Wednesday, December 26, 2007

High Definition Gaming


xbox 360

Not so long ago games consoles were simply that, games consoles. Sony broke the mould seven years ago with the addition of a dvd player to their PlayStation 2.

This started a trend that has seen consoles slowly evolving into entertainment systems, and with the advent of High Definition DVD, the capability to play this format is a compelling reason to invest in one of the new breed of offerings from Sony or Microsoft. We take a look at those offerings here starting with the Sony PlayStation 3 which will be available in the UK in March 2007.

The previous generation of game consoles began offering a DVD level of resolution on certain titles: original versions of the GameCube offered 480p output (it was dropped from later iterations of the console), and the PlayStation 2 delivers 480p wide-screen from many games and doubles as a progressive-scan DVD player.

The original Xbox offered 480p as the baseline for its library of titles, and a handful of games even delivered 720p and 1080i resolutions.

The latest generation of game consoles is even more HD-friendly. All of the Xbox 360 game titles run at 720p or 1080i, and it can stream HD video from a Media Center or Vista PC elsewhere on a home network.

The PlayStation 3, meanwhile, will support HD games as well as double as a Blu-ray movie player. Only the Nintendo Wii lacks native high-def support, but it should offer 480p wide-screen output, meaning it can look just as good as a standard DVD.

Sony PlayStation 3

When Sony introduced their PlayStation 2, it soon became clear that not only was this console a route into impressive game playing capability, but it was also a route into affordable DVD playing. At the time, DVD players were expensive, and savvy consumers soon realised that they could keep the kids happy, and get themselves a half decent movie player in one feel swoop.

Wind forward seven years, and Sony look like they are playing the same master stroke with their PlayStation 3, with blu-ray replacing the original dvd playing capability.

Quick Look

The PlayStation 3 is due for launch in March 2007, and Sony is going to be making lots of game playing friends by making it compatible with PlayStation 1 & 2 games. Possibly an even greater incentive (for those that will be shelling out and not necessarily playing games on the new console) is the blu-ray playing capability which comes along with DVD, DVD-ROM, DVD+/-R and CD-R/W.

Initially the new console will be made available in two forms. The premium version will come with 60GB hard drive, multiple flash memory card readers, wi-fi, HDMI output, while the cheaper version will be made available with a 20 GB hard drive, HDMI, but missing wi-fi and the flash card readers.

Design and Features

The PlayStation 3 has been designed to grace even the most well appointed of living rooms, its sleak black design lending a graceful appearance.

The spec is stunning, with 3.2Ghz processor and 256Mb of memory, with another 265Mb of video memory providing a formidable wallop. A very interesting feature, especially for those wondering whether there is any point in buying a true 1080p Plasma or LCD screen is that resolution for the PlayStation 3 is up to this level – stunning levels of realism a certainty.

There’s support for up to seven Bluetooth remote controllers and Sony’s PSP hand-held games console can be used as a remote screen controller.

When launched in the UK the PlayStation three is expected to cost around £425 for the premium console, and around a hundred less for the standard version.

Microsoft Xbox 360

When it launched last year the Xbox 360 was one of the first players of High Definition content. With the addition of an optional HD DVD drive, this games console has now become a device capable of playing High Definition movies on HD ready screens.

Quick Look

Without a doubt, the Xbox 360 currently offers the best gaming experience bar none. Some users might not even be aware of the sheer processing power available to them if they purchase one of these units.

The Xbox is basically a PC with three IBM processors running at 3.2Ghz. A 500MHz graphics processor with 512Mb of Ram offer near today’s current standards for PCs with a 12x dual-layer DVD-ROM drive completing the package. High-Definition output is available at 720p, 1080i and as a result of a recent firmware patch 1080p. The 1080p is compelling if only for the fact that it gives potential HD Plasma screen buyers a reason to spend extra for this capability.

Design and Features

Not as happy at home in the living room as the up coming PlayStation 3 Microsofts Xbox 360 is nonetheless the most stylish piece of kit produced to date. Its relatively cheap to, costing around £280 for the 20Gb version with wireless controller (£210 for no hard drive or wireless controller).

With the deluxe version, analogue audio output are present and an interconnector with component and composite video.VGA and scart options are available, but there is no DVI or HDMI ouput. There is output for real-time 5.1 channel surround sound.


For £280 the game playing capability of the Xbox 360 is stunning, but there’s much more to this console with the addition of an Ethernet port allowing broadband and PC connectivity.

The Microsoft Xbox 360s graphical interface has been designed with the same look and feel of Microsofts media centre, and follows the capability of this software to some degree with an ability to stream video, TV, music.


The most compelling reason to buy the Microsoft Xbox 360 is that it is available now, and is a stunning game playing console. The PlayStation 3 is more accomplished and will have the ability to play blu-ray rather than HD DVD discs.

The choice may be obvious to some with one being available in the shops now. For others it may boil down to decision between the HD DVD v Blu-ray playing capability and which format to choose. Whatever the decision, both consoles will provide stunning game playing fun with the ability to play movies in High definition.

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