The handheld market has always been dominated by Nintendo and the Game Boy series of handheld gaming consoles. Every competitor that has tried to take a bite out of Nintendo's monopoly-like grasp has failed miserably. Nokia has carved out a small niche for themselves in the European market, but it's been quite a difficult task for them. Sony has the PlayStation name behind their first handheld gaming platform, but it's still having a hard time catching up to the Nintendo DS, Game Boy Advance, and Game Boy Micro. So with that kind of competition, why would any company want to make an attempt on the handheld gaming market? Well the folks at Tiger Telematics believe the Gizmondo is a lot more than a portable gaming system, and we'd have to agree.

If you look at the Gizmondo as a gaming device, you'll probably be disappointed. The games that are currently available are either dated or simply not all that fun to play. Electronic Arts is on board with last year's version of FIFA Soccer and SSX, but who wants old games when the PSP, DS and GBA are getting the latest versions of these games? So our recommendation if you're looking into a Gizmondo is to not look at it from a gaming perspective.

The Gizmondo has a lot of very clever features that should interest a good number of people. First and foremost is the navigation system that is available for around $170. Couple that with the $230 it will cost you to pick up a Gizmondo, and you've got a fairly inexpensive handheld navigation system. This alone should entice people to pick up the Gizmondo for use in their cars or for long road trips.

In addition to offering a full navigation system, the Gizmondo also severs as a portable MP3 player, video player, picture viewer, a text messaging device in GPRS areas, or just a storage device. Since the Gizmondo uses standard issue SD cards for all of its software, you can load the device with just about anything. We all know that many PSP users are not gaming on their handheld, but instead using it as a portable video player. The Gizmondo has the same abilities without having to worry about which version of the firmware you have.

Sticky Balls

There are some nagging issues with the Gizmondo, which we'll have to now cover. The most annoying thing about the handheld is the fact that you're almost forced to keep it on standby instead of simply powering it off. Under most circumstances, it's not a big deal to put a handheld device on standby, but with the Gizmondo's normal battery, it doesn't seem to hold a charge very well when it's powered off. If you power off most cell phones, you can leave them off for a month and they'll still have a solid charge left in them. We left the Gizmondo powered off for a week and it was already down to half a charge.

Turning the Gizmondo on and off wouldn't be so bad if it didn't take so long to power up. It literally takes nearly a full minute to power on. What exactly is the device doing that requires it to take a minute to power up? While it may not seem like a large gripe, it can get fairly annoying when you just want to listen to some music, or pop in a quick game card.

If you've decided you want a Gizmondo, you may also have an issue finding one. Gizmondo is currently not available in any retail stores in the US. Instead, the Gizmondo team has decided upon kiosks in various malls across the country to sell their product. You can also check out the Gizmondo website and buy it directly, but it's hard to see Gizmondo selling well until it gets into some major retail chains, which should happen early next year.

Overall, the Gizmondo is a nifty little device. It's definitely lacking in the gaming department, but that should be changing over time. As long as you don't use it primarily as a handheld gaming system, the Gizmondo definitely has value. If you consider the fact that it's a $400 handheld navigation system that alone should be enough of a value to consider a purchase. In addition to the nav system, you get video playback, MP3 playback, a picture view, a text messaging device, and a lot more. There are some draw backs, but overall Gizmondo is a solid handheld device.

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