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Sony boosts PlayStation 2 DVD playback

US, UK buyers to get hardware DVD, not software

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Sony has revised the PlayStation 2 for the US and European markets to significantly improve the console's DVD playback, according to sources at UK hi-fi company Wharfedale.

How would Wharfedale know, you ask. According to a report in e-zine DVD Times, Wharfedale has had to modify its DVD750 player to incorporate a new DVD chipset.

The company's move was forced upon it by Sony, which has apparently spent the last few months buying up the world's supply of LSI Logic chips - the same silicon previously used in the Wharfedale box.

The implication is clear: Sony wants the chips for the PlayStation 2, which will be promoted as a DVD player as well as a games machines. The timing of the move is the key - even as we speak, Sony is ramping up PS2 production for next month's US launch and the European roll-out a month down the line.

The first version of the PS2, built for the Japanese market, was equipped with a software DVD decoder. Not surprisingly the console was quickly criticised for its inferior DVD playback when compared with dedicated units. Japanese consumer electronics manufacturers usually supply their domestic market with inferior kit, according to our sources close to the CE industry They reason that Japanese consumers change their equipment so frequently, they'll never notice wobbly CD trays and the like. Instead, the better quality machines are reserved for the less upgrade-happy US and European markets.

So while Japanese punters might not mind the PS2's less-than-perfect software-based DVD playback, Stateside buyers will not be impressed. Hence the decision to implement DVD playback in hardware. And hence the need for shedloads of LSI chips.

Since British consumers are paying for the privilege - they'll have to fork out £299 ($470), while US buyers will pay $299 (£188) - we're glad they'll at least get a solid if pricey DVD player. It'll give them something to watch while they wait for a decent range of games to appear... ®

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The DVD Times story

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