The Console Wars:
Pairing A Video Game Console To Your Projector

Bill Livolsi, June 1, 2007
Contents

There is more than one ongoing format war. While the battle over high-definition disc formats is the most visible one to home theater enthusiasts, others among us are fighting the Console War. With new offerings on the market from Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony, many people are asking themselves which one is best for home theater use and their particular style of play.

Of course, the answer is "it depends." This article is not for Console Warriors, or Brand Fanboys, or whatever the preferred term is these days. However, if you're among the undecided, consider the benefits and downsides of each console, especially as they pertain to installation in a projection system.

Microsoft's Xbox 360:
Everything you want, nothing you don't


The Xbox 360 front panel and controller
Microsoft's Xbox 360 was the first of the new game consoles to market, reaching shelves a full year before Nintendo or Sony's offerings. As such, it is considered the most "mature" of the new systems, as Microsoft has had over a year to update the system and work out the kinks (and there were a few). It also means a full year to gain market share, and there are currently 10.4 million or more Xbox 360 consoles in private hands.

Details

At launch, the 360 was offered in two packages, a "core" system for $299 and a "premium" package for $399. The Premium system includes some perks that home theater buffs would appreciate, such as a wireless controller, component cables, and a 20GB hard drive. These parts alone retail for considerably more than $100, making the Premium system a better value.

In late April of 2007, Microsoft released one more version of the Xbox 360, called the Xbox 360 Elite. The Elite comes standard with a massive 120GB hard drive, an HDMI 1.2a video output, and a matte black case and controller. This new package retails for $479, and is a worthwhile proposition for those serious about home theater.

Features

While the Xbox 360 is a rock-solid game system, peripherals can be added to increase functionality. Out of the box, all games play back at 720p or better, up to 1080p. With a small additional investment, the console becomes a media center and home theater device in and of itself. A wireless internet dongle retails for less than $100. An add-on HD DVD drive allows for the playback of high definition movies, and costs less than $200. In essence, you can spend as much or as little as you want to expand the 360's feature set.

The Xbox 360 can also play back media from attached devices or networked Media Center PCs. By attaching a digital camera or music player to one of the console's USB ports, the 360 can store and display photos as well as play music.

Issues

The premium Xbox 360 and add-on HD DVD drive together cost just as much as a Playstation 3, negating the system's cost advantage. It also lacks DVI or HDMI output on the core and premium packages, outputting all content through component video. For those who purchased an Xbox 360 that is not the Elite model, there is no way to add HDMI functionality short of buying a whole new Xbox. The console is considerably noisier than a DVD or even an HD DVD player, with a loud exhaust fan that may be distracting. The wireless controllers take AA batteries, while rechargeable battery packs cost extra.

Installation

Installing the Xbox 360 in a home theater is a snap. With the Premium system, simply hook the component or HDMI video cables into your projector, processor, or AV receiver. Connect either the RCA audio cables or a TOSlink optical cable, and place the console in an accessible location -- you'll need to be able to get at the disc tray. The wireless controllers enable you to sit up to 50 feet from the console.

Summary

The 360 is capable of just about anything you could desire from a home theater component, including HD games and movies. The most attractive feature is the modularity of the system, which allows you to pay for what you want, and nothing more. With a robust library of titles, the Xbox360 is a great choice for beginners and hardcore gamers alike.

Contents: Xbox 360 Sony Playstation 3 Nintendo Wii