Update: Ars Technica has a comment from Sony, explaining that while adhering to the AACS guidelines is the reason behind the new move, it only affects Blu-ray movies, not video game output.
"The new CECH-3000 series PS3 requires HDMI only for BD movie output in HD, in compliance with AACS standards," Sony says. "PS3 continues to support component output for HD gaming and streaming content."
Original story: High definition video output via analogue component output is being phased out on new model PlayStation 3s, according to a report from Kotaku.
The story is based on an internal memo apparently being distributed around US GameStop stores, stating that the new, "K chassis" PlayStation 3s ship with a basic AV cable, but the AV port itself will not support HD output (720p, 1080i, 1080p) when a component cable is connected. All current PlayStation 3 models include this functionality - and very useful it is too for those with older HDTVs.
The memo goes on to state that all future PlayStation 3 models will exhibit the same limitation, but the feature-set of the current units will not be affected - so, if you're currently running a PS3 via component in HD now, nothing will change.
But why make the change at all? When Blu-ray and HD-DVD standards were being established, the movie studios were insistent that HD transmissions were protected with DRM (AACS, or Advanced Access Content System), and initially there were discussions that HD content would only be displayed in full resolution via the digitally encrypted HDMI output, with analogue component getting a downscaled quarter-1080p, 960x540 image instead. There was a fear that component capture cards could be used to rip-off HD movies.
However, at the time, a significant proportion of existing, perfectly fine HDTVs only supported analogue component inputs, so there was little choice but to provide provision for these sets and the component restriction was shelved.
There is speculation that the AACS Final Adopter agreement covers the changeover, suggesting that no new hardware lines sold after December 2010 should support analogue HD output and this sounds like the most plausible explanation: the existing PS3 Slim model pre-dates this deadline.
On the one hand, HDMI is the preferred transmission format for HD games and video, usually offering the very best picture quality for your display. On the other hand, the more display options a user has, the better - and the move seems rather pointless bearing in mind that the HDCP encryption system was completely compromised a while back.
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