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Sony PS3 DTS-HD Master Audio: Best Blu-ray player again

Yesterday among the detritus of spam and nonsense in our inbox we noticed that with only minor fanfare the PlayStation 3 is set to support DTS-HD Master Audio. Previously the console didn't have the best audio support, but now it can decode a DTS-HD source and send it to your AV equipment as uncompressed multi-channel PCM sound.
Some people will be upset that the PS3 won't send the raw DTS-HD MA bitstream via HDMI, but as long as your equipment can handle a PCM stream it really makes little difference where the decoding happens, be it in the PS3 or your amplifier. We're just thrilled to see such complete support for all Blu-ray features.
If all this washes over you, and you bought your PS3 to play games on, then we should tell you that DTS-HD MA allows the storage of 7.1 audio channels with a 96k/24-bit depth. This will sound identical to the original studio master, if your sound system is up to the job. Because Blu-ray has plenty of storage space and a huge data transfer rate, it means you get audio at 24.5Mbps. That's a hell of a lot of sound to be chucking around.
The DTS update, known as firmware version 2.30, will become available to download on 15 April and will also bring with it a newly organised PlayStation Store, which will offer a much better layout than the current version.
The Sony PlayStation 3 is now available for around £285, which means it's still one of the cheapest Blu-ray players about, and by far the best value if you factor in the ability to play games, stream media over your home network and browse the Net. If you really don't want a games console as your primary Blu-ray player, the Panasonic DMP-BD30 can be purchased for about £350 and features great audio support, and profile 1.1. The BD50, due later in the year, will add profile 2.0, which will make it BD Live ready, for interactive online features.

Microsoft Xbox

Beneath the cool, tough exterior is a system capable of powering the very best single and multiplayer gaming experiences available today.
Microsoft's first serious games-only solution claims to blow away the Sony Playstation 2 and was released for under £300. The Xbox always had a good chance of competing as it has better graphics provided by nVidia famous for its GeForce graphics cards sold for PCs. The Sega Dreamcast was the first console to feature PC-like components and PC code-like OS system and an old PowerVR graphics as used by a few people years ago.
The Xbox runs at 733 MHz, which is twice the speed of the PlayStation's graphics and aims to do 150 to 200 million polygons per sec compared to 66 million or so that the Playstation 2 can realistically do. The Xbox also has DVD playback if you buy the additional unit and should include at least a 6 GB hard drive to speed things up.
Microsoft also claim that 60% of the games will be made by themselves which is relatively high, and although it may help them in dominating the world, Microsoft do not make the best games for the PC, but companies like Electronic Arts do! There are a lot of on-going costs associated with the Xbox, including game prices and the DVD function explained above. Also the games are not as good as we would have liked, apart from Halo.
Plans for the Xbox 2 have been drawn up by Microsoft. Where they hope to increase online gaming following the huge inroads that the PC has made. In 2004 the Xbox Crystal was introduced (pictured), which has the same interior. The Xbox 2 is set for a possible release in late-2005.
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