SonyPlaystation 3: Â£299 to Â£349
Pity the poor, picked-on PS3: it has become the console equivalent of the kid at school who gets bullied because he talks posh and wears a smart blazer. Nobody liked the initial price, some have been apathetic about Blu-ray and everyone keeps wondering when some really great games are going to arrive. Disgruntled developers keep crawling out to moan about how hard the Cell CPU is to program and why the nVidia graphics processor isn't quite as good as the Xbox 360's Xenos. Sony itself has had to backtrack from its â€˜people will pay a premium/every PS3 is elite' stance to â€˜lets make this thing more affordable - what can we cut back on?' Hence the new Â£299 40GB option.
All of this obscures the fact that the PS3 is now selling well. Current reports suggest it's actually out-selling the 360 in many territories, including the UK. It's also - in hardware terms - the most powerful and luxurious of the new consoles. It's quiet, solidly built and boasts excellent multimedia support, built-in Blu-ray movie playback and a fine interface modelled on the PSP's. It has more games that run in native (not upsampled) 1080p, and while the PlayStation Network isn't as solid or friendly a service as Xbox Live, it is a huge improvement on the PS2's online services. With the new Home 3D community front-end, the PS3 could be an online force to be reckoned with. Finally, the disappointingly lightweight, rumble-free Sixaxis will be replaced by the more solid, rumble-enabled Dual Shock 3. It's a good platform, and getting better all the time.
The real problem is this: at the moment, Sony still has very few games that demonstrate any tangible hardware advantage over the Xbox 360. Games like Heavenly Sword and Motorstorm have looked amazing, but the former is flawed and the latter a bit shallow. Many cross-platform games look no better or actually worse on Sony's hardware, and the PS3 doesn't have so many of the big name exclusives that have driven 360 sales. Still, there are also two good reasons why you shouldn't discount the PS3 (and three if you count Blu-ray). First, there are some great showcase games arriving this Christmas and in the coming months: the new Ratchet and Clank and Uncharted: Drake's Fortune have to be seen to be believed, and Metal Gear Solid 4, Gran Turismo 5: Prologue and Final Fantasy XIII are on their way. Secondly, there's still a lot of untapped power in Cell and the PS3 architecture. Sony has already proven with PS2 that a console can last more than the usual three-to-five years and dish out great games at the end of its lifespan. The PS3 could still be going strong when 360 owners are upgrading to their next console. Buying one now is a bit of a gamble, but the odds are in your favour.
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