Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Next-Gen Consoles: Specs!

For the second installment of this consumer comparison trilogy, I bring to you: specifications! However, rather than speaking at length about boring tech-babble, I see contrasting each console's have and have-nots much more precious deliberating which console to buy. So, while this may not be an article about the "CLASH OF THE PROCESSOR CHIPS!", you can be sure each console's accessories and abilities will clash. The article, after the jump.

Microsoft XBOX 360 - $299 (Core)/$399 (Platinum):
Otherwise known as the console for the impatient gamer. No, no, I jest! The XBOX 360 has been selling fairly well since its release, due in no small part to it being the most powerful console in the market (compared to the old-gen Playstation 2 and Gamecube).

  • Let's start with XBOX 360's strongest component- XBOX Live. Microsoft's system boasts this highly-integrated online service every online 360 game runs through. While this doesn't sound like anything special, for those who have seen the headaches a la carte online gaming can give. Playstation 2 is a prime example of how not having an integrated online service can essentially kill online gaming on a console. Therefore, big props to the XBOX team for figuring out what works, and even creating some profitable business models (i.e. XBOX Live Marketplace, Gold Live Accounts, etc.). The only downside to XBOX Live- no web browser.
  • XBOX 360 also boasts some strong accessory connectivity, which it will round out come the launch of Zune and Windows Vista. You can have an iPod, entertainment center, or whatever- if it has the right outputs, XBOX 360 can link with it. I've enjoyed my iPod playing through big screen TVs on more than one occasion, and I'm happy to say, your music library remains organized like it is on your iPod.
  • This console also will appeal to media-philes, since all current resolutions are compatible with the XBOX 360. Whether your TV's resolution is 1080i, or you've moved on to 1080p, you're A-OK. If you're still playing games in 480p resolution... now would be a good time to buy a new (cheap) HDTV. Even better news for movie fans: Microsoft will soon release the HD-DVD addition to their console for even higher-definition movie enjoygasming.

Playstation 3 - $499 (Standard)/$599 (Premium):
The Goliath of gaming systems (even out-sizing the original XBOX) had better live up to its price tag. Especially with the battery recalls, PSP, and other crippling financial woes preceding it within Sony. While the PS3 is the most expensive in the upcoming lineup, it also boasts the features to beat for this console generation.
  • The PS3, like the XBOX, will also be venturing into the online field. While it is not yet It has been confirmed whether all that games will not run through a unified XBOX Live-like service, it has been confirmed and that using this service will be free. Even better, there will be a Marketplace for small purchases, a web browser, and a point system for game objective completion (pretty much a free XBOX Live).
  • PS3's controller, the Sixaxis, will be ditching the rumble feature (boo!) and picking up motion detection (yay?). The Sixaxis, despite the radically different name, is nearly identical to the Playstation 2 controller except for the L2/R2 shoulder buttons, which look a little more trigger-ish. These controllers are wireless with batteries built-in, and will be chargable via a USB cable to your PS3. Recent commentary regarding the Sixaxis is mixed- people think it's solid, but too light; sleek, but flimsy; familiar, but lacking fundamental features (like rumble). Sixaxis preference most definitely lies in the eyes of the player.
  • Now, if you thought XBOX 360 had media junkies satiated, the PS3 does what XBOX 360 can and quite a bit more. Not only does the PS3 support all TV resolutions (like the XBOX 360), it also packs in HDMI (which has created quite a stir recently over concerns HDMI would limit the quality of DVDs/Blu-Rays if played on non-HDMI TVs), a security device that ensures your media is legit, and is playing on a legit TV. Like a friendlier XBOX 360, it boasts connectivity with most (if not all) electronics. Most important, however, is the following...
  • One of the most controversial moves Sony made with this console is packaging a Blu-Ray drive in each unit, which Sony states caused the price tag hike this time around. Many worry Sony is trying to push its new media standard, but there is merit in saying Sony is being forward-looking with disk capacity and high-definition mediums. Blu-Ray disks are also infamously more expensive than its DVD/HD-DVD competitors, but boasts up to 24x greater storage. Sony and its game developers state this will create unthought-of opportunities for video games, being able to pack massive amounts of data into one disk.
  • Finally, Sony boasts its "Cell" processor, which is a multi-core processor powerhouse of miniscule proportions. This technology has been spearheaded by Sony and IBM for the Playstation 3, intending to pack the most powerful punch of all next-gen consoles to ensure games can push their content to the limit.

Nintendo Wii - $249:
Now it's time for the underdog in this e-peen contest of specs. Although it's the cheapest of the 3 (for reasons explained below), that's not a reason to count the Wii out. If we can believe Nintendo's marketers, this is the game system that will attract both the hardcore and casual with genuinely fun games, reinvent the controller with the motion-detecting Wii Remote, and prove once and for all that profit with consoles lies in gaming- not wannabe media centers. Let's see what the Wii has to offer:
  • As hinted at in the introduction, the Wii is trying to revolutionize controllers with their new Wii Remote. This baby is sleek, lightweight, and claims to be a superbly accurate pointing device/remote control hybrid. While the jury's still out on the accuracy of the motion-detection capability, rest assured this is no fly-by-night gimmick. Games being released for the other next-gen consoles will control nothing like the Wii version. Shooting games will require you to aim your controller like a gun. Racing games have you twisting it left and right like a wheel. Super Monkey Ball will have you spasming in hopes of not falling off the map. You get the idea.
  • The Wii has a very small, sleek, space-efficient design. An XBOX behemoth this console is not. However, with the saved space comes conservative processing power and graphical capabilities. While this won't make or break the deal with people looking to game, folks looking for a multi-purpose DVD player might have to look elsewhere.
  • On the topic of DVDs, the Wii version being released this Christmas will only play Gamecube and Wii formats (as well as CDs). This means you'll still have to keep your DVD player around the TV, despite most consoles making DVD playback a standard feature. But fear not! Nintendo has announced they will be releasing a DVD-playing Wii in Japan late 2007, and I'd venture to guess if sales go well, we'll see a similar version in America.
  • Continuing with lack of media compatibility, the Wii will only have a maximum of 480p resolution. Translated: No HDTV for you! While this may bum out quite a few, especially those who bought a HDTV to partake in the orgasmic next-gen visual experience, the up-side is the Wii will work on any TV (and you won't have illegible quest text on non-HDTV sets).
  • Diverging from the negative, Nintendo has managed to pick up quite a few big-name developers along the way while developing the Wii: EA, SquareEnix, and many others. There's no doubt in my mind that with Nintendo trying to capture the non-gamer market, and re-capture those who lost faith in the industry, there will no shortage of developers backing up the Wii (if their theory proves true).
  • Finally, the Wii lacks an ethernet port out of the box. The only way you'll be able to hook the Wii up to the Internet, until a future peripheral is released (cost unknown), is if you have WiFi access. Now is as good a time as ever to buy that wireless router.
While this list is not exhaustive, it's certainly not devoid of useful contrasts. Please feel free to sit and chew on these system abilities, and ponder which is most appealing to you. If you feel this article is biased towards a console, take some comfort in the fact I attempted to write it as factually as possible, even going against personal preferences to relay what the masses are saying (lots of finger-biting occurred when typing things I didn't particularly agree/want to agree with).

If you're interested in reading up on some of the technical specifications and console reports, here are some direct links:
XBOX 360: 1 2 3
Playstation 3: 1 2 3
Wii: 1 2 3

No comments: