PS3's next big update to add new Web surfing options and background downloading

The powerful PlayStation 3 will soon be getting the ability to simultaneously walk and chew gum, so to speak. An upcoming system update to bring the PS3 firmware to version 1.6 will give users the ability to download files from the PlayStation Network in the background.

Currently, PlayStation 3 owners must halt all activity and remain focused on the download progress bar. Any attempt at another operation on the console will cancel the download, which is non-resumable. Users will greatly appreciate this new feature when it comes to downloading large files, such as Gran Turismo HD Concept at 625MB.

Another recently announced feature to be included in the 1.60 update is the introduction of Folding@home functionality, giving owners of a PS3 the opportunity to use their new game system to help find real-life cures to diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, cystic fibrosis and many cancers.

Version 1.60 will also improve the Web browsing ability of the PS3. The update will bring zooming and new resolution settings for easier surfing, plus a full-sized keyboard on-screen for more convenient text entry.

Although the 20GB PS3 may soon be extinct, especially after confirmation from retailer memos, Sony is adding a software feature so that the WiFi-less PS3 variant will be able to connect with the PSP for Remote Play.

Details of the update were first found from a Japanese press release dating the release date of the new firmware to be March 22. The timing of the new firmware closely coincides with the launch of the European launch of PS3.

While not yet applicable to Japanese and North American consoles, the European PS3 features revised hardware that omits the Emotion Engine and Graphics Synthesizer, a chip used for hardware backwards compatibility for PS2 games, in favor of costs. An upcoming firmware update is expected to introduce software emulation of over 1,000 PS2 games for the European PS3. It is unclear how the different hardware specification and software requirements will affect future and current Japan and North American PlayStation 3 consoles.

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