Really wanting a powerful games machine?
Then you have choice xbox360 Elite or Sony 40gb PS3
Both have positives and negatives. I am by no means an expert but owning both consoles I will give you my experience.
Xbox360 Elite -
Xbox 360 to me is only a 'gamer console', and it uses the fact that it is only this as it's main strength!. It has a better set up then the Ps3 for gaming, achievement points - I never thought I would ever play games just to get these, but I do, I love the challenge between my friends on who can get them and how fast!!, xbox live is more stable then ps network although I found the speed on getting games on both are almost the same. There are more players on Live though.
Okay with that in-mind, yes there are more players, but there is much more titles, there is a budget section for 360 and not on PS3 where all titles are still nearly full price.
It is noisy, very noisy! The controller runs out of charge quickly, and if you don't have the re-chargeable pack, getting batteries out of the controller is one pain in the ..., no internet browser, no blu-ray (HD movies), although u can download them from live (at a cost), but I want the shiny cases.
Ps3 40gb Model -
Ps3 to me is not just a 'gamers console' but it is a 'entertainment console' it offers far more choice then the 360, although it does not have achievements, it does allow you to customise some games, the console, load different operating systems (i.e. XP), blu-ray as standard - your discs don't scratch as quickly as standard dvd (360), plus you can watch movies on your HD tv in HD. Built in Optical out for connecting to surround sound system (360 has it on component cable). PS Network is 100% free! Although this means is it not supported. It was also quite rubbish, although it is now to a standard that would rival gamespot arcade. You can browse the internet (smoother with a USB Keyboard), Bluetooth for that mobile phone headset.... the PS3 just offers the standard user much more choice.
No achievement points - never thought this would bother me but it does, I find playing single player with 'nothing to show for it' pointless (I'm a multiplayer at heart MMORPG where your status is what you achieve), so I ignored some of my titles for a while Drake Fortune etc. Lack of titles, I struggled to find titles that would/could match 360 (I buy a lot of games). Although the exclusives like Rachet & Clank and Drake are excellent, there is nothing pulling to buy until Grand Tourismo 4, finally no budget range, due to the lack of titles, there is no £9.99 games for the Ps3 cheapest is £25 - although you do get offers.
The new rumble controller for the PS3 is due for launch in September with the new 80gb model to EU market. I own a rumble controller (brought it back from the USA), it does make a considerable difference your games, plus the controller is at last a weight it should be.
I hope some of the comments on the PS3 and 360 helped to pick the right console for you!