Firstly, my credentials - I am a game designer for an independent European games company and I have to understand the architecture of a system to program on it. I am also a hardcore gamer across all formats and own all the "next gen" consoles.
The PS3 is a very good console and it does have a lot of potential. However, the same is true of the XBox360. Neither console is being utilised anywhere near it's potential.
Which is the better console? It depends how you analyse the figures. The PS3 has a faster processing set-up on paper and runs a lot cooler than the XBox processor but the XBox processor has a much better and well thought out architecture so the two are pretty much neck-a-neck in terms of real "speed" and processing power... also note that the PS3 is stifled and crippled by too little L1 and L2 cache memory to utilise the floating points effectively so will only ever realise 70% of the hardware potential.
Much has been made of the better RAM in a PS3 but they're both GDDR3 RAM units and the XBox has double.
The graphics processing units are again an interesting comparison. The XBox 360 has a faster overall transfer rate for GPU than the PS3 but the PS3 has better potential for smoothness due to no bottlenecking on the designated RAM (the 10MB buffer for the XBox 360 will prove a slight choke on performance as the consoles mature) - although the anti-aliasing and lighting ability from a handling point of view are quite frankly pathetic on the PS3 - no amount of firmware updates will solve that sadly. Please also note that Gears of War, which Sony claims utilises the entirety of the 360's power doesn't - it only uses around 45% of the consoles potential as it's very cleverly written and designed.
The Blue Ray drive is a massive plus - for Microsoft to only plump for a 12x DVD ROM drive was a bad move. Although more than fast enough for transferring data to the system (both this speed drive and the Blue Ray drive have a similar data transfer rate at top speed), I would have liked to have seen at least a 20x to increase load times, which are really poor on the PS3.
Which console is the best? It depends what you go for - but BOTH score 4/5 in my book. Microsoft have suffered for pushing it out when only 90% complete (note the overheating problems that are posted frequently although I've never had the problem) but Sony have suffered for trying to be "cutting edge" but cutting corners, the specs suggest a paper tiger but Sony have compromised certain aspects of the console to facilitate not making too much of a loss by providing a Blu-Ray drive and this will come back to bite them hard, as will the fact the XBox architecture is much more designer friendly and easier to optimise. Hardware wise, the nod goes to Sony slightly but the performance variance is minute - both consoles have different strengths.
The Wii cannot be compared to either as it's a completely separate gaming angle and experience and you've got to respect the Big N for going that far.
Oh, and anybody who suggests the Sony online experience can hold a candle to XBox live is clearly deranged - or just too cheap and begrudge £40.00 per year - as XBox live has naturally been evolving over the past 5 years and has a head start it'll probably take Sony the next 2 console cycles to catch up on.
Just my 2-pennies worth - I don't want to start a flaming war just be aware that both Sony and Microsoft are PR kings but that Sony's track record of overpromising and underdelivering (PS2 anyone? With the "real life" potential of the Emotion chip???) has again been realised.