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Nintendo DS handheld games console

Just a PSP rival - or something more interesting?

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Review Let's get this out of the way. In a conventional battle of the year's big two handheld consoles, Sony's PSP would make mincemeat of the Nintendo DS. In terms of graphics and audio performance the DS is at least half a generation behind. It doesn't look as good. It doesn't feel as good. It won't - for the moment at least - play movies or MP3 tracks. Two screens aren't necessarily better than one. If you want a simple answer to the question of which one is best, consider it answered: order the PSP, writes Stuart Andrews.

Nintendo DSGo on. It's the right decision. It's just that you're missing the point. The DS isn't about having the best graphics or the fastest processor, it's just about having fun. Even the hardcore Mario fanatics can't pretend that the DS is perfect, but Nintendo hasn't lost its magic, just taken it in a weird new direction.

Admittedly, Nintendo hasn't made the DS the easiest machine to love. After the slick, streamlined, pocket-sized GBA SP, the DS is a return to the kludgy old days of the first-generation GBA. It feels at least ten per cent bigger than it ought to, and while the plastic construction feels solid enough, it's still a little cheap and toy-like. The direction pad, four face buttons and two shoulder buttons are all within easy enough reach, but that doesn't stop you wishing for something more slimline.

And while the two 3in, 256 x 192 resolution screens are a step-up from the GBA SP most PDAs have better quality displays. On the positive side, the audio is better than you might expect from the twin stereo speakers, and very clear through the headphone socket. Nintendo might be stretching things with talk of surround sound, but the audio capabilities are easily up there with the old Nintendo 64.

In fact, that's a bit of a theme with the DS as a whole. If the GBA was the Super NES in mobile form then this is a portable N64. A few hours spent with Super Mario 64 DS will tell you that the ARM9 and ARM7 CPUs are perfectly capable of doing anything you would have seen on the N64's custom hardware, and there are times when the bundled demo version of Metroid Prime: Hunters has you suspecting that it might have the potential to surpass it.

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