Recently Microsoft has been wrangling journalists into testing both a 360 and a PS3 side by side, hoping to convince them that the PS3 isn't everything Sony cracked it up to be. Their most recent victim was Ars Technica's Ben Kuchera. Invited to a room with both systems hooked up to a 1080p TV (a Sony Bravia no less), Microsoft's Aaron Greenberg and Scott Henson welcomed his questions. Naturally, they deflected many of them -- those concerning bigger hard drives and microtransaction issues -- but that's what they are trained to do. They're like PR Jedi that way. After testing several games and a hi def movie, Ben gives the slight edge to Microsoft's box. The primary reasoning for this is Ana, the 360's internal scaler chip. Sony's console lacks a scaler, meaning that native 720p PS3 games cannot run in 1080p (it might also be why PS2 games look like crap on the PS3). This gives the 360 an advantage, particularly in multiplatform games and high definition movie playback.
Kuchera notes, however, that it's unfair to compare 2nd generation games like Gears of War to PS3 launch titles like Resistance. Henson counters, saying that this is in fact part of Microsoft's strategy. In essence, the 360 will always be a software development cycle ahead of the PS3. For example, 2nd gen PS3 titles like, say, MGS4 will have to compete with 3rd gen 360 titles like Halo 3. It's an interesting argument, because from a consumer's standpoint, "fairness" never enters into the picture. The consumer can only compare what's available right now, making Resistance vs. Gears a perfectly valid test -- if you buy Henson's explanation anyway.
In the end, it might not even matter if the 360 can be proven demonstrably better than the PS3. As long as it appears at least level with the PS3 in terms of performance, it may become increasingly difficult for the average consumer to justify the difference in cost. Whatever your feelings on the console war, the article makes for an interesting read. Hit the read link to check it out.
Update: Corrected Ben Kuchera's name.