Portable players

Sony's campaign girls show off the compa
Toshifumi Kitamura / AFP-Getty Images / AFP

These used to be just for game geeks and twitchy kids.  But now, with the broad range of hot new portable game devices and fun games to play on them, there's a player and game for just about everyone.  Think you'd never like portable games?  Guess again.  I'll bet you've played Solitaire on that Windows machine at least once, right?  And who hasn't played Snake on their mobile phone?

And right now is the right time to think about buying.  An amazing range of devices bring not only games, but music movies and more into your pocket and handbag.  Here's a look at the best of what's around (or coming soon):

  • Nintendo DS:  Nintendo has owned the hand-held gaming market with its Gameboy for years.  And last year they introduced the weirdest, wackiest, and (at least until the end of March) the best portable gaming system around.  It's called the Gameboy DS, and it includes not one, but two color screens, wireless networking, nifty audio and the ability to play brand-new games— along with the wide range of gameboy games already on the market.  One of the screen even doubles as a touch screen, which creates an endless set of capabilities for interactive and active games.  It's just right for kids, and anyone looking for a pure gaming experience. Click here to read more.
  • TapWave Zodiac:  Alas, this wonderful portable gaming system has been overshadowed by the big guys on the market.  And that's too bad, because includes a beautiful screen, plays movies and music, and games written for it look and play great.  Too bad there aren't very many of them.  But the Zodiac has one hidden feature that makes it perfect for one certain type of user: the Palm PDA addict.  Why? Because along with being a great gaming system, its also a complete Palm PDA, ripe for storing your names, address, phone numbers and lots, lots more.  Want to stay organized and play games?  This is the one for you. Click here to read more.
  • Nokia N-Gage QD:  Another dark horse, Nokia's worked diligently to turn this platform into something worth more than just laughs.  The latest N-Gage combines a T-Mobile cell phone with a  powerful game platform.  A decent set of titles are available (about as many as for the TapWave), and more are planned.  The tiny screen, alas, doesn't do some of the better titles justice.  But if you're ready to take your phone-based gaming to the next level - and wouldn't be caught dead with one of the dedicated platforms, the N-Gage is a good choice.  However, the N-Gage is also a peek into the future: Expect the N-Gage's gaming capability to end up in every Nokia phone by 2007. Click here to read more.
  • Sony Portable Playstation (PSP):  This amazing handheld won't be available in the US until March 24th (I snagged a Japanese model to give you that sneak peek), but it promises to wipe up the competition. With an amazingly gorgeous wide screen, real 3D gaming to rival what's inside the Playstation 2 console, and the ability to playback full movies, this will be the one to beat. Plus, it's going to have tons of games written for it. I'm a bit concerned, though, about three things. First, there's no cover for that big, wide screen— which could mean scratches and even broken glass.  The battery life could  be suspect, especially if you're playing movies.  And last, the PSP uses a proprietary new DVD-like format that's about ¼ the size of today's discs.  That means replacing all your movies in a brand new format to watch them on the road.  But this will be the cool device to have this spring - if you can get one.  They're sold out from now until who knows when.  But there's hope!  My sister site 1Up.com is giving away a PSP every day in March.  You can still enter and win!
    PSP preview.
    PSP Contest: http://winapsp.1up.com/