Nintendo and Sony's next-generation game consoles are finally ready for play, and bring significant advances to the gaming world. The pricier Sony PlayStation 3 packs a lot into a console, including high-definition graphics, a hard disk and a Blu-ray disc drive that delivers great image quality. But with its innovative controller, Nintendo's Wii may offer the better gaming experience.
We tested the $999 PS3that features a 60GB drive and 802.11b/g wireless networking plus Memory Stick, SD Card and CompactFlash media slots. An $829 version lacks wireless and has just a 20GB drive. Both PS3 models let you copy photos, MPEG-4 videos and music files to the hard disk, and both offer gigabit Ethernet and built-in Bluetooth.
The Wii (pronounced "we") costs $399.95 and builds in Wi-Fi (but not Ethernet). Like the PS3, it has an SD Card slot and can display photos, but its standard-definition DVD drive can't yet play movies (Nintendo and Sonic Solutions are working on that).
What's in the bundles?
Both consoles were easy to set up. However, neither comes with the cables necessary to experience their full graphics capabilities: each bundles only composite video cables, so you must buy component cables (for the Wii's 480p resolution) or HDMI cables (for the PS3's 1080p resolution; you also need an HDCP-compliant HDTV).
The higher resolution is worth it, especially with the PS3, which provides stunning visuals. I was particularly impressed with NBA 07, which ran at 1080p resolution and played at an incredibly smooth 60 frames per second.
The PS3's vastly improved physics and environmental (including lighting) effects also add to the eye candy. Sony's updated wireless controller is no slouch either. Though it lacks force feedback, it's lighter than the PlayStation 2's controller and improves on the older model's L2 and R2 triggers. The PS3's controller can also sense motion along six axes, so you can turn and tilt it to steer in driving or flying games, for example.
The Wii's graphics seem to be equal to, if not a shade better than, the PS2's -- but they can't equal those of the PS3 or the Xbox 360, which recently upgraded its graphics output to 1080p HD (and also offers a HD DVD drive option). Still, Nintendo's own Excite Truck launch title conveyed an impressive sense of speed, and the Wii Remote controller raises the bar for gameplay. It features motion-sensing and force-feedback technology to further immerse you in the game. To throw a pass in Madden 07, for instance, you mime the movements of a quarterback.
A joystick-style controller called the Nunchuk connects to the remote for further game control. In practice, it's addictive, and everyone wants to have a go. Nevertheless, you may want a "classic" controller for games where such movements may slow you down and cost you the game, such as fast-paced fighting games.