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Game Consoles Prices, Reviews and Specifications


Game consoles do a lot more than play video games. Most consoles stream online content from Netflix or Hulu, offer downloadable content and some even double as Blu-Ray players. Systems like PS3 and Xbox 360 are popular home game consoles, while Nintendo DS systems and PSPs are available for on-the-go portable game play.


Home Game Systems

Microsoft Xbox 360

Microsoft's Xbox 360 console was designed with online competitive gaming in mind. The Xbox 360 has top-of-the-line graphics quality and allows for gaming in high definition -- although don't expect that out of box; buying extra cords is necessary.

Microsoft charges for access to online content, with a minimum annual subscription fee of about $50-$60. The subscription plan covers online gaming, but users can also access downloadable games, movies, TV shows and other content.

Microsoft offers customers the option of purchasing the console all or once or signing up for a subscription plan. With the subscription plan, a 4GB Xbox bundle is sold for $99, but customers must agree to 2-year contract for Xbox Live at a cost of $15 per month. The total cost including the 2-year commitment comes to $460 for the option of paying over time; purchased all at once, the same package would cost $360.

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Microsoft Xbox One

Microsoft announced its next generation console, the Xbox One, in May 2013, following on the heels of PlayStation 4 news and the Wii U release.

The Xbox One is aiming to be an all-in-one entertainment device that can merge live TV with online gaming. For example, in a special deal with the National Football League, Xbox is able to make watching games interactive by, for example, updating fantasy scores live and bragging about it to online friends. It would also offer access to viewing player stats and watching highlight reels.

In another exclusive deal, between Microsoft and Call of Duty manufacturer Activision, Xbox One owners will have access to Call of Duty content before anybody else.

In addition, the Xbox One will have the ability to play Blu-ray discs, a feature that Sony offered on PlayStation 3. The Xbox One comes with an upgraded Kinect bar that boasts better voice recognition and motion sensors. The operating system is also upgraded and appears with a Windows 8-type of style.

Microsoft said the Xbox One will require a 24-hour Internet connection to allow for the necessary daily updates. In addition, Microsoft has stated the Xbox One will place restrictions on used games and game sharing among friends.

Microsoft expects to roll out the Xbox One ahead of the holiday season, but many stores have it available for preorders. [See Prices, Reviews and Specifications]

Nintendo Wii

Update: Nintendo dropped the price of the Wii by $20 ahead of the launch of Wii U in Octber 2012. The Wii, now priced at $130, includes Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort games.

The Nintendo Wii, which debuted in 2006, features wireless motion-sensor controllers. It was designed to attract a wider demographic than its higher-priced competitors, the Xbox 360 and Playstation3, and appeals to more nontraditional gamers in addition to those considered typical gamers. The Wii console's library of games offers easy-to-learn games that make the console popular in senior centers and other unexpected places.

The Wii is the only system that comes standard with motion controllers, which allow players to swing like it's a bat when playing baseball or use it as a magic wand in a magical wizarding game. Of all three major consoles, the Wii is by far the least expensive, but also has the lowest-quality graphics.

Nintendo offers popular console exclusive games including Mario Kart, Super Mario Galaxy, Legend of Zelda, Metroid Prime and Donkey Kong Country. [See Prices, Reviews and Specifications]

Nintendo Wii U

With Wii U, which arrives in time for the 2012 holiday season, Nintendo changes basic gaming and incorporates media in new ways. Wii U introduces the Game Pad, new game controller that has both a touch-screen that interacts with the screen and a traditional navigational buttons. Although there will be games in the future that make use of multiple GamePads, the controllers will not be available for individual sale initially.

The Wii U does offer some backward compatibility for Wii owners, and allows up to four Wii remote and nunchucks to be used in conjunction with the game pad. Although the Wii allowed use of Game Cube games, the Wii U does not.

Unlike the original Wii, Wii U gives viewers multiple media options including control of live TV. Wii U also allows video streaming through Netflix, Hulu and Amazon.

Initially, Wii U will be available in two sets: The Basic set includes the game console, GamePad, a GamePad stylus and a sensor bar; the Deluxe version adds Nintendo Land video game, a GamePad cradle and stand, and a console stand. The basic model comes with an 8GB console; deluxe has 32GB of internal storage.

Wii U is available November 18 and Nintendo is allowing preorders ahead of the launch date. [See Prices, Reviews and Specifications]


OUYA is the first Android-based home game console. Created through a Kickstarter project, OUYA quickly gained funding, and is available both online and through big-box retailers. But Kickstarter campaign funders receive early models, which begin shipping in late March.

The OUYA game console is priced at less than $100 and comes with a single controller that operates with a Bluetooth connection. The console itself is small and black, about the size of a Rubik's cube. All games are downloaded and are free to try -- there are no discs or cartridges.

Games are played in full HD and connect through HDMI. The controller runs on two AA batteries and comes with removable faceplates.

The OUYA game console is made for developers and home hackers: Users are able to root the device, or access and modify files normally not accessible on a device, without voiding the warranty.

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Sony PlayStation 3

The PlayStation 3, which originally debuted in 2006, is the third release in Sony's PlayStation series. The console comes in two main storage capacity sizes (160GB and 320GB) and is the only gaming console that doubles as a Blu-ray DVD player. The console, like its Microsoft-based competitor, Xbox 360, attracts a hardcore gamer audience, and the range of titles offered reflects that demographic.

PlayStation provides free basic access to its online content on the PlayStation Network, but also has an upgraded subscription-based service, PlayStation Network Plus, which offers added features such as early releases and full game free trials. But, in the past year, the PlayStation Network was repeatedly hacked, exposing users' personal information.

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Sony PlayStation 4

Sony announced the PS4 in mid-February 2013, but the model is not expected to hit the market until the 2013 holiday season but many stores allow consumer to preorder. Most tech experts predict a mid-November release, but a specific date is not available.

The PS4 itselt is expected to cost about $400. Game titles are likely to cost about $60.

Shared gaming was central to the introduction of the PS4, with developers creating ways for gamers to share the gaming experience -- both through live shared streams and uploads of game triumphs.

The PS4 will have access to the PlayStation Network, which provides downloadable content and streaming services (such as movies and music). Unlike the Xbox One. the PS4 will not require a 24-hour connection to the Internet. In addition, PS4 will allow gamers to purchase and play used games on the system, without restrictions. [See Prices, Reviews and Specifications]


Portable Game Systems

Nintendo 3DS

The Nintendo 3DS is the first portable game system that offers 3-D graphics without the need for glasses. The handheld console is the most recent in the DS line of devices. It can be used to play 3-D games, take 3-D pictures and video, and play music.

It also comes with Wi-Fi accessibility, which allows Internet browsing features. The DS line of Nintendo portable gaming devices are the best-selling portable gaming devices of all time and are competing with PS2 as the best-selling gaming device ever.

While the 3DS plays 3-D games, it is also backward compatible with all 2-D DS games. Nintendo's portable game consoles have several popular characters and game series exclusives including Super Mario and Legend of Zelda. While the Nintendo 3DS is aimed at younger gamers, there are several teen- and mature-rated games for adults. The 3DS is the first in the DS line to be able to stream movies, and it comes with Netflix pre-installed.

[See Prices, Reviews and Specifications]

Nintendo 3DS XL

The Nintendo 3DS XL is, as its name suggests, an extra-large version of the 3DS, which was released in 2011 and offered 3-D gaming without cumbersome glasses. The console increases both screens diagonally by more than 1" -- it's a 90% increase over the previous verision. The increased size means an additional 4 oz. of weight in the hand. The new model also comes with a larger SD card: 4GB instead of 2GB. And the battery life is expected to be extended by more than an hour.

The release of the 3DS XL brought new 3-D installments in popular series including Zelda and Super Mario. In addition, the console is backward compatible with all the 2-D games available for DS systems.

Like the 3DS, the 3DS XL comes with Wi-Fi accessibility, which allows Web browsing. It comes with a built-in camera that can take both 3-D and 2-D images to share online or with friends. It also has Netflix pre-installed and is capable of streaming movies.

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Nintendo DS Lite

Update: The DS Lite was discontinued by Nintendo in 2013. It is still available as a used or refurbised model, but new models are no longer manufactured.

The Nintendo DS Lite is the second-generation DS gaming console, slightly smaller than the original DS. The series, known for its extensive library of kid-friendly titles, is the best-selling device in portable console history.

The DS Lite is the base DS model. Because its focus is on gaming, the DS Lite does not offer online access, although users can communicate with other users in a limited area. The DS Lite is available in a handful of colors including pink, red and blue. The dual screen DS comes with a pen stylus for controlling game-play.

With the newest model in the series, the 3DS, reducing its price in August 2011, the DS Lite drops to less than $100. The DS Lite is becoming increasingly dated with newer models like the DSi and the 3DS offering more features. The DS Lite is the last model to be compatible with Nintendo's older cartridge-based games used on Gameboy Advance models. [See Prices, Reviews and Specifications]

Nintendo DSi

The Nintendo DSi is the successor to the DS Lite and makes several changes to the system. The upgrade adds front- and rear-facing cameras, slightly larger dual screens and an SD card slot for media storage. In addition, while the DS Lite was backward compatible with Game Boy Advance games, the DSi no longer has the GBA slot. It also has a much shorter battery life than its predecessors.

The DSi is the first in the DS series to have access to the DSiWare store, an online library of downloadable games and applications.

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Nintendo DSi XL

The DSi XL is not so much an upgrade as it is a larger version of the DSi. It could also be viewed as similar to the 3DS without the 3-D functionality and the ability to stream movies.

The DSi and DSi XL are essentially twins, but the DSi XL has a significantly larger screen. The DSi XL comes pre-loaded with a handful of games, a new pen-shaped stylus and a significantly longer battery life, but those changes are about the only differences between the XL and the original DSi.

The DSi XL has access to Nintendo's online DSiWare store, which offers game and video downloads in exchange for Nintendo credits. The camera on the DSi XL comes with photo-editing software, and Internet access allows the images to be share through social media like Facebook.

Because of the larger screen size, one complaint from users is that is doesn't fit in one's pocket as easily as previous iterations of the DS, but it will slip into a purse or backpack pocket with ease.

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Sony PS Vita

The PlayStation Vita is the newest in the PlayStation Portable line of gaming devices.

The PlayStation Vita was released in February 2012. The device introduces a host of new features not available on previous PSP iterations including the use of augmented reality -- projecting the virtual world into the physical world -- which essentially allows users to turn a dining room table into a wrestling ring.

The AR capabilities are in direct competition with Nintendo's 3DS, one possible reason behind Nintendo's decision to reduced prices in August 2011. The PlayStation Vita brings back use of game cards, using a new format Sony developed that aims to deter hackers.

In addition, users will have access to games downloadable through the PlayStation Network. It is the first PlayStation portable gaming system to have a touch-screen interface; even the back of the console has a touch-sensitive control pad.

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Sony PSP-3000

Sony's PSP-3000 still is available, despite the release of the newer model, PlayStation Vita. The PSP-3000 can be found in specialty gaming stores such as Game Stop and it can be purchased through Sony's online store.

The PSP-3000 adds a high-definition screen, with increased contrast and a wider color spectrum, in addition to adding anti-reflective qualities to make gaming in any light easier. Another feature that's new on the PSP-3000 is the built-in Skype function.

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