December 20, 2007 The PlayStation 3 firmware update 2.10 arrived yesterday, adding Blu-ray Disc Profile 1.1 support, and more importantly, XviD and DivX playback. We recently brought you the low down on XviD/DivX playback on the Xbox 360, and now we've spent another strenuous morning watching videos - here's our report on Sony's implementation.
Much like the Xbox 360, we couldn't find a file the PlayStation 3 wouldn't play. Videos can be played from a USB device, although accessing them is relatively unintuitive - if you simply navigate to a USB device from the Video menu, the menu will say "There are no titles." Instead, you need to select the USB device, hit Triangle instead of X, and select "Display All" from the menu. Then you will see the video files (and everything else) and can either play the file or copy it to your PS3.
One really cool feature is the thumbnail previews - they're not just a static image, but a 15 second clip of video that loops in the Video menu. When files are copied to the drive, a thumbnail is made from the first 15 seconds of the clip automatically - but at any stage while viewing, you can set the next 15 seconds of footage as the thumbnail for the clip.
During our test of video playback on the Xbox 360, we found a couple of 16:9 videos that the Xbox 360 couldn't automatically fill the 16:9 test screen with. These same videos were automatically scaled to fill the screen when thrown at the PS3. For playback of 4:3 content on a 16:9 screen, you'll have the standard options - Zoom, Full Screen and Original - although it would be nice to be able to set a default for this.
Those of you using TVersity on a PC or EyeConnect on OS X will be glad to hear that streaming XviD and DivX to the PS3 over a network works fine in both these applications - with no transcoding necessary.
While the menu quirks leave room for improvement, Sony's implementation of the codecs sure beats the hell out of transcoding - even if you already have software set up to do it automatically. Even the hardcore types with an Xbox 360 and PS3 might find themselves leaning towards using the PS3 for their media playback - there's no question it's a quieter, longer-lasting system, and the easily user-upgradable hard drive means you can archive a huge amount of content on the system - while Xbox 360 users are stuck paying out the nose for Microsoft's proprietary 120GB hard drives.
It's refreshing to see the consumers winning out in the console wars - with stiff competition being the only reason Sony or Microsoft would even consider supporting "pirate's choice" codecs.
Update: A reader has tipped us to the fact that placing the videos in a folder called "VIDEO" on the USB drive makes them appear in the Video menu without using "Display All". This also works for photos ("PHOTO" directory) and music ("MUSIC" directory). Thanks Steve!