So many game consoles: Which to buy?

In a perfect world, determining which new game console to purchase would be out of your hands. Instead the matter would be handled Thunderdome style: Two beefy consoles enter the arena, they battle, and one console is left standing. But since such combat would inevitably lead to the enslavement of mankind by a superrace of cyborg overlords, it's probably best to figure it out for yourself. Here is some information on the major contenders to help you decide.

Sony PlayStation 3

With a North American installed base exceeding 40 million units (and over 111 million worldwide) for the PlayStation 2, this console enjoys a level of brand awareness somewhat lower than Coke's, but much better than Dr. Pepper's. That means everyone on the planet wants one. Couple that level of demand with a ridiculously low number of units available at launch -- only 400,000, rising to 1 million by year's end -- and buying a PS3 becomes a task generously characterized as Sisyphean. There aren't even enough PS3s in the pipeline, apparently, to cover the puny preorder allotment initially promised to the online store/community.

If you have enough accrued holiday time, you could spend it camping outside of EB, but be warned: Others started lining up as early as November 9 -- more than a week before the PS3 goes on sale on November 17. The PS3 isn't cheap, as the base model with the 20GB hard drive is US$499 while the high-end 60GB model is a daunting US$599. And that's before you buy any games.

Of course, if money is no object you could buy someone else's PS3 preorder from eBay for a price that redefines obscene. (How about from about US$1,000 to US$1,900? But hey, most of them will ship it to you for free.) Or you can secure a PS3 preorder by buying a new high-def TV at CompUSA, at least in California this week.

PS3 bottom line

The PS3 is definitely your priciest option. But is it really for you? If you need to have the absolute cutting edge in graphics, the answer is yes: The PS3 looks great, supporting resolutions as high as 1080p, plus it doubles as a Blu-ray Disc player. If you (or your kids) are hard-core gamers and fans of PlayStation brands like the Metal Gear Solid series, you'll want it even more. If you're dying to play online, you might want to hold off -- the PS3 will have online features, but how those actually perform is a big question mark until the services are up and running.

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Robert Coffey

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