Then & Now: PS3 vs. 360 Hardware

by Dan Ryckert on Oct 04, 2012 at 06:45 AM

In previous generations, the console you bought was the same console you'd have years later. You could buy add-ons or accessories, but the core system and the way it operated never really changed. It's a completely different situation now, as the console in your living room is most likely an entirely different beast than the one that sat on store shelves at launch. The ability to update hardware via the internet has extended the typical console life cycle, and we decided to take a look at the changes that the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 have gone through since launch.


Xbox 360 Then: Right out of the box, launch day buyers of the Xbox 360 were treated to achievements. Many early games didn’t utilize them very well, as 100-point achievements were often rewards for basic progression or simple accomplishments. 

Xbox 360 Now: Developers started taking achievements more seriously when they realized that gamers cared about them, and they started rewarding them in more novel ways. Each retail game has offered 1,000 gamerscore points ever since launch, but Xbox Live Arcade games recently upped their limit from 200 to 400.

Playstation 3 Then: Sony was late to the achievement game, as they didn’t introduce their trophy system until almost two years after launch. 

Playstation 3 Now: Rather than going with a point system like Microsoft, Sony opted for bronze, silver, gold, and platinum trophies. Each of these trophies has a different weight to them, and they all contribute to an overall “level” of sorts. With the launch of the Vita, trophies from both systems are both included on the same PSN account.



Xbox 360 Then: At launch, gamers could choose between two versions of the console: A $299.99 core model and a $399.99 premium model. 

Xbox 360 Now: Microsoft introduced a black elite version of the console in 2007, a stripped-down version called the “Arcade” later that year, and finally, the current slim model in 2010. Recent bundles have frequently included the Kinect accessory.

Playstation 3 Then: Sony made headlines when they announced that the 60gb model of the Playstation 3 would cost $599.99 at launch, making it one of the most expensive consoles in history. A 20gb version with less features was also available at launch.

Playstation 3 Now: Several versions of the Playstation 3 have been introduced throughout the years, including 40gb, 80gb, and 120gb versions of the original model, numerous sizes of the 2009 slim launch, and the newly-announced “super slim” PS3 that will come in 250gb and 500gb.



Xbox 360 Then: Online multiplayer was a big deal with Xbox 360 from day one, with huge titles like Call of Duty 2 on store shelves alongside the console. One factor that helped establish Xbox Live as a multiplayer destination was the inclusion of a headset in the premium model. It plugged into the controller, didn’t require batteries, and worked just fine more often than not.

Xbox 360 Now: Microsoft continued to be smart about the headset for years, including one in every model except for the core and the arcade.

Playstation 3 Then: In a poor decision, Sony neglected to include a headset in any launch model of the Playstation 3. It was compatible with Bluetooth headsets, but most gamers didn’t already own one and they were more difficult to set up than the Xbox 360 headset.

Playstation 3 Now: Sony never quite got their act together when it came to headsets. Games like Warhawk and SOCOM included one and Sony eventually released a wireless stereo headset, but it seems that many gamers never quite latched on to any of these. Online sessions of multiplayer PS3 games still seem to feature less voice chat than Xbox 360 versions.



Xbox 360 Then: Originally, gamers had to purchase a pricey wireless adapter to play online via wi-fi.

Xbox 360 Now: Microsoft eventually started building wi-fi into the console, which is the case with all of the slim models.

Playstation 3 Then: The 20gb version didn’t feature any wi-fi, but the 60gb did.

Playstation 3 Now: Every model of the Playstation 3 besides the original 20gb launch console has featured wi-fi accessibility.


Xbox 360 Then: Microsoft completely overhauled the controller from the original Xbox, launching the 360 with a new controller that performed admirably for first-person shooters.

Xbox 360 Now: The 360’s controller is mostly unchanged, except for a new model that aims to fix one of the most common complaints of the controller: the d-pad. By turning the disc surrounding the d-pad, the actual plus shape of the controls juts out more. It still isn’t perfect, but it’s an improvement.

Playstation 3 Then: Sony knew that gamers liked the classic Dual Shock design, so they ditched an early “boomerang” prototype and launched with a familiar form. Unfortunately, they thought gamers cared more about motion control than rumble. SIXAXIS motion was trumpeted at E3 2006, but gamers didn’t seem to care.

Playstation 3 Now: While the design of the Dual Shock 3 is virtually identical to the SIXAXIS, it brought back the rumble functionality that gamers wanted. Nowadays, you rarely see SIXAXIS motion used in any capacity.


Backwards Compatibility

Xbox 360 Then: Microsoft originally intended to make the Xbox 360 backwards compatible, but gamers couldn’t play many of their original Xbox titles at launch.

Xbox 360 Now: Backwards compatibility updates were released until November 2007, when Microsoft confirmed that they had stopped adding titles to the list. As of April 2010, Xbox Live no longer works for original Xbox titles.

Playstation 3 Then: Launch PS3 consoles were backwards compatible with PS2 and PSone titles.

Playstation 3 Now: As Sony continued to update the console, the backwards compatibility situation became considerably more messy. To see if an older game is compatible with a certain console model, the company has set up a dedicated website.

User Interface

Xbox 360 Then: Originally, Xbox 360’s dashboard was a bright, colorful interface with several curved “blades.” It served many of the same functions that we see today, but was missing plenty of services that were added later.

Xbox 360 Now: The dashboard of the Xbox 360 has gone through two major overhauls and an assortment of smaller ones. A “New Xbox Experience” update changed the visual format to feature a vertical list of categories, and the most recent overhaul rearranged everything into boxes to make it easier to access via Kinect. More importantly, today’s Xbox features tons of services like Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube, and more. Despite some areas being easier to access, there's still an odd divide between what you can get to from the main dashboard and what you can access from the home button selections.

Playstation 3 Then: If you took a fleeting glance at a launch day PS3’s cross media bar (XMB), you’d be forgiven for not noticing any huge differences. Its overall visual theme is very similar to what we see today.

Playstation 3 Now: While the XMB didn’t change much on the visual side of things, Sony has introduced many services (Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube, etc.) that mirror those offered by Microsoft.