PSTwo (PlayStation 2 Hardware Redesign)
Console Review
 

Something a little different this time as I review an actual console as opposed to a game or piece of hardware.  Instead of going over everything the console does, I'm mainly going to explain what has changed and what has remained the same.. as well as lots of pictures.

Let's be honest, if you purchased a PlayStation 2 at launch or any time within the two years after, you've probably ran into problems as well as the infamous "Disc Read Error."  Although I'm well known as the creator of the original visual walkthrough on how to repair your PS2 when this problem arises, I still had problems with the amount of noise the PS2 makes.  As most know, I hate consoles that make noise, I didn't buy a Dreamcast for the longest time because of how loud the disc and read laser tray motors are.  While the PS2 wasn't exactly loud, it was a bit more than I'd like it to be.  So when Sony announced that they were redesigning the PS2 to be more compact and quieter, I was somewhat interested.  When I saw the design I knew I would have to pick one up since it looks like a mini TurboDuo.  Called the PSTwo (similar to the PlayStation redesign being the PSOne) it incorporates all the latest PS2 design technologies as well as some innovations the PSOne brought to the table.  However, first I'll go over the design similarities to the TurboDuo...

The NEC TurboDuo is my favorite console design and still looks quite modern to this day.  The PSTwo looks like it was ripped from the center of a TurboDuo, even its flip up lid opens in much the same way - it opens about half way by pushing the open button, and a slight push makes it pop open completely.

Sony finally got the hint that people hated the original PS2 box, I mean it's cool if you know what you're looking at, but pictures are needed.  When working retail sales, 2 in 5 people buying a PS2 wanted to see what it looked like, and would have to take a look at the display console in the demo kiosk.  The box shows a picture of the controller and the PSTwo in its vertical orientation.  (the vertical stand is NOT included and I haven't come across them yet)  Taking a cue from the Nintendo GameCube box, on the sides there are pictures of the PSTwo at actual size.  Inside the box the PSTwo is supported in the center with the documentation on the side and the DualShock2 controller as well as the A/V cable and power brick are in a small area atop the rest of the box, just as with the PS2.  In other words, a lot of PSTwo boxes are crushed in but this is only due to the console inside being so small.  I was a little disappointed that the box is white instead of the yellow I saw some early specs describing it as.  (the same yellow that the PS2 accessories come encased against)  It seems the Australian PSTwo models are in yellow boxes however I haven't seen one of these in person, just pictures.

The PSTwo uses the same PlayStation family A/V multi connection giving you composite video and left / right audio.  It uses the same controller ports and controllers as the previous generation PlayStation 2 and PlayStation hardware, and the memory card system is exactly the same.  There have been some game sites saying that the memory cards do not work, but they do, both PS2 and PlayStation.  (note: in the manual it actually states that PS2 memory cards can be used to store PlayStation save files, but cannot save / load from them - this is something many have known for a long time, but it's nice to see it officially noted.)  Current PS2 multitaps will NOT work with the PSTwo, there are some internal changes and a new PSTwo multitap will be released sometime this November.  The PSTwo was slated to launch November 1st but it showed up on October 15th at my local GameCrazy, I would venture a guess that this is a first run advance release before the wide release in mid-November, by then you should be able to get the new PSTwo multitap and PSTwo vertical stand.  The biggest change to connectivity is the power cord.  Since there is no fan inside the PSTwo (it's completely silent except for some quiet loading sounds when starting large games such as GTA Vice City) the power supply has been moved out onto the power cord, similar to the PSOne.  However with the PSTwo the power brick is mid-line, like the Nintendo GameCube.  (hmmm.. box is like the GameCube, power brick is like the GameCube...)  Unlike the GameCube the power cord is in two parts.  The power brick plugs into the PSTwo through a small AC jack looking connector, then the standard PS2 figure 8 cable plugs into the other side of the power brick and then into a power outlet.  Also the cables on either end are much longer than the GameCube has, which gives you more options on where to locate the power brick itself.  I haven't noticed the power brick get warm AT ALL and since the power components are outside the console itself, I no longer have a problem with leaving the PS2 on standby mode.

Speaking of standby mode, there is no longer a "main power" switch on the back of the console.  Additionally the open / eject button doesn't have the useless blue light on it and pressing it allows the lid to flop open, then a gentle push to the lid opens it completely.  The power / reset button works exactly as it does on a PlayStation 2: pressing it once resets the console, holding it down puts the console in standby mode, and pressing it again turns the console back on.  It's exactly the same, right down to the red and green LED that changes based on what mode the console is in, although the LED seems far brighter this time around.  The USB ports are now centrally located and the IR receiver that was an internal revision in the newer PlayStation 2's is integrated as well.  Two controller ports, two memory card ports.. however I found it difficult to plug in and remove controllers while a memory card is inserted as the memory card makes it hard to remove the controller plug.  The PS logo on the front of the console turns as it did on the PlayStation 2 so that it'll face upright even when in the vertical orientation.  The size of the front vent has been cut down as the console generates less heat, a smaller vent means less chance of dust getting inside and contaminating the console.  However there is something missing here, there is no firewire port on the PSTwo, so if you're one of the people that plays Gran Turismo 3 A-spec over a firewire LAN, then you're out of luck.

There has been a lot of talk about the integrated LAN port, doing away with the need for the PlayStation 2 network adapter.  Some press releases have said that both narrowband and broadband would be on board, some said there would be broadband only with a narrowband adapter available at a later date, and some have said they were doing away with narrowband all together.  Truth of the matter is the PSTwo has both narrowband and broadband inputs integrated.  The PSTwo online connectivity disc is included inside the box with the documentation, so if you're buying one of these second-hand at a later date, make SURE the online disc is included.  The optical out is still there for all your 5.1 needs and Dolby Digital as well as DTS support is still on board, just as it always has been.  The power brick plugs into a small jack on the very end of the console, easy to find since it is cast in blazing yellow.  Please note that the PS2 HDD is NOT compatible with the PSTwo, so if you play Final Fantasy XI or use the hard drive, a PSTwo will do you no good.

The actual console size is quite small.  The surface size of the console is not that much more than a standard DVD case, which I'm sure made Japanese gamers happy as space for ANYTHING is at a premium in most compact Japanese dwellings.  (there's a whole slew of inside jokes about this having to do with the design of the PC/Engine that I won't get into here)  What it does mean is that now small entertainment centers can hold the console as well as a couple controllers on the same shelf with plenty of room.  Also it just looks cool.

What I find even more impressive is how slim the PSTwo is.  The console is about the height of a pair of DVD cases, this is amazing when compared to even the size of the PSOne.  Truthfully it seems if the memory card and controller plugs were thinner, the console would be as well.  This is simply a marvel of design.  Unlike the PS2, the vertical stand is circular and snaps into the edge of the console as opposed to the console resting inside it.  I have yet to see one in person but I suppose it would look good in a neo 60's futuristic way.

Loading a disc is insanely simple.  You push the eject / open button, and snap the disc onto the spindle, just like any top loading console or CD player.  There's a little deal that holds the disc in snug and prevents it from spinning the wrong direction and it features the three disc clamps just as the PSOne.  Snap the lid shut and press reset and the disc will load.  Disc initialization times are somewhat faster than a PS2, simply because as soon as the lid shuts the disc is read.  There's no waiting for a disc tray to retract and the disc be set on the spindle.  Removal of the disc tray also makes the console nearly silent and games that read the disc throughout gameplay, such as Grand Theft Auto III, perform far better since there's no adjustment for disc jittering - when the laser goes to a specific part of a disc to look for data, it's always there, the delay while the laser reseeks the disc is nonexistent.  Also when you put a disc in, it shows up in the browser nearly immediately and DVD startup is equally as quick.  Since the IR sensor is integrated, you can use any of the Sony brand PS2 DVD remotes to control most functions as well as DVD playback without having to use the plug-in IR sensor.  To end a game session just press eject / open and the disc comes to a stop and is easily removed by simply popping it off the disc spindle.

Now the biggest question when it comes to the PSTwo, compatibility.  The PSOne GameShark CDX v4.0 works perfectly, as shown in the picture above of Dead or Alive running with "no skirt" mode turned on.  I'm not sure if the PS2 GameSharks work or if other versions of GameShark run because I do not use them.  PlayStation support is good as it ever was as the latest PlayStation driver is integrated.  Playing CD audio burned to CD-R functions perfectly and the disc shows up in the browser nearly instantly.  DVD playback is exceptional as the absolute latest PS2 DVD driver is integrated into the OS, supporting progressive scan output.  The PSTwo plays DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, and DVD+RW backups without any trouble at all.  Additionally some non-mainstream import region ALL DVDs I've had trouble getting to play on my other PS2 run perfectly on the PSTwo.  This includes "Macross the Movie - Do You Remember Love?" and "The Super Dimension Fortress Macross TV" boxset which I have always had trouble playing, even on stand alone DVD players.  Needless to say, the PSTwo has eliminated my need to pick up a new DVD player.

Final Verdict:  Do you need to get a PSTwo if you already own a PS2?  No, you really don't.  I purchased one because I'm a console hardware junkie and it looks like a mini TurboDuo.  If you use the PS2 HDD or play Final Fantasy XI then the PSTwo is not for you since it lacks hard drive support.  If you play Gran Turismo 3 over firewire LAN, then the PSTwo again probably isn't a good choice since the firewire port has been removed.  (although Gran Turismo 4 will be fully online)  If you have your PS2 modded to play import titles you'll probably want to keep it since I doubt the PSTwo will have any mod chips anytime soon due to its redesign and smaller internal profile.  If you want to have a console that is the home entertainment juggernaut the PS2 was toted as being at the time of its release, then the PSTwo is worth picking up.  The styling is even more ahead of its time than the PS2 was, and as before it's designed to showcase a sleek modern edge.

Does it do anything better than a PS2?  Not really, the DVD compatibility is better but the days of people buying a PS2 as a DVD player have long since passed so this really shouldn't be as much of a factor.  (this was one of the main selling points, especially in Japan, at the time of the original PS2 launch)  If you don't plan on using the hard drive or firewire connectivity, don't plan on wanting to play imports, and don't already own a PS2, this is a good choice since it costs the same amount as the current PS2 hardware.  They're pretty much sold out up until Thanksgiving as most of the quantities that were delivered to stores in this first release were to fill preorders, so that may be a factor as well.  As I no longer have a need for my original and immaculate PS2, I've since sold it.  (it's the same one featured in my PS2 cleaning tutorial)  Even though I've had a few requests to sell it, I put it up on eBay and it sold nearly instantly.  (it's in better condition then you'd get a new one in)  So PS2 or PSTwo, it's simply a matter of personal usage preference.

One's not necessarily better than the other, they're just a little different.
 

Written on 10-21-04 by David, insanedavid@classicplastic.net
Last amended 04-13-06 by David, insanedavid@classicplastic.net


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