Sony PlayStation Vita
Sony PlayStation Vita

Best handheld game system

Reviewers say that the Sony PlayStation Vita is not only the best handheld game system available now, but that it's probably the best portable gaming platform ever released. Game play is terrific, aided by a 5-inch OLED touch screen display, smooth and versatile controls, and a good library of new and legacy games available at launch. The biggest negative is the console's cost, and many complain that the true cost is even higher than the sticker price. Except with certain bundles, users will need to spend at least an extra $20 for a proprietary memory card that's not included in the box but is required to play most games. Other, smartphone-like features get more mixed reactions, but when it comes to what matters most -- game play -- even critics are fans.
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Nintendo 3DS
Nintendo 3DS

3D handheld game system

The Nintendo 3DS features both a touch screen and a 3D screen. The 3D effect is adjustable and can be turned off. Other console features include dual cameras (including a 3D camera), a motion sensor and a gyroscope. Review after review describes the glasses-free 3D effect as truly three-dimensional, the colors bright and crisp, and the controls comfortable and familiar to anyone who's used a Nintendo DS over the past few years. That's not to say that there aren't a few drawbacks. The library of 3D games has grown to the point where there's a decent amount of selection, but some experts still grouse that few games actually benefit from 3D. To make the 3D system work, you must view the screen from a precise angle. Battery life is not as good as with previous DS units. And like all Nintendo products, the 3DS offers few games geared to the more mature player. Sluggish sales have perked up a bit following a substantial price cut.
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Nintendo DSi
Nintendo DSi

Best value for kids and tweens

The Nintendo DSi consistently scores well in reviews thanks in large part to the strong collection of games available for the younger set. Experts say the Nintendo DSi is a great option for casual gamers, but serious game fanatics will find more challenging and adult-oriented titles if they opt for the Sony PlayStation Vita or the older but still available Sony PSP-3000 (*Est. $130). The DSi has access to more than 1,700 family-friendly games, including "Super Mario Brothers" and "Pokemon." However, the Nintendo DSi does not support GameBoy Advance titles, and it has a relatively short battery life of around four hours. Nintendo also offers the DSi XL (*Est. $170), which is nearly identical but has 4.2-inch displays. Because it's so similar, reviewers recommend sticking with the DSi unless you really want larger screens.
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See a side-by-side comparison of key features, product specs, and prices.

Handheld Game Systems Runners Up:

Nintendo DSi XL *Est. $170

3 picks including: DigitalTrends.com, Engadget.com…

Sony PSP-3000 *Est. $130

3 picks including: Amazon.com, DigitalTrends.com…

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