As the holiday season fast approaches, we've been getting questions from readers regarding which portable games console they should buy for themselves, their friends or their kids. It's hard to believe that there are still people out there who haven't decided on a side in the PSP/DS war, but here are a few factors you should consider before splashing your cash either with Sony or Nintendo.
Traditionally the Nintendo has been seen as the young-persons' choice, but this year a range of "brain training" games has pushed it into the eyeline of the adult and even elderly market. The clever controls - undeniably more innovative than the PSP's, with both the usual D-pad and buttons as well as a touchscreen and stylus - have given games designers more flexibility, and its backward-compatibility with Game Boy Advance titles mean there's a healthy, and cheap, back-catalogue to choose from.
On the PSP's side, however, are the media and processing capabilities which have made Sony such a contender in the lounge gaming market. While UMD-based movies may have bombed, the handheld can still play films and audio stored on Memory Stick or streamed wirelessly from a PS3. Recent sales figures from Japan show that PSPs there are being snapped up, with 250,000 sold in the four days following the redesigned Slim & Lite's launch and, although it lacks the catalogue of classic titles, more recent games on the PSP - usually aimed at a teenage audience - score highly in reviews.
Both consoles have wireless, allowing for multi-player gaming, but the DS edges ahead a little with many multi-player games requiring only one game cartridge. Pair the PSP with a PS3, however, and you can make use of Remote Play, which lets you access media and games on your home console wherever in the world you have a WiFi signal. As for add-ons, the PSP can be augmented with a TV tuner, GPS, camera and more, but of course these are not necessarily cheap options and some require imports since not all are officially available outside of Japan.
Many find the DS better for impromptu gaming, with the handheld working well in snatched moments on buses and waiting in queues; on the other hand, some have accused DS titles of lacking the in-depth gameplay that is available on the PSP. It's very much a matter of taste, and if you're buying for anyone other than yourself then it could be worth asking them whether they settle down for longer periods or see themselves gaming more casually.
Of course, for some it will come down to price: the PSP Slim & Light comes in at $169.99 while the Nintendo DS undercuts it at $129.99. In the run up to the holidays retailers will be clamouring for your business with bundled games, cases, and the ubiquitous "travel pack" (which usually consists of a travel charger, some sort of case and maybe a screen-protector). Here at SlashGear we'd recommend the DS for younger or significantly older would-be gamers, who should be well catered for by the simple interface and drawn in by the quirky, easily-grasped games. For teenagers and media junkies we'd lean toward the PSP: its integration with the PS3 is fantastic, the games on offer are nicely biased toward those willing to invest time and effort, and it certainly has the power to see it supporting top titles for some time to come.
Which handheld would you recommend, and why? Let us know in the comments - but try to keep it focused on the hardware, and not let it get personal!