Video gaming is a multi-billion-dollar business and portable gaming has a sizable market share. With the advent of widely available high-speed Internet connections and new, novel features, these handheld gaming systems are favorites among many serious gamers. Selecting a system that fits your wants and needs requires you consider several feature categories of this consumer electronics genre.
Gaming system preferences are often tied to specific games and the broad availability of titles. Nintendo 3DS, for example, offers exclusives such as the Mario and Luigi franchises, while the Sony PlayStation Vita offers the popular God of War and Little Big Planet lines. The 3DS XL can also play all of the Nintendo DS games as well as the 3D games, giving it a significant advantage in the number of titles. The Vita has a library of available games but cannot play the disc-based games from the older Sony PlayStation Portable.
It can, however, play downloaded games from a previous PSP. The PSP has a sizable library of its own from which to draw but cannot play Vita games. While the Wii U is not technically portable, the touch screen controller can be detached to play as a portable in your home, allowing you to leverage your Wii library of games. The iPad and iPad Mini, while not only a gaming system, can play games from the multitude available at the app store, including such favorites as Angry Birds and Cut the Rope.
Screen size is a crucial factor in choosing the best portable gaming system if the games you prefer are text-based or have graphics that are essential for play. The iPad and iPad Mini, with 9.7- and 7.9-inch touch screens, respectively, offer the largest portable screens of the category. The Nintendo 3DS XL, with dual screens of 4.88-inches and 4.18-inches, are an improvement from previous versions of the Nintendo portable line.
The Vita, with a clear 5-inch screen, also boasts a larger screen than the older Sony PlayStation Portable, which had a single 4.3-inch display. The Nintendo Wii U system has a 6.2-inch touch-screen controller, which can be removed and played as a portable within wireless range of its base.
If you play for long periods of time or often play away from power outlets, battery life becomes a critical feature when choosing the best system. The Apple iPad line allows for approximately 10 hours of play on a charge, depending on the use. The PlayStation Vita allows for game play of approximately five to six hours while the Nintendo 3DS XL allows for between 3.5 and 6.5 hours per charge. The Wii U console operates for three to five hours before needing a charge.
For many gamers, graphics quality and speed are critical in choosing a system. The most uniform unit of measure for graphics are polygons-per-second. The iPad and iPad Mini have a similar graphics processor to the Vita console, but with a much higher polygons-per-second rate of 80 million compared to 33 million. The Nintendo 3DS XL offers 3-D video through its proprietary DMP Pica 200 processor and supports up to 15.3 million polygons per second. This number may be seem artificially low in comparison to the others, but it operates in 3-D, which enhances the subjective experience for many users.
Consider how you will use your device when choosing which is best for you. For example, the iPad lineup has a 5-megapixel rear-facing and a 1.2-megapixel front-facing digital camera, which is the best available among current gaming consoles. Typically you will only get a .3-megapixel camera with a portable gaming system. iPads also have up to 64GB of storage, while other systems, such as the Sony Vita, require you purchase memory cards for game storage. Storage can be invaluable for maintaining saved games and music.
For true portability, cellular wireless service can be helpful. The PS Vita and the iPad lines offer subscription-based wireless services while the others require a Wi-Fi router-based networking scheme.