Gamers have never had it so good all over the world. Not only are the two biggies of console gaming — Microsoft and Sony — readying their latest offerings for the market, but emerging from the wings are new contenders that are adding new dimensions to the whole gaming experience. So while you have conventional consoles (albeit with a few spins on them) like the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on one side, you have the NVIDIA SHIELD which attempts to yank gaming on Android out of casual territory and the iPad Air which has done just that for the iOS on the other. But which of this works best for you? Here’s a brief look based on what we know so far:
Sony PlayStation 4: The new master
Expected price: R40,000 (approx)
The latest in Sony’s iconic PlayStation series already boasts of sales exceeding 1 million units. The PS4 comes with a new controller that has a Share button that lets you share your gaming experiences with friends. There is the option to download games, and even to stream live gameplay using a special camera, that alas has not been made part of the retail pack. Its biggest strength however, is its awesome graphics (full HD support) and game library which includes the likes of the Metal Gear Solid series.
Grab it if: You love gaming and are a sucker for great graphics.
Apple iPad Air: Not casual at all
Expected price: R35,900 (approx)
Gaming was one of the most highlighted features of the iPad Air at the time of its launch. Boasting a 64-bit A7 processor and a retina display, the iPad Air is the most powerful iPad yet by some distance. And unlike Android, which has several high-specced devices, but not too many games to utilise them, iOS has well and truly graduated to serious gaming with titles like Infinity Blade and mobile versions of desktop classics like Baldur’s Gate. Top that off with battery life that is phenomenal, and you have a very formidable device in your hand, one that is capable of entertainment and productivity. And yes, we have to add, looks cool as hell.
Grab it if: You want that all-in-one device that does everything and can sure play a mean game.
NVIDIA Shield: The Droid Console
Expected price: R19,500 (approx)
If an award had to be given for innovative form factor, NVIDIA’s gaming console, the SHIELD, would have walked away with it. NVIDIA has combined a game pad complete with buttons you would see on a controller for the Xbox and PlayStation, with a 5.0-inch touchscreen display. And well, this being a console from NVIDIA, there is no end of processing muscle behind it, with a 72-core graphics processor. Round that off with controls that work beautifully in supported games and are able to map keys to games that are designed for a touch interface, and you are looking at Android finally coming to the serious gaming table. You can even hook up the console to a TV if you are seeking big screen action. It runs on Android 4.3.
Grab it if: You love Android and cannot live without a gamepad.
Microsoft Xbox One: The chosen one?
Expected price: R40,000 (approx)
We could go on and on about the number of cores in its processor and the fact that it finally comes with a Blu-Ray disk drive, but for us, what seems to mark the Xbox One as special is its attempt to go social. The Kinect controller which lets you play games by just waving your hands and moving your body is now a part of the Xbox package, and has been improved as well, letting you navigate other features of the console apart from just the gaming part. Connectivity with Windows Phone has been improved and there are a number of sharing options as well. Oh, and while initial reports do not put its gaming graphics muscle in the same league as the PS4, what cannot be denied is that in terms of sheer variety when it comes to gameplay, the Xbox one is pretty much in a league of its own. If the PS4 strikes a blow for beefed up conventional console gameplay, the Xbox One promises to continue cashing in on the Kinect promise. This is going to be a battle between the gamepad and the Kinect at one level, even though the Xbox itself has a very decent gamepad (which also has been improved for the One). Grab it if: You want to say “See you later, controller” and are all set to embrace the joys of motion-based gaming.