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Hands Up

Like to take your gaming on the road? The choices for portable play have never been this good.

Author TOM SAMILJAN

WAY BACK IN 1977, a handheld device about the size of a vintage calculator hit the market. Powered by a 9-volt battery and distinguished by tiny red lights blinking across a tiny plastic screen, Mattel Football was one of the first shots in the handheld gaming revolution. Today, the exponential growth of mobile phone games — by far the most popular downloads at both the Android and iPhone stores — has taken the genre well beyond the mainstream and deep into the pop psyche. Meanwhile, Nintendo is adding extra dimensions to its biggest flagship titles for the 3DS, the Japanese gaming company’s 3-D handheld, and Sony, in an effort to stay in the game, just released the PlayStation-certified Xperia Play, complete with a slide-out gaming- controls tray. This winter, Sony will launch the successor to its PlayStation Portable, an HD, Wi-Fi-connected dynamo called the PSVita.

What all this adds up to is the biggest console battle in gaming history, thanks to wireless interconnectivity and the scope of today’s handheld market. Here’s a — ahem — handy analysis of the gear coming out now. Game on.

1. T-Mobile G2x with Google

($249 with two-year contract, www.t-mobile.com)

WHO IT’S FOR: Anti-Apple performance hounds

TOP GAMES: Need for Speed SHIFT (preloaded), Minecraft, Cordy, Riptide GP

PROS: The killer specs on this high-end Android smartphone are the dual-core Tegra 2 processor (smooth, detailed graphics), four-inch AMOLED screen (vibrant color), 4G network speeds (fast downloads) and HDMI line out for playing it all in high-res on your TV.

CONS: Battery life won’t last through a whole day, especially if you’re doing any gaming.

2. Nintendo 3DS

($250, www.nintendo.com)

WHO IT’S FOR: Kids, Mario fans

TOP GAMES: Mario Kart, Paper Mario, Super Mario, Luigi’s Mansion (all available for the holidays), The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D (out now)

PROS: Catalog, catalog, catalog: It’s the only place you’ll find the aforementioned Mario and Zelda titles, as well as Animal Crossing and Kid Icarus (both available for the holidays).

CONS: Is there really a demand for 3-D?

3. Sony PSVita

($249, www.us.playstation.com)

WHO IT’S FOR: Socially networked fraggers

TOP GAMES: Uncharted: Golden Abyss, LittleBigPlanet

PROS: High-res graphics; dual tactile analog stick controls; an innovative touch-sensitive back panel; and an accelerometer and camera that enable the device to be used as a motion-sensitive, augmented reality controller.

CONS: It’s about as big as a waffle.

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