August 20, 2013, 12:52 PM — With only a few months to go until the PlayStation 4 makes its grand debut, Sony is plunging the PS3 into even lower-cost depths, with a $200 PS3 console that debuted over the weekend at Sony's U.S. e-store and Best Buy.
The catch? The wallet-friendly PS3 packs a scant 12GB of onboard flash storage.
Sony's new console is now the cheapest PS3 you can get in the U.S. without going the refurbished route. But do you really want this console? Maybe, but it all depends on whether you want to play games or not. If you're just looking for a set-top box that has access to Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Instant Video that can double as a Blu-ray player, this might be the box for you.
Then again, the days of buying a PS3 as a cheaper alternative to Blu-ray players doesn't really make sense anymore. If all you want is online entertainment, you can pick up an Apple TV or Roku 3 for $99 and worthy Blu-ray players start around $80 on Amazon and Best Buy. At $180 or so all together, that's a $20 savings compared to the 12GB PS3.
Gaming with a gotcha
If you are looking for a gaming machine, however, then this PS3 is going to require some compromises. Just like Microsoft's Xbox Arcade package (which features 4GB of onboard storage), the mere 12GB on this PS3 will have you running back to Best Buy for an external hard drive in no time.
PS3 games have a nasty habit of requiring large direct installs to onboard storage or an external hard drive. For example, Grand Theft Auto V, set for release on September 17, will require 8GB of installation space before you can play the game. Splinter Cell: Blacklist, which goes on sale Tuesday, will require a 12GB install, according to product shots on GameFly. We could go on and on, but you get the idea--12GB of storage for a PS3 just won't cut it for even the casual gamer.
So what's a budding gamer supposed to do?
At this writing, for an extra $70, Best Buy was offering a $270 PS3 Uncharted 3 bundle that includes a DualShock wireless controller, the game Uncharted 3 and a 250GB console. If you're willing to kick things up to $300, you can also find 500GB PS3 gaming bundles.
The other alternative is to shop around for an external hard drive. Pretty much any hard drive with a USB connection will do, and you can follow the instructions on how to set it up on the PlayStation forums. The problem there is you might have to deal with some lag as the game bits have to travel across a USB 2.0 cable to harness your console's processing power.
Some forum users say that with a little modding, you can install a laptop HDD into the 12GB console--but that will require you to buy a 2.5-inch drive, a mounting bracket, and have enough courage to tinker with the innards of your brand new box. A report from Kotaku last September said that in previous versions of the cheap-o PS3 the flash storage stopped working once you installed an HDD.
A $200 PS3 sure sounds appealing, but when you consider the alternatives, this 12GB PS3 might be best avoided.