Some things I've learned....

(1) An Engineer can do with 10 cent what a fool can do with a Euro.

(2) "Puff" - unimportant; insignificant; unworthy of study by engineering students; waste of time

(3) It's better to keep your mouth shut and let people think you're stupid than to open it and prove them right!

(4) Blockwork people and concrete people can never work on the same site... Apparently they don't like each other....

(5) It's official; I'm fantastic!

Wednesday 20 May 2009

The Big 3 - Hardware Review

Here it is. The Sony Playstation 3, Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Nintendo's Wii all in one blog, compared, contrasted and analysed as best as I possibly can to see which of the 3 is best value for money, i.e. the best piece of hardware.
Please remember this is a HARDWARE analysis, not software, and for the record I will never be comparing software as I feel this is totally to the taste of the consumer and realistically reviews in general mean jack shit to me when it comes to making a purchase. I should also point out that I won't be delving into the various different processors and so on (partly because I'm not fully enough educated in this regard and also because the quality of the processors and RAM can sometimes mean nothing, example being God of War 2 on PS2 - whoever thought the PS2 could do that!!), so the affair will be more focussed on a features and functions style idea as well as reviews of each console's controller.

So let's kick it off going from smallest to largest with the Nintendo Wii:

Aesthetically it's a nice looking machine, it's hard to fault it really. Compact, shiny white and functional. Personally I'm not a huge fan of the tray it sits in, both the 360 and PS3 can sit on their own, but hey, no biggy. My only problem as such with the machine is the sensor bar. Now I know this is essential to the how the Wiimote works, but seeing as the PS3 pulls off motion control without a sensor bar one has to wonder if it is 100% essential. It uses automatic disk feeding for the Wii Optic Disc and has a liftable flab to expose four gamecube Dolphin controller ports. It has no harddrive with storage carried out by internal flash memory and can use SD cards for storage aswell.

The Wiimote itself is a well designed piece of equipment, comfortable and it looks great. I'm not a fan of the speaker that's built in as most of the time it comes across as poor audio quality and I really don't think it's necessary, especially when the game's primary sound filters through the TV and/or speakers anyway. However, out of the 3 the Wiimote is my least favourite to use and it boils down to one solid fact. The Wiimote is not essential to play the majority of Wii games. Now before you stop me, I'm still not commenting on the quality of the games, this bit relates to the controllers functionality with the games. Besides the launch title WiiSports, very few (with a notable exception of BoomBlox) REQUIRE motion controls. Smash Bros - non existent. Mario Kart - tacked on. Mario Galaxy - tacked on. Zelda - imposed on a game that already came out on Gamecube. And that's just four games off the top of my head. The cold hard fact is that these games would still be top quality even without the motion ability.

This critical flaw was realised by many gamers very early on, and even now the casual audience is starting to look upon the Wii as more of a fad than anything else. With motion-plus on the horizon at an additional cost it's hard to know what the future holds. What we do know is that the Wii is a solid machine with as far as I know a non-existent hardware failure rate. The Mii service is great and adds to the party-style orientation of many of the Wii's games. The different channels are excellent additions but compared to XBL or PSN, the Wii's online service has to go a long way before it should even be in the same sentence as the other two. Damn, I put them in the same sentence!!!

The Xbox 360


First thing you'll notice looking an Xbox is its smooth concave design. This one at home is an Elite Model, so it's black, but the other two 360 models are white. The console uses a disk tray, has slots for memory cards and large power button. This button not only indicates whether the power is on but each quadrant of the outer ring represents a controller that is linked and switched on with the machine. This particular model comes with built in Wi-Fi and a 120GB harddrive and utilises wireless controllers. This isn't consistent with other models, as the Arcade has no harddrive at all, no Wi-Fi (which needs to be bought at an additional expense) and wire controllers (though I have heard to the contrary in this aspect). The other model comes with 60GB storage.

The 360 unfortunately is well known for one fatal flaw - The Red Ring of Death. This alone is a serious issue and requires you to return your console either to the retailer or Microsoft, depending on terms of the warrantee. To pile on the misery another error, the E74 has begun to crop up as well. If you haven't got it by now, the 360 is possibly one of the worst designed machines ever (from that perspective, it's cores perform rather well). This extends to motherfuckin' fan that sounds like a jet engine taking off, and trust me when I say you will be raising the volume on your TV a few notches just so you can hear it! Also, take a look at the power adaptor... :O

Having said that though, both the NXE (despite being half a rip-off of the PS3's XMB and half the Nintendo Miis) and XBL are terrific services despite the fee for Gold Membership. The additionof the bundled headset only adds to the multiplayer immersion and for the most part makes the experience all the more enjoyable.



The controller is excellently designed, with a very comfortable grip and layout. The triggers work well but the D-pad is less than stellar and the requirement of batteries isn't the greatest either, though a lithium battery can be gotten at, yes, you guessed it, an additional cost. The positioning of the left analog adds to the comfort as it predominantly controls movement in the games and both thumsticks have a concaved centre to improve grip.

Playstation 3



First thing you'll notice with the PS3 is just how large it is. It's a little bigger than the 360 but it compensates its size with its arching curves and piano black finish (look how shiny it is in the pic, you can see ME in it!!). I have a 60GB model, with inbuilt Wi-Fi and bluetooth connectivity. This is standard across all models except you can now only get a 40GB and 80GB model (and possibly a 160GB region depending). Like the Wii it has a disk feeder. All the buttons are touch sensitive. Below the disk is a flab which allows for portable storage units like SD cards or Memory Stick Duo. On the front are four USB ports and two at the rear. At this point I should point out the PS3 uses entirely USB2.0 for all connections.

Unlike the 360, there's no mother of a power adaptor and the fans are quiet enough, though the system can get quite warm after extended play. Also, all models have wireless controllers as standard which come with an in-built rechargable battery which is charged via a USB cable with the system. Also unlike the Wii and 360, the PS3 can sustain up to seven controllers at any one time and it is the only system of the 3 to support Blu-Ray and DVD. My particular model can play PS2 games but this feature is no longer available.

However, the PS3's online service PSN isn't quite up to XBL standards, though it is entirely free of charge. More than likely you'll notice this very early on when you have to download an update. For whatever reason the damn thing is RIDICULOUSLY slow, though I must say it IS getting better. Xbox games sometimes come with the update on the disk, and install rather quickly, why this hasn't happened for PS3 games yet I don't know. Also, because headsets aren't bundled with the console - though I believe it is compatible with a lot of bluetooth headsets - the online experience isn't always up to 360 standards, though again, it IS improving with each firware update. As it stands currently there isn't a huge amount between the two online services, but there IS a difference nonetheless.



What can be said about the controller? I'm sure most of the planet has held a Playstation controller before, the design hasn't changed much except for the removal of the wire, the inclusion of the PS button and swapping L2 and R2 for throttle like buttons as opposes to the 360's triggers.

Conclusions

From a strictly hardware perspective, taking into account value for money, reliability, aesthetics there really is only one winner, and that's the PS3. The phrase "You pay for what you get" has never been more apt. The PS3 is the most expensive but with built in WiFi and a harddrive as standard, not to mention an internet browser built into the system with video support for most flash players, you simply can't go wrong. It uses all the latest technology, Blu-Ray, Bluetooth and USB for transfer and storage of data. The fact that PSN almost offers the same experience as XBL without any yearly subscription fee also weighs in Sony's favour. With its curving designs and piano black finish it looks well in any room with a TV and is the perfect hub for home entertainment in this modern era. It might cost a lot but I can guarantee you won't be a disappointed customer with the features and service on offer.




~The Damo
P.S. - Photos are poor quality as camera is on the blip

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