Introducing the "GIZMONDO"

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Gizmondo is part of the next wave of portable gaming devices -- the handheld electronic equivalent of a Swiss Army knife that does far more than simply play games. Gizmondo's designers included a GPS system, a camera, and the ability to play MP3s and movies. Add text messaging capability and Bluetooth support, and you've got something that could change the way people look at portable gaming.
In this article, we'll learn what the Gizmondo can do, find out how it stacks up against other portable gaming devices on the market, and learn about the sometimes troubled company that makes the Gizmondo. We'll also get a sneak peek at the Gizmondos that have already been released in Europe.
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At its core, the Gizmondo is built for gaming. It looks a lot like a controller for a console game system, except for the view screen in the middle. The Gizmondo is roughly the same size as a controller, with four gaming buttons on the right, an eight-way game pad on the left, and two additional buttons at the left and right sides of the top of the unit. Five function buttons placed above the screen provide menu navigation and easy access to some of the Gizmondo's modes of operation. The Gizmondo is powered by a 400 Mhz ARM9 processor from Samsung.

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[FONT=arial,helvetica][SIZE=-2]Photo courtesy Gizmondo[/SIZE][/FONT]

The display is a 320 x 240 pixel TFT (thin-film transistor) screen capable of showing 60,000 colors. It's powered by an Nvidia GoForce 4500 3-D graphics accelerator, the development of which delayed Gizmondo's release in England by several months. Gizmondo runs Windows CE (Microsoft's operating system for mobile devices), which allows access to various CE-compatible applications with a network service plan.
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Gizmondo Features

The Gizmondo has several features that make it more than just a gaming device. It includes a Windows MP3 playing center which "enables users to download and enjoy their music on the move, in digital quality through the stereo headset socket" [ref]. Without headphones, you have to rely on a small built-in mono speaker. Companies can also offer audio content via multi-media messaging service (MMS) streams. A scaled-down version of Windows Media Player lets users play movies in the MPEG 4 format, and they can send film clips and movie previews to other users with MMS.
In addition to playing music and movies, Gizmondo users can also take photos. The fixed-focal-length lens for the VGA camera function is in the back of the unit, so you can view the subject of your photo on the screen. Photos can then be shared among other Gizmondo users or with Bluetooth-enabled devices.
But how do Gizmondo users store and transfer MP3s, movies, pictures, and games onto the Gizmondo? The unit has a very small amount of internal memory, but it accepts Secure Digital (SD) cards. These cards are about the size of a postage stamp, and a one-gigabyte card will cost between $50 and $100. Two-gig cards are already available in Europe, and cards holding up to eight gigs of data are planned.
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[SIZE=-2]Photo courtesy Gizmondo[/SIZE]
[/FONT]The built-in GPS is what really sets Gizmondo apart from other portable gaming devices. In addition to the basic navigation and map applications, parents can keep up with their children by tracking the Gizmondo and owners can set up a virtual fence around a geographic area (and get an automatic alert if the Gizmondo crosses the fence). Games that integrate the device's GPS position with game play are also generating a lot of excitement. We'll talk about those games in more detail in the next section.
Adding to the list of connectivity options is Gizmondo's Bluetooth support. This allows other Bluetooth-enabled devices to share data with Gizmondo, and two or more Gizmondo users can play multi-player games together. Built-in copyright security features include digital handshake and the ominous sounding "destruct at engagement," which deletes certain kinds of unauthorized media files (it doesn't make your Gizmondo explode).
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Number Crunching

Perhaps the most important statistic of all to potential Gizmondo owners is the price tag. At launch, the British version cost 229 pounds -- more than $400. Tiger recently announced plans to offer their "Smart Ads" Gizmondo in the United States (it's already available in Britain). With Smart Ads the Gizmondo's price is almost cut in half, but the owner has to watch three 30-second commercials transmitted to the device each day.

Here's a summary of the Gizmondo's features from the official Gizmondo Web site:
  • TFT screen ~ 240 x 320 pixels
  • 400 Mhz ARM9 Samsung processor
  • 128-bit 3D NvidiaGraphics accelerator
  • GPS tracking and mapping applications
  • MP3, MIDI, and WAV playback
  • SMS
  • Windows Media Player 9
  • MPEG 4 video playback
  • JPEG camera
  • SD flash card reader
  • Mini-USB client
  • Bluetooth class 2 for multiplayer gaming
  • Temperature range 0° to 55°C (32° to 131°F)
  • Removable SIM card
  • Removable battery
  • Polyphonic ring tones
  • Stereo headset socket for MP3 and games
  • Flight Mode
  • GSM tri-band
  • GPRS Class 10
  • WAP 2.0
  • MMS receive and send
How does Gizmondo compare to the Nintendo DS or the PSP? The built-in GPS function is the biggest difference. It's a more versatile machine than the Nintendo DS, but the PSP is capable of offering Gizmondo's extra functions in the future. Gizmondo is more expensive than both the PSP and the DS, and it suffers most when it comes to games. But it is early in Gizmondo's development and more games will be available in the next year. The Gizmondo has a lot of potential, but for now PSP players have a vastly greater number of options for their gaming needs.
 
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