With the PlayStation 3's launch less than a month away, review units have started to arrive with Japanese-language publications including Impress Game Watch, which kicked off its coverage with a tour of the system's multimedia functionality.
In the feature, partially translated by IGN, Impress portrayed the PlayStation 3 as quite a versatile multimedia device, capable of ripping CD music into a number of formats, playing content from external USB devices and allowing for a broad range of video and audio standards.
Of course we already know the machine can support 480p, 720p, 1080i and 1080p, but on the audio front the Cross Media Bar (XMB) menu system allows you to tailor the solution to the specifics of your hi-fi set-up, selecting from Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, AAC, or Linear PCM with 2ch, 5.1ch and 7.1ch available in 44.1kHz, 88.2kHz, 48kHz and 192kHz. You can also make it clear whether your audio is coming through HDMI, optical or AV Multi. Or, if you're a dimwit like me, you can just hit "auto" for everything.
A Blu-Ray movie playback options menu allows you to pre-select disk menu language and default audio and subtitles languages, and movie start-up is said to take less than ten seconds once you've selected the disc through the XMB. (Games, incidentally, auto-start when inserted, rather than waiting for a prompt ala Blu-Ray.)
Movie playback also allows for MPEG2 files stored on the hard disk at 1920x1080. Although IGN's translation makes no reference to other supported formats, it seems fair to assume that the console will allow for the same range as the PSP, and that this may change with system software upgrades - thought to be planned on the same sort of scale as PSP.
What's already supported is an Xbox 360-style capacity to explore external USB devices, in this case PSP, and play music and movies and view images stored there. Another way of listening to music is to rip CDs to the PS3's hard disk, which can be done in various bit-rates up to 352Kbps, in MP3, AAC and ATRAC3 formats. The PS3 also knows to go online and fetch track information from a music database.
All of which bodes well on the multimedia front. For more on PS3's online capabilities, of course, you can check out our own walkthrough of those features, and we should be getting our hands on the console itself very soon, so store up those questions, eh?