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Serious gamers, this is not for you! We're just trying to give the completely clueless a few pointers before they rush off to buy the wrong thing for their needs, so please don't write in and tell us how much rubbish you think we're writing!

The first thing to consider when buying a new games console is whether you're buying it for someone new to gaming or with an extensive library of games built up for a previous machine. If you can't play any of the games you already own and love, then it can end up nearly as expensive to buy everything in a new format as buying the console itself. Most of the latest titles are available for the PS3, Xbox 360, or Wii, but the Wii is the best for 'retro-compatibility', able to play Wii, Super Nintendo, Nintendo, Gamecube, Sega Genesis, and TurboGraphix 16 games. The PS3 can also play all the old PS2 games.

Then you've got to decide whether you just want a games console, or something that can be used as a whole home media centre. All of today's video game systems will let you connect to the Internet for multiplayer gaming, but if you want to use your console to watch movies, listen to music and look at your digital photos, then the PS3 or Xbox 360 are the ones to go for. The PS3 has the best photo-viewing features and will also let you play your BlueRay and DVD movies. The Xbox 360 can handle DVDs, and even HD-DVD movies with an optional attachment. Both PS3 and Xbox 360 let you stream digital music to your system.

When it comes to controllers, i.e. the bit of the machine you actually hold in your hands to control the action on screen, then the Wii scores head and shoulders above the rest, with its simple motion-controlled unit that lets you use the controls in the same way as you would use a tennis racket in a tennis game, or a boxing glove in a heavyweight bout, for example. Although you'll have to be careful to secure the remote properly to avoid broken windows and TV screens, the Wii is by far the easiest system to master for smaller children and the family as a whole, with a very easy learning curve before you can really start to enjoy things. The 'Blade' controller on the Xbox 360 is probably the most satisfying to use out of the rest.

Of course, the main thing that will influence your decision is probably going to be the price. The Wii comes cheapest, packed with a controller, a controller attachment, and a sports game ready to be played straight out of the box. The Xbox 360 is a fair bit more, and the PS3 is by far the most expensive. Neither system comes with a game, but they both offer much better graphics than the Wii, although that's really not important to most Wii users, as the physical interaction more than makes up for the slightly dated look to the images.

One good tip before buying any console for a present is that it's always worth subtly finding out what system most of the intended recipient's friends have, so as soon as they get their shiny new console they will straight away be able to play each other's discs and get into multiplayer gaming, rather than bugging you to spend another small fortune on game titles.



Author R. Germain
date added Wed 29 07 2009

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