stash it behind the cable box in shame.

As with the S-M-L system, assessing an upgrade or improvement is only possible when you have a point of reference. It is this reference point that makes the PS3 Slim such a desirable upgrade for existing owners, more so than any console reinvention to date. The lesson to be learned from all this? If you want to pique interest in your new model and increase sales 1000 percent in a single week, just make sure that the old model is a dust-seducing, surface-obstructing, electricity-guzzling, sandwich toaster-looking abomination.







11 responses to “Better By Comparison”

  1. MarkuzR avatar

    I loved this! I loved it on several levels, the first of which being that we as a race have summed everything up into nothing more than three categories when it comes to consumerism. Reading it, everything made sense and was actually rather obvious in retrospect, but I had never actually considered it until reading this.

    I have never fallen prey to upgrading something purely because it’s more compact, more energy efficient, or anything ridiculous like that. In fact, I’m perhaps the opposite whereby everything I upgrade to is larger than before – televisions, projector resolutions etc.

    I remember taking my 19″ beast of a laptop through security at Prestwick Airport and have to answer with digust when the guard asked me “I take it this is a really old laptop?”. I was momentarily taken aback and suddenly spouted something along the lines of “Actually, it’s brand new and is just ridiculously powerful” to have him retort with “Everyone elses laptops are getting smaller and yours are getting bigger”.

    He was right though, and it wasn’t until my shoulder couldn’t take the weight anymore that I sold it on to my friend and downsized to a Vaio for travelling and a desktop for working at home. I had gone from ONE single laptop which was capable of supporting our entire workload as a home base as well as my travelling companion, to having TWO machines instead.

    For me, downsizing should only be a concern for convenience… but when it comes to the actual technology. Can I go large please?? 🙂

    Great blog, loved it!

  2. Tony avatar

    I’m sorry, James, but I couldn’t disagree more.

    My launch day “phat” PS3 is on proud display standing on it’s end next to my TV in all it’s shiny black monolithic glory. It’s huge, it’s shiny, it really makes an impact. When I look at the “dum dum dum dummmm dummm” music from 2001 comes into my head. I love its looks to bits. And with the upgraded hard drive I have in it I’d never consider replacing it with a Slim. It’s huge weight doesn’t bother me one bit, after all, it’s not a portable console!

    As for the Slim, sure it’s an incredible piece of technology, fitting all that they have into the box, especially considering that they STILL don’t have a massive external powerbrick like the other two current gen consoles. But, like the 360, in terms of looks it is boring, bland, pedestrian, cheap-looking and worklike. The best word to describe it visually is “Meh”.

  3. asamink avatar

    Bloody hell, the PS3 is a work of art, not to everyone’s taste but at least it made an effort to be a bit flash. The 360 on the other hand is so dull and boring, it looks as if no effort was spent in its design, so mind-numbing and functional. It is as interesting as the pot of houmous currently sitting in front of me.

  4. Lorna avatar

    As usual, another great, well thought out and interesting piece. It certainly looks better than the breadbinny original but I doubt that I’ll be shelling out for it since my PS3 is rarely used and I can’t justify it.

  5. Celeste avatar

    The original PS3, although as asamink rightly points out has always been far superior in terms of looks to the 360 which does indeed look like a child’s plaything, but unfortunately not one that any child would actually want to play with, is way too big and clunky. It’s just ridiculous that in this day and age (yes, I said it) we are still producing bricks like that. However, I will certainly not be replacing mine with a slim because it cost me so friggin much to buy the first time round, so if they think I’m forking out for another in my lifetime they can forget it!

    I do love the PS3 though. Seriously…

  6. Kirsten avatar

    I agree about the whole looks thing but I’m disappointed that the white PS3 never make an appearance here. Also I’m a big faceplate collector, that’s something I really like about the 360.

  7. Duncan avatar

    I always hated the Sony sales tactics.

    Always “improving” their hardware while neglecting the core reason to own it… the software!

    It’s totally ruined my faith in Sony, and when the PS4 comes out, I won’t buy it for the first 3 years at least. Why? Because I know they’ll release another one which does exactly the same thing… only it would also reduce my current consoles worth. GREAT!

    *Sigh*… backwards compatibility would have swung it for me with the Slim though. 🙂

  8. James avatar

    All this love for the PS3 Fat! If she could read she’d have big, shiny tears running down her big, shiny face. I knew you guys existed.

    I like the look of the 360. Sure it’s simple, utilitarian, but I approve of the all white (I have an Arcade, no nasty silver disc drawer for me!) gently contoured fascia. I agree that the power brick is a monstrosity, but at least it can be easily concealed while the actual unit remains accessible. It doesn’t scream “look at me”, which is a good thing, because it’s a games console and I’d rather be looking at the screen. Unfortunately, with the PS3 FAT I can’t do that because its enormous, obtrusive, reflective bulk is obscuring my HUD. That and the group of apes fighting over who gets to touch it.

    Tony, I’m afraid. My mind is going. I can feel it… ;P

  9. The Rook avatar
    The Rook

    I have yet to see what the PS3 Slim looks like properly, only seem the pictures so far. Although it doesn’t look as shiny as the PS3 original.

    It may be bulky and heavy, but it sits under my TV or a shelf, right next to the Xbox 360 and has no reason to move. As long as it plays games when I need it, it doesn’t matter whether it’s the new or the old version.

    The reason I bought mine when I did was because the new model have several changes including lack of backwards compatability. I may not play old Playstation games, but at least I have the choice.

  10. Gene avatar

    I would have bought a PS3 slim, due to its sleek design and smaller form factor. However, I bought an ugly, gigantic, old Foreman Grill 60GB model instead, because, for some reason, it’s the only one with the brains – of a PS2, that is. Sony pulled a fast one by removing the PS2 compatibility from all the new models. The ability to play PS3 games alone isn’t enough to compel me to pay $300, no matter how sexy it looks.

  11. Kristen Hiatt avatar

    i think you should just give it puppy chow/food. give it lots of toys to chew on, soft treats work best…. and make sure all of your cords are put up on rapped up becasue it would not be good if they got those… i would also recomend a lot of newspaper.

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