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Sony drops PSX features to meet Xmas launch date

Slower DVD writing, fewer media formats supported

A number of features have been dropped from the original specification of the PSX home media centre - a move which Sony claims is necessary in order to launch the system before Christmas.

The PSX, which is set to launch in Japan on 13 December, features DVD playback and recording abilities, a hard drive video recorder, a PlayStation 2 console and a media centre for handling music, image and video files.

However, the company has now admitted that some of the functionality which was claimed for the device at its unveiling in October will now not appear, due to a rushed production schedule to launch the device for Christmas.

The system will now not support playback of CD-R and DVD+RW discs, although it will continue to play back the other, official, rewriteable DVD format, DVD-RW. MP3 playback has also been removed from the machine, but Sony's ATRAC format, among others, will be supported. The TIFF and GIF file formats for images are out, although since the far more popular JPEG format is still supported, we're not sure anyone will care.

Perhaps more importantly, the speed at which the device writes video to DVD media has been downgraded from 24x real time to 12x real time. This is still a pretty decent speed - allowing you to transfer an hour-long TV recording to DVD within five minutes, for example - but remains a disappointing specification cut regardless.

The most puzzling omission from the PSX, however, is the lack of a broadband Internet socket on the system - which means that it won't initially be compatible with the PlayStation Broadband service, and more surprisingly, won't be able to access Sony's online music services.

Despite these changes to the specification of the device, the PSX remains an attractive prospect for consumers interested in DVD writing or digital video recording. The top of the range PSX system, featuring a 250GB hard drive, will retail for ¥99,800 (€758), while the low-end system, with a 160GB drive, will cost ¥79,800 (€606).

By way of comparison, DVD recorder market leader Matsushita sells a 160GB unit with significantly less additional functionality than the PSX for ¥198,000 (€1500).

It's possible that the additional features which are lacking from the PSX may be reintroduced in the New Year when the system is launched in the US and Europe. However, Sony has so far given no indication that it plans to restore the specification of the device to its original form, presumably mindful of the fact that any hints in this direction would lead to many consumers deciding to wait for the 'full strength' version of the PSX.

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