PS3 Media Server: It only does everything. Photo by PseudoGil and licensed under CC BY 2.0.On this week’s App of the Week, we’re reaching out to all our HackCollege gamers. Instead of using your PS3/Xbox 360 to up your Kill/Death ratio in Call of Duty, read about this week’s app and unlock the potential of your gaming console as a Media Extender with PS3 Media Server. Ditch watching movies on your laptop and your console’s limited file format support, and impress the dates you bring over to your place with this fantastic application.

Platform Availability: Windows XP and up, Mac OS X 10.5 and up (Intel Macs only), Linux (Ubuntu, Fedora, etc.). Windows and Linux require you to install the Java Runtime Environment.

Cost: Free! Find the copy of PS3 Media Server for your operating system here.

What it is: PS3 Media Server is a DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance – Basically a common standard for streaming media) compliant UPnP (Universal Plug and Play – Basically turn it on and it works) Media Server that works with any device that supports the DLNA protocol. For most college students, that means PS3 and Xbox 360 (Yes, even though it’s called PS3 Media Server).

What it does: Stream your music, movies, and photos from your computer over your home network to your Playstation 3/Xbox 360. While both consoles support a limited number of media formats (neither natively supports .MKV), PS3 Media Server plays basically any file type you can throw at it and transcodes your files on the fly so they actually work on your gaming console.It really is just as easy as opening the application and navigating to your media on your console!

Features: Plug and Play Easy – If your gaming console and computer are connected to the same home network and you want to watch a video, all you have to do is launch PS3 Media Server and navigate to Video on the PS3 XMB and Video Library on the Xbox 360. Be forewarned that due to the way the consoles work, you have to navigate within the console to the right media category to be able to access that file type. For example, you can’t play MP3s from the Video menu of the XMB.

Intuitive File Browsing – Navigate through your Media Server just like your computer. You can browse through all your folders just as you would see them on your computer so there’s no confusion, and you can get to whatever you want to watch immediately.

Thumbnails – For videos, PS3 Media Server will generate a nice thumbnail frame grab from whichever point in your videos you want. It makes the whole package look a lot more slick and professional. And of course it displays great thumbnails for all your pictures too!

Direct streaming of DTS/DTS-HD – If you happen to have the right equipment, you can stream high-quality DTS/DTS-HD audio to your surround sound setup and experience the true aural force of all your content as the filmmakers intended it to be.PS3 Media Server also offers a ton of customizable options, but I suggest you just stick with the defaults if you don’t know what you’re doing.

The Competition:  TVersity – Free – Windows only

Windows Media Connect – Free – Windows only

XBMC Media Center – Free – Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux

If you want more options, check out this extensive list of media servers.

Why the Featured App is Best: Most UPnP Media Servers are free, so it really comes down to their respective features.

TVersity – It’s notoriously difficult to setup, slow, and uses much more system resources than PS3 Media Server. Also, there’s no love for Mac users.

Windows Media Connect – It’s not as easy to setup – you need to enable access on your computer before it begins to work. It also doesn’t support as many file formats as PS3 Media Server (namely .MKV and .OGG).

XBMC Media Center – It’s a great application if you want an extensive Home Theater PC frontend, but it’s too much of a hassle to deal with if you just want to stream your media over from your computer quickly and easily.

Summary: PS3 Media Server is free, fast, and incredibly easy to setup. Most of the time, just make sure your gaming console and computer are connected to the same network, open the application, and enjoy your media! It’s as simple as that. Add to that an intuitive navigation system on your console, and you’ve got the best application out there for streaming content from your computer to your PS3/Xbox 360.

How has PS3 Media Server worked out for you? Do you have any tips so it runs smoother? Let us know in the comments!