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How do I get the most out of the PS3?
March 25, 2010 8:44 AM   Subscribe

Please help me get the most out of our new PS3!

I've seen this question and this question, and, while they overlap partially with my own queries, they don't address exactly what I'm after.

I bought a PS3 recently because our old DVD player crapped out, and I wanted a good, reasonably priced Blu-Ray machine. The PS3's ability to play games was a nice little bonus.

Now that I have the machine properly (HDMI/optical) hooked up to a nice TV and a good stereo system, and have been futzing around with it, I am beginning to understand that this is a really powerful device with tremendous media-server capacities. I'm very impressed with the thing.

So far, I know how to:
- play games
- watch DVDs and BDs
- surf the web
- stream movies to the PS3 via Netflix
- download games, etc., from the PlayStation Network
- mess around with PlayStation Home (which I find very silly, but maybe there's something I haven't realized about it yet?)
- access the "Life with PlayStation" features, like the "news from around the world" thing and the Distributed Computing (which I love).

So now I'm wondering how I can "get the most out of" the PS3. By which I mean:
- I'd like to watch shows from Hulu.com on the PSP. I realize there are difficulties with this, but am not sure of the work-arounds.
- Is there any further use for PlayStation Home?
- How do I enable other nifty features of Life with PlayStation? This feature seems to me to have some potential.
- How do I set up this machine to be a media server? I ask this not knowing entirely what a media server is. I understand that I can view photos, listen to songs, etc. What else?
- If I were the kind of person who downloaded Torrent files of movies or TV shows, would I be able to view said Torrent files, via the PS3, on my TV? Hypothetically, of course.
- Suggestions for games (many of which have been made in those other two threads) are welcome, too. Especially the kind that you play online with pals. (Wanna play PS3 games with me online? Lemme know!)

Basically, what do YOU do with your PS3? I'm not looking for "hacks" per se, but ways in which you've found this device to be useful.

Related, somewhat more specific, questions:
- I have a PSP, as well, and have "paired" it with the PS3. But I'm not 100% clear on what this allows me to do. Can I now use the PSP as a second controller for PS3 games, e.g.?
- Now that I've signed up for the PlayStation Network, I get these annoying, scrolling advertisements at the top right corner of the screen. I can't figure out how to turn these off. Can you?

Many thanks!
posted by Dr. Wu to Technology (32 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
 
PS3 Media Server allows you to share music/movies/photos on your PC with the PS3. It has some built-in transcoding capabilities, so most videos (including hypothetically torrented files) should work more or less painlessly, though maybe with a delay while some videos are transcoded.
posted by Alterscape at 8:53 AM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


- I'd like to watch shows from Hulu.com on the PSP. I realize there are difficulties with this, but am not sure of the work-arounds.

I don't think this will work. Last time I checked my PSP, it didn't have flash video support.

- How do I set up this machine to be a media server? I ask this not knowing entirely what a media server is. I understand that I can view photos, listen to songs, etc. What else?

I don't actually believe that the PS3 will act as a media server. Usually, people use the PS3 as the display device for media hosted on a different server. In most cases, a media server is just a file server with media on it. But, you can also do streaming services from a media server.

Setting this up is a question in and of itself.

- If I were the kind of person who downloaded Torrent files of movies or TV shows, would I be able to view said Torrent files, via the PS3, on my TV? Hypothetically, of course.

Yep. Just copy them to the PS3's harddrive, or access them from a local server (which could be your desktop with a proper media server installed).

- I have a PSP, as well, and have "paired" it with the PS3. But I'm not 100% clear on what this allows me to do. Can I now use the PSP as a second controller for PS3 games, e.g.?

No, it can't be used as a second controller--it doesn't have enough analog sticks, for a start. However, the PSP can be used to play PlayStation games that you download from the PlayStation Network store. Those will play on the screen of the PSP, but with content streamed over from the PS3.

- Now that I've signed up for the PlayStation Network, I get these annoying, scrolling advertisements at the top right corner of the screen. I can't figure out how to turn these off. Can you?

As far as I, or anyone I've ever spoken to, can tell, there is no way to turn off any of the advertising in the interface. This includes the obnoxious PSN links in every menu. Sorry.
posted by Netzapper at 8:56 AM on March 25, 2010


Thanks for the answers so far! Looking forward to more!

I should have mentioned that we have WiFi enabled in the house, and on the PS3 (and PSP), though the connection is pretty slow, alas. Not sure if it matters, but there it is.
posted by Dr. Wu at 9:06 AM on March 25, 2010


Oh, also: I made an error above. I'd like to watch Hulu, etc., videos on the PS3, not on the PSP. Sorry!
posted by Dr. Wu at 9:09 AM on March 25, 2010


Suggestions for games (many of which have been made in those other two threads) are welcome, too. Especially the kind that you play online with pals. (Wanna play PS3 games with me online? Lemme know!)

- Battlefield Bad Company is fun, and I'm not into first person shooters. I'm a total noob, but wasted a day in the online mode getting killed a lot.

- Sacred 2: Fallen Angel is sort of a spiritual successor to the old PS2 Baldur's Gate/Champions of Norrath games that my girlfriend & I enjoyed immensely, but with a more online multiplayer focus.
posted by MesoFilter at 9:17 AM on March 25, 2010


Uncharted 2 is outstanding. Read the reviews.
posted by jasondigitized at 9:20 AM on March 25, 2010


Playstation Home is, in my opinion, just a marketing platform for Sony. There are some games actually available in PS Home--some apartments have built-in games, there's a bowling alley, the area outside the mall has some games, and now there's an entire space dedicated to the in-Home racing game called Sodium One--but I haven't found them to be interesting.

One thing I have used in PS Home is voicechat. The PS3 has video and text chat from the XMB, but you can "call" another PS3 user if you're in PS Home. It can come in handy if you're tired of text messaging.

I think PS Home aspires to be a place for players to meet up and launch into multiplayer games from Home. But very few games offer than functionality. It seems most multiplayer gamers either use a game's native matching service or have other ways to find people to play with (real life friends, internet forums, etc.)
posted by Anephim at 9:23 AM on March 25, 2010


As for game recommendations, my friends and I have had a blast with Borderlands.

I've read good things about Battlefield: Bad Company, but it's not my kind of game. If you like "realistic" military shooters like Modern Warfare, B:BC seems to be more fun than Modern Warfare and Killzone 2.

I really like RPGs like Fallout 3 and Dragon Age: Origins. Both of those games have inexpensive downloadable add-ons that give a lot of extra play value.

Fat Princess is an online multiplayer game that's you can get from the PSN store. It's a lot of fun, too.

I also still like Unreal Tournament 3 for run-and-gun madness. You can usually find it for about $10 at used game shops.
posted by Anephim at 9:32 AM on March 25, 2010


You should check out PlayOn media server. You can view Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, MLB.tv, etc. Very slick service.

AFA using the PSP, it can also be utilized as a portable screen for when you want to sit somewhere there isn't a TV (use your imagination on that), but want to continue watching programs that are running the the PS3. 'Course, this is contingent on how robust your network connection is. I've heard of folks using it remotely, but it's only worked for me when I'm connected to the same local network.

2nding Uncharted 2. Great game.
posted by jasondbarr at 9:33 AM on March 25, 2010


Oh, and check out Greed Corp if you like turn based strategy. Available from the PSN store. Lots of fun for $10.
posted by jasondbarr at 9:34 AM on March 25, 2010


for a wired network PS3 media server is great, over wifi....not so much so get the program mkv2vob, this transcodes .mkv files very quickly to play on the PS3.

Get the Sony remote too, cause the controller is no good as a remote control
posted by MarvinJ at 9:40 AM on March 25, 2010


On preview I'll second PlayOn. It works pretty well.
posted by sevenless at 9:48 AM on March 25, 2010


I use our PS3 to display photo slide shows on our TV. We have a wireless Mac network. I downloaded the PS3 media server software and installed it on the Mac Mini where we keep all of the photos. Get that up and running, then fire up the PS3. Providing you've already got the PS3 recognizing your home wifi, it should find your media server automatically. Connect, browse to the directory where your photos are (it helps to pre-create some folders with specific kinds of photos: vacation, dog, kids, whatever) and click on the folder you want to see. You'll be given several options for the style of slide show it can display. Note! You need some high resolution photos for them not to look cruddy on a big TV screen!

I could just as easily use the PS3 to play music files (also stored on the Mac Mini), but I've already got a somewhat redundant system set up for doing that, so I haven't bothered.
posted by rhartong at 9:51 AM on March 25, 2010


Will play on work from Canada?
I like downloading the demos from the sony store lots of play in just that
just cause 2 demo is awesome :-)
I like battlefield 1943 too
posted by SatansCabanaboy at 9:56 AM on March 25, 2010


I second PS3 Media Server as well, it is extremely simple to use. It does music, pictures, and videos, also the ones that your PS3 cannot decode (your PC/MAC does it instead).

For games:
- Uncharted 2 is the best third-person shooter on any platform right now IMO. Great online multiplayer as well.
- Borderlands is "Diablo with guns". This can either be amazing or very poor. Has offline and online co-op.
- Heavy Rain is a must, read about it on the internet, I absolutely adore it.
- God of War 1 and 2 are sold together for 40$. Great action games. Note older-gen (PS2 graphics. Yet God of War 3 is just out and received rave reviews.
- LittleBigPlanet is a great mutiplayer platformer. (Online and Offline). You can download millions (literally) of user-made maps.
- You can get: Half-Life 2, HF2: Episode 1, HF2: Episode 2, Portal and Team Fortress 2 on a single Blu-Ray for about 20$.
- If you like tower defense games: Savage Moon, PixelJunk Monsters and Comet Crash are great.
-Also, the PixelJunk downloadable games are pure (offline) multiplayer fun!
posted by Monte_Cristo at 10:13 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can I ask how your streaming netflix works out for you because I have terrible difficulties with it? I mostly watch TV shows on streaming netflix and I have yet to watch one that didn't stop at some point (a few minutes in, most of the way in, almost over) and restart the download. I haven't found good info about this either at netflix.com or elsewhere on the internet and I wondered if this is a common problem. Is is possible to store the whole show locally, then watch it or is this some DRM measure that is going to plague me no matter what?

I was using the PS3 wirelessly, but have since run a very long cable to connect it directly, which helped but did not solve the problem. Can someone point to an idiot's guide to getting the netflix to work without the stops and restarts?
posted by crush-onastick at 10:14 AM on March 25, 2010


Another thing about those hypothetical downloaded files -- the PS3 does not play XVID transcoded avi files. So pay attention to see if the transcoding software is listed. And let me recommend Heavy Rain. A very different kind if video game that is worth a look.
posted by rtimmel at 10:17 AM on March 25, 2010


- Uncharted 2 is the best third-person shooter on any platform right now IMO. Great online multiplayer as well.

Technically, it's not a shooter. It's a platformer. But it is spectacular. Here's my review of it.

Heavy Rain is a must, read about it on the internet, I absolutely adore it.

Unless, of course, you don't like quick-time events. Because the whole damn game is a QTE. Here's the Zero Punctuation review.

- You can get: Half-Life 2, HF2: Episode 1, HF2: Episode 2, Portal and Team Fortress 2 on a single Blu-Ray for about 20$.

Yes, you can get them. But there's a giant, intensely annoying audio bug that slowly presents itself over about an hour of play--the entire soundtrack turns to static, one channel at a time. Perhaps if you're only using stereo sound thsi isn't an issue; but on my 5.1 setup, the Orange Box is totally unplayable.
posted by Netzapper at 10:25 AM on March 25, 2010


I put entire TV series on a USB thumb drive, plug it in, and have a media library just sitting there waiting. As MarvinJ noted, streaming HD over wireless is not ideal, but with transcoding you can play essentially anything from a USB stick. Mkv2vob has been very reliable for me. Put video files in a folder titled "Video" so the PS3 will find them automatically.

I use the same USB stick for music, via iTunes. You can drag songs directly out of the iTunes window onto the USB folder (titled "Music"). The playlist controls are very rudimentary, but it can be nice to just start it up and forget it, with the decent visualizations it does. You can plug in an iPod as well, though it doesn't seem to like the iPhone much.

As for games, they were mentioned in both other threads, but Flow and Flower can never be recommended too often.
posted by thermogenesis at 10:27 AM on March 25, 2010


We watch hulu.com stuff on our PS3 via TVersity, a free download to the computers on our home wireless network. It also sends pictures, video, and music to our PS3. I like this program a lot.

And our netflix downloading is seamless. After we activated an account, netflix sent us a DVD style disk. When it is inserted in the PS3, we can watch whatever is available on streaming netflix. (Since the netflix interface is not easy to search for particular items, we generally prefer the DVDs that come in the mail, however.)

I love the PS3 for gaming, but it is worth it just for the quality of its DVD play.back. Everything looks and sounds better, whether or not it is blu ray.
posted by bearwife at 10:35 AM on March 25, 2010


Heavy Rain was fun, but has zero replay value. I thought Dragon Age: Origins got mixed reviews, but I loved Baldur's Gate & it's supposed to be a (single player) successor to that game, so it may get a look from me - I'd rather a 2 player (same console) version, though.

I wasn't aware they'd made a Fallout for the PS3... I'd heard good things about the PS2 version. Does it really do multiplayer? Wikipedia says it's single player only.

+1 Uncharted 2 as a good platformer. It's won all sorts of awards - might make sense to go through the first one, though. Again, mostly a single player affair.

+1 God of War, +1 Little Big Planet (though it's a bit too cutesy for me - I prefer more of a plot & tougher challenges).

+1 just download the demo from the Sony Store.

Oh, and the Lord of The Rings game got mixed reviews & I didn't like the demo, but on second blush, it looks promising.
posted by MesoFilter at 10:42 AM on March 25, 2010


To be clear, you can't view the torrent file itself on the ps3, and the ps3 will not download the torrented files for you. You can view the resulting .avi or whatever after you've downloaded it to a pc.

the PS3 does not play XVID transcoded avi files.

Has for several firmwares. IIRC, it won't play xvid/divx if it was encoded with some advanced options, but I don't think I've seem more than one or two (out of hundreds) of divx/xvids that used those options.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:42 AM on March 25, 2010


Second the Netflix streaming. You get the DVD in the mail, and it lets you stream anything they have that is stream-able. Ours works flawlessly (internet connection is cable).

If you have Windows 7, google for how to connect your PS3 to the Home Group on your computer. This will let you access music, photos, etc, whatever media you have on your computer.
posted by mikeand1 at 10:46 AM on March 25, 2010


I play video files off USB sticks or an external hard drive (connected via the PS3's mini-USB controller charging cable). As ROU_Xenophobe said, the PS3 plays nearly any downloaded file without problem. MKV files are the only one's I've had to transcode, but there's solutions pointed out in this thread.

Note that the PS3's XMB (cross media bar) is a bit clumsy when searching through external drives. Scroll to the media type (audio or video) you want, scroll down to the drive, press triangle and choose 'Display All'. The folders on the drive appear and you can browse through to the correct location. If the PS3 can play the file under the media type you've selected, the file will appear. In other words, audio files won't appear if you're searching in the video XMB menu. Also, if you have a lot of subfolders, like folders for each artist under a general 'Music' folder, the PS3 takes an extremely long time to display all of the folders. Some don't appear. I've had trouble trying to listen to a specific artist off of my external HD.

Netflix streaming has been good, not great, for me. I've had no problems with the actual playback, but several times I've had to re-connnect my system to my Netflix account. Just a minor PITA. I've also had problems with some titles not appearing in the instant stream queue on the PS3 while they DO appear online. FWIW I connect the PS3 directly to my router, which connects to the cable modem.

PSN demos are awesome, as are the actual paid downloadable games. Nthing the Pixel Junk games (Monsters, Eden, Shooter, Racer) and Fat Princess. There's hundreds of games and dozens of them are VERY good.

Depending on which version of the PS3 you bought, you may be able to play PS1 and PS2 games. That, obviously, opens up a whole new world of possibilities.
posted by steeb2er at 11:41 AM on March 25, 2010


MKV files are the only one's I've had to transcode

Strictly speaking, most mkv's don't need to be transcoded; they usually just need to have their audio and video streams extracted and repackaged as an avi. This usually takes maybe ten, fifteen minutes for a ~5GB 720p file.

When they need to be actually transcoded, it takes hours.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:58 AM on March 25, 2010


This question got me squared away with the downloaded videos.

I'm on a Mac so I use handbrake to convert (it solves the "some movies sound works on my PS3 and others don't" question) but one think i've just googled is handbrake primarily converts for smaller devices so when I copy to my PS3 to play on my big tv I sometimes lose quality. I'd be interested to find a better avi transcoder or suggestions to overcome what i've encountered using handbrake (sorry don't mean to hijack but this may be something you'll also run into).
posted by doorsfan at 1:23 PM on March 25, 2010


Mac Users:
* The Vuze bit torrent client also acts as a DLNA server and will transcode for PS3 (Very Nice)
* PS3 Media Server is extremely nice also, but only streams/ transcodes existing files

General PS3 Stuff:
* Definitely get the BD Remote. Its worth it.
* I don't play too many games, but I really liked Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 2
posted by dantodd at 3:49 PM on March 25, 2010


I've got mine set up with wifi (which I'm trying to fix. It works most of the time, but it's not without dropped signal in the middle of a game issues), and an NAS drive. As mentioned above, streaming HD over wifi is touch and go. On the other hand, if you were the kind of person to use torrents, most episodic tv shows (non-HD, around 400-500MB for a show) will be fine. Music is also a pretty good option.

Depending on the PS3 you've just bought, it might not be an issue, but upgrading the hard drive is easy, and makes it simple to store media on the PS3 itself. For example, you can't create playlists unless the music is actually stored on the PS3. If you've got the 250, or even the 120, maybe you won't need to upgrade. If you do, though, it's really, really simple.

Keep your eyes open. Here in Japan, they've just released a little box called Torne. It turns the PS3 into a DVR. I bought it yesterday, installed it, recorded a show my wife was going to miss, then loaded it onto her PSP so she could watch it on the train this morning. It was about $90. I don't know if it'll ever be sold outside of Japan (here it can only record the terrestrial digital channels, no cable channels), but it's absolutely fantastic.

As for looking better, the PS3 really does a great job of upscaling DVDs. I have no proof, but I'd argue it does the same with media files. Basketball games might look like crap on my pc screen, but they look great through the PS3. Watching tv last night through the Torne (instead of just using the tv) I could swear the picture was even clearer and sharper than usual.

As for games, Battlefield is pretty good. It's better than MW2 in a lot of ways, and teamwork is really important. For example, spotting is crucial. MW2 is good for short, ten minute adrenaline bursts, but there's no real feeling of accomplishment like you get from winning a rush round.

Little Big Planet, Heavy Rain, Arkham Asylum are all great. Burnout Paradise is a good driving game, and on the PSN, Bomberman is a great party game.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:57 PM on March 25, 2010


I've gotten a hell of a lot of bang for the buck out of my PS3, and I got bored rather quickly when I used to have a PS2 and regular Xbox. It's indeed a great DVD player and decent living room web surfing device. Not only do Blu Ray discs look great, as a networked player, you get features on the discs that many cheapo blu ray players can't use. As testament to its' quality, I believe the PS3 is the Criterion Collection's reference player of choice. Honestly I haven't done too much with the 'media server' aspects of it other than throw in a DVD-R of mp3s and let it play. I've been meaning to try Pandora and Last.fm and see if that stuff works well, but haven't yet. Maybe it's my age, patience, or whatever, but I've been MUCH more successful at playing through, finishing, and enjoying games for the PS3, too:

My Faves:

Metal Gear Solid IV: This is quite a game. I'm a fan of the series and Kojima's other stuff, but this one was really awesome. I think it's priced at a 'Greatest Hits' level now, and I'd say it's a must buy to experience it, but ultimately it's a Kojima project, and he does things his way. It's really, REALLY heavy on cutscenes, though. Especially the like, what, hour and a half of straight cutscenes at the very end? Not kidding, it's long.

Fallout 3: Bought this the same day as the PS3. Another series I am fond of. This is pretty excellent with some weak points. VATS (you can play it as an FPS or not, VATS is the alternative to raw FPS'n) is a great feature for those burnt out on FPS like me. I loved the open ended ness of this game and the plot you could dip in and out of. Unfortunately, I never finished every quest in the game because the DLC (which was so-so) made it very buggy.

Heavy Rain: I think I probably bought my PS3 for this one, ultimately. It was announced like four years ago and probably was one of the things I was really impressed by, demo-wise, coming out for the machine. This is like, one of my favorite video game experiences, period. I don't think I've ever played a game from beginning to end in almost ONE SITTING. It probably took about 10 hours, though I did break for dinner. You're either going to hate this or it will absolutely blow you away. I'll agree, once I played it through once, and then replayed some stuff to get a 'better' ending, I was DONE. It's a really emotionally draining experience, it's hard to explain. You kinda don't want to go through it again, yet it was incredibly enjoyable? I'll hang onto it until all of the DLC is released, though.

Not a fan:

Bioshock: I bought this because it was so praised. I found it very weak. Enemies irritated me, plot was stupid, ending was stupid (I was given the bad ending because I harvested ONE little sister and saved the rest). Sound design annoyed me (like, when there's 8 enemies all chattering plus those machines, plus a voice over, it's like, jesus. headache). Sorry, everyone.

Grand Theft Auto IV: I was very let down with this after being enamoured with Vice City when it was released. I think, ultimately, it's just more of the same, with somewhat improved graphics (though not up to par for other PS3 games I thought). Thought the storyline, characters, etc were all kinds of hokey. Missions are the same old crap. Was just too bored to get very far into it. Maybe someday.

Call of Duty 4: Not terrible, but I got bored with this one early on. Some improvements to the typical FPS thing, but it's like, eh. I'm just not much of an FPS'r, gave it a chance.

Unreal Tournament (or whatever it was): Bargain bin. Not terrible, not great. See above.


The Jury is still out:

Final Fantasy XIII: Another series I like, but am not obsessed with. Fantastic graphics. Certain things about it bother the shit out of me (on rails, no towns, limited grinding, scarce items, hours upon hours of 2-person partying) and certain things I like (combat system is different and rewarding when you figure out how to beat a foe). I'm a little more than half way finished.

Little Big Planet: I can see the appeal. This game is insanely cute. I'm not sure I'm the target audience whatsoever. I've tried to like it, but I think you have to be a pretty big platform fan to truly enjoy this as an adult. Opening credit sequence is amazing. Honestly, this feels like a Wii thing with thousand-times-better graphics.
posted by tremspeed at 7:55 PM on March 25, 2010


Fallout for the PS3... I'd heard good things about the PS2 version. Does it really do multiplayer? Wikipedia says it's single player only.

It's not multiplayer. The PS fallout game 'Fallout: Brotherhood Of Steel' is very different, more of an action game than the old Fallout RPGs. Fallout 3 is kind of a reboot of the series, though that's contrary to Bethesda's stance.
posted by tremspeed at 8:19 PM on March 25, 2010


can't believe forgot about Fallout3.

An absolute must have game for the PS3. Massive map, fun and loads of replay value.

The GOTY edition is out now so you can get all the DLC on the one disc.


Uncharted2 is a great game, wonderous graphics, but a wee bit short, though maybe I just played it in too long sessions!
posted by MarvinJ at 2:56 AM on March 26, 2010


Thanks, everyone - you've given me some really great suggestions and tips. I've started downloading software and plan to jazz up the PS3 quite a bit. Muchas gracias!
posted by Dr. Wu at 5:04 AM on March 26, 2010


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