The dedicated gamer has some powerful home-entertainment options these days, but which is best?
The PlayStation 3 is the most expensive of the next-gen consoles, but then it has a powerful Blu-ray player built into it. It's also got a tonne of media features -- our favourite is the beautiful photo slideshow -- and full Internet connectivity.
The downside to the PS3, apart from the price, is mainly its newness -- there are only two PS3-exclusive games of any note at the moment, Resistance: Fall of Man and MotorStorm, and the online features are very much in their infancy. Expect more games and features from Sony this year, though, including the very cool virtual world Home.
Nintendo's Wii is essentially a last-gen machine with a fun twist -- motion-sensing interactivity. The included Wii Sports game has been a huge hit with hardcore and casual gamers alike and future sports games are sure to take advantage of the innovative controls. It's also the cheapest of the three consoles.
Its graphics look a little shop-worn next to the supercomputer PS3, but it means that games developers can spend more time creating interesting games rather than fiddling with fancy visuals. That's for the future though, along with online multiplay, as there are very few games available for the Wii at the moment -- hopefully Mario Galaxy and Metroid Prime 3 will be out soon.
Graphics on the mid-priced Xbox 360 look roughly the same as the PS3 today, but its greatest strength is the online service. You have to pay £35 a year for the full service, but its simplicity is unrivalled and it offers the addictive Gamerscore, for comparing your offline progress to your mates'. There's also a wider range of games available, and some excellent titles (such as Mass Effect) coming soon.
The elephant in the room is the gaming PC. We've chosen the Dell XPS 710 H2C -- the most powerful PC we've seen. In terms of gaming power, it's unsurpassed -- the sheer scale and graphical realism of PC games outdoes any of the consoles, and will continue to improve as designers get to grips with the power of multi-core processors. Online play is far more developed as well -- nothing on the scale of Battlefield 2142 or World of Warcraft is available for a console.
The downside is the vast cost, and you'll need an expensive, high-res monitor to get the best out of the graphics. If you went really nuts, you could buy all the other consoles and a lovely big hi-def TV to play them on, and still have change for a weekend away. Gaming PCs are also huge, unsightly beasts, not fit for living room display.
So, if you're on a limited budget and want a new console right now we'd recommend the Xbox 360 -- it offers the best online service and the most games. This will certainly change over the next year as the Wii and PS3 develop their line-ups. But if money is no object, we'd plump for the PC, as it offers huge flexibility and the sorts of games you simply don't get on consoles -- and you can always scale down the quality of the components to fit your budget.