The Sony PlayStation won the hearts of many gamers when it was released worldwide in 1995 and helped usher in a new generation of gameplay with 3D graphics. The PlayStation 2 to this day is considered by many to be the best console released to date and is the best-selling console of all time. The PlayStation 4, Sony's newest iteration of their home game console, is also leading the way against all current generation competitors. So where does the PlayStation 3 fall in place?
The PlayStation 3 can be considered Sony's dark horse compared to their other offerings. Whereas the PlayStation 1, 2 and 3 all outsold their competition, the PlayStation 3 only nearly matched the worldwide sales of the Microsoft Xbox 360 and in the U.S. it wasn't even close. Some attribute it to the timing of the launch, to the price of the console, or to the game library. Whatever the reasons, it is an unfortunate fact that the PlayStation 3 just wasn't as popular with gamers as its older and younger brothers.
During the life of each PlayStation console, Sony would make countless different models, each one slightly changing the design or swapping out or consolidating some of the chips, and in a few instances, reducing the size of the console as parts got cheaper and more efficient. But the PlayStation 3 arguably saw the most number of significant changes over its span, as Sony tried to compete with Microsoft and Nintendo during the 7th generation of video game consoles. As it turns out, in hindsight, it was actually the first model of PlayStation 3 that was the best and definitive version.
With the model number CECHA, the first production of the PlayStation 3 has what is the most robust feature set. All but one version of the PlayStation 3 have 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi and all have at least two USB 2.0 ports, but with each subsequent revision, starting immediately with the CECHC, (the CECHB launched at the same time as the CECHA and intentionally had less features as it was a budget version), the PlayStation 3 began dropping major features and would only from time to time pick up some inconsequential features.
Let's start backwards with the major revisions so we can get a better sense of what makes the original version of the PlayStation 3 superior to the rest. The first major revision came with the CECH-4 series of models, also known as the "Super Slim." While being an even smaller incarnation of the console, it was not very different from the CECH-2 or "Slim" series. It was introduction of the Slim versions that saw the first major loss in utility which was support for "OtherOS," or as most people might understand it, support to run Linux.
While running Linux was not something most PlayStation users even knew about or pursued, the ability to run Linux on a PlayStation console is actually something that dated back to the early days of the PlayStation 2 with the "Linux for PlayStation 2" kit being released in 2002. While the PlayStation 2 also lost support for Linux with the release of its own Slim line, this was due to actual hardware changes, whereas with the PlayStation 3, the drop for support was arbitrary and hand waved as being removed due to "security concerns" which led to Sony losing a class action lawsuit over the situation.
The next major revision that saw the loss of core functionality was the model CECHG. While it was a "fat" series model like the original, this version saw the loss of two of the USB 2.0 ports (earlier versions had four total) and the loss of the flash memory card readers. Losing the convenience of being able to plug their digital camera card directly into the PlayStation 3 angered many people, and the loss of some of the USB 2.0 ports meant less peripherals could be plugged in at once. While surely a cost cutting decision, this gimped some of the functionality that was present when the console first launched.
The loss of a few data ports pales in comparison to the other thing that the CECHG cut from the initial vision of the PlayStation 3. That award goes to cutting the ability to play PlayStation 2 games. This would be the defining action that casts all PlayStation 3s into one of two categories: "backwards compatible" and "not backwards compatible." Despite losing the ability to play PlayStation 2 games, the CECHG and all models afterwards continued to play PlayStation 1 games, which is at least one reason to own a newer version of the console.
With the ability to play PlayStation 2 games, many saw the PlayStation 3 as having a significant advantage over the Xbox 360 which never had the ability to play Xbox games and kept it on par with the Nintendo Wii which launched with the ability to play GameCube games (though later versions would lose that ability). This also saw many gamers needing to keep their PlayStation 2 hooked up to their TV sets meaning they had to keep more things plugged into their TV than they wanted to. Many diehard Sony fans also saw this move as a betrayal of the "good guy Sony" image and "brought them down" to the level of Microsoft.
The last major revision we will visit is the aforementioned CECHC model. While this and the CECHE models could still technically play PlayStation 2 games, compatibility and performance was not as high. This was due to Sony moving from hardware based support to software based emulation. While most would prefer hardware based support, this was an understandable cost cutting move, and had Sony kept software based emulation in all future models, its possible sales of the system in the U.S. and worldwide would have been higher than the Xbox 360.
Finally, we are full circle back to the CECHA (and the CECHB). Both of these models have full hardware support, but the CECHB did not have the flash memory card readers like models CECHG onwards and did not even have Wi-Fi, and also had a smaller hard drive. This was merely so there could be a cheaper option at launch, as the CECHA was $600 when it came out, compared to the Xbox 360 which was only $400 and the Nintendo Wii which was even less at $250. It's a reasonable accusation to say that the reason the PlayStation 3 cost so much at launch was due to its rich feature set and it was only by cutting feature after feature that the price was able to drop down to competitive levels.
But this is a retrospective and we are now in the 8th generation of video game consoles which means prices have changed as we are now dependent on the second hand market for older video game systems. As of the publishing of this article, a PlayStation 3 CECHA can be purchased second hand for around $160 where most other versions can be purchased between $50 and $100 depending on the specific model. The CECHA rightly has a premium on its price as it has the most functionality, but is nowhere close to its original $600 tag.
If owning a PlayStation 3 to play PlayStation 3 games is your goal, then any version will satisfy that need and the library has many great titles to make owning a later model worth it. But, even at the time of publishing this article, there are several reasons to own the CECHA. In this author's opinion, it is truly the "Cadillac of Consoles." Though it came out in 2006, over 10 years ago, the console was ahead of its time and is still modern enough to have a place hooked up to your main TV.
With the ability to play PlayStation 1 and 2 games, the console is effectively a 3-in-1 system, and with a wireless controller, that means you can play your older classics from the comfort of your couch without being restricted to the length of a cord. On top of being able to play your games, the console launched with an HDMI port meaning it has no problems being hooked up to a modern HDTV, and it even has a Blu-ray drive, meaning you don't have to have a separate player hooked up. It even has the ability to download apps, meaning you can get the likes of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO, YouTube, and other streaming services giving you the full functionality of a Smart TV.
While most of the latter features are present with all versions of the PlayStation 3, it is the backwards compatibility that truly gives the CECHA an edge, and with having a ridiculously easy to access hard drive bay, if storage space is a concern, the original 60GB hard drive can be easily upgraded to something larger. On a final note, as the CECHA is over 10 years old, if you are in the market for one or already have one, be considerate of its age. Keep your system in a well ventilated area and try not to use it for hours on end as the system has always had heating issues and it is only something that gets worse with age.
This article has focused mainly on comparing the CECHA to other PlayStation 3 models, but it can be given an edge over the Nintendo Wii for all of its streaming video options and an edge over the Xbox 360 for its ability to play Blu-ray. Compared to newest generation of consoles, it can still be awarded an edge over both the Nintendo Wii U and Switch, once again due to having a greater wealth of streaming options and Blu-ray playback and can be considered, even 10 years later, toe to toe with the Xbox One and even its successor, the PlayStation 4. With only later revisions introducing the Xbox One S and the PlayStation 4 Pro which saw the arrival 4K video, is the PlayStation 3 CECHA finally starting to lose its edge.
There is still one thing the CECHA will always have an edge with, and that is game library. With the ability to play three generations worth of games, the CECHA has an effective library of over 6,000 games! And that's not even including the titles available for download through the PlayStation Network. And until the publishers of sports games no longer see a profit, we are continuing to see new yearly editions of some sports games come out for the system, with FIFA 18 slated to release in only two weeks from the date of this article's publishing.