Sony released the latest firmware for the PS3 yesterday which adds, among other things, support for the DivX codec making the PS3 a DivX Certified device. (That means game developers can use it in games unlike the Xbox 360 where only file playback is supported.) I’ve been looking forward to this for awhile because when new episodes of Doctor Who, Torchwood and other British shows are aired in England I tend to grab the XviD encoded files uploaded to the net so I can keep up until the DVDs are released here in the States. My purchase of the PS3 has been worthwhile in part for its ability to stream media from my PC to the TV set over my wireless network, but until yesterday I had to have my PC convert the files over to MPG4 on the fly and not only does that slow things down a bit, but it reduces the video quality considerably.
According to some reports on the net there seems to be a couple of quirks to the PS3’s playback in that if you’re using Windows Media Player 11 as your media server then DivX files will stream just fine, but XviD won’t (the two are more or less the same codec, just one is open source). Or at least that’s what some folks are reporting. I managed to stream a couple of XviD encoded files last night using nothing more than WMP11 on Vista without any issue at all and the picture quality was fabulous. If you use an alternative server such as TVersity then both file types will stream just fine or you can just copy the XviD file to your PS3’s hard drive or a memory stick and it’ll work fine that way as well. So if you’re trying it out and not having complete success there’s some work arounds you can test out.
I couldn’t be happier, though, as this saves me having to burn DVDs every time I want to watch shows on the big TV and requires a lot less setup than having to transcribe the files on the fly as I was doing previously. There’s a couple of restrictions in that the file size is limited to 2GB and you can’t play files encoded with older versions of DivX, but those shouldn’t impact my usage of the feature much. Other additions in this firmware include a voice changer feature for use with voice and video chat (not sure what for, but it might be fun to play games sounding like one of the Chipmunks) and the ability to use Remote Play to play PS1 games you’ve loaded onto your PS3 (either as a download or with a disc in the drive) on your PSP over the Internet, which is pretty nifty.