Wii or XBOX 360 or PS3 - Which Is The Best?


Aug 15, 2008 (Updated Jul 13, 2009)


The Bottom Line The Wii, XBOX 360, and PS3 are all unique and offer their own benefits - which one is the best for you?

In choosing a video game system there are a lot of things that you need to evaluate: what you want to use it for, who is going to use it, graphics, online capability, etc. Each of the three seventh generation consoles - Nintendo Wii, Microsoft XBOX 360, and Sony PlayStation 3 - has its advantages and pitfalls, so I'm going to try and clear up a lot of differences between them.

As with most of my long reviews, here's an overview of where this one is headed (in case you have a specific section that you are looking for):
1. Systems Overview
2. Controller Comparison
3. Graphics Comparison
4. Online Capability
5. Movie Playing Capability
6. Backwards Compatibility Comparison
7. Hard Drive Capacity
8. Playability Comparison
9. MSRP
10. Final Decision
Without further ado, let's get some comparisons going!

1. Systems Overview
Each console is basically an upgrade from the previous generation - this shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone since this is the same formula that the video game industry has used forever. The Wii is a new Gamecube, the XBOX 360 is an upgraded XBOX, and the PS3 is a faster, fancier PS2. What does this mean? I know my sixth generations video game systems, that's all... Let's move onto the systems overview...
Nintendo Wii
Wii is Nintendo's latest system and is controlled using a Wii Remote (or simply Wiimote) and Nunchuk (an optional plug-in that connects to the Wiimote for some games). Wii prides itself on being the first video game system that requires you to stand up and move around, meaning you can no longer really play sitting on the couch. The complementary game that comes with every Wii is Wii Sports, which consists of five sports games designed to give you an introduction to the interactive possibilities of the Wii (the games are Baseball, Tennis, Boxing, Golf, and Bowling).
Microsoft XBOX 360
XBOX 360 is the second generation in Microsoft's video game console line. The controllers are virtually the same as the first generation's, except they are all wireless (which is a huge bonus). There are three different systems options when you buy the XBOX 360: XBOX 360 Arcade, XBOX 360, and XBOX 360 Elite. XBOX 360 comes with 256MB memory and 5 arcade games (PAC-MAN, UNO, Luxor 2, Boom Boom Rocket, and Feeding Frenzy). XBOX 360 comes with 60GB memory and no games. XBOX 360 Elite comes with 120GB memory and no games.
Sony PlayStation 3
PS3 is the third console in the PlayStation line of systems (fourth if you count the handheld PSP). The controllers are virtually the same as the PS2's, but are wireless instead of wired (much like the XBOX 360 controllers to XBOX ones). The PS3 also comes in multiple hard drive capacities - 40GB, 60GB, and 80GB. The system typically does not come with any games, although you can normally find them with packages (right now, for example, you can get PS3 60GB with Metal Gear Solid as a package).

2. Controller
One of the most important things about a video game console, yet people seem to look past it a lot for other snazzy features, like graphics capabilities. If you think about it, though, your controller is really your only interaction with the system, and it is different for every system. Therefore, it's the first comparison point that I bring up:
Wii
Wii uses the WiiMote and, depending on the game, the Nunchuk add-on. The WiiMote fits in one hand and has a connector plug in the back for additional add-ons (the Nunchuck is not the only one). The WiiMote also has a wrist strap on the bottom to prevent your controller from flinging away during gameplay (to avoid destroying your new TV, per say, or flying out the window...). The WiiMote interacts with a sensor bar that you place either above or below your TV, and picks up where you are pointing your controller or how you are moving it (one of the best demonstrations of this is through the included bowling game within Wii Sports). In addition to picking up motion, the WiiMote also has buttons as well: a trigger-button on the back (similar to the Z button on the N64 controller... if you remember that one...), a big circle button in the middle of the front, and two smaller buttons on the bottom of the front. The Nunchuk consists of a joystick, as well as two buttons on the back.
XBOX 360
Like the cordless phone that you have for your home phone, the XBOX 360 controller works on 2.4Ghz wireless technology. The layout of the 360 controller is virtually the same as the regular XBOX controller - it has 2 joysticks, a d-pad, four buttons in a diamond on the right, two buttons on the top (different than XBOX regular controllers), and two R and L triggers on the back. You don't have to plug anything in to your XBOX 360, your system picks up the controller automatically, which is definitely very useful.
PS3
Every PlayStation generation controller has been an evolution of the previous one - the shape has remained the same, but there have been subtle differences. The controller for the PS3 is no different. It is wireless, and originally did not have rumble shock, but later controllers have had this capability inserted (curious, since PS2 controllers had rumble shock...). Anyhow, the PS3 controllers also pick up physical movement, so if you are trying to steer a truck or plane, you can just move the controller the way you want to go. It doesn't quite pick up movement the same way the WiiMote does, but it is definitely a cool added bonus. The layout is basically the same as the PS2 controller - two joysticks, a d-pad, and four buttons in a diamond. On the top, there are two buttons on each side - L1, L2 and R1, R2. The controllers connect by using Bluetooth technology, or can be plugged in through the USB slot in the back of the controller (which is also how you charge the controllers).

Controller Comparisons:
Wireless?
Wii - Yes - Bluetooth
XBOX 360 - Yes - 2.4 GHz
PS3 - Yes - Bluetooth

Picks Up Controller Movement?
Wii - Yes
XBOX 360 - No
PS3 - Yes

Controller Rumble?
Wii - Yes
XBOX 360 - Yes
PS3 - Yes

Controller Has Speaker?
Wii - Yes
XBOX 360 - No
PS3 - No

Controller MSRP?
Wii - WiiMote $39.99 Nunchuk $19.99
XBOX 360 - $49.99
PS3 - $49.99

So, Controller Rankings?
Wii - 1
XBOX 360 - 3
PS3 - 2
The WiiMote definitely wins for its originality and versatility. The sensing movement takes playing video games to a whole new level, and the new shape of the controller is simple, yet previously not done (and the ability to plug in many other accessories give it a whole new world of possibilities). PS3 lands in second place because of the use of Bluetooth technology and movement sensing. The XBOX 360 controller comes in third - it's nothing new and really is not very groundbreaking versus the old XBOX controller.

3. Graphical Capabilities
This is what everyone used to talk about all the time (and still do...). This is why people walk into the room and go "this looks so real!" The obsession has been so huge that that's why the Nintendo 64 was called the N64 - it has a 64-bit processor. So now, when the best thing out there is HD and everyone cannot get enough HDTV, how do these consoles compare?

Wii - Enhanced Definition Capable! 480i, 480p, 576i XBOX 360 - High Definition Capable! 480i, 480p, 576i, 576p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p PS3 - High Definition Capable! 480i, 480p, 576i, 576p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p

So now you've got these numbers with letters after them, which can make you sound pretty sweet, except that you have no idea what they mean... Let me explain quickly: the higher the number, the better the quality (basically). HD is 1080, 480 is pretty much standard (the standard red, white, and yellow cables).

Graphics Bottom Line
Wii - Not HD
XBOX 360 - HD
PS3 - HD
PS3 and XBOX win on this one with their high-def graphics ability.

4. Online Capability
In today's world, everyone needs to be connected 24-7. We have devices that keep our email on our hips, stores that allow us to connect wirelessly through our laptops, personal and work cellphones that never leave our sides, and instant messages that allow us to talk to 15 people at once, just in case email is too slow for you. With this being the reality that we live in, why would our video games be any different? Playing online can be one of the most enjoyable things and adds a whole new world of opportunity, if your console allows for it.
Wii
Nintendo offers online capability through with Wii wirelessly, and you have to option to purchase a USB attachment for a LAN plug-in, if you would like to have your Wii directly connected. After initial setup (which really just requires you to search for your wireless network and connect once - much like you would on your laptop), you Wii is connected all the time, even when on standby. The beauty of this is that Nintendo will send software and system updates, and your Wii can download and install them while you are not using it. There is also no cost for you to play online (other then your internet connection costs, of course). Finally, you can download games from previous systems, such as the original Mario Bros, and play with a controller that you can plug into the back of the WiiMote.
XBOX 360
XBOX 360 allows users to connect online through XBOX Live, which was a subscription only service on the original XBOX, but now comes in two levels - Silver (free) and Gold (paid). Unfortunately, XBOX Live Silver doesn't allow you to play many games, but it does let you post on message boards, use the marketplace, etc. XBOX Live Gold will run you about $50/year and let you play multiplayer games all you want. Through the XBOX Live Marketplace you can download games, demos, etc., as well as full-length movies and television episodes. One of the great features of XBOX Live is that you can talk to the people you are playing with - so if you are playing a team game, you can talk to your teammates, or if you are playing a game against people, you can trash-talk!
PS3
The PS3 connects to the PlayStation Network, which allows for free online gaming and is always connected. In addition, you can purchase games that were popular on the original PlayStation and the PS2 (unless you have the disk, since the system is fully backwards compatible). The PlayStation Network, in response to the XBOX Live Marketplace, also offers movies and television shows (but you can either buy or rent them). This service was made available on July 15, 2008 (so it has been available for a month at this point), so it will be interesting to see how it performs going forward.

Online Capability Comparisons:
Built-in Wireless?
Wii - Yes
XBOX 360 - No
PS3 - Yes

Free?
Wii - Yes
XBOX 360 | Silver Membership - Yes | Gold Membership - No
PS3 - Yes

Movie Downloads?
Wii - No
XBOX 360 - Yes
PS3 - Yes

So, Online Rankings?
Wii - 2
XBOX 360 - 3
PS3 - 1
PS3 is the clear winner here - it is wireless, free, and offers movie rentals and purchases. Distinguishing between second and third place was a little bit harder. On the one hand, Wii is wireless and free, but does not offer movie downloads. On the other, XBOX 360 is not wireless and to get anything worthwhile, you have to pay for it, but you can download full-length movies. I came to my decision based on the fact that we are comparing video game consoles here, so the Wii comes in second based on it's price and what it offers (and besides, everyone loves the classic Nintendo games!).

5. Which Systems Can Play Movies?
So we just learned which systems can download movies through their online systems, but what if you have DVDs at home that you want to watch? In addition to being a society that loves to be online all the time, we also demand that everything be multi-functional. You now need your phone to also have email and your music, so why shouldn't your video game console be your DVD player?
Wii
When designing the Wii, Nintendo decided to leave out any sort of DVD functionality. In some people's minds this is a major setback - not so much in mine (I already have a DVD player... I don't need 2...). I plan on going into Nintendo's thought process later (in MSRP), so for now you're going to have to settle with just knowing that Nintendo did not include a built-in DVD player.
XBOX 360
The XBOX 360, like the original XBOX, has a built in DVD player and, unlike the original, had an HD-DVD player add-on that you could purchase (it's since been cancelled since HD-DVDs are no longer produced). Also as an added bonus, you can buy the XBOX 360 Remote to help you with your DVD watching experience, but you do not need it (whereas with the original XBOX, you had to buy the DVD Remote and plug-in in order to use the DVD functionality).
PS3
And so the format war began once again. In round one, Sony's Betamax lost out to JVC's VHS. In round 2, Sony's 3.5-inch floppy disk dominated the standard 4-inch floppy disk, leveling the score at 1-1. Round three left us all confused... Sony developed the MuliMedia Compact Disk with Philips, while the rest of the world created the Super Density disk. In the end, they all adopted the DVD, which was somewhat of a combination of the two technologies. Score: 1-1-1. There were a ton of other battles with the rest of the world, but none more important than the tiebreaker round (this is the tiebreaker because it's starting to get a little ridiculously long as an intro): HD-DVD vs. Blu-Ray. If you've been paying attention to the DVD industry recently, you know where this one is going: Sony won. Final score: 2-1-1. And so what does all of this have to do with the PlayStation 3? The PS3 has a built-in Blu-Ray player, which became a huge selling point for it once Sony won the HD-DVD/Blu-Ray battle (and is also important since you used to have to buy an HD-DVD player add-on to play HD-DVDs on the XBOX 360).

Movie Playing Summary
Wii - No
XBOX 360 - Yes (regular DVDs, HD-DVDs discontinued)
PS3 - Yes (regular and Blu-Ray)

Movie Playing Rankings?
Wii - 3
XBOX 360 - 2
PS3 - 1
This one should have been pretty straight forward for you to figure out - PS3 can play DVDs as well as Blu-Ray disks right off the bat. XBOX 360 consoles can play regular DVDs, and the Wii cannot play DVDs.

6. Backwards Compatible
Being able to play old games on your new system is something that people demand these days. Why would I buy a top of the line modern system in 2008 if it can't play games from 1998?? But in all seriousness, it is very convenient when newer systems can play older games, since you may not necessarily want 8 video game consoles surrounding your TV (plus, you may not have that many inputs). Let's take a look at what each of the seventh generation systems can do:
Wii
The Wii is only the second Nintendo system that has games on disks instead of cartridges, so it only has the ability to be backwards compatible with one generation (but it also has the ability to be the first Nintendo system that is backwards compatible). Well if you have looked at the Wii close up, you probably have noticed the four ports on the side for GameCube controllers. That should give you a pretty big hint as to the backward compatibility of the Wii. The Wii can play any GameCube game, which makes it as backwards compatible as can be, and also has space for two GameCube memory cards. Now you understand why you can buy a used GameCube at Gamestop for $20...
XBOX 360
The XBOX 360 is a second generation console for Microsoft, with the original XBOX being the first, and both have used disks, so there is some backward compatibility. Because of the price difference between the various 360 systems, it is only natural to assume that there are some subtle differences between them. The XBOX 360 Arcade is not backwards compatible at all, and the XBOX 360 and XBOX 360 Elite are both backwards compatible, to a certain extent. Unfortunately, not every original XBOX game can be played on a 360 system, and a list of compatible games can be found at http://www.xbox.com.
PS3
The PS3 is the third in line, so it has the opportunity to be backwards compatible with both PS1 and PS2 games. What seems like a strange move, though, is that the original PS3 models were fully backwards compatible, and later models are only partially (perhaps not as big a selling point as I think?). To figure out if one of your older games can be played on the PS3, go to http://www.us.playstation.com and search for Compatibility Status.

Backward Compatibility Summary
Wii - Yes - All GameCube games
XBOX 360 - Yes - Some XBOX games
PS3 - Yes - Originally all PS1 and PS2 games. Now only some PS1 and PS2 games

Backward Compatibility Rankings?
Wii - 1
XBOX 360 - 3
PS3 - 2
The Wii wins here, only because you can play every GameCube game. The PS3 comes in second because, if you happen to have an early version of the PS3 you are fully backwards compatible, whereas now you are only partially backwards compatible (albeit with two generations of games), whereas the XBOX 360 is only partially backwards compatible, and only has one generation of games to be so with.

7. Hard Drive Capacity
Bigger is better, right? Right??? Why aren't you answering me??? More hard drive space means that we can save more (pretty straight forward), but it also means that the system itself can do more. If you have more space available to save, you can make your save files much bigger, which means more detailed and more graphics. It also means that you can try and give yourself a competitive edge in other ways - for example, allowing users to purchase movies and download them to the system. The other thing to remember, though, is that while bigger is better may be true, it also holds true that bigger is more expensive (see below in the MSRP section). So here's what each console has to offer:

Wii - 512MB
XBOX 360 | XBOX 360 Arcade - 256MB | XBOX 360 - 60GB | XBOX 360 Elite - 120GB
PS3 - 40GB, 80GB (other sizes are discontinued)

Hard Drive Capacity Rankings?
Wii - 3
XBOX 360 - 1
PS3 - 2
While the XBOX 360 Arcade offers a laughable 256MB of memory, it's the XBOX 360 Elite that shoots the Microsoft system into first place here. The PS3 comes in second place, offering up to 80GB of storage, and the Wii comes in last with 1/2GB capacity.

8. Playability
All of the specs and my options up until now have been great for you (especially my opinions, right??), but now you want to know which system offers the best playability. Which system is the most age friendly? Where here goes nothing...

Everyone's definition of playability is going to be slightly different. Some people count graphics in it. Some people want to know your overall interaction with the system (so online stuff is counted as well). For my purpose, playability is how you interact with the system when you actually play.
Wii
The WiiMote allows you to interact with the Wii unlike any other system has before, and that shoots the playability score way up. With games like bowling, where you actually bowl, it brings it to a whole new level, and makes the games fun for everyone. No longer are you just sitting on the couch and furiously moving joysticks and hitting buttons, you now are standing up and moving your whole body! Vive Le Revolucion!
XBOX 360
The XBOX 360, however, has basically the same playability as previous systems - meaning the image I painted before of you sitting on the couch, hunched over until 3 in the morning furiously hitting buttons and claiming that you are really just "strengthening your thumbs" is, in fact, this. Not that there's anything wrong with it, because clearly the gaming industry has done something right and thrived, but it is just nothing new.
PS3
The PS3 starts to take steps in a new direction here, keeping the same PlayStation controller, but introducing basic movement sensing ability. It's definitely pretty neat, but it does not give you the same whole body experience that the Wii does.

Playability Rankings?
Wii - 1
XBOX 360 - 3
PS3 - 2

9. MSRP
While all these fancy specs can be important to some people, the decision may come down to affordability for you. So, how much does each console cost?
Wii - $249.99
XBOX 360 | XBOX 360 Arcade - $279.99 | XBOX 360 - $349.99 | XBOX 360 Elite - $449.99
PS3 | 40GB - $399.99 | 80GB - $499.99

MSRP Rankings?
Wii - 1
XBOX 360 - 2
PS3 - 3

10. Final Decision
Like golf, a lower ranking total here is better. Here's how the three consoles did in the above categories:
Wii - 15 - 1, 3, 2, 3, 1, 3, 1, 1
XBOX 360 - 18 - 3, 1, 3, 2, 3, 1, 3, 2
PS3 - 14 - 2, 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 3

So if you go based purely on my rankings, it's very close but the PS3 wins with 14 points, the Wii comes in second with 15 points, and the XBOX 360 comes in third with 18 points. Totaling points, though, is probably not the right way to figure out what the best system for you is. You need to figure out what the most important features are and what you are looking to get out of your video game console. If you're looking for a family fun system that will keep everyone of all ages entertained, go with the Wii. If you want Blu-Ray capability and graphics that will knock your socks off, and price is not a huge factor, go for the PS3. If you really want to play Halo 3, go for the XBOX 360 (also, if you want to be able to trash-talk people through your video game console, go with the XBOX 360). The bottom line is that each system has it's advantages - you just need to figure out which one is right for you.

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