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Plugged In

Sony, Nintendo, and Apple: Battle of the next-gen handhelds

Plugged In

Castle Defense

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Sony's "NGP"

If this were a typical video game console cycle, the talk these days would be about things like the PlayStation 4 and the Nintendo Us (or whatever they had decided to call their new machines). But things are different
this time around.

The major console systems may not be showing any signs of updating themselves soon, but the handheld marketplace is heating up fast. Both Nintendo and Sony have announced new portable game devices - the 3DS and
NGP (a code name that will almost certainly be changed) -- that will be in the hands of consumers before the end of the year.

The companies are taking decidedly different approaches to how they're
approaching the market - and how they plan to compete with the growing
threat posed by Apple's iPhone and other smart devices. While some of
the facts are still unknown, here's how a number of critical categories
break down.


Big picture

Nintendo 3DS:
Play classic Nintendo franchises like Zelda and (eventually) Mario in
stereoscopic 3D - without having to wear those dorky glasses.

Sony NGP: Play games with PlayStation 3 level graphics in the palm of your hand

iPhone:
Bite-sized gaming options that can be downloaded anywhere, with a mix
of independent and studio releases. (Oh, and it's also a media player
and phone.)


Price

Nintendo 3DS: $249.99

Sony NGP: Still unannounced. Analysts expect it to launch at $299 or higher, however.

iPhone: $49 for the 3GS version; $199-$299 for the iPhone 4. Requires phone service contract.


Big games

Nintendo 3DS:
More than 30 titles will be in the launch window (from the end of March
through mid-June), including "Nintendogs and Cats," (Buy | Search) "Super Street
Fighter IV" (Buy | Search) and "Pilotwings Resort" (Buy | Search). Following soon after that will be "The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D" (Buy | Search) and "Kid Icarus Uprising" (Buy | Search). Nintendo isn't straying too far from its rich stable of franchises.

Sony NGP:
While the exact launch lineup has not yet been announced, Sony has
shown footage from such PS3 favorites as "Killzone," (Buy | Search) "Resistance," (Buy | Search) "Little Big Planet," (Buy | Search) "Uncharted" (Buy | Search) and "Metal Gear Solid 4" (Buy | Search) playing on the system. The company seems to be targeting the device at its core gaming loyalists.

iPhone:
"Angry Birds," "Doodle Jump," "Fruit Ninja" and "Cut the Rope" lead the
pack. The app store specializes in games that can be played for just a
few moments at a time without losing momentum or for long periods
without getting bored.


Screen

Nintendo 3DS:
Beyond its 3D capabilities, the 3DS screen is 10 percent larger than
the DS - coming in at 3.5 inches with a resolution of 800x240 (two
400x240 images superimposed to create the 3D effect).

Sony NGP:
The system will offer a 5-inch OLED screen with a 960 x 544 resolution.
OLED is a superior screen to LCD and LED competitors, offering deeper
blacks and higher contrast - but it's expensive, which is why it hasn't
shown up on TV sets yet.

iPhone:
A 3.5 inch that achieves a 960-by-640 resolution using a proprietary
tech called "Retina Display" that does away with jagged edges and
less-than-crisp images.


Battery life

Nintendo 3DS: 3-5 hours, depending on how high you have the 3D effects cranked up.

Sony NGP:
Sony hasn't supplied exact numbers yet, but has said the system will be
"comparable" to the current PSP - which implies a battery life of 3-5
hours.

iPhone: Varies depending on how you use the device, but the range is from 6-14 hours.


Non-gaming functionality

Nintendo 3DS:
Comes with a 3D camera installed, and Nintendo has hinted it will
support 3D video playback, but hasn't yet announced deals with any
Hollywood studios.

Sony NGP: Sony hasn't discussed much about this yet, but like its predecessor, expect this system to be able to play music and movies.

iPhone:
Where to begin? It's a phone, a music player, a movie player, a
portable computer, and can double as a GPS. The app store opens up all
sorts of possibilities for the device.

See hardware shots of the Sony NGP >>

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