Sunday, December 31, 2006

Xbox 360 vs. Sony PS3

The first week of December I decided to get a Xbox 360 and HD DVD drive because MicroCenter had them on sale with a $100 rebate, and I have been wanting a high-def DVD solution for quite some time. I decided to get the Xbox 360 Pro system because it came with component cables that would cost $40 if I bought the Core system. The included hard drive and wireless controller were a bit of an up sell since I didn't need them (I thought), but I'm glad I decided to get them.

The Xbox 360 was immediately useful after getting it out of the box. The Xbox 360 works as a Media Center Extender right out of the box so I could watch TV streamed from my Media Center PC, and the HD DVD drive came with the movie King Kong and a remote that works with Media Center Extender to turn the Xbox into a nice way to watch TV. The included hard drive even came with some demo games. All in all, I am very pleased with the Xbox 360 and its out-of-box experience.

The Sony PS3, on the other hand, has a painful out-of-box experience. I got one the other day when I stopped in to get some of my favorite popcorn, and a movie, at Hollywood video. Their attached Game Crazy store had just received two 60GB units about an hour before and the salesman told me I was the first adult to walk into the store. Lucky me, I got it for MSRP. :-)

After getting it home and unpacking it, I realized that they no longer come with the Blu-Ray movie "Talladega Nights" and even though it has a 60GB drive, it doesn't come with any demo games. It doesn't even come with an HD cable, so it's connected to my TV via a composite cable. Composite!?! The top of line "next generation" game machine that's being sold as "High Definition gaming" comes with the worst possible video connection. On top of that, the wireless controller uses rechargeable batteries, which of course, come mostly discharged, so you are forced to use the measly 4' USB cable with the controller. And, to make matters worse, the batteries are only charged when the PS3 is on (I was hoping they would charge if it is just plugged in). Sitting that close to my 55" TV is a bit of a neck strain. The 360 also has wireless controllers, but they supply two Energizer AA batteries (offering a rechargeable pack if you're so inclined, or allowing you to use your own rechargeable AA batteries), so their controller works at a reasonable distance right out of the box. Once again, a better out-of-box experience.

Without any games, the PS3 will let you surf the web, but without a USB keyboard or mouse (which I don't have in my living room), it's not a very pleasing experience (entering a web address is excruciatingly slow and navigating at TV resolutions means lots of scrolling).

A day later I got Tiger Woods golf because all of my PS2 games (both of them actually, Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution) use custom controllers, and there isn't a backwards compatible connection on the PS3 to plug those in (or as far as I can tell, even a Sony branded converter). Tiger Woods Golf looks like it might be a nice game (I got it because Sara thought she might like it, not because I suddenly started liking golf), but the 480i SD TV connection offered by the composite video cable is not doing the PS3 any favors.

By contrast, the Xbox 360 actually up-samples and anti-aliases old Xbox games (I bought a used copy of Colin McRae Rally 04 for $8 at Game Stop last week) to full 720p HD TV resolution, and they look great. I'm glad I got that hard drive for the Xbox 360 since it's required to run original Xbox games, like Colin McRae.

All in all, I would have to say that the Xbox 360 has left me with a very positive feeling regarding Microsoft, and the PS3 has left me with a very negative feeling regarding Sony (which really just builds on a previously held poor opinion of Sony). If I can only find a HD cable for the PS3 (they're not in stock anywhere locally), perhaps my opinion of the Ps3 will change.