Buying Guide: Game Consoles
Gaming consoles have evolved from video games machines to complete home entertainment packages. Our guide looks at all the features of the PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo 3DS and the Nintendo Wii U to help you decide which game console is the best fit for you.
In A Nutshell: Play games, watch Blu-ray discs, connect to the Internet and view digital TV (via PlayTV or online service iView).
Hard Drive: Choice of 320GB or 160GB (interchangeable) as well as 12GB and 500GB models.
A Few Games Exclusive to PS3: The Uncharted series, the Gran Turismo series, the Resistance series, and the Killzone series.
Connect to the Internet: PlayStation Network is a free (you'll need broadband Internet access) interactive environment where you can play games online, chat to friends and family, and surf the Web. Some of PlayStation Network's features include:
- PlayStation Video Store: Hundreds of movies to rent or buy, and download to your PlayStation 3.
- MUBI: A collection of classic, independent and foreign films, some free to watch and others pay-per-view.
- Vidzone: A music video application — free from PlayStation Store — that lets you stream thousands of music videos onto your PS3.
Cool PlayStation 3 Accessory: The PlayStation Eye is a webcam-style device for video and sound. Use it together with the EyeCreate editing software — downloaded free from PlayStation Store — to shoot and edit you own movies.
Cool PlayStation 3 Features:
- Move: Brings games to life, so you can immerse yourself in the action.
- Blu-ray: Plays BD discs.
- PlayTV: Turns your PS3 into a high definition, twin-tuner Personal Video Recorder (PlayTV is sold separately).
- 3D: Watch movies or play games in three-dimension.
- DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance): Share movies, photos, music and other media between different devices.
Not-so-cool PlayStation 3 Feature: Doesn't play PlayStation 2 games.
The PS3 is a Good Choice For… Gamers, creative people and movie buffs.
In A Nutshell: Play games, view DVDs, connect to the Internet and watch Pay TV.
Hard drive: Choice of 250GB or 120GB as well as a 4GB model.
A Few Games Exclusive to Xbox 360: The Halo series, the Gears of War series and Forza Motorsport.
Connect to the Internet: The Xbox 360 features built-in Wi-Fi (802.11n) for connection to Xbox LIVE, the online gaming and entertainment service, where you can:
- Download or stream movies, TV series or games in full high definition 1080p and 5.1 surround sound.
- Connect with friends on Facebook and Twitter.
Cool Xbox 360 Accessory: The wireless microphones are compatible with most online games like Halo, for teamchat and group chat between users.
Cool Xbox 360 Features:
- Kinect: Xbox's motion-control system, which uses a camera — not a controller — to mimic your body's movements. There's a range of Kinect games involving dancing, sports, car racing and exercising.
- FOXTEL By Xbox LIVE Allows owners of Xbox consoles in Australia to access FOXTEL channels — including FOX Sports, Discovery, Nickelodeon, Disney and MTV, plus Video-on-Demand (VoD) services like movies — without the need for a FOXTEL set-top-box.
- Compatibility: Xbox 360 recognises most MP3 players and hard drives, so you can connect these and play music, view photos and watch videos on the console.
Not-so-cool Xbox 360 Feature: Doesn't play Blu-ray discs (only DVD).
The Xbox 360 is a Good Choice For… Online game enthusiasts and home-entertainment buffs.
In A Nutshell: Interactive gaming for the family.
Hard Drive: None.
A Few Games Exclusive to Wii: Wii Fit Plus and Super Mario Bros.
Connect to the Internet: Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection lets you play with other online gamers around the world. Built-in Wii Channels (some require broadband Internet connection) offer some interesting extras:
- Internet Channel: Surf the World Wide Web.
- News Channel: The latest international news, in easy-to-browse categories.
- Forecast Channel: Weather information from all over the globe.
- Nintendo Channel: An interactive guide to the world of Nintendo: watch trailers, product demonstrations, and gameplay videos.
- Wii Shop Channel: Access all kinds of games, including WiiWare titles and the classics from NES, SNES, N64, SEGA Megadrive and SEGA Mastersystem.
Cool Nintendo Wii Accessory: The Wii Balance Board reads the movement of your feet and brings your motions to the screen by sensing your weight and balance.
Cool Wii Features:
- Wiiconnect24: The Wii console can communicate with the Internet for constant updates, even when the power is turned off.
- SD memory card slot: Allows you to use an SD card to upload photos and music, as well as back up and store game files.
Not-so-cool Wii Feature: No hard drive, plus can't play DVDs, Blu-ray or CDs.
The Wii is a Good Choice For… Children, families and large groups (parties, share houses etc).
Nintendo Wii U
In A Nutshell: The sequel to the Nintendo Wii, it brings all the fun of interactive and motion-sensor gaming into the latest generation of gaming.
Hard Drive: Choice of 8GB or 32GB.
A Few Games Exclusive to Wii U: Nintendo Land, New Super Mario Brothers. U, ZombiU.
Connect to the Internet: The Wii U features built-in Wi-Fi for internet connectivity but requires a LAN connector for an Ethernet connection. It also features some interesting Network capabilities including:
- Nintendo Network: Built-in to the Wii U, the Nintendo Network offers similar functionality to Sony’s PlayStation Network or Microsoft’s Xbox Live. It allows for online multiplayer, video chatting and digital downloads with a personal user account system.
- Nintendo eShop: The Wii U’s eShop allows you to download digital Wii U titles, retail Wii U titles, WiiWare titles, Virtual Console titles, applications and more. You can also download patches, add-ons or expansions for your games.
- Miiverse: The Miiverse is an integrated social network system which can be accessed any time (as long as you are connected to the internet. It allows you to chat through text with other users and to share your achievements with your friends.
- Internet Browser: The Wii U also contains a simple web browser which allows you to browse the web on your TV through your Wii U console. It supports HTML5, YouTube and some forms of social media.
- SpotPass: Spotpass is an online system which allows the Wii U to automatically download content via Wi-Fi while a game or application is running. This includes patches, firmware updates and specific in-game content.
Cool Nintendo Wii U Accessory: Although it ships alongside the Wii U console, the coolest accessory this system has to offer is the Wii U Gamepad. Used as the main controller for a variety of Wii U exclusive games, it features a built-in touchscreen for additional controller while gaming. The controller screen can also display game data in addition what is displayed on your main TV screen, allowing you to get the edge on local opponents or to keep an eye on two things at once while you play.
Cool Wii U Features:
- Off-TV Play: Thanks to the touchscreen design of the GamePad controller the Wii U uses, you can continue playing even when someone is watching TV on your main screen. The in-controller screen can duplicate the display on your main screen for most games, allowing you to play your favourite titles right on the controller while somebody else is using the television.
- Near Field Communication: The Wii U GamePad controller also features an NFC chip for additional functionality. This chip can be used with supported devices to import extra content to your game, and works as simply as placing the device upon the GamePad’s screen. It even works with some credit cards; allowing you to make wireless transactions using supported credit cards by placing them on top of the Wii U GamePad.
- Backwards Compatibility: Enjoy all your favourite Nintendo Wii games on this new device thanks to its wide backwards compatibility. The Nintendo Wii U supports most Wii games, both on disc and digital, and you can even port across your favourite downloaded software or saved files from system to system. However, the Wii U doesn’t share the Wii’s backwards compatibility – so it won’t work with GameCube discs or accessories.
Not-so-cool Wii U Feature: While the Wii U GamePad is revolutionary, and brings a lot to gaming, it has a low battery-life – somewhere around 3.5 hours before it requires charging. The Wii U also can’t play DVDs, CDs or Blu-Rays.
The Wii U is a Good Choice For... Cutting-edge Nintendo fans, children, families and casual gamers.
In A Nutshell: The PlayStation Vita is the successor to the PlayStation Portable, a compact handheld console built for travel which brings together high quality gaming and portability.
Hard Drive: No hard drive, saves to PS Vita memory card which come in 4GB, 8GB, 16GB or 32GB.
A Few Games Exclusive to PS Vita: Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified, Gravity Rush, Uncharted: Golden Abyss.
Connect to the Internet: The PS Vita features in-built Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11) so it can connect to the internet via a wireless access point. Some models can also connect to a mobile network. The PS Vita connects directly to the PlayStation Network for a range of additional features including:
- PlayStation Store: Hundreds of games of and other entertainment that you can rent or download directly to your device.
- Music Unlimited: Instant access to millions of your favourite songs for download or streaming so you can listen to your favourite tunes on the go.
- Inside PS Vita: Keep up to date on all the latest news and updates for your PS Vita and make the most of your handheld console.
- PlayStation Plus: By subscribing to PlayStation Plus you can get the premium PlayStation experience. Enjoy free games, unique updates and a whole range of exclusive content.
Cool PS Vita Features:
- Augmented Reality Gaming: Utilizing the front and rear cameras of the PS Vita, AR gaming lets you turn the world around you into an interactive gaming playground.
- Rear Touch Pad: Touch, grab, trace, push and pull via the rear touch pad of the PS Vita. It allows for additional touch input controls on top of the traditional button design for even more control over your gaming.
Not-so-cool PS Vita Feature: The price. Despite having numerous price cuts since release, the PS Vita remains an expensive handheld option compared to similar consoles.
The PS Vita is a Good Choice For... On-the-go gamers and PlayStation 3 owners.
In A Nutshell: The latest iteration of the long-running Gameboy, the 3DS offers 3D portable gaming in a compact package.
Hard Drive: None, 2GB SD card included.
A Few Games Exclusive to 3DS: Kid Icarus: Uprising, Mario Kart 7, Super Mario 3D Land
Connect to the Internet: The Nintendo 3DS includes in-built Wi-Fi and offers a range of additional features via the Nintendo Network, including:
- Nintendo eShop: The 3DS’s eShop allows you to download digital 3DS titles, retail 3DS titles, WiiWare titles, Virtual Console titles, applications and more. You can also download patches, add-ons or expansions for your games.
- Internet Browser: The 3DS also contains a simple web browser which allows you to browse the web through your 3DS console.
- SpotPass: Spotpass is an online system which allows the 3DS to automatically download content via Wi-Fi while a game or application is running. This includes patches, firmware updates and specific in-game content.
Cool 3DS Features:
- 3D Gaming and Entertainment: Experience a whole new dimension of entertainment with the 3D capabilities of this hands-free device. It features glasses-free 3D for both gaming and movie and video playback.
- Augmented Reality Gaming: Using QR codes provided on certain cards, you can see real time graphics augmented onto live footage using this device. Take your gaming beyond the screen and out into the world with AR gaming!
- Backwards Compatible: The Nintendo 3DS is backwards compatible with Nintendo DS titles as well as DSi software. However, it isn’t compatible with DSi software which requires the Game Boy Advance port.
Not-so-cool 3DS Feature: Can cause motion sickness. The 3D effects can be jarring or trigger nausea in some users - although you have the option to turn off the 3D and play in 2D if it is causing distress.
The 3DS is a Good Choice For... Nintendo fans, younger gamers and fans of 3D entertainment.