A friend called me a few weeks ago to ask what “affordable” console to buy for her 13 year old sons birthday, my immediate answer was the Nintendo Wii, followed swiftly by “though you could get a basic Xbox 360” my thinking being that at 13 it wouldn’t be long before he’d long for something a bit more grown up and that unlike the Wii it really is a next gen console and that little bit more future proof. Not that I’m calling the Wii immature, it’s just teenage boys like teenage toys, preferably those that include lots of blood and gore. Armed with my inexpert advice she took a trip into town to check out the prices, it wasn’t long before I got a phone call after she visited the very good independent gaming store we have here.
“I looked at the £150 Xbox and I was told it’s not worth it” And indeed it turns out the advice she was given may well be right. The basic Xbox model is, well, basic! My advice therefore was pretty lamentable given that I’d suggested it would be future proof for five years or so, with only 256mb of storage, no big game bundle and no wireless internet meant that it was a purchase that would need to be added to over time, not what I’d suggested at all… yes i’m a fool! In the end she bought her son a Wii and of course he’s over the moon with his nunchuks and all the other gubbins you get with Nintendo’s little white wonder.
This of course got me thinking (that’s right I don’t lead a very exciting life!) Microsoft boasts loud and proud that it’s entry model next gen console is only £150 but is it really value for money? Short answer yes, long answer no. If you want to be playing next gen games today and have no real concern for future developments then the Xbox Arcade model is great. However if there is a chance you want to download games or expand your current games with download-able content then you’re going to need to upgrade your hard drive. Similarly if you don’t want cables trailing the length of your home you may well want to get the wireless internet upgrade, and given that a lot of consoles probably end up in bedrooms that’s almost a given.
A quick bit of surfing around the TV & Entertainment Shop brings up this shopping list:
Xbox Arcade Console £149.99
Xbox Wireless Bridge £46.96
Xbox Live 12 Month gold £34.98 (Fees for online play)
20bg Hard Drive £64.99
Total : £296.92
Which makes it over £20 more expensive than the 20gb Xbox Console + Wireless Bridge + 12 Month online Play at a total of 271.97 and not a million miles away from the £331.96 you would pay for the 120gb Xbox Elite (again with 12 months online play and wireless bridge) Of course the Arcade model looks even worse value when you consider that most stores will bundle some pretty nifty games with both the 20gb and 120gb models for no extra cost.
Obviously unless you really don’t want wireless or the ability to save anything the Arcade model is false economy, the cynical might argue that it’s real value is that of a price buster: Microsoft can claim to produce the cheapest next gen console.
So how does this compare with the Playstation 3? Well the basic model comes in at around £290 (currently £284.99 on the TV & Entertainment news store) and of course it’s already got a wireless network connection and a 40gb hard drive additionally you don’t need to shell out £35 a year for the privilege of playing online (I’ve always thought it hugely cheeky that after paying £40 a game Xbox users are asked to pay extra to play with them online) But of course we’re not done there, the PS3 also includes a Blu-Ray Player, if you wanted a standalone Blu-Ray player to replace your DVD player the cheapest Blu-Ray player I could find on the store here is this Samsung model at£225 add to that it has a web browser, thats passable for casual use it suddenly becomes much more attractive, I could of course go on to tell you that a PS3 can also double as a home computer if your prepared to spend 30 mins installing Linux… but I won’t!
So where does this leave me? Well if I had to give the same advice again to a friend I’d obviously not recommend the Xbox as an “affordable” option. The Wii certainly comes in at the cheapest costing around £177 and so in the case of my friend was probably the right choice. The Xbox and PS3 follow closely behind. Personally if I had to choose only one i’d opt for the PS3, it’s built in Blu-Ray player, free online play and expandability as a home computer far out-weigh any doubts I have about its catalogue of titles which like it’s usability and functions are growing. If on the other hand you don’t mind the £35 a year and the lack of Blu-Ray then the Xbox may be for you.
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