Even after almost a year in the UK and a lengthy spell at number one in Stuff’s gaming Top 10, the PS3 is clearly feeling unloved. Its big price tag and lack of blockbuster games have seen many plump for the Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii, so it’s taken action and announced the Great PS3 Price Drop.

The original 60GB model has had its price slashed to £350, and there’s now a 40GB model which you can snap up for £300 – the same as an Xbox 360 Elite. This makes it by far the cheapest Blu-ray player in town – but is it also the best console?

Sleeker and sexier

Let’s start by comparing it back-to-back with the Xbox 360 Elite. The new version of Microsoft’s console has added a much-needed HDMI connection and a bigger hard-drive but you’d still need to tape a £130 HD-DVD drive and Wi-Fi adaptor to the top to bring it in line with the PS3. It’s a much less streamlined, not to mention noisier, piece of kit than the sleek Sony.

The new 40GB PS3 has, though, lost a few features to achieve its price drop. There are now only two USB ports, its media card slot for memory cards has disappeared and, more importantly, so has backwards compatibility. But unless you simply can’t get enough of the original Ridge Racer, these features won’t be a big miss, particularly with new next-gen titles on the horizon.

Finally, some games

And the PS3 does, finally, have some big titles to unleash. The fantastic Haze is its riposte to Halo 3, and includes a great four-player co-op mode. Elsewhere, Indiana Jones-fest Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, petrol-head favourite Gran Turismo 5, Wipeout HD and Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots all look like promising exclusives over the Xbox 360.

But it’s still certainly the case, at the time of writing, that the Xbox 360 has the edge when it comes to games and online play. Prey, Gears of War, Bioshock, Mass Effect and Halo 3 are fine action titles that really show off the peerless Xbox Live arena. 

Blu-ray bargain

Of course, the PS3 isn’t just about games – that Blu-ray player can spin movies too. And the drive’s playback is, we’re pleased to report, staggeringly good.

For starters, it has the latest 1.3a-specification HDMI output, and can play 1080p Blu-ray video at 24fps. The original release of the PS3 had rather disappointing dedicated DVD performance but the latest software has clearly rectified this, the on-board scaler proving capable of delivering bolder colour, sharper images and, crucially, far smoother movement. A 2008 upgrade means it’ll soon be able to act as a Freeview PVR too.

Switch to Blu-ray and the results are hugely impressive. Other dedicated players have naturally overtaken its performance since its launch and can output HD audio, but you’ll have to pay at least a £250 premium for the privilege.

And that Blu-ray factor is the crux of the PS3 dilemma. If you want games, and only games, the Xbox 360 is still your best bet. But with some hot titles on the horizon and that bargain Blu-ray playback, we’d still rather have the PS3 next to our telly.


Stuff says... 

Sony PS3 40GB review

The cut-down PS3 costs the same as the Xbox Elite, has lost of its key features and still has that cracking Blu-ray player

Where to buy Sony PS3 40GB: