Our Holiday Gaming System Gift Ideas
First in a series of gift guides for 2007, let’s take a look at which gaming systems would make the best gifts. Then in a later article we will cover the games themselves.
The choice of a new gaming system is largely a matter of preference and, often, prior investment. So that aside, if you do not already know which system to buy, we recommend either a Wii or a 80GB PlayStation 3… but since situations vary, let’s take a look at the options.
The latest games, such as Crysis, require very beefy Windows-based PCs to run well. We recommend a system with 2 GB of RAM, a fast Core 2 Duo processor, and a high-end video card. Windows Vista is usually fine, but Windows XP still tends to be more stable.
A new gaming PC will set you back around $1500 to $3000, but depending on your recipient’s needs, good gift upgrades are a new video card (around $250 – $350) or an additional GB or two of RAM ($50 – $100). One other good option is a good gaming mouse like the Logitech G5.
Bottom line: shell out thousands for a high-end gaming PC or pick up some system upgrades like RAM, a good mouse, or a video card. Make sure the video card or RAM is compatible with the system to be upgraded.
- PNY GeForce 8800 GTS 640MB Graphics Card – about $369, a good balance with high-end performance and relatively low price
- XFX GeForce 8600GT XXX Edition 620Mhz 256MB – about $129, another, cheaper, video card choice
- Kingston ValueRAM memory, 2 GB – about $60, and make sure you get the right RAM for the giftee’s PC
- Logitech G5 Laser Mouse – about $59, the best gaming mouse available
The primary attribute that makes the Wii so much fun is, essentially, the Wii-mote controller system and how they are integrated into the games. A great example of this, Wii Sports, ships with the system. To bowl, you actually stand and act as if you are bowling. Same deal with the other included Wii Sports games: boxing, baseball, tennis, golf. The Wii will get folks off the couch and more active.
Bottom line: Nintendo’s Wii system is in short supply but is innovative and loads of fun and backwards compatible with GameCube games and can download games for the SNES and other old consoles. Get an extra Wii-mote and nunchuk controller, and possibly a Wii Classic Controller to play downloaded classic games.
- Nintendo Wii System – a great system that is not as powerful as the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 but, arguably, more fun and will get your giftee up off the couch.
- Nintendo Wii-mote – an additional controller or two is a good investment that enables multiplayer.
- Nintendo Wii Nunchuk Controller – an add-on controller that enables two-handed control in games that support it.
- Nintendo Wii Classic Controller – an alternate controller that enables control of downloaded classic Nintendo games.
Sony has had a rough year with the PlayStation 3. It is easily the most powerful game console available, has a built-in Blu-ray player, acts as a home media center, and interacts with the PSP handheld game systems. However, it was introduced at $499 and $599 for the 20GB and 60GB models, respectively. Though the hardware itself easily makes that a bargain, it is still a tough sell given the cheaper Xbox 360 and much-cheaper Wii systems.
Lately though, Sony has introduced two new models at 40GB and 80GB and reduced the prices to $399 and $499, respectively. The earlier models have been discontinued. More capacity, lower prices. Note that the new low-end model (40GB) now has built-in Wi-Fi, but does not have flash card readers, SACD playback, or PS2 compatibility. The high-end 80GB model has all of these features.
Bottom Line: Sony’s PlayStation 3 is simply the most powerful and flexible game console available. Recent price cuts, enhanced capabilities, and more games make the PS3 more attractive than ever. Go for the 80GB model and get a second Sixaxis controller. Since the PS3 has a built-in Blu-ray player, consider throwing in a few Blu-Ray movies.
- PlayStation 3 80GB Motorstorm Pack – about $499, the most powerful and flexible game console. Go for the 80GB model; the extra $100 buys 40GB extra capacity, flash card readers, SACD playback, and PS2 compatibility.
- Sixaxis Controller – about $44, an additional wireless controller enables multi-player gaming.
- Ratatouille on Blu-ray – about $23, a fun, family-friendly animated Disney movie on Blu-ray. Rated G.
- The Polar Express on Blu-ray – about $19, another fun, family-friendly animated movie on Blu-ray. Rated G.
- Live Free or Die Hard on Blu-ray – about $23, Bruce Willis’ blockbuster in Blu-ray high def. Rated PG-13.
Priced, for the most part, between the Wii and PS3, the Xbox 360 is doing quite well.
Bottom Line: Microsoft’s Xbox 360 is not our pick, but nevertheless a fine system, and the only system for Halo 3. If you decide to get the Xbox 360, we recommend you get the Xbox 360 Pro Value Bundle or the Elite Bundle, both of which comes with Forza 2 and Marvel Alliance games. An additional controller will come in handy.
- Xbox 360 Pro Value Bundle – about $349, 20GB hard drive, bundled with Forza 2 and Marvel Alliance.
- Xbox 360 Elite System Value Bundle – about $449, 120GB hard drive, bundled with Forza 2 and Marvel Alliance.
- Xbox 360 Halo 3 Special Edition, about $399, 20GB hard drive, essentially a green Pro system bundled with Halo 3.
- Xbox 360 Wireless Controller, about $49, 20GB hard drive, essentially a green Pro system bundled with Halo 3.
Like the choice of gaming systems, the right handheld game system is a matter of taste. This boils down to a tie between the Nintendo DS Lite or the new, thinner Sony PSP 2000. For pure gaming fun, the DS wins, but for flexibility we give the nod to the PSP.
Nintendo DS Lite
The Nintendo DS is a dual-screen, handheld game system. Thinner and lighter than the original DS, the DS Lite also sports brighter LCDs, more rugged build quality, and better battery life. There are special and limited editions, of course, but we will go ahead and recommend the stock DS Lite in whatever color you prefer. The DS has a touch screen, supports Wi-Fi, and wireless gaming with up to 16 other DS players. White for neat and tidy gamers, black for cool gamers, pink for girl gamers, and the red-black model for edgy gamers. It is also backwards-compatible with GameBoy Advanced games.
Bottom Line: The Nintendo DS Lite is thinner, lighter, and sturdier than the original DS system. If the gamer is into puzzles or cute Mario-style games, this is the handheld system to get. Wi-Fi is supported, as is wireless gaming.
- Nintendo DS Lite, about $129, pick your color.
Sony PlayStation Portable 2000
The Sony PSP is a handheld game system with power roughly equivalent to a PlayStation 2, but also supports Wi-Fi internet access, MP3 playback, photo viewing, Tivo-to-Go DVR playback, and UMD movies. Thinner and lighter than the 1000 series PSP, the new 2000 series is faster, has longer battery life, and has a brighter LCD. It also will connect with a PlayStation 3 and act as a remote.
Bottom Line: More than a handheld game system, the PSP plays UMD movies, has Wi-Fi internet access, is an MP3 player, and has some connectivity to PlayStation 3 systems. You might throw in a UMD movie or two as stocking stuffers.
- PSP 2000 Console – Piano Black, about $169, nice flexible gaming and media system.
- The Incredibles UMD, about $13, a mostly family-friendly animated movie. Rated PG.
- Toy Story 10th Anniversary UMD, about $13, another family-friendly animated movie. Rated G.
- Princess Bride UMD, about $17, a great family-friendly movie. Rated PG.
- Elf UMD, about $4, a family-friendly Christmas movie. Rated PG.
Other articles in the Brittlefish 2007 Holiday Gift Guide
- Holiday Gift Guide – Wii Games – Our picks for which games to get for a Nintendo Wii owner.
- Holiday Gift Guide – PlayStation 3 Games – Our picks for which games to get for a Sony PlayStation 3 owner.
- Holiday Gift Guide – Xbox 360 Games – Our picks for which games to get for a Microsoft Xbox 360 owner.