With the impressive lineup of upcoming games, the console wars are heating up again. The Wii still has a major lead in sales numbers over the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, but it is widely considered to be a novelty system by most hardcore gamers. The real fight is between the 360 and the PS3, but with the Xbox's popularity waning in Japan and the PS3's recent price cut, players have to ask themselves some difficult questions when choosing between the two. Cheat Code Central aims to give you the answers to those questions.
Shelby "PlayStation 3 Is #1" Reiches
Off to a rough start, the PlayStation 3 has lately been topping the worldwide console sales chart. Though the system still makes up the minority of both overall and high-definition market share, the console is continually gaining ground against its most direct competitor: the Xbox 360. Why the sudden shift in fortunes? What does Sony's latest console bring to the table that it didn't in years past?
The first, and most obvious, is price. Launching at a minimum of $499 for the 20GB model, which lacked the wi-fi of its 60GB brother, the expense for the console was exorbitant to say the least. Attempts were made by Sony to justify the price, which was well below that of first-run Blu-Ray players, but when juxtaposed with Microsoft's system, which offered comparable graphical fidelity and a similar library at a maximum of $399, it simply came across as too high a bar for entry. Now, however, the PlayStation 3's base model offers a 160GB hard drive in a $249 system. That's far more reasonable, and more directly competitive with its closest contemporary. Even a year ago, almost two, it had come down to $299 for the base model, putting it well within reach for an individual or family seeking a new entertainment device.
Josh "Xbox 360 Forever" Engen
The Xbox 360 has always had a significant edge over the PS3 in the pricing department. The PS3 hit retailers a full year after the 360, and you could pick up Microsoft's "Core" system for 200 dollars less than the cheapest PS3 setup. In fact, the most expensive 360 setup was still a hundred dollars less than the cheapest PS3 package. Microsoft has constantly kept the 360 at a lower price-point than the PS3, but that margin has become extraordinarily slim over the last few years. Currently, you should have no problem picking up a 360 for around $199, but that's only slightly less than the PS3's $249 price tag.
The margin seems even more insignificant when one considers Sony's incorporated Blu-ray player. However, I'm starting to question the need for a device that plays physical copies of HD media. CD, and DVDs are growing ever-closer to being cast into the same nostalgic category as cassettes and VHS tapes, and purchasing a copy of your favorite movie on Blu-ray can be hard on your pocketbook.
However, services like iTunes, Netflix, and Amazon allow customers to download and/or stream high definition content. So, for those of us who truly have a hankering for HD media, streaming capability is far more relevant than any physical counterpart. And, thanks to Microsoft's Media center integration, the Xbox 360 has a major leg up here. You can even stream satellite television or cable TV via the media center interface.
Hardware and Performance:
Shelby "Hugs For PS3s" Reiches
But price is only part of the equation. It'll attract people who don't yet have a system, but with multiple options out there, the console still needs to offer something above and beyond its competition. The PlayStation 3 has the aforementioned Blu-Ray, which is a huge boon both for gaming and its potential as a media center. Optical media that can store upwards of 50GB of data? With today's high-resolution textures and painstakingly rendered cutscenes, that space is claimed quickly, allowing for the PlayStation 3 to do neat tricks such as putting L.A. Noire on one disc. Convenient, but hardly mind-blowing.
More interesting, perhaps, is that games designed for the system from the ground up are capable of playing at a native 1080p resolution. No upscaling here, folks, just natural, high-definition glory. The lack of upscaling isn't solely a visual benefit, actually, but the less work the system and TV have to do to communicate, the less one struggles with input lag. Ever play a game on a cheap HDTV and run into extra fractions of a second of controller lag? Not an issue when one is simply watching a movie, but when your reflexes are being called to action, milliseconds make a difference in both accuracy and sensation. That sort of distinction is important when you take your gaming online.
Josh "My 360 Could Beat Up Your PS3" Engen
In the end, the PS3 will always win the hardware discussion, but the conversation is a lot more complicated than most people realize, and the PS3's win is far more diminutive. For example, the processors in the Xbox and the PS3 are the same speed, but the PS3 has more than double the number of cores (7 vs. 3). This allows the PS3 to process data with far more efficiency. However, the GPU on the 360 has 10Mb of integrated eDRAM, which allows it to run games with slightly higher graphical settings. But as these systems have aged, developers have learned to use these differences to deliver content that is relatively indistinguishable on either console. So, even though the PS3 is technically more powerful, the practical advantage of this technology is far less impressive.