Waking up early one Christmas morning and seeing a Nintendo Gameboy is one of the the most clear memories from my youth. It was freeing to know I no longer had to sit, legs crossed, in front of our family's Zenith TV to play Super Mario Brothers. I could play on the bus, the couch and even in the car; my child mind was officially beyond excited.
Portable gaming systems have come a long way since the Nintendo Gameboy, but children who wake to see one of these systems under the tree this Christmas will feel a similar joy without knowing just how far technology has come in the past few decades.
Which is the best system? Let's look at a few.
Nintendo 2DS: $129.99
When people think of gaming on the go, they think Gameboy. Nintendo is trying to rekindle those memories with its 2DS, which features a new wedge-shaped design. It has the same dual screen setup of the 3DS but without the 3D screen, and comes with a 4GB SD card for saving game data and downloading new games. Reports indicate the plastic and ergonomics are comfortable, which is key for a product users will hold in hand for extended time.
Nintendo 3DS XL: $199.99
The fattened-up version of the 3DS is simply a bigger-screened version of the of the existing model. Now the screen is more than 4. 5 inches, but the overall unit is only a millimeter larger and still streamlined. On the downside, the resolution has not increased, meaning the pixel density has not been improved. Finally, the software though impressive for the likes of a simple game machine, pales in comparison to other products on the market.
Sony Playstation Vita: $249.99
Sony took note of the mistakes it made with its original introduction into handheld gaming, the PSP. This go-round they decided to throw in many innovative features, including a great new display. The display, a 5-inch AMOLED multi-touch display from Samsung, might be the best on a portable gaming system, but probably isn't as good as on your smartphone. Even though the Vita has two cameras, making augmented-reality games possible, the images themselves are still not frame-worthy. But Sony made this system a power savvy machine. It works on wifi or cellular data, has a touch sensor on its backside as well as a quad core processor and a graphics processor inside. While the system is larger and heavier than its predecessor, the device uses a great operating system. It's biggest disappointments are the price, and the low number of apps available for download.
Nvidia Shield: $299.99
The most expensive and least pocketable device, the Nvidia Shield is basically an Xbox controller with a 720p screen and an Android OS. Even though it was build as a do-all device, the focus remained on fantastic game play, and it’s here it shows it largest downfall. Nvidia has been making some of the finest graphics processors available for computers and other gaming systems, but is new to to the hardware game. That means the hardware could be a lot better. The systems screen is difficult to reach because it is connected to a heavy controller. Though weird to hold at sometimes, the device features Nvidia's own top-of-the-line portable graphics processor, making game play an absolute joy. And it has a massive battery; the device can last upwards of 11 hours.