First impressions: Sony's PS3 3D Blu-ray upgrade

Yesterday we reported on Sony's long-awaited 3D upgrade for the PlayStation 3 (v3.50). We experienced a few issues with initial set-up when using our test Sony Bravia TVs, so reckoned we should spend a bit more time testing our upgraded PS3 with a mix of components.

To that end, we put together a test system comprising of a Sony KDL-46HX903 TV, Pioneer VSX-LX53 AV receiver (HDMI 1.4), Classe SSP-800 processor (HDMI 1.3), and Wireworld 1.4-spec HDMI cables.

For software, we used 3D Blu-rays of Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs, Coraline and the Official Sony 3D test sampler.

So, how did we get on? Well, here are our initial findings:

1. 3D Blu-ray works perfectly well. In fact, in direct picture-quality comparisons with a Sony BDP-S570, it's very hard to split the two: surprisingly, on some occasions we actually preferred the PS3. This, in itself, has to be regarded as an amazing achievement for Sony Computer Entertainment, given that the upgrade cost is precisely nil.

2. As per expectation, attempting to run 3D over HDMI on a 1.3-enabled receiver doesn't work.

To clarify – with a PS3 upgraded to 3.50 specification, you CAN run your video connections through your HDMI 1.3 receiver, BUT ONLY if you're not running a 3D disc. As soon as you attempt to do that…bingo, no picture. Remove the disc, restart the PS3 and you're back with a picture.

3. You cannot output HD Audio and 3D video at the same time, even through a proper 1.4-enabled AV receiver. You're forced to listen to the 'fold-down' audio – for example, DTS Core (1.5Mbps) rather than DTS-HD Master Audio.

Sony Bravia KDL-46HX903 3D TV

What difference will that have on your listening enjoyment? In case of a disc such as Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs, the DTS Core audio runs at 1.5Mpbs. By comparison, the 'lossless' HD Audio soundtrack typically pegs at 2.1Mbps – not a whole heap more.

So as things stand, there are differences, and the HD audio option does clearly sound better, but all the same, it's not necessarily a deal-breaker.

However, comparisons between current and future 3D releases – such as the forthcoming release of Avatar, which has much higher-bitrate audio (5.0Mbps average) – may be more disappointing. We'll wait and see on that.

Overall, usability, value and sheer flexibility remain exemplary. That, plus the fact that the update to 3D comes at precisely no cost to the user (save TV and software costs that no source component can avoid) means that the PS3 has to remain a five-star buy – HD audio or not.

Sony 3D glasses

One other thing – yesterday, we reported on some slight issues when first connecting the 3D-enabled PS3 to a Sony Bravia TV. Using a Bravia KDL-46HX903 and KDL-52HX903, they didn’t show an immediate message displaying relevant 3D info (such as screen size selection).

However, Sony told us more recent 2010-model Bravia TVs have had a further firmware upgrade to make the handshake between the TV and PS3 more immediate, with an on-screen display showing the relevant 3D settings.

They've since sent us an upgraded KDL-40HX803 set, and we're happy to report that this is indeed the case so the TV and PS3 now handshake properly.