It's been a long ride, but the Playstation 3 has finally been launched. It went on sale in Japan from November 11, 2006, in the US an other parts of Asia on November 17, 2006, and in continental Europe around March 2007.

The PS3 is the first new console from Sony since March 2000, when the Playstation 2 went on sale. Considering how the PS2 went on to become the best-selling games console ever - with more than 110 million units sold world-wide - expectations for the Playstation 3 are sky-high.

A lot has changed since 2000, however. For one, a series of new competitors have entered the market: From November 2001, Microsoft's Xbox has been competing with Playstation (but sold less than a fifth of the number of units, compared to the PS2), but Microsoft beat Sony to the punch with their follow-up, and the Xbox 360 beat the Playstation 3 to market by a whole year. Facing the competition of 6 million Xbox 360 units already sold, along with the freshly-launched Wii console from Nintendo (which sold over 600,000 units in its first month on sale) the PS3 certainly has its job cut out.

At launch, two PS3 configurations are available. The top model has a 60 GB harddrive, Blu-Ray disc drive, HDMI connector, Bluetooth connectivity, built-in WiFi and a set of flash card readers built in. The lesser 20 GB version is similar, but lacks WiFi, card readers and has different trim.

With the original Playstation, Sony pioneered CD players into a market that was very Cassette-driven. PS2 brought DVD to the masses, and the PS3 contributes Blu-Ray as its cutting-edge technology. Because of this - and because of the overall high spec of the unit - the launch price of the Playstation 3 is significant, and has fallen under criticism from many sides. In Japan, the console launched at around US$660. In the US, launch price is around the same, but in the UK, early price indications are UKĀ£ 549.99 (1050 US$) of the top model at launch.

Industry experts have estimated that it costs around US$800 to build the 20GB model, and around US$845 for the 60GB, signifying that they are losing a fair bit of money on the sale of each console. If sales go well, however, Sony can easily recoup the initial loss, as they can negotiate better deals with the suppliers, along with the natural price drop of the technology involved, and the licence money they command for each PS3 title sold.

At launch, about 20 game titles were available, but the PS3 is backwards compatible with many PS2 and PS1 games - but not all of them. According to a Sony Computer Entertainment press person, "It's hard to say the PlayStation 3 will be 100 percent backwards compatible, but as we said earlier this year, we aim to make it so as much as possible,"".

Technical specifications

Cell Processor
PowerPC-base Core @ 3.2GHz
1 VMX vector unit per core
512KB L2 cache
7 x SPE @3.2GHz
7 x 128b 128 SIMD GPRs
7 x 256KB SRAM for SPE

RSX @550MHz
1.8 TFLOPS floating point performance
Full HD (up to 1080p) x 2 channels
Multi-way programmable parallel floating point shader pipelines

Dolby 5.1ch, DTS, LPCM,

256MB XDR Main RAM @3.2GHz
256MB GDDR3 VRAM @700MHz

System Bandwidth
Main RAM 25.6GB/s
VRAM 22.4GB/s
RSX 20GB/s (write) + 15GB/s (read)
SB > 2.5GB/s (write) + 2.5GB/s (read)

Detachable 2.5" HDD slot x 1

USB Front x 4, Rear x 2 (USB 2.0)
Memory Stick (standard/Duo)
SD standard / SD mini
CompactFlash (Type I, II)

Ethernet (10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX, 1000BASE-T) x 3 (input x 1 + output x 2)
Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11 b/g
Bluetooth 2.0 (EDR)

Bluetooth (up to 7)
USB 2.0 (wired)
Wi-Fi (PSP)
Network (over IP)

AV Output
Screen size: 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p
HDMI: HDMI out x 2
Analog: AV MULTI OUT x 1
Digital audio: DIGITAL OUT (OPTICAL) x 1

Disc Media
CD: PlayStation CD-ROM, PlayStation 2 CD-ROM, CD-DA, CD-R, CD-RW, SACD, SACD Hybrid, SACD HD, DualDisc

DVD: PlayStation 2 DVD-ROM, PlayStation 3 DVD-ROM, DVD-Video, DVD-ROM, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, DVD+RW

Blu-ray Disc: PlayStation 3 BD-ROM, BD-Video, BD-ROM, BD-R, BD-RE

Lots more info is available on the official Playstation site: