Thursday, December 28, 2006

Thoughts on the PS3 and Xbox 360

After all my talk about the Sony PS3, I ended up getting one at Christmas this year. I can't explain why, other than I am a gamer. I have read just about everything I can on the Sony's PS3, Microsoft's Xbox 360, and Nintendo's Wii. I know all the specs, the performance issues, the bugs, etc. and all it comes down to good games. I enjoy playing good games, whether those games are on the PSP or the Xbox 360. So, I had always planned on getting a PS3, just not this soon. Just as I plan on getting a Wii as soon as I can find one.

After using the PS3 for the past week I thought I would post my thoughts on the 60 gig PS3 system. Right out of the box I knew it was going to be an experience too. My first gripe is no disk, I had this gripe about the XBox 360 as well. After spending all that money on the initial system, I had no way of playing the thing and since I received it late Christmas Eve, I could not get anything to play on it until the day after Christmas. Anyhow, I digress. Let me tell you about my setup, I am playing the PS3 on a Pioneer 43" HD plasma. The Xbox is hooked up to a 65" Mitsubishi HD rear projection TV. The Mitsubishi does not have HDMI and does not support 1080p so I chose to put the PS3 on the plasma since it had HDMI and I happened to have an HDMI cable on hand (Sony does not supply an HDMI cable). I ended up buying Resistance: Fall of Man and Untold Legends Dark Kingdom. Both games run well and look good.

The SIXAXIS controller is very light, in fact it feels like a toy. I started with the trepidation that I might break it. This wore off relatively fast though as I played with the system. Playing a game without rumble is, well, kind of a distraction. So it did not really change the game experience over all, once I got over the initial shock but it is still useful to have for certain games. I do not have any games that support the motion features of the controller.

The PS3 has a typical boot time and the load times on the games are typical as well. By typical I mean they are on par with all the other game consoles I have played including the Xbox 360, the original Xbox, the PS2, Gamecube, etc. I would have thought that next-gen gaming meant faster boot and load times, I guess not. Neither the Xbox 360 nor the PS3 improved in this area over the last generation, so far anyhow.

The integration of the Playstation Portable (PSP) with the PS3 is interesting. I can buy and download games for my PSP through the PS3 using the PlayStation Store. Once I am ready for the download I just plug my PSP into the PS3 through USB and save the games to the PSP's memory card. There is also a remote play feature where I can control the PS3 with the PSP through a custom wireless connection. I am still checking the PS3/PSP functionality out and I will write more on it later when I have a better understanding of what all it can do. I have read I can use it as a remote to play media on the PS3 though right now I have no media on the PS3, it is all on my computer's hard drive.

The PS3 has no connectivity with my existing network other than to connect to the Internet. I can't see the computers on my network or access media on those computers with the PS3. So, I can't transfer music from my collection without transferring it to a memory card or burning it to CD. I have to say, this seems like work. I have quite a few albums on my hard drive and the time involved with transferring it in this fashion is not worth it to me. The PS3 is doomed to stay strictly a gaming system for now. I will keep using the Xbox 360 to watch media since I can stream music and movies from my MCE machine to the Xbox 360 and see it all on my big screen without having to spend hours copying everything to CD then ripping it to the PS3 or (shudder) re-ripping all the originals to the PS3.

The online offering from Sony is very limited. There is no way to chat with friends unless they are doing the same thing on the PS3 that I am, meaning they have to be playing the same game since each game has a separate friends list which does not integrate with the PS3's friends list. The browser functions OK, though in HD it is relatively small with no way to enable zooming that I can find and it is not full screen if the TV is wide screen (I think all HD TVs are wide screen). I know the Xbox 360 does not have a browser but the third party browser I can use on the Xbox 360 through Windows MCE can zoom pages and does full wide screen. I am hoping Sony will roll out more functionality for it's online services as time goes by as Microsoft has done for the Xbox 360. Currently there are a couple of retail demos, PSP games, arcade games, and movie trailers available on the PS Network for download. The arcade games are clones of more popular games, nothing original. For example, one of them is called Cash Guns Chaos which is a complete ripoff of Smash TV. Downloading games is somewhat a chore as well. Once you start a download you can't do anything else until it is done. The Xbox 360 has a system to allow you to stack your downloads and do other things while you are downloading your list of things. The PlayStation Network timed out on me after every download. While the downloads did arrive and install fine, the PlayStation Network would time out after the download meaning I would have to exit out of the store and reconnect if I was not finished using the store.

The Blue-Ray player is something I have no use for at this time. I am not going to support either Blue-Ray movies or HD-DVD movies until one format comes out on top. I could justify moving my entire movie collection to DVD. I can't justify buying all them again in a format that could disappear within a year. So, until there is a clear winner I will buy my HD content from DirecTV, Xbox Live, and/or online.

Overall, I think the PS3 has a long way to go to be the system Sony says it is going to be. I would suggest waiting to buy a PS3 for another six months to a year but if everyone waits, Sony might not get those updates done or roll out new online services as fast if sales are dismal. With some work the PS3 could end up being the gamers choice but many things have to happen before it does and from what I see, Microsoft is not waiting around to find out if Sony can catch up. Microsoft is off and running with new offerings like the XNA Game Studio Express tools which allows games to be created by users and be played on the Xbox 360 and HD content such as movies and TV programs available for download. No matter which console comes out on top, I think the winners in this round of consoles will be the consumers.


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