PlayStation 3 DivX Playback TestedS

Click to viewThe PlayStation 3 2.10 update is here, bringing with it not only Blu-ray Profile 1.1 support (which adds picture in picture among other things), but DivX and WMV playback as well. Unfortunately, DivX support means DivX support, and doesn't include XviD as some of us hoped according to readers includes XviD support, but the files we have tested don't work at all. We threw our normal battery of files at our PS3, and came to the conclusion that it's not quite as good as the Xbox 360 implementation. Here are our notes.

Update: We've found that XviD playback does work, but only on burned DVDs and external hard drives. See here for an update and a workaround.

DivX and WMV play back fine. Just as they claimed, the PS3 now can play back DivX files and WMV files. No problemo.

XviD does not work. Again, no XviD support at all. You'd be surprised how many of your files are actually XviD and not DivX, especially if you've been "obtaining" TV shows and movies over the years. Often times the files aren't labeled with the codec type in the name, so you'll have to try and play it back to know whether or not it's supported. If it's not, the file name will change to "Unsupported Data." [Some readers are reporting that XviD support works. Others have written us saying that some files work, others don't. Jason has tried this with a few XviD files and none of them worked. -JD]

Streaming only works off of Windows Media Player 11 shares, not Windows Media Connect or SMB (regular Windows folder sharing). This one could be a biggie. The PlayStation 3 doesn't actually support SMB network shares, which is the default Windows folder sharing network protocol that both Linux and OS X understand. This means you're going to have to install Windows Media Player 11 (or something similar, like Orb) in order to stream video from your home computer. Windows Media Connect, which sits on our Windows Home Server that housed most of our video files, didn't work. WMP11 did.

You can play files off a burned CD/DVD. If your PlayStation 3 isn't connected to a network, or if it's hooked up to a Wi-Fi network that's too slow to stream big files without dropping out, you can burn your flicks to a DVD. This is a hassle, but ensures that your movie experience won't be interrupted by someone microwaving popcorn.

The quality is pretty good. When we got the network streaming to work and found a compatible DivX file out of all our XviDs, playback was smooth and (for the most part) artifact free.

Video dimensions stretch well. The PS3 knows exactly what aspect ratio your files are and stretches them to fit your screen without distortion. The 360 couldn't quite handle that without a little coaxing.

The first time you play back a WMV file, you need to activate WMA playback first. Not a huge deal, but kind of a pain that you have to go to the System Settings screen and activate WMA playback before you can watch any WMV file that uses the codec.

Playback controls are gimpy. This isn't the fault of the new DivX support, but of the way the PS3 handles all video playback. It's usable, but it's not as polished as the Xbox's (which wasn't all that great to begin with.) UI isn't Sony's strong suit.

It's not all bad news though, as the PS3 is actually entirely DivX certified—unlike the Xbox 360. This means that the console natively supports the codec, so games can play back DivX files as their in-game cut scene movies. However, this fact doesn't help out the rabid downloader that's expecting it to play back most of his media files—like the Xbox 360 does. If you're looking for a machine to replace that aging Xbox Media Center (XBMC), the 360 is the current winner.