PS3 vs. Xbox 360: video services compared

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Derek loves nothing more than punching a remote location into a GPS, queuing up some music and heading out on a long drive, so it's a good thing he's in charge of CNET Australia's Car Tech channel.

The console wars have faded into the background, but two of the protagonists, the Xbox and the PlayStation, are still fighting it out to be more than just a games console, but also an integral part of your home-theatre set-up.

Unless one of the major console-exclusive titles is launched — we're looking at you, Gran Turismo 5 and Halo — or a game geek starts a flame war about which console produces better textures, no one really pays attention to the ongoing war.

That's because many of us have picked a side or taken an each-way bet, and are happy with what we've got. But for those who have yet to add a current-generation games console to their home-entertainment set-up, Microsoft and Sony figure that a plethora of entertainment options are likely to be as tempting as a few exclusive game titles — and possibly even more so.

Free stuff

What constitutes free? That's usually a pretty simple question to answer, but, in the case of the Xbox 360, things are a little more complicated. The Xbox has a number of free video-on-demand services, but the vast majority require you to have a Gold Xbox Live subscription.

If you're a gamer, then this is a bit of a non-issue — if you want online multiplayer gaming on an Xbox, a Gold Live subscription is a must; there simply isn't any other way. If, on the other hand, gaming takes up less of your free time, especially online gaming, then you might not be willing to cough up the requisite cash; a one-year Gold Live subscription costs upwards of AU$48.

PlayStation 3 Xbox 360
ABC iView Yes Yes
SBS On Demand Yes Yes*
Plus7 Yes No
Nine No No**
Ten No No

* Requires an Xbox Live Gold subscription.
** There is a ninemsn app, but it can't access any of the network's catch-up TV streams.

If the only streaming content you want to access is free catch-up TV services, it'd be a clear points victory to the PS3 in this regard — primarily because they're truly free. On the flipside, if you have reasons for purchasing an Xbox Live subscription, then the Xbox's catch-up services make up for their lack of quantity with a touch of class.

You see, the PS3's catch-up services are essentially the web versions, tweaked ever so slightly for the PlayStation. The Xbox versions, on the other hand, are ground-up applications that fit perfectly with the system's Metro-style interface, and are easy to access with the Xbox's controller.

Muddying the waters still further, PlayStation owners have access to VidZone, a streaming music-video service that allows you to program your own version of Rage or Video Hits. In the Xbox's court, there's the Dailymotion app, which allows you to access the world's second most popular video-sharing website.

File and disc support

As far as video discs go, the PS3 has the clear advantage here: it has a Blu-ray player, whereas the Xbox only supports up to DVD. All told, the PS3 actually works quite well as a Blu-ray player. However, if we were to use the PS3 as our primary Blu-ray-playing device, we'd recommend shelling out for the PlayStation's optional remote control, as using the standard PlayStation game controller to stop, pause and skip through discs is less than ideal.

Both the Xbox and the PS3 can playback DivX videos, but file support can be best described as flaky. If you've got a vast collection of DivX, MPEG and MKV videos that you want to funnel from a PC to the TV via either a PS3 or an Xbox, you'll need to have a third-party media server running on your PC, such as Twonky or TVersity, to transcode your videos into a supported format on the fly.

Paid services

Sony's PlayStation 3 offers three differing paid video options. There's Mubi, which offers streaming versions of art-house, experimental and classic films; Quickflix, which streams slightly older movies and HBO content; and Sony's own Video Unlimited service, which allows users to buy or rent a wide range of movies and TV series in either SD or HD.

Denizens of planet Xbox can access the Zune Marketplace, from which users can purchase or rent movies. Unfortunately, TV series aren't available in Australia. The selection's not bad, although HD movies seem to be restricted to renters only.

To make up for this, Xbox owners can subscribe to a cut-down streaming Foxtel service. Like the regular Foxtel cable and satellite service, there's a basic package (AU$19.50 per month) that everyone must have, to which you can append various add-on packages. The basic package includes National Geographic, Fox8, TV1, Nickelodeon, Discovery and BigPond AFL, Sport and NRL. For many, the most compelling add-on package is the Sport package that includes ESPN1, ESPN2 and Fox Sports Play for an additional AU$10 every month.

The Foxtel on Xbox pricing significantly undercuts the full service, but there's no iQ-style service available, so Xbox subscribers can't record programs to their console. Data consumed by the Foxtel service will count against the data cap imposed by your ISP — unless, of course, your ISP is BigPond.

Conclusion

If I were to choose a console based purely on its streaming video content, I'd be torn. The PS3's free catch-up TV services appeal to the penny pincher in me, but the availability of live sport (particularly football) is enough to push me to pick the Xbox ahead of the PS3.

If we throw games into the mix, however, things might turn around again. But that's an argument for another time and another place.



Add Your Comment 11


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ScottR posted a comment   

I hate my PS3 for watching television shows and movies from my external hard drive as it takes the PS3 forever to load-up all the content on the disk and when it's finished I will notice it's only read a fraction of what's on the disk. I'm not being hyperbolic when I say 'forever' - I mean it. When I use the xbox it reads everything in a second. Bam! Clear winner.

I don't use the xbox for games any more, just the PS3 as it has more exclusive titles and free online gaming.

 

ChristopherM2 posted a comment   

Both suck as media players but if you plan on watching content on either machine through an external HDD, the PS3 is head

 

gregory.opera posted a reply   
Australia

Or you could just store all of your content on a NAS (Network Attached Storage) server and stream it over the network to your PlayStation 3... We store all of our movies, television programs, music and photos like this, and it works perfectly (jsut don't get NETGEAR's "Stora" - it's rubbish)!

This method also frees-up the 1TB HDD (hard disk drive) in my PlayStation 3 for other things, such as PlayTV and downloaded content (including games)...

 

Chandler posted a comment   
Australia

No mention of PlayTV? For all it's faults, it is a to the PS3.

 

Chandler posted a reply   
Australia

Should be a 'plus' there...

 

gregory.opera posted a reply   
Australia

I was just about to mention PlayTV...


We've had PlayTV since day one and after installing a 1TB HDD (hard disk drive), never once had a problem with it.

I don't watch TV, ever (yes, there are people left in the world like that!), but my wife and kids watch plenty, with the former being a record freak... Yet even with all the movies and television programs she watches, we've never ran out of space, even though we have plenty of downloaded content (including games) and use PlayStation Home from time-to-time.

 

Chandler posted a reply   
Australia

I'm exactly the same - don't really watch any TV, but the missus does (no kids on my end but). Space gets to be an issue at times when she records a lot (we've only got a 250GB drive in there), but apart from that it does a good job. Only real problem is the EPG, but that's caused by the broadcasters not PlayTV. More than 2 tuners would be nice but.


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