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Thursday March 22, 2007 4:52 pm

PS3 Firmware 1.60 Now Available

Software Update 1.60

Early this morning, Sony officially made the 1.60 firmware update available for the PlayStation 3. This update includes a ton of enhancements for the console; honestly, some of the improvements should have shipped with the machine, like background downloading. A full list of the improvements and how to utilize the new features is available on Sony’s website now, but from a high level, users with 1.60 can look forward to:

  • Internet Browser usability changes, including a new auto-zoom feature, a full-size virtual keyboard, flicker-fixer, and a resolution adjustment setting.
  • Support for Sony’s Folding@home client for distributed protein folding research.
  • Remote Play via access point, allowing Remote Play functionality for all PlayStation 3 consoles, not just the 60GB edition.
  • Users can now toggle disc auto-start on the PS3
  • Bluetooth keyboard and mouse support
  • The ability to restore PS3 backup data onto another PS3.

A deeper look into some of the new features continues after the jump.

Read More | Playstation.com

Background Downloading

The background downloading feature was enabled after installing the update; users can now queue up to six downloads in the PlayStation Store, and those downloads will continue while the user does other things. Sony has indicated that downloading will stop when a user attempts the following:

  • When playing a Blu-ray Disc or DVD
  • When using network features of online games
  • When starting PlayStation®2 format software
  • When starting (Folding@home™)
  • When using voice / video chat
  • When performing a system update
  • When adjusting setting items under (Settings)

The background downloading feature seems to work decently on the system, if not quite as polished and detailed as Microsoft’s UI in the Xbox 360. Users do get an auto-resume feature now, and the queue will be saved when the PS3 is turned off. Still, having access to the XMB bar in games would help users keep track of their download progress better while in-game; not having this feature isn’t a huge deal, but it is an annoyance.

Browser Zoom

The new browser functionality is somewhat interesting. The new auto-zoom feature seems to work fairly well in guessing the user’s intent and eases browsing somewhat on the console. Flicker-fixing seems like an issue that would plague users running in interlaced mode on a CRT display more than anything else, but it is nice to have the option along with better resolution selection. The new virtual keyboard is a little jarring for those used to the old numeric pad text input; it’s a little odd that the new keyboard is on by default, but it does seem easier for entering text information for those that haven’t mastered texting via cell phone.

Folding@home

Finally, the interesting “bonus” application in 1.60 is the Folding@home client. Downloading the new firmware only enables the icon in the XMB bar. After updating, the user has to download the actual client, another 50MB. Once downloaded, users can start the client in full console mode, or set the client to auto-start after 10, 20, or 30 minutes. The graphical client is interesting, with data fields that show real-time progress for the work unit. Users can also configure their identity on the service and choose under which team they want to submit progress. The Folding@home client also displays the protein folding structure and has a globe image that allows users to see who else around the world has the client activated. Its an interesting add-on for the PlayStation 3; it will be interesting to see the short term and long term contributions console owners will make and how much time ends up being dedicated to this research.

Overall, it feels like Sony has made some real strides towards console usability with this update. There are still some outstanding features that users would like to see, particularly 720P scaling of Blu-Ray discs, but with 1.60 it is starting to feel like the console is close to where it should have been for the Japanese and American launches.

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