Xbox 360 Elite games console
Small tweaks, big difference?
Possibly one of the biggest factors under scrutiny in this test was the controller. Aside from the obvious design differences, the wireless joypad on the Elite is powered by a pair of AA batteries - unlike the PS3's controller, which is charged from the console through a USB cable. The Elite controller, however, switches itself off after about ten minutes' inactivity - a nice touch, and one missing from the PS3 joypad.
Xbox controller evolution: (L-R) The original 'Duke' controller, Controller S and the 360 controller
For many gamers, simple familiarity with one console or another will determine personal preference. The general layout of both the PS3 and Xbox controller is much the same - the most significant difference, aside from the Xbox device being a little more chubby, is that the left-hand joystick and the joypad have swapped places on the Xbox controller.
Clash of the controllers: PS3 (L) and Xbox 360
Despite our greater familiarity with the PlayStation controller, we were determined to keep an open mind. However, the non-symmetrical positioning of the left joysticks just feels wrong. Not to have both thumbs next to each other in a symmetrical configuration felt unnatural. But of course there are an awful lot of gamers who insist that this is an ergonomically superior layout. And in favour of the Xbox, the Elite controller has a rumble function.
We tested the Elite's gaming effectiveness using Gears of War and Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2. Both were frankly fantastic in HD and whatever the sound being used was, it was pretty darn cool. The detail in both games was sharp and none of the images blurred at all in high-speed movement. Not that you'd normally notice, given the awesome, action-packed gameplay.
One of the most notable benefits for the Xbox buyer is the amount of features available online. Not only is the is the Xbox Live online gaming community enormous and growing all the time, enabling hard-core gamers to play each other all over the world, but there is a multitude of movies, TV shows, games and gaming extras on offer to download. And this is where your 120GB hard drive really comes into its own.
If you're not one to take advantage of the Xbox Live experience, however, and you just enjoy a few hours gameplay a week, then the other Xboxes do remain better value than the Elite. The Premium is £50 cheaper, and if HDMI means little or nothing to you, that's another game. Or two.
One thing to bear in mind, however, is that if you want to use your Xbox to watch HD DVD, then that little accessory will set you back another £130, pushing the overall price up to £430... more than the price of the Blu-ray equipped PS3.
Another fairly substantial advantage is that there are an awful lot of Xbox 360 games out there - way, way more than are available (native) for the PS3.
The price is something that sets this console aside from the competition and for most buyers, the sheer number of quality games available will make the real difference. The PS3 also offers an incredible gaming experience, but the majority of the games available are adapted variations of Xbox or PC games. Why pay more for play a game that invariably will have a glitch here and there? The only game that, so far, really demonstrates what the PS3 is capable of is Resistance: Fall of Man.
So laying out for a console only to enjoy it occasionally is a bit silly. If you're a keen gamer and want to play good games in glorious high definition, right now, the minute you've got your brand new console set up, then you want an Xbox 360 Elite.