Portable gaming consoles have been in kids' hands for more than 20 years in the United States and nearly 30 years in Japan. With the inception of Nintendo's Game Boy in 1989, competitors have been plentiful, but most fell through the cracks because they simply couldn't compete against Nintendo's flagship. Today, the playing field has changed.
Nintendo has traded in its Game Boy tradition for the Nintendo DS. Its only true competitor for the better part of the last five years has been Sony's PlayStation Portable (PSP). Both Sony and Nintendo have released multiple models of the PSP and DS, respectively.
One new and unlikely competitor ascended during the past two years: Apple. The iPhone and iPod Touch, devices that don’t boast gaming as a primary function, may now pose a greater threat to Nintendo's reign than original competitor Sony ever dreamed possible. Here's a quick look at the competitive landscape:
|Dimensions||4.8 in x 2.6 in x 0.6 in||5.39 in x 2.9 in x 0.74 in||4.5 × 2.4 x 0.48 inches (iPhone); 4.3 × 2.4 × 0.33 inches (iPod Touch)|
|Screen Size||3.8" ||3.25" (both screens)||3.5"|
|Memory||16GB||265 KB||8-64 GB|
|Number of Buttons||8+dpad+analog stick||9+dpad+touch screen||1+ touch screen|
|Processor||2x 333 MHz MIPS32||166 MHz, 33 MHz||600 MHz|
|RAM||64 MB||16 MB||128 MB|
|Number of Available Games||248||1200+||10,000+|
|Weight||5.59 oz||7.69 oz||4.05 oz|
|Resolution||480 x 272||2x 256 x 192||480 x 320|
|Extras||16.77 million colors, Microphone, stereo speakers||Microphone, resistive touch screen||Capacitive touch screen|
|GPU||166MHz, 2 MB||656 KB||Unknown|
|Multimedia Playback||UMD, ATRAC, AAC, MP3, WMA, JPG, Bitmap, PNG, MPEG-4, AVC, H.264||MP4, M4A, 3GP||AAC, Protected AAC, MP3, MP3 VBR, Audible (formats 2, 3, and 4), Apple Lossless, AIFF, and WAV|
|Game Data Size||Unlimited||DS ROM: 256 MB||Unlimited|
|Battery Life||5-7 hours||9-14 hours||10 (video), 30 (music) hours|
|Camera||None||2 at VGA (640X480)||2 MP|
|Online Store||PSP Store||DSiWare Store||iTunes Store|
We tested each of the devices, including their older counterparts, to determine which is the best portable gaming console. Each device has unique qualities, so we used the following criteria for our tests: portability and functionality, gaming capability, media features, online marketplace, and price.
Portability and functionality cover the shape, size, design, feel, and durability of each console, as well as how easy the device is to operate, taking into account things such as user interface and navigation. Gaming tests the control schemes, the screen, and available titles. The media-feature review looks at video and music playback, picture viewing and taking, and applications. We also see how the marketplace for each console works, both on the computer and directly on the console. Our online marketplace tests also evaluate how long it takes to select, buy, and download games and the breadth of available downloads, including non-gaming applications.
Each evaluation, including price, is contrasted with previous models of each device first, then with each other. Final scores are based on these five criteria, and we also give our thoughts about the different consoles and their predecessors.
Because of the vast number of available titles, we use data from Gamefly, a video game rental service in the United States, for DSi statistics, and from Metacritic, which ranks mobile game titles.