Heyo! I'm Matt Brett, a freelance web designer living in beautiful BC, Canada. I specialize in WordPress development and generally making things that are awesome. When I'm not working, I'm playing video games, and I've published 136 game reviews over the past few years.

PlayStation 3 vs Xbox 360: Comparison Part 2

This generation has seen a couple new, yet very important additions that all of the consoles have. An operating system that underlays your activities and an online store for downloading and purchasing additional content. Looking back, it’s hard to imagine how we managed without either for so long. They seem so integral now. The second part of my PlayStation 3 vs Xbox 360 comparison looks at both components.

XrossMediaBar (XMB) vs Dashboard

XrossMediaBar (XMB) vs Dashboard

It should be no surprise that Microsoft’s console has a much more intuitive and advanced operating system (Dashboard) than that of the PlayStation 3. It out-does XMB in every area hands down, but there are some nice frills found only in XMB that are worth mentioning. I could go feature-for-feature, but I’d be here all day. Instead, I’ll highlight some areas that really differ between the two.

XMB is extremely simplistic compared to Dashboard and I’ve found it’s actually very welcome. While things may not be organized as well as they are in Dashboard, everything is a mere few clicks away and very easy to find.

While it is simple, XMB carries some inner coolness that reveals itself over time and with use. On the 15th and 24th of each month, the primary background colour of XMB changes. Also, as you progress through the day, the brightness of the background fluctuates from dark to light, and back to dark again.

XMB has no advertising at all. Which leaves the interface very clean and clutter-free. Where as Dashboard is completely covered in it with some ads taking up nearly 50% of the screen.

Text sizes in XMB are very tiny and there’s no option to increase them. I find myself leaning forward more than I do while gaming in order to read the text. Where as with Dashboard, I’m lounging back on my couch.

Dashboard has the ability to stream media from a PC (or Mac via third party software) that is relatively simple to set up. XMB requires you to have a “media server” in place and there’s currently no solid solution for non-Windows users.

While streaming media is a difficult task in XMB, there are other ways to get your media on the PlayStation 3. Through various memory card slots and four front USB ports, it’s very easy to hook up media players and storage devices and simply copy your media over to the console. Photos, music, videos, it’s the same process which only involves a few clicks.

Downloaded videos are saved to both consoles and listed in the appropriate area. Dashboard presents them in an alphabetical list with a predetermined icon and file name and the user does not have the ability to change either. XMB lists videos by date but allows you to reserve the order or change to sort by name. The user is also able to change the file name and create an animated icon. The icon is a 15 second clip of the video where the user selects the starting point during playback.
Videos

Both consoles offer limited customization of the interface. Via Xbox Live Marketplace, users can download “themes” for a price (usually around $2.40 CDN) or use a single image to span all 4 customizable blades. In the last update, XMB added a “theme” feature which allows the user to specify a single background image to replace the soothing ripple/wave effect that is there by default. Free images have already begun to surface on the PlayStation Store for big titles like Heavenly Sword and Resident Evil 5.

XMB‘s simplistic nature is also a bit of a burden at times. For instance, anything that’s playable is grouped under “games”. Be it demos, full PS One games, downloaded PSN games, etc. There’s no grouping at all. Games are sorted by download date, descending (default) or ascending, but no option to sort by name.

Games

Highlighting a game in XMB‘s games menu changes the background image to that of the game and play a brief audio loop. When the system starts, it selects the game disc by default, but if there is no game, it selects the first game in the list. This can be quite annoying when you turn on the console to some irritating loop that is often louder than the audio from the game itself.

Both consoles can download content from their respective stores in the background while you play or watch a movie. But Xbox 360 can do this even after you turn the console off. It goes into a low power mode until the downloads are complete, then completely shuts down. Also related, Xbox 360 can power down after 6 hours of inactivity – PlayStation 3 has no equivalent.

Game updates are handled 10x better by Dashboard. Every time you pop-in an Xbox 360 game, it will check if there’s an update immediately. If there is, you are prompted to install it. If you choose to install, it downloads the update, installs and restarts the game for you all within about 10-20 seconds. XMB is a must longer and involved process. For starters, there’s no automated check to see if there’s an update. With Motor Storm, I wasn’t notified of an update until I went to the Online menu. After downloading and installing the update, I was prompted to restart the console manually. The whole process took about 2-3 minutes.

XMB features a web browser with some pretty nice control options. Zooming and panning around are very easy and quite elegant. Ironically, the console made by the same company that put out the worlds most popular web browser, does not.

PlayStation Store vs Xbox Live Marketplace

PlayStation Store vs Xbox Live Marketplace

For starters, take into account that the Xbox 360 has been on the market for a full year longer than the PlayStation 3. A direct comparison of the quantity of content is out of the question. But, I had an Xbox 360 within the first 4 months of it being available and I can tell you, there was a lot more to download and purchase online at that time than there is now in the PlayStation Store. As I did with the operating systems, I’m going to run through differences and similarities.

Xbox Live Marketplace: GamesThe interface for both stores are completely different. PSS actually has a lead in this area, if you ask me. They have a nice overview for a store front that lists new and top downloads down the right side of the screen while the latest content is featured prominently in the form of large thumbnails and a huge rotating banner across the top. It’s very easy to jump in and see if there’s no content, then jump back out. XBLM‘s front page is a list of categories. You then have to click into a category, then another click into “New Arrivals” to see if there is anything new. Problem being, it doesn’t track your visits and lists content as being “new” for however long they see fit. Since there is no quick overview of new content, the user is forced to make several clicks in and out of the categories to see if there is anything new. There are ads strewn through-out the Dashboard and XBLM which showcase some of the new content, but there are issues with the updating frequency for some users (myself being one of them) which causes ads to sit in place for weeks or even months at a time without any new ads rolling in. XBLM doesn’t have a list of new or popular downloads.

Navigating PSS is a bit of an awkward task. It feels more like a web interface than something that was meant to be navigated using a controller. There are buttons positioned all over the screen and the cursor snaps to them, but it’s often frustrating trying to get to the one you want. The left analog stick can be used like a mouse to free move the cursor around the screen, but it’s very slow and not the easiest to land on the button you’re aiming for. There’s also no back button on the controller. Circle, which acts as B normally exits the store instead of taking you back a page. Instead, you have to get your cursor down to the previous button at the bottom of the screen which is normally 3 or 4 taps on the d-pad away.

PSS uses real world currency while XBLM utilizes Microsoft Points. I don’t know why anyone would prefer points over their native currency. Both services allow you to have a “wallet” that you can top up via credit card that is associated with your account. There are pre-paid points card that can be purchased in stores for XBLM. Sony debuted a PlayStation Card at E3 ’06, but it’s yet to surface.

XBLM is constantly having new content added on a daily basis. There’s no schedule for new demos or anything. It just filters in as it’s ready for release. PSS is updated weekly on Thursdays and consists of a mash of games, add-ons, demos, videos and images.

As far as content goes, both stores contain the same types of content overall. XBLM has a lot more and a more steady stream of new content being added regularly. In the US, there is the Video Marketplace which houses movies and television shows available in HD and SD. Video Marketplace is making its way to Canada and Europe this fall and I have a feeling I’ll be making frequent use of it.

PlayStation 3 vs Xbox 360: Comparison Series

  • Part 1
    PlayStation 3 Initial Impressions, Price & Value, Controllers, Peripherals
  • Part 2
    XrossMediaBar (XMB) vs Dashboard, PlayStation Store vs Xbox Live Marketplace

22 Comments

  1. Great comparisons again. Quick question, which dashboard theme are you suing on the 360 in the pictures?

    One thing you might also want to point out is that it has been rumored/confirmed that the PS3's interface uses something like 64 MB, but the 360's dashboard is considerably lower…

  2. I'm surprised to find out XMB isn't cluttered with ads considering, and forgive me if I'm wrong, that the online service Sony provides is free?

    You'd think what with Microsoft charging £40 (Sorry I'm using GBP) for an annual subscription to Xbox Live, that it would be their operating system that was ad free – not Sony's!

  3. @Rockers Delight: I think that the fact that the dashboard features more 'advertising' is perhaps related to Microsoft's broader business outlook.

    Sony have had previous success with the PS1 and PS2 where the focus was on selling physical units and shifting games off shelves. I think Microsoft's approach is more inline with a broader business model where digitally distributed content has been a significant part of the plan, right from the moment the briefed AQKA to propose design concepts for the dashboard.

  4. @Niklas: I used a camera for these, actually. Just set it up in a fixed position and started snapping pics.

    @Dustin: That's the Carbon theme, one of the three standard themes that are included.

    At this point, it doesn't matter how much memory XMB requires as it doesn't run while you're playing games. Or maybe it does and there's just no way to interact with it?

    @Rockers Delight: Yeah, you've got your facts straight. I'll be getting into online services next time around, but it is strange having ads plastered all over your dashboard when you pay for the service. To be fair, though – the vast majority of the "ads" are promotional images for newly available content.

  5. I hope the 360 doesn't go forever! If it did, what would you do about your favicon!? Anyway, glad to see you got your gaming back.

  6. Another great entry in the series. Very much looking fwd to tomorrow. Hey, do you have any plans of discussing PSP integration with the PS3?

  7. Great read. I was pleasantly surprised when I got my hands on my 360 and immediately jumped on Live and discovered just how easy it was to navigate. Also, at the time, only 4 months in the amount of content was staggering compared to my expectations.

    I had been a PS2 fan that switched over to Xbox full time mainly due to Halo. When I purchased my 360 I was planning to grab a PS3, but all the negative feedback that was going around pre-release put me off of that. So far, the articles have convinced me that I would have quite a bit of fun out of the PS3, but maybe not enough to make another big dent in my pocket book.

    I guess we'll see when I'm testing with a broken 360â€â€Âwhich I'm sure isn't far off.

  8. @Rockers Delight: Actually, you're a little off with that statement, and so is Matt. You're confusing The Xbox Marketplace and Xbox Live Gold. Xbox Live Gold does indeed cost an annual fee ($50/year) but that is for playing multiplayer games online. You do NOT need Xbox Live Gold to access the Xbox Marketplace, where you can download demos, movies, TV shows, etc. The Xbox Marketplace is free, just like the PS3's Marketplace.

    And as for a list of new and popular downloads, check http://www.majornelson.com

  9. @ Andre

    The reason you don't have Ads on your Dashboard is due to how you have a child account set up, or you initially signed up for Xbox Live with a child account. If you are under 18 or you first signed up for Xbox Live while under 18 you can not view Ads or do Live Messenger.

  10. "I could go feature-for-feature, but I'd be here all day. Instead, I'll highlight some areas that really differ between the two."

    As soon as i read that i knew it was going to be a really good post.

    Even though i love the PS3 i thought it was gonna get a whooping in this part of your review but it seems to faired well.

    I was also equally surprised to hear about the ads issue on xlmp (paid for) and pss (free).

    Really good in depth review, looking forward to the next part.

  11. Re your point about navigating on the PSS. There IS a back button on the controller – press L1. L2 acts as a forward as well.

  12. Hi Matt

    I find myself in a similar position to yourself where I own all three consoles. I find myself playing more on the XBox than the PS3 due to the lack of software, but I expect that to change in the coming months.

    My family and are going through a phase where we are buying the XBox Live Arcade/PS3 online games and the quality of some of those is excellent.

    Wit regards to the media server for the ps3, i have used twonky vision (http://www.twonkyvision.de/Products/TwonkyMedia/index.html)
    which is available for Windows, Mac and Linux. I have a Dlink DNS323 NAS and there is also a version you can install on this as it runs linux which means the computer does not even have to be on.

    Anyway, keep up the excellent posts and good luck with the sprog.

  13. Hi guys, just ordered my elite. tough choice, but made up my mind in the end.

    btw, been hearing rumors about a new version of the PS3 coming out in early '08?

  14. Its a good comparison, i preferred part 1 though.

    You made one mistake that I noticed.

    There is a back button on the PS3 controller, its L1 I think. You can use it for the web browser and the PS store.

  15. To be honest, i much prefer the PS3 XMB to the XBOX 360 dashboard. Its much easier to access and the new firmware update 2.1 makes it so much better than before, now I can customise my XMB and its always improving with new updates. I think that pretty soon the PSN will be better than xbox live after all its still fairly new. The best thing though is the PSN is free. Does the XBOX 360

    get updates like the ps3?

  16. This post is a magnet for comment spam, and while they never get published, they're a huge pain in my ass to moderate.

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