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How to Buy a Game Console

By Mia KimSHOP.COM Gadget Review Guru

Gaming systems have come a long way since Pong, and they're not just for geeks anymore. The consoles available today have amazing graphics and sound, and even the handheld systems are lot more advanced than the classic Gameboy of the 1990s. Think you're not a gamer? A Wii Sports pack will have you sweating almost as much as doing the real thing. Love word games and puzzles? Brain Games are for anyone who wants to exercise their memory muscles. Whether you enjoy role-playing, or guitar-playing, there is a system for you.

The Basics

Step 1Platform: Just like there are PC people and Mac people, there are people who are Nintendo Wii, people who like the Playstation, and the Xbox crowd. Many games are also playable on your Mac and PC, but newer games will require a pretty advanced system to take advantage of the 3D graphics. There are also the handheld gaming devices ,the Nintendo DS, and the Playstation Portable.
Step 2Games: Your new-generation gaming console will be capable of many things, but that means nothing if you can't find games you love that work on the system you choose. Some games are available on multiple platforms, but some, such Microsoft's flagship game for the Xbox 360, Halo 3, are exclusive to only one system. The number one issue before picking a console is to check out the selection of games available for each platform.
Step 3Hardware: The Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, and Playstation 3 aren't just video game consoles anymore. They're more like entertainment-focused computers. The Playstation 3 has a built-in Blu-ray player for watching high-definition movies. The Wii, on the other hand, doesn't have high-definition, but it has motion controllers, which provide much more realistic and energetic game play than a traditional joystick controller. Wireless networking is available on all three major platforms, but depending on the hardware configuration you choose, it may not be built-in, and will require an optional adapter. Hard drive size, which holds game information, as well as movies, photos, and music, also can vary greatly and will definitely affect the price of your system.

The Lingo

Console: A console system is one of the big three: a Nintendo , Playstation, or Microsoft Xbox. The current models are the Nintendo Wii, Playstation 3, and the Xbox 360. The main function of these systems is gaming. Handheld devices like the Nintendo DS or Playstation Portable are sometimes called portable consoles. A gaming computer (almost always a PC), on the other hand, is a computer which is optimized for gaming , but is a full-fledged computer as well.
Bundle: Like a regular computer, there are infinite possibilities for peripherals and accessories for your game system. Popular combinations of the console, games, and accessories will often be bundled together in package, usually at a discount from the unbundled price of the individual products. You save money and build up your game library at the same time.
High-Definition: If you've bought a television recently, you've probably heard the term "1080p". This is the full high-definition resolution supported by some television broadcasts and Blu-ray movies. Some game consoles are also capable of being played in full 1080p resolution if you have a high-def display and a game that supports HD. High-def is natively supported on the Playstation 3, and there is an adapter for the Xbox 360. The Nintendo Wii still does not support high-defintion.
Controller: If you think a controller means a standard joystick, then you haven't joined the gaming revolution. From the motion controllers of the Wii, to the Les Paul replica guitar, to a touch-sensitive dance mat, the new controllers allow for much more natural and energetic interaction.

The Experts

CNet says " Swanky design with quiet operation; all games in high-definition; PSP-like user-friendly interface; plays high-def Blu-ray movies in addition to upscaling standard DVDs; built-in Wi-Fi and flash media reader. The high-end Sony PlayStation 3's larger hard drive and ability to play PS2 games makes it a worthwhile alternative to the cheaper model."
PC World says "Microsoft's Xbox 360 Elite is here, and this version of the sleek, matte-black game console offers more than just cosmetic improvements. The unit's bolstered specs--such as a 120GB hard disk drive and an HDMI 1.2 connector, perfect for today's high-def TVs--mean more room to store digital content and a better way to view high-definition content."

The Brands

Nintendo, of course, created the most in-demand console system, the Wii, as well as the Nintendo DS and DS Lite, and many popular games.
Sony's flagship gaming product is the Playstation 3 but the the Sony PSP (Playstation portable) and the older Playstation 2 are still very popular and well-supported with new games and accessories.
Microsoft makes the Xbox 360 and the massively popular combat game, Halo 3. Microsoft doesn't make gaming PCs, but most serious computer gamers use Windows PCs for gaming.
Alienware provides the kind of over-the-top configurations that hardcore gamers crave.

The Price

$: For under $200, you can pick up one of the handheld gaming systems, the Nintendo DS (or smaller version the DS Lite) or the Sony PSP. The Sony PSP doubles up as a movie player, with movies you can buy on mini-discs called UMDs. Sony's one-generation-behind Sony Playstation 2 costs less than half the price of the Playstation 3 and new games are being developed for it all the time.
$$: The Nintendo Wii base system has a list price of $250, but it can be difficult to find a bare-bones system and you're likely to have to buy a bundled package with extra accessories in order to find a Wii right now. The same goes for the Xbox 360- the stripped down systems are harder to find- but they can be had for under $300.
$$$: The Sony Playstation 3 is the most complete entertainment system, with uilt-in HD support, and a Blu-ray player, but it's also the priciest. Expect to pay at least $400, even without a bundle. But you won't need a separate drive for watching HD Blu-ray movies.