PS3: Shown to scale
First of all, the Australian release details have been finalised:
March 23 2007. AU$999.95.
Only the 60GB model will be initially available.
Now on with the show.
Scaling has been a high-profile issue for the PS3. While the PS3 can natively render at resolutions as high as 1080p, it has been drawing heavy criticism for it's apparent inability to perform hardware scaling. The PS3 currently will not upscale games rendered at 720p to 1080i/p. For the small number of people who have older HDTVs that support 1080i, but not 720p, this is a disaster. Similarly, the PS3 cannot downscale Blu-ray movies from 1080p to 720p. Even backward compatibility was suffering horribly from scaling issues, with PSone and PS2 games being badly stretched to higher than their original horizontal resolutions.
Fortunately, it seems Sony are taking steps to address the situation. First of all, Sony have released PS3 firmware version 1.5, which among other things, fixes the backward compatibility issue. PSone and PS2 games now display correctly, without any horizontal distortion. This welcome upgrade finally brings PS3's backward compatibility up to scratch. Of course, it could be further improved with options for higher resolutions or texture filtering (like the PS2 had), but we probably shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth.
As previously hinted at by Resistance developers Insomniac, it turns out the PS3 does in fact have some kind of hardware scaler built-in. Developers just weren't able to access it until now. The latest software development kit (SDK) from Sony has at least partially unlocked it for developer use. Why it was locked previously is unclear. Unfortunately, full-frame hardware scaling from 720p (1280x720 pixels) to 1080p (1920x1080) still isn't possible. Oddly enough, the newly unlocked hardware scaling functionality supports only horizontal scaling. Any vertical scaling still has to be performed in software, at the cost of processor time. So while this isn't the ideal hardware scaling solution, it's half way there.
Sony have wisely included a new 960x1080 rendering resolution as an option in their latest SDK. The beauty of this resolution is that the actual number of pixels to be rendered is only marginally higher than standard 720p (less than 10% extra), and because the full 1080 lines are already rendered, the PS3 is able to upscale it to full 1920x1080p at no extra cost.
So it seems the PS3's hardware scaling abilities aren't quite as lacking as originally thought. There's still a way to go toward resolving all of PS3's scaling issues (720p Blu-ray movie playback is still a sore point), but Sony are certainly taking the issue seriously. Whether they can still find a way to achieve full-frame hardware scaling is anyone's guess.