Chicago (IL) - Sony has released a new firmware version for its Playstation 3, which updates the console core software from version 1.32 to version 1.50. The download includes the addition of an automated payment systems as well as network fixes, but also improvements in the handling of PS2 content, according to German technology website heise.de.
Compatibility to PS2 games, which in some cases show errors and often a decreased quality when run through the PS3, apparently has been enhanced with the possibility to output PS2 games in 480p resolution (720x480 progressive), which adds to the current 480i (interlaced) support of the PS3.
Heise reports that playback of Blu-ray movies has not been extended to 720p support and remains at support for 1080i and 1080p only. As a result, TVs not supporting both or either 1080 format can view Blu-ray movies only in 480p resolution at this time. U.S. Playstation 3 owners have not been able to access the 1.5 version yet and are stuck with the 1.32 version, which was released on December 21, for now. Sony did not say when version 1.5 will be available in the U.S.
Meanwhile, game publishers are preparing to extend the rather thin portfolio of PS3 games will over the course of this year. Within the coming four weeks, Sonic the Hedgehog (1/30), College Hoops 2K7 (2/12), Virtua Fighter 5 (2/20) and F1 (2/27) are expected to become available in retail stores.
Update January 25, 10:37 am EST : Several readers have informed us that the 1.5 update has become available in the U.S. as well.