Build Quality and Finish
Both of my consoles are glossy black, just like almost every other electronic device you might find in a media room. Both can be stood on end or laid flat. Immediately out of the box, the PlayStation 3 feels solid. For the first several months of ownership, I had it standing up on its side, with the assistance of a small, unobtrusive plastic stand that I bought shortly after acquiring the console. I also purchased a “BluRay” remote control for the PS3, which is essentially a normal-looking “Magic Wand” type remote with all the regular media controls you would expect. This remote works via BlueTooth rather than IR, so reception has never been an issue, without the need for clear line-of-sight like an IR remote would require. That part is quite nice.
Right out of the box, the Xbox felt much more fragile and less sturdy. This is not a big deal for me, as neither console was purchased with the intention of being moved from place to place, or of supporting anything other than its own weight. Initially, I had both consoles set up sitting vertically on their sides, in a nice, balanced position, each one flanking my electronics stack. This quickly revealed a couple of problems with the Xbox 360, however. On its side, the 360’s optical drive made a surprisingly high level of noise. Also, it seemed that in the vertical position the IR remote sensor was angled in such a way that it couldn’t receive a clear signal from my Logitech Harmony One remote control without my having to move or stretch to get the remote to a position where it could be detected.
This was an easy enough fix, though, I simply added a shelf unit under the screen, and repositioned both consoles to their bottom feet. Both problems cleared up immediately.
The PlayStation 3 is also almost completely silent. Any amount of sound or background noise will drown out the very unobtrusive fan noise, regardless of how long the console has been on. The Xbox 360, on the other hand, is actually quite loud. This is somewhat exacerbated by an aftermarket cooling fan that I added shortly after bringing the 360 home. Of course, this was because the 360 was also generating a rather alarming amount of heat, so there is something of a compromise involved. I had heard and read that some 360s are louder and hotter than others. As it happened, the first 360 that I brought home had an optical drive that failed catastrophically as soon as I tried to play a movie in it. I took that one back to the retailer and got another one that was just as loud and hot as the first, so I am currently assuming that there are some out there that are even hotter and louder than mine.
Conclusion: The PS3 definitely wins for being solidly built, effectively cooled, and whisper quiet. On the other hand, the need for a separate BlueTooth remote control for media functions is a bit of a drawback, even taking into account the advantages of a non-IR control system. The 360’s clean and easy interfacing with my existing multi-remote is a big advantage, once I was able to get the 360 properly positioned. So we’ll call the remote control issue a draw.