Console Wars

Dec. 22, 2006, midnight | By Boris Vassilev | 17 years, 7 months ago

A look at the top tech in the gaming world

The 2006 holiday season is finally here: let the gift giving, store camping and mall looting officially begin! As usual, some of the hottest items around this year are the new next-generation gaming consoles: the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii. With the release of the PlayStation 3 on Nov. 17, people were trampled, shot at, robbed and generally disappointed as they tried to get their hands on limited units of the coveted game console. With less scandal, the Nintendo Wii debuted 2 days later, along with a considerably lower price and many fewer customer grievances. A year ago, the Xbox 360 flew off the shelves, selling 10 million units within 16 months of the release date, according to CNET. Which one of these souped up gaming machines it right for you? SCO gives you a look at the hardware, support and games backing each in your quest for the ultimate holiday gaming machine.

Xbox 360
Released - November 22, 2005

Technical Specs
Processor - 3.2 GHz tri-core chip clocked at 115 Gigaflops
Graphics Unit – 500 MHz ATI chip running at 48 billion calculations per second
Television Compatibility – Standard EDTV and HD-TV compatible
Controller – Up to 4 Xbox 360 wireless controllers at once
Storage – 20 gigabyte hard drive optional with premium package, required to play some games.

Services Offered
Xbox Live with optional Xbox 360 Live Vision webcam and headset ($49.99 subscription per year)
Backwards Compatible with close to 300 select Xbox titles

Popular Games
Call of Duty 2
Halo 2
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Splinter Cell: Double Agent
Rainbow Six: Las Vegas
Madden 2007
Dead or Alive 4
Gears of War
Viva Pinata

Xbox Live Games
Geometry Wars Evolved
Hexic HD

Released a full year before its competition, the Xbox 360 benefits from a wide selection of solid game titles as well as from a fully developed support network. Perhaps one of the greatest appeals of the Xbox 360 is the fully developed Xbox Live online gaming network, which serves an estimated 4 million customers, offering online cooperative play for popular games like Call of Duty 2 and downloadable retro games. Reverse compatibility is currently available with some Xbox games, including popular favorites like the Halo and the Tom Clancy series, as well as Super Monkey Ball Deluxe.

Technologically, the Xbox 360 is a full year behind the PlayStation 3, and can't measure up to the technical specs of its rival. Suffering from a lack of new original features, the Xbox 360 simply builds on the original Xbox elements and adds a wider selection of games and online capabilities, as well as occasional fatal error crashes.

Availability and Price
Because of the earlier release date, the Xbox 360 is currently widely available for $300 (base model) and $400 (premium model – same as base, except with 20 GB hard drive and some accessories like chrome finish, Ethernet cable and Xbox Live headset).

The Xbox 360 console is a solid gaming system which currently offers a wide array of games and online services, but lacks creativity and original features, as expected of a next generation gaming console.

PlayStation 3
Released – November 17, 2006

Technical Specs
Processor - 3.2 GHz partitioned "Cell" chip clocked at 215 Gigaflops
Graphics Unit – 550 MHz NVIDIA chip running 74 billion calculations per second
Television Compatibility – Standard EDTV and HDTV compatible
Controller – Up to 7 Bluetooth PS3 SIXAXIS motion sensitive controllers
Storage – 20 (basic) or 60 (premium) gigabyte hard drive

Services Offered
Sony promises a free online gaming service to come in the near future, as well as the ability to download PlayStation 1 and 2 games online for a fee.
Internet browsing and extensive video, music and picture playback from built-in hard drive.

Popular Games
Resistance: Fall of Man
Call of Duty 3
Resident Evil 5
Gran Turismo HD
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
Final Fantasy XII

In theory the most advanced of the 3 consoles, the PS3's Cell processor offers a unique multi-tasking and simultaneous processing power that gives it a significant graphical edge over its competitors. 7800+ PlayStation and PlayStation 2 titles are compatible with the PS3, and along with newly released titles, give it the widest selection of any of the consoles. The console also features a motion sensing controller similar in concept to that of the Wii's, but doesn't integrate it as fully into any of the currently released titles.

No current functioning online multiplayer network, a limited array of first release games that fully take advantage of the computing power of the Cell processor and a solid $600 (for the premium model with 60 GB hard drive) price tag knocks the system down a notch.

Availability and Price
Yeah, right. With units selling out moments after stores opened for them and organized mobs roaming the mall looking for more, a buyer's best bet is to either shell out $2,000 on eBay or wait a couple of months for the rage to subside.

Though marginally superior technically, the PS3 offers much in the line of the same games as the Xbox and Wii, and its limited availability and hefty price make the PlayStation 3 a difficult buy this holiday season.

Nintendo Wii
Released – November 19, 2006

Technical Specs
Processor – 729 MHz IBM "Broadway" chip
Graphics Unit – 243MHz ATI "Hollywood" chip
Television Compatibility – Standard EDTV compatible
Controller – Up to 4 Bluetooth, Wii Remote, Nunchuk or GameCube controllers
Storage – 512 MB Flash Memory built it, with SD and Flash Expansion slots.

Services Offered
Nintendo Wi-Fi connection for multiplayer gaming
Wii Shop Channel for purchasing games and extras
Opera Internet browser
Backwards compatible with GameCube, as well as select N64 and Sega games through Virtual Console software

Popular Games
Wii Sports
Red Steel
Zelda: Twilight Princess
Call of Duty 3
Pokemon Battle Revolution
Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Coming Soon)
Metroid Prime 3:Corruption (Coming Soon)

Of the three consoles, the Wii is the only one to offer a truly innovative and new idea, the motion tracking, rumbling Wii-mote controller along with sports games like tennis, bowling and boxing. Slim, small and wireless, the Wii-mote fits snugly in the player's hands and allows him to execute the moves of his favorite games by waving his hands instead of button mashing. Along with a fair selection of games, many classic Nintendo games', such as Zelda, Mario and Starfox, are gearing their next game installments towards working exclusively with the Wii controllers.

The Wii lacks the raw computing force of the other consoles, the technical components on par with those of the original Xbox. Thus, its graphics tend not to be as good as the competition, and it cannot fully support large HD monitors. Also, there have been several incidents with Wii controllers flying out of overenthusiastic player's hands and damaging televisions, computers, windows and other people (see Wii Have A Problem
for more details).

Availability and Price
Introduced along with the PS3, the Wii has sold 600,000 units in its first week and it remaining a difficult find, priced at a reasonable $250. And of course, there's always the doubled Ebay price.

Originality and fun with the new Wii-motes, as well as a better value and larger selection of games (more than 50 planned for several weeks after release time) give the Wii a step up above the competition, though this console is not without its flaws, such as poorer graphics and limited early release games.

So there you have it, gaming fans, the three top items on every fanboy/girl's holiday shopping list. Will you brave the violent mall hordes for a PlayStation 3, settle for a $500 Ebay Wii or mercilessly crush your enemies in an Xbox Live tournament? The choice is up to you.

Technical Data for Xbox From Team Xbox

Technical Data for PS3 From

Technical Data for Wii From

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