I have been running hardCOREware.net for over a decade now, and over those years we have had quite a few hugely popular articles that received a lot of attention. Some of the most popular articles in our ten-year history are the XBOX 360 vs Playstation 3 series. It all started when I asked a friend of mine, who at the time was working at a large game developer that made games for both platforms, to do a writeup comparing the consoles from a developer’s point of view. This was important, since at the time the PS3 hadn’t been released yet and there were a lot of questions as to how it would perform. As a programmer, he was able to share his thoughts on how they compared, right before the Playstation 3 launched in November 2006.
A year later, I stood back and took a look at how they compared from the perspective of a lifelong gamer whose job is to compare products objectively. It wasn’t easy, but based on the feedback, I think I did as good a job as possible at the time. I did it again a year later; it was interesting to see how things changed as both platforms matured.
That was in 2009. Here we are in 2011, and a lot has changed. The hardware you buy in stores today is nothing like what you would have bought in 2006 or even 2009. Both Microsoft and Sony have gone through some major changes, from losing developers of huge first-party exclusives, to directly competing with Nintendo for the first time.
I’ll keep the format the same as prior articles – since the feedback was so good, I don’t see much reason to change it. I should state again that the goal here is to be as objective as possible. I am going to leave out personal preferences as much as I can, and when it does come up I’ll be sure to make note of it.
Kinect vs Move?
One thing I won’t be covering this time around is Kinect vs Move. For one, it’s just too early to say what hasn’t been said about these platforms already. As of now, they are both going after the “bored of Wii” demographic, and I never included the Wii in the first place, for obvious reason. Once more hardcore games come out, I may take these motion controllers into consideration in a separate article. Perhaps it should be Kinect vs Move vs Wii 2 (or whatever Nintendo calls the console when it is unveiled at E3).
Feel free to leave a comment below once you’ve finished reading through it. Note that I have been called a Sony fanboy a million times, and a Microsoft fanboy a million times (which I guess means I succeeded in making the articles as objective as possible – both sides agree/disagree with me). So don’t waste your breath – those comments will likely be ignored. However if you have some other feedback to share, please do so!
This used to be the most contentious topic to start off with, but things have changed immensely since 2006. Gone are the days of Sony marketing the Playstation 3 as a “premium” product with a fancy glossy finish and relatively huge hard drives. Although it wasn’t that long ago, it seems ridiculous to think that the PS3 used to sell for as much as $600 when it first launched! They have pared down the hardware over the years though, removing extraneous bits such as flash card readers, SACD support, Playstation 2 hardware, and extra USB ports.
Most significantly, the GPU and CPU have both shrunk over the years. This is important to Sony, as they can have many more processors fabricated on a single wafer than before, which means significantly reduced production costs. The CPU has gone from 90nm to 45nm, and the GPU from 90nm to 40nm. To the end user, this also has the desired effect of much lower power consumption and heat production. This also allows Sony to use smaller, less expensive power supplies and smaller, lighter products which are cheaper to manufacture and ship. Although you might initially think it is a matter of taste, the “Slim” model quite literally looks and feels “cheap” compared to initial SKUs. This is a conscious decision by Sony, with the sole purpose of being able to abandon their “premium” marketing plan, and sell the Playstation 3 at a competitive price. With a smaller form factor and lighter plastics, they were able to achieve that goal at the expense of, well, an expensive looking product.
The end result of all this means that you are paying $299 for a 160GB version, and $349 for a 320GB version. Thankfully, Sony has also abandoned the practice of having a ridiculous amount of SKUs with all sorts of minor differences between them. If you go to the store and buy a PS3 now, your only choice is hard drive size. And as I’ll discuss later, there still is little to no reason to get a bigger hard drive anyway. And don’t worry, the hard drive is just as easy to change on the Slim as it ever was (in fact it is quite a bit easier, now that there is a single screw which is much more strip-resistant).
Microsoft interestingly went the other way with their XBOX 360 marketing strategy. They have gone from the toy-ish looking plastic console to a shiny slick-looking unit that no longer looks out of place in a home theatre setup. They have also seemingly gone the other direction with hardware specs; instead of removing more and more features to make it cheaper to manufacture, they have added features such as integrated WiFi, more USB ports, and built-in digital audio output. One could argue (and I have in our previous articles) that many of these features should have been present in the first place. Well they are there now, and the price of the console is as low as ever. Unfortunately though, the hard drive is still a proprietary format. This is a huge disappointment, although you are now able to use USB flash drives as storage. The usefulness of this feature is somewhat diminished though, by the fact that it is arbitrarily limited to 16GB capacity drives for no other reason than forcing you to buy an expensive proprietary hard drive if you want more space. Although not as expensive as they used to be, at $99, the 250GB XBOX 360 hard drive is still more than twice as expensive as a normal laptop hard drive.
Like Sony, Microsoft has also significantly changed their chip fabrication process to cut costs drastically. GlobalFoundries was able to integrate the CPU and GPU onto a single 45nm die. The result is similar (if not more pronounced) than what Sony saw with their reductions – lower cost, lower power consumption, and lower heat output. RROD seems like a distant memory now.
Microsoft is a bit more crafty with their SKU-splitting though. They do match Sony’s entry $299 price point, and with a slightly bigger 250 GB hard drive. However, instead of adding more (arguably frivolous) storage space at a higher cost, Microsoft went the other way, offering a version with 4GB of internal storage for $199. Note that this version is not as crippled or useless as the Arcade Version was back in the day – you are still able to download and install XBOX Live games, and you can add as many 16GB USB flash drives as you like, if you need more storage for full sized games and multimedia. It really seems like the wiser choice to go with the 4GB version, especially since you can always buy the 250GB drive later at the same additional cost anyway, if you really need to down the road.
So depending on how much you want to store on your console, Microsoft either takes a big lead in price, or it’s a tie.