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PlayStation (Games) Entertainment Games

A History of the Shrinking Game Console 107

After Sony's announcement of the PS3 Slim earlier this week, CNet took a look back at size-reducing hardware revisions over the past couple decades in console design, noting that they're gradually arriving sooner and sooner after the initial release. "Does that mean it'll creep even lower, into two-year or even yearly cycles between major revisions? Quite possibly, yes. It's worked very well with handheld gaming devices, and even some consumer electronics devices like iPods. Apple has turned out slimmer, more powerful versions of the iPod every year since 2001, and yearly events like E3 put continued pressure on console makers to show off something big. In the case of the PS3 Slim though, it could just be that the PS3 had to be pushed out to meet its launch window, and that the Slim is what Sony was going for in the first place. Advances in the PlayStation 3's core technology, like the cell processor, also underwent changes since the console launched, including changes to fabrication that have taken the chip down from 90 nanometers to 65, then 45 — the size that can be found inside the Slim. These changes meant less power consumption, smaller components, and easier cooling."
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A History of the Shrinking Game Console

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  • by Lonewolf666 ( 259450 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @01:28PM (#29164625)

    Games could be downloaded, or flash memory could become cheap that games are distributed on memory cards (again). Only this time in a smaller format. That alone would make the consoles of the future smaller.

    Otherwise, it depends on with how much heat to get rid of they start out. If the example of the Wii (to try something new rather than maximize graphics performance) catches on, even the first generation of a new console might be smaller than we are used to.

  • Re:Duh? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kell Bengal ( 711123 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @02:03PM (#29164913)
    What surprises me is that anyone particularly cares about the physical size of consoles.

    So long as it's small enough to carry home from the store it doesn't need to be portable. It doesn't need to run off batteries, either, so as long as it doesn't cause your lights to dim or make the lounge room into a sauna, who cares how much power it draws?

    Now don't get me wrong - technological improvements are desirable and all, but as a consumer I'd much rather go Nintendo's route and buy the same console cheaper, rather than a smaller console at the same price.

    Alternatively, perhaps they could use to resources to invest in getting the next generation console out sooner?

  • by rbanffy ( 584143 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @02:09PM (#29164993) Homepage Journal

    I am not happy this version is no longer capable of running Linux or any other OS besides Sony's own.

    OTOH, its RAM would make for a nasty user experience when running just about anything.

    I can't believe it's hard to build a Cell-based desktop system the size of the PS3, but with plenty RAM and a nice GPU that would not play PS3 games. Software compatibility should, today, be a non-issue - there are many full-feature desktop OSs (or different versions of a couple) that can run on Cell. And since it's not a console, they could sell it for a profit. I would buy a Linux-running Windows-proof box for the price of a Dell

    In the early 90s, IIRC, Sony made a very nice line of MIPS-based Unix workstations. They could do it again.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 23, 2009 @02:16PM (#29165043)

    When I got my Xbox 360, I was shocked that a product in general sale could be this noisy. Reading the specs of the noiselevel on the new PS3 indicates that it too generates a fair amount of noise. I'd be perfectly happy if the box was twice as big if it could be dead-quiet.

  • by TeknoHog ( 164938 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @02:48PM (#29165269) Homepage Journal

    Yeah, it's a shame that so much great hardware is going to waste, due to this closed appliance mentality. The PS3 is just the tip of the iceberg, notable because we can see it being closed, from the previous somewhat open state. At least you can still buy a 'fat' version.

    I recall that the PS2 used to have a Linux kit so that it could be sold with a lower tax as a computer, rather than a toy. I wonder if this was the case with the PS3 as well, now that the computer functionality is being removed.

  • Where's the fan? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wdhowellsr ( 530924 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @02:49PM (#29165273)
    I completely agree that smaller is better for portable gaming systems but hate the fact that there is this belief that console based systems have to be so small. What really drives me crazy is when processing speed, storage size and cooling is sacrificed so it can be smaller.

    I would much rather have a kick-a$# system that doesn't suffer from overheating problems and comes with a whole lot of storage than some pretty little thing that is dumb as a brick when it gets to hot.
  • by m50d ( 797211 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @02:58PM (#29165349) Homepage Journal
    And since it's not a console, they could sell it for a profit. I would buy a Linux-running Windows-proof box for the price of a Dell

    And there's the rub - for Sony to make a profit on it, they'd have to charge much more than the equivalent Dell. (I'm speaking of equivalent in terms of user experience - any non-x86 architecture gets you more theoretical - but less practical - bang for the buck)

  • by wagnerrp ( 1305589 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @03:38PM (#29165625)

    IBM makes Cell servers, but even those are pretty scarce on memory. You have two problems:

    • XDR memory is ridiculously expensive, and honestly, the Cell should have been built so the XDR was basically a huge L4 cache, using DDR2 for low speed memory. Developers would have had a lot more leeway if they didn't have as much XDR, but instead had access to a bunch of cheap, slow DDR2.
    • Your still stuck with an dual-execute in-order core. Most programs are not going to add support for the SPEs, so you're stuck with an expensive desktop with poor Atom-like performance.

    On the other hand you have something like the Spursengine [wikipedia.org]. It's basically half a Cell, running at half the clockrate, attached over PCI-Express. It provides something like 50GFLOPS at ~20W, but the only one I could find costs $500. You can get a dual Cell blade with 2GB of memory for only $3K, neither of which are something a consumer is going to want to buy.

    The real problem is that all this GPGPU stuff started happening around the same time, and consumers have just as much power in a cheap card that they already have in their PC. Even still, there is hardly any market for such a device. Sure, HPC users love it, but in the consumer market, we have one or two video encoders, they're not considerably faster than a decent computer running x264, and produce significantly lesser video quality.

  • by ArundelCastle ( 1581543 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @04:22PM (#29165995)

    You are surprised that CNET's level of "research" didn't even pass the wikipedia test?

    C'mon, this is CNET.

    Lowensohn even got the Wikipedia citations that he did use wrong. He's labeled the Super Famicom Jr. as the Super Nintendo Jr., something that doesn't exist. No way in hell does the Jr. follow from the western SNES design, but there's still an arrow there for some reason...

    The reason for not having the NES is apparently because it's too old. No "Four generations ago".
    He should have called it "a compact history." Bloody commercial bloggers.

  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @06:08PM (#29166761) Journal
    Is it? My current (cheap) home Internet connection is 10Mb/s, and I can sustain around 1.1MB/s for downloads. At that speed it would take 13 hours to download the game. How many 50GB games can you finish in under 13 hours? You just need to download enough to play the first level and then have it download the rest while you're playing. Actually, how many games even take a single-layer, 25GB, Blu Ray disk?

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