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Next-gen gaming consoles go mano-a-mano

How do the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Nintendo Wii compare? We put all three to the test.

Xbox 360, PS3, Nintendo Wii
Sarah Tew/CNET Networks

And then there were three.

The Xbox 360 has had the next-gen mantle to itself for a year, but it's about to get some major competition in the form of the Sony PlayStation 3 (November 17) and Nintendo Wii (November 19). We've compared the final shipping versions of the two newcomers with our tried and true 360, and we've posted our hands-on reviews of each.

Note to fanboys of all stripes: before you unleash venomous attacks that question our sanity (whoops--too late!), please keep a few things in mind.

  • With these reviews, we've focused on the hardware and its capabilities. The ratings are a reflection of the device itself and its potential, which includes a lot of non-gaming capabilities.
  • If you're judging these consoles strictly on gaming merits, your choice will come down to the actual games available--which is a short list for the PS3 and the Wii. As more (and better) games become available for each platform, choices will become more clear cut--and more subjective. In other words, the highest-rated PS3 will never play Zelda or Halo 3, so if those are your must-have games, you should opt for the Wii and Xbox 360, respectively.
  • All three consoles have online components and upgradable firmware, so they can--and will--experience upgrades in the upcoming weeks and months. For instance, Microsoft will be adding downloadable movies and TV shows to the Xbox 360 on November 22. Sony and Nintendo won't be activating the bulk of their online features until their respective launch dates; we'll update the reviews accordingly when they do.
  • Availability can trump all. Xbox 360s remain widely available, but the new Nintendo and (especially) Sony consoles will be hard to get in the upcoming weeks and months.
  • The CNET user opinions date back to when these products were first officially announced (May 2005). With the possible exception of the 360, almost nobody who's "rated" these consoles has actually spent any time with one yet.
  • In the final analysis, all three consoles were judged to be "excellent," and with good reason. It may be harder than ever to choose just one, and we fully expect a lot of consumers to eventually own at least two (one of which almost certainly being the affordable Nintendo Wii). Again, the importance of lust-worthy, exclusive titles is likely to be the tiebreaker.

With those explanations in mind--see how the Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3, and Nintendo Wii compare.