The Sony PlayStation 3 is a games machine and a Blu-ray player. I got it mostly for the latter purpose. I mentioned in Good Deal on Sony PlayStation 3 that I've bought a PlayStation 3 in hopes that I would be getting it for its normal price of $399.99 minus a $150 credit for getting a Sony PlayStation VISA card. I have run into problems actually securing the credit, but I do have the PS3, and I love it!
The PS3's nominal $400 price tag is a bit high, just for a Blu-ray player — but if my $150 credit comes through, my total outlay will be just a reasonable $250, plus shipping. For that amount, the buyer (me) gets what amounts to pretty much a state-of-the-art Blu-ray machine ... and a game player, too!
For those who have been living under a rock recently, Blu-ray is the videodisc format that is heir-presumptive to the DVD. Where a standard-definition DVD looks pretty darn good on an HDTV, a Blu-ray disc, or BD, is high-definition and looks superb. To play BDs, you need a Blu-ray player. It will also play DVDs just like a DVD player does, so your DVDs will never be orphans.
BD-Videos (commercially recorded BDs that physically look like DVDs, but aren't) can record movies and other fare in 1920 x 1080p high-definition. Movies use a frame rate of 24 frames per second, just as they do on film. My New Samsung LN52A650 TV, a 52-inch flat panel LCD HDTV, accepts 1920 x 1080p/24 input from the PlayStation over an HDMI cable, as will many current HDTV models on the market today. That means its 1920 x 1080p display screen is being fed, pixel for pixel, with exactly what's on the disc.
In other words, each pixel in the TV's array of 1,080 rows of 1,920 pixels per row has a different pixel to display every 1/24 second. Each screen pixel is equivalent to a tiny picture detail. You can't get better spatial resolution than that! Moreover, from movies shot at 24 fps you get every frame as is without the compromises inherent in conforming the video signal to a "normal" television rate of 60 fps.
Today, virtually any currently sold model of Blu-ray player, when combined with just about any current model of 1080p HDTV, and connected to it by HDMI, can do the same thing. This stunning video capability, even if it is head and shoulders above high-def broadcast TV, is nothing unique to either my PS3 or my Samsung TV. (It is unique, however, to the Blu-ray disc.)
Where the PS3 really excels, though, is in its support for BD-Live.
BD-Live is also known as BD-Video Profile 2.0, and not all current Blu-ray players support it. Many earlier players still on the market today support only Profile 1.1 — a.k.a. "Bonus View" — which is not BD-Live — and some very early Blu-ray players supported only the "Grace Period" profile, Profile 1.0.
BD-Live, if also supported by the particular disc you are playing on the PS3 or some other BD-Live capable Blu-ray player, allows richer interactive content, linked to over the Internet — assuming you do as I did and point your PS3 to a wireless (or Ethernet-based, wired) network in your home.
That's right: if your Blu-ray player is like the PS3 and supports BD-Live Profile 2.0, and if the disc you are playing also supports it, you can in effect hop on the Internet from your Blu-ray player and do things like play additional bonus material like director's commentaries. There are various types of interactive content unlike anything on DVD. Among the types of special BD-Live content that I have found with the BD of Disney's WALL-E, the first BD-Video I looked at, are chat rooms and interactive games based on the movie.
In the future, all new Blu-ray players and all newly released BD titles are expected to offer BD-Live. You should not — repeat, should not — buy a player today that does not support BD-Live, a.k.a. Profile 2.0. Remember: if you fail to heed this advice, you may wind up with a player that is already obsolescent.
People who bought any of the early PS3 models that were sold before BD-Live appeared on the market are the exception to the obsolescence rule. The PS3 has always been firmware-upgradable, and firmware upgrades (the current level is 2.50) have given it, among numerous other crucial improvements, BD-Live capability.