Convergence is more than a media buzzword – with the Sony PlayStation 3, it’s reality. The electronic device ostensibly designed for video games can do much more if you want it to: play Blu-ray and DVD movies, surf the Internet, act as a music player, photo browser or digital video viewer, play audio CDs, and even stream much of this content over the Internet to remote PSP systems.
For as long as the PS3 has been available, one of those extended features in particular has drawn the most attention: Blu-ray Disc playback. For years the PS3 was the most logical choice for a BD player – comparatively inexpensive, almost guaranteed to be kept up-to-date (as has been evidenced through the addition of Bonus View, BD-Live and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding capabilities), and whereas standalone player owners were complaining about multi-minute disc load times the PS3 has always zipped along at breakneck speed. Even now, while standalone players have become less expensive and made improvements to their overall performance, the PS3 continues to be the fastest and most responsive Blu-ray player you can buy.
Those who do not learn from history...
But for all of its whiz-bang media capabilities and blazing performance, the PS3 does a rather poor job of integrating itself with your audio/video system. Back in the design stage of the PS3, a decision was made to not include support for the industry’s standardized method of control: CIR, or “Consumer Infrared”. The PS3 already needed Bluetooth technology for its wireless game controllers, so in their forward-looking wisdom the PS3’s engineers decided that would be good enough for everything else as well.
Now there’s nothing wrong with Bluetooth as a technology. It’s just not something that’s used in the audio/video world, and this posed a compatibility issue.
Obviously the company’s prior experience with the PlayStation 2 failed to come to mind, where the mass market’s interest in using the system as a general DVD player prompted Sony to first release an IR add-on kit, and second to finally integrate the IR receiver directly in the console. Maybe they were thinking only as far back as the PSP, which originally came with IR capabilities that never ended up being utilized, and were ultimately dropped during the first design refresh. Or perhaps the Sony division responsible for standalone BD players simply didn’t want the inexpensive PS3 to be too attractive to home theater buyers – which would be ironic as the PS3 could arguably be responsible for Blu-ray’s ultimate victory over HD DVD.
Whatever the reason, at least one person at Sony realized that anyone watching a movie would probably not find the game controller the most intuitive tool for the job, and developed the official “Blu-ray Disc Remote Control” (read our review). This is a traditionally-shaped remote with an impressive 51 commands for every movie function you could ever want – even a few that haven’t been used yet. The issue is that this remote, just like the PS3 itself, uses Bluetooth for direct communications. It wasn’t designed to communicate with your audio/video devices, and the rest of your system wasn’t designed to communicate with it.... and that’s because except for the PS3, nothing else uses Bluetooth.