I have a strong suspicion that a large portion of claims regarding the superiority of one console’s graphics system over the other are actually based on poor comparisons.
Without embarking on a statistical analysis of the available data, I believe that a good number of these claims are of the “I played this at home on my Xbox and at my friend’s house on his PS3” nature. Problem is, the comparison is mostly subjective at best, and unless the consoles are compared on the same or completely identical audio/visual systems, it is not clear if the consoles are even what is being compared. For example, either console will look better on a high-end high-definition screen than it will on a lesser display.
There are also some differences in the specifications of the two consoles. For the purposes of this review, I am not going anywhere near that. I am opposed to “Spec Wars” in general, and especially with regard to purpose-built devices such as gaming consoles. If you want to look that stuff up,be my guest, but I will be comparing user experience only.
For my comparison, I downloaded the demo of Call of Duty 3: Black Ops for each console, and played through them a number of times in rapid succession. This was on the exact same system, connected via HDMI into a switched port that fed via a single cable into a single display.
What I found was that, while immersed in the action of the gameplay, I could see no discernable difference in the quality of the graphics between consoles. What I was able to detect, though, was a slight difference in the character of the graphics. The color palette on the PS3 seemed a little bit “warmer”, and the colors were slightly more “blended”, while the 360 seemed to present colors just slightly more “Starkly”. I could not see that this was either better or worse, but it was a small difference that I have since noticed in a general sense in other games between the two consoles (I haven’t noticed this effect with movies or other media, so I assume it is limited to the graphics rendering properties specific to games). Both consoles can be bogged down by intensive graphic presentations, and “Frame Rate Issues” can occur on both, mainly when there is a high number of graphical elements on the screen, all moving quickly at once. My experience seems to indicate that this is often largely a problem with particular game software. Some games seem to be able to work with the hardware better than others.
As a side note, I recently heard from a clerk at a local game store that the PS3’s ability to read BluRay discs was a non-factor for HD gaming. His suggestion was that there was only one game that actually utilized the PS3’s 1080p ability, so the BluRay was pointless. Of course, in games, BluRay or DVD discs are used simply to store data, not to conform to a playable DVD or BluRay standard, so the 720p vs. 1080p is completely irrelevant to the presence or absence of a BluRay drive.
Conclusion: Tie. Some users may find the overall effect of one console’s color rendering more pleasing than the other, but the differences are virtually unnoticeable during active game play.