A friend asked me this today. 3 or 4 months ago when I was considering the same question I was frustrated by the lack of info on the internet. I think the problem stems from the fact that a lot of the information available is outdated due to the “slim” versions both console manufacturers recently released. Comparing specs alone however, Sony comes out on top. Read IGN’s Hardware Throwdown for an excellent comparison. But comparing only specifications is shortsighted especially since graphically speaking the two systems are virtually identical (it all comes down to how game devs take advantage of the hardware). There are many different facets to consoles nowadays. Here is my breakdown of the situation (in no particular order):
Exclusive games: The PS3 boasts titles like Uncharted, Resistance, Metal Gear Solid and Gran Turismo. XBOX 360 has exclusives including Gears of War, Forza Motorsport, Fable, and Halo. If there’s a game you have to play, this would be a good reason to go one way or the other. But the fact is, the vast majority of games on the market are developed for both systems so to me, this is a non issue.
Streaming Video: Playstation has a built in browser which is kind of cool for YouTube. It also has support for Netflix and Hulu Plus. XBOX has Netflix and Hulu Plus Apps but no YouTube (although it has been announced in the next update) ***UPDATE: in addition to YouTube, XBOX 360 now also has a browser***. Netflix does this cool thing where it analyzes your bandwidth and optimizes the quality of the stream accordingly. XBOX and Playstation support streaming of your home videos from your computer via DLNA too. In other words, download a free application on your mac like TVMOBiLi and all the media on your computer magically streams to your TV.
The Controller: This may sound petty, but I have beef with the Playstation controller. It’s too small for my man hands and I hate the placement of the joysticks. Maybe I could get used to it but the XBOX controller just feels so much better to me. And at least one of the joysticks is in a natural position.
The Network: Bottom line is Playstation Network is free. That’s kind of a big deal even if it got hacked a few months ago and millions of credit cards were compromised. XBOX requires you to purchase an XBOX LIVE account which goes for $60 a year in order to do anything on the inter webs. In the end it’s not that expensive but it looks bad next to the PS3.
Optical Drive: The PS3 is hailed as the most cost effective Blu-ray player on the market. If you have an HDTV that supports 1080p resolutions you have a reason to watch a Blu-ray. That being said, it is my belief that physical media is on it’s way out. While I have never watched a Blu-ray on my 46″ Samsung LED, I have streamed a 1080p mkv file from my computer and I couldn’t tell the difference.
After reviewing the breakdown I just wrote I don’t know why I didn’t buy the Playstation 3. It seems like it wins in most areas. It sounds ridiculous, I know, but I really hate that controller. Here’s another tidbit I didn’t mention: Danielle split the cost of the XBOX with me on the condition that we got the Kinect bundle with Dance Central (which she never plays anymore). I didn’t include motion sensors on the breakdown because I think they’re gimmicky and I don’t care about them, but from a technology standpoint Microsoft clearly has the lead. Speaking of motion tracking consoles, I should mention that I haven’t turned my XBOX 360 on since I bought a Wii for the sole purpose of playing old school NES, SNES, and N64 games. I didn’t bother setting up the motion sensor though — classic controller all the way.
One more thought to make your decision even harder: if media is your main objective, have you thought about a set top box like an Apple TV or a Roku? The ATV is only $99 bucks and streams Netflix, Youtube, Vimeo, the entire iTunes catalogue and anything on your Mac or iPad ***UPDATE: the ATV now also has Hulu***. The Roku does Netflix, YouTube, Vimeo and Hulu Plus. Good luck.