Here’s a little gem from the Al Survive archives – the first gaming piece I ever wrote, 11 years ago! (It was originally published on MySpace – that’s how ancient it is.) I’d been locked in a bitter war with a friend at uni about which gaming console was the superior purchase – the PS3 or the Xbox 360. This is a fascinating piece of history, a glimpse into my worldview as a penniless Drama student in late 2007 / early 2008.

Here are the real highlights…

  • “Sony seems to think you need a ‘blue ray’ on the PS3 over Microsoft’s somewhat more standard data-reading laser? Seems a bit iffy to me… Unless Sony can prove in future games that the Blu-Ray is as much of a technological leap as they boast, then I doubt that my opinion will change.”
  • “Yes, the box might say 40GB on the outside, but do you actually get this? Not at all!”
  • “It’s never going to be practical to use either console as a library for your every piece of various assorted medias. That’s why discs were invented!”

Bless. So young, naive. Come with me on a trip down Memory Lane and see if you agree with the conclusions that my 2007 counterpart reached.

THE ULTIMATE VERDICT: SONY PLAYSTATION 3 OR MICROSOFT XBOX 360
I’ve owned both, I’ve played on both, I’ve seen both played in standard and high definition, I’ve been given a good deal and both have conned me. If you’re unsure of what console to buy and are split down the middle, then you need to keep reading.

Your budget…
Obviously, if you’re a student such as myself, then the actual cost is going to be a very important issue to you. This is what first caused me to lean towards the Microsoft Xbox 360 over the Sony PlayStation 3. At present you can buy a 360 with a wireless controller, a headset, high definition cables, an Ethernet cable and at least one game for no more than £199.99, which is very appealing. This package deal certainly has its perks, as you’re getting a next gen console for up to £150 less than its competitor, but is it as good as it first sounds?

I don’t think so. You get a wireless controller, but you don’t get the batteries or the power pack needed to make it quite what it should be – wireless! So that’s at least another £6.99 at least on the shopping list. Next up, the headset. Very Torchwood, no doubt a hit with the ladies, but you can’t use it properly unless you subscribe to Xbox Live Gold for online gaming, so that’s another £30.64 if you subscribe to a 12-month contract. Then of course there is the free high definition cable. Good that you don’t have to pay anything extra like you do with your PS3 (an extra £7.99 for a HDMI cable if you want high definition output for your Sony console) but does ‘free’ mean inferior quality? Having seen both consoles played on the same high definition TV with both the free Xbox and the separate PS3 cables, I must confess to not seeing any difference, so the most important factor here could be your actual setup and what kind of television you’re using.

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Captain Jack’s headset was a big part of his sex appeal in Torchwood. According to 20 year old me.

So what can you get in a Sony PS3 bundle? Almost the same on the face of it, except you’re now paying somewhere in the region of £299.99 – £349.99. A prize swizz? Muchly not, as it happens. You see Sony’s wireless controller requires no batteries and no additional power pack, as it’s all readily built-in, as is the Sixaxis feature that is movement-sensitive – great if you’re a Nintendo Wii fan but definitely not for me. Still, it’s something that you can’t get on the 360. Also included in a standard bundle is the free internet access at all times with WiFi to boot, which, if you wanted for the 360, would cost you an immense £59.99, just to give you wireless internet access. And it’s free on the PS3. As is the Blu-Ray DVD player, allowing you to watch high definition Blu-Ray discs as standard in your PS3, saving you from paying between £300 and £700 if you bought one on their own from a high street retailer such as Argos. Of course, you’d need a very expensive high definition TV to fully appreciate the true quality of the future, whereas you could enjoy the 360’s ordinary DVD player on a standard televisual setup with no extra forkings-out.

Cost: The Winner? Sony PS3 hands down, in terms of value for money. Of course, it all depends on whether you want the PS3’s sundry add-ons. Not value for money if you don’t want free internet, Blu-Ray or Sixaxis! If basic next gen simplicity is what you seek, then you might want to sniff out the Xbox 360.

High definition…?
Blu-Ray, red ray, standard definition, high definition. It seems a little odd to me that Sony spent so much time and effort promoting their Blu-Ray technology without really showing or proving what it actually does. It obviously costs Sony a lot of money to produce, which would explain the higher price of the PS3, according to a Blu-Ray article from the Guardian: “The expense of integrating the Blu-Ray means Sony actually makes a loss on every device it sells and problems with the technology led Sony to delay the launch of PlayStation3 by six months.”

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Yeaahhhh, this “blue ray” that you speak of will never catch on!

But, in all honesty, I really don’t think it’s worth all the hype. You see, the idea of the Blu-Ray is that it’s meant to allow more data to be stored on a disc, leading to a potentially better performance and a higher graphical quality of games, leading to an overall much more satisfying gaming experience. But it doesn’t. Not from what I’ve seen. Just look at the games available on both consoles: Assassin’s Creed, Sonic the Hedgehog, Fifa 2008 – the games are the same size and length on both the 360 and the PS3, are of the same graphical quality, and yet Sony seems to think you need a ‘blue ray’ on the PS3 over Microsoft’s somewhat more standard data-reading laser? Seems a bit iffy to me.

The rays: The Winner? Microsoft Xbox 360, for keeping it simple. The 360 manages high definition just as good as the PS3 without needing a different coloured and much more expensive ray. Unless Sony can prove in future games that the Blu-Ray is as much of a technological leap as they boast, then I doubt that my opinion will change.

Variety…
Another important thing to keep in mind when buying any console is the games that you are going to play. Obviously! Now, in some cases, it really comes down to personal taste, because both consoles have their exclusive titles, (such as Halo for the Xbox 360 and Uncharted for the PS3), but on the whole most next gen titles are released over both formats, which is great news in terms of variety, but a tear-your-hair out moment if you are trying to decide on which one to purchase.

Games: The Winner? Microsoft Xbox 360. And here’s why. Unless you were lucky enough to get your hands on a 60GB PS3 before they went out of production, the only PS3s that are available to you now are the 40GB non-backwards compatible units, which means they will not play your PSX or PS2 games at all. This is a huge shame. Yes, you can download old classics off the PlayStation store, but this costs, and the variety is not currently huge. However, on the 360, if you download a small and very free emulator and install it on your system, then you can play most, if not all, old Xbox games, so your variety and choice of titles for your 360 is considerably larger than that on the PS3, without a shadow of a doubt.

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Halo on the Xbox 360.

Internet…
Before I began next gen gaming, I was a bit of a snob when it came to utilising the consoles’ online features, especially as I had yet to embrace the world of internet gameplay. On the PS3, though, it is so easy and effortless to connect that you are struggling to find a reason not to. You merely enter your access code for your wireless signal and you’re in, straight away, no questions asked, and not only does this give you instant access to online gaming, but also the whole internet and the PlayStation store, where you can download free trailers and demos at a whim which, although sometimes time-consuming to actually acquire, do still download in the background while you’re carrying out other tasks, such as playing another game. I must admit I never used Xbox Live Gold, because it cost, and to be honest, even if it was as good as what Sony offered on the PS3 (which is pretty damn perfect) it’s still £30 a year plus extra if you want a wireless receiver, and although the 360 bundle does give you a complimentary Ethernet cable, it’s not that much of a consolation. Hell, they were giving those away for free at the university Freshers’ Fayre.

Online features: The Winner? Sony PS3. Why pay on the 360 for a service that can only be as good as that on the PS3, and potentially inferior? It doesn’t make a huge amount of sense.

Hard drive…
Are the consoles’ hard disk drives a factor? For me, when it comes to the PS3, yes. Because, you see, I was conned, as was my friend, as was, I’m guessing, every other PS3 owner. Yes, the box might say 40GB on the outside, but do you actually get this? Not at all! This is a rough estimate only, and they don’t make this clear to the consumer. My friend’s 60GB PS3 is, in fact, only 55GB, and my 40GB unit turns out to be a mere 37GB. The short-fall of 3 – 5GB is a lot in memory terms. Of course, on a 360 Premium package you only get 20GB on your hard disk drive, which is even worse, unless you want to pay upwards of £299.99, in which case you’d get the Xbox 360 Elite and its whopping 120GB memory. The question here is, would you really need that much hard disk space? In reality, I would have to say no.

Hard disk drives: The Winner? Neither. Both have their pros and cons. With the Xbox 360 Premium, yes, it would be nice to have a bigger hard drive, but equally on the PS3 it would be nice to actually get a hard drive that is the size as advertised! Ultimately, I guess it comes down to what you’re actually going to use your precious GBs for. If you wants masses of demos and videos then you might lean towards a PS3, but, to be honest, it’s never going to be practical to use either console as a library for your every piece of various assorted medias. That’s why discs were invented!

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Shameless false advertising on the PS3 packaging…! 

In the end…
What it all comes down to is how much enjoyment you are actually going to get from your purchase. That’s why you’re spending all that money in the first place! For enjoyment. And personally, which console can I say has given me the most entertainment and pleasure? The Sony PS3. Yep, it’s true. Why? Well, the largest swaying factor for me is the range and freedom offered by the PS3’s online capabilities. I can watch games and movie trailers at the press of a button, I can download, store and then play demos for a variety of different games, and I can even communicate with my friends; I can instantly see what game my mates are playing at any one time, wherever they are, and I can send messages to them as quickly as sending a text, without the cost! The internet browser itself is still something of a gimmick if you don’t have a mouse and keyboard, but, hey, it’s there! For nothing!

If you are unsure about your next console, I personally would recommend the Sony PS3. It’s well worth the few extra pennies, and I genuinely believe your enjoyment of it will be tenfold to that which you would get on the Microsoft Xbox 360.

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