PC perks in the living room
While Microsoft makes you pay to unlock some features, it does include some PC-like ones that can't be found in competing systems. First, there's a built-in Ethernet adapter for broadband multiplayer gaming, regardless of whether you're using a cable modem, DSL, or an office LAN. For an extra $50, you can purchase Microsoft's , which allows you to play games online (broadband connection required) free for a year. Several, but not all, titles are Xbox Live-enabled.
The console also comes with a built-in 8GB hard drive, so you don't need to buy expensive memory cards to save your game progress. (Proprietary memory cards are available to share files with friends.) That hard drive also opens up some other possibilities. For starters, games load quickly because they can cache levels on the speedy hard drive rather than having to read all of the game's information from the disc. Another fringe benefit is the ability to drop audio CDs into the unit and copy songs to the drive. You can then use the console to play your music rather than fumbling for your CDs. Too bad you can't install whole game discs.
Price is no longer an issue when it comes to the Xbox. Now $199, the Xbox sells for the same price as the PlayStation 2 and costs about $50 more than the GameCube. Clearly, the Xbox has a lot of power under the hood and sports some unique features (a hard drive, an Ethernet adapter, 720p and 1080i support for HDTVs) that are missing from competing systems. Does that make it a better choice than the PS2? While the PS2 currently has a plethora of great games, as well as such PS2-exclusive titles as Grand Theft Auto Vice City, most top games are being released on Xbox simultaneously, and the console has its own excellent Xbox-only titles such as Mech Assault. Overall, the Xbox offers superior graphics and is the best choice for those who demand the best audio and video performance from a system and have the A/V components, including a surround-sound package, to complement it.