Which games console should you buy this Christmas? Xbox, Wii or even a PS3?

To decide which console is worthy of your cash, we'll be looking at seven key areas that need to be of the highest quality in order to warrant your attention: Games, Exclusive Titles, Media Options, Online Gaming, Extras, Future Features and of course Value For Money. We'll then tot up the results to see who comes out on top.

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Gerald LynchWhich games console should you buy this Christmas? Xbox, Wii or even a PS3?

iPhone 3G S vs Palm Pre vs Nokia N97 vs Toshiba TG01 vs HTC Magic – that's a lot of smartphones

I’m out of contract. As a matter of fact, I’ve been out of contract since October. The trouble is that this summer’s going to see the hottest set of handset releases that I can remember. There’s the HTC Magic, the Palm Pre, the Toshiba TG01, the Nokia N97 and the recently announced Apple iPhone 3G S, however much O2 may be doing to ruin it. So, the question is, which is the best phone? Come this way and we’ll break it down.

Size

The length of breadth of these handsets isn’t so much important to me as the the thickness. I’ve never met a phone I couldn’t fit into my pocket. It’s more about which one ruins the line of my clothes.

WINNER -TG01: 9.9mm

iPhone 3G S: – 12.3mm

HTC Magic: 13.65 mm

Palm Pre: 16.95 mm

N97: 15.9mm – 18.25mm

The Toshiba is by far the most fashion friendly of the five. It’s the only sub 1cm handset on the block and that’s very nice work for the relatively new kids on the block

The Magic is of a perfectly reasonable thickness and, having used the N97 for a couple of weeks, I haven’t found carrying it around a problem. I’ll have to reserve judgement on the Pre until I’ve held on in my hands.

To put them in perspective, the G1 sits at 17.1mm thick which, although a touch bulky, I wouldn’t turn it down for its size. Obviously the size problem that these three share is down to their slide out QWERTYs but that’s the price you have to pay for multi-functionality.

Weight

Again, weight isn’t a major issue for me but I appreciate that it is for some. I’ve normally heavier things to worry about on my person other than my phone but a category’s a category.

vodafone-htc-magic.jpg

WINNER – HTC Magic: 118.5g

TG01: 129g

iPhone 3G S: 135g

Palm Pre: 135g

N97: 150g

Given it’s not the thinnest, the Magic’s done very well to keep the weight down and, naturally, the QWERTY carrying two are at the bottom once again. However, where the Pre has only just pulled up short of the others, the N97 is looking like a right old lump to heft about. Again, having used it, I don’t find the 150g of the N97 a problem but you do feel like you could brain someone with it if push can to shove. Probably not a feature that Nokia advertises.

Screen

Convergence, people. That’s what we’re talking about here. These smartphones have got to be our MP3 players, our PMPs, our very eyes and ears. It’s no good squinting at them. We need screens and we need them good.

WINNER – TG01: 4.1″ with WVGA 480 x 800 pixel, 262,000 colours and REGZA technology

N97: 3.5″ with 360 x 640 pixels,16,777,216 colours in 16:9

Palm Pre: 3.1″ with 24-bit colour 480 × 320 pixel and 16,777,216 colours

iPhone 3G S: 3.5″ with 480 × 320 pixels and 262,000 colours

HTC Magic: 3.2″ with HVGA 488 x 320 pixel resolution

It may not have the 24-bit Trucolour system of the N97 or the pre and it may not be the quite spot on 16:9 aspect either but you just can’t beat the TG01 for straight up size and resolution. It’s an awesome display backed up with all Toshiba’s high end LCD know how. If it’s all about watching video on the go, then look no further.

The N97 is not a million miles off with a good splash of colour and, if it weren’t for its tiny size, you could live comfortably with the screen on the Pre but beyond that it’s fairly standard stuff. Tosh all the way.

Camera

Thumbnail image for N97.JPG

WINNER – N97: 5 megapixels with Carl Zeiss Tessar f/2.8 optics and dual LED flash

Palm Pre: 3.0-megapixel camera with LED flash and “extended depth of field”

iPhone 3G S: 3.0 megapixels and still no flash!

TG01: 3.2 megapixels and no apparent flash

HTC Magic: 3.2 megapixels and no flash

No shadow of a doubt in this category who takes the prize. The camera on the N97 is simply divine. It’s streets ahead of the others in resolution, glassware, flash and functionality. Frankly, it’s better than half the compacts on the market.If the camera on your smartphone is the most important feature for you, then stop reading now and go and buy the N97.

The only other handset to even bother with a flash is the Pre which gives it an automatic second place and I’m putting the iPhone 3G S into third, despite it losing out on the other two in terms of resolution, because even in the iPhone 3G the snapper was well integrated if seriously underpowered.

I wouldn’t rate the other two at all for their picture taking quality.

Processor

It’s not good these phones being able to cook your toast at the same time as make calls if it takes half an hour to do so. CPU power with a little help from the RAM will help your handset running smoothly.

WINNER – TG01: 1GHz Snapdragon platform (256MB RAM)

Palm Pre: 600 MHz Texas Instruments OMAP 3430 (256 MB RAM)

iPhone 3G S: Unknown – “twice as fast as the last one” (600MHz suspected with 128MB RAM)

HTC Magic: 528 MHz Qualcomm MSM7201a (192/288 MB RAM)

N97: 434MHz ARM11

The Toshiba is the clear winner here. It’s the only phone using Qualcomm’s brand new Snapdragon platform and it’ll probably need it to orchestrate all that REGZA technology, and the WinMob nonsense too.

The Pre puts in a good effort and should run well and I’m giving Apple the benefit of the doubt here. They make their machines well and I’d be very surprised if their “twice as fast” claims didn’t have at least some truth. We probably haven’t heard the exact figures because they’ll sound scarily low against the competition despite their efficiency and performance.

The Magic runs ok from experience and even the hopelessly underpowered N97 has run without too much a hitch in trials. Can’t say it’s lightening but it works.

Storage

With audio and video playback to go with a library of 3-megapixel plus camera snaps, storage has become an issue. Which one can hold and which will fold?

WINNER – N97: 32GB onboard plus 16GB microSD = 48GB

iPhone 3G S: 32GB

HTC Magic: 512MB + 16GB microSD = 16.5GB

TG01: 512MB + 16GB microSD = 16.5GB

Palm Pre: 8GB

Really disappointed with the Pre to see it sporting 8GB and no expandability. Serious loss of brownie points there. This is definitely the N97’s turf though. The iPhone 3G S shows enough but hardcore music lovers may run out of space pretty quick on the Tosh and the Android handsets.

Battery

It’s hard to equate battery stats directly to performance given each phones different CPU and display requirements but it does give at least some kind of indication. No winners and losers this time. Just take note.

N97: Li-ion 1500 mAh

iPhone 3G S: Unknown – 10hrs of video

Palm Pre: Li-ion 1150mAh

HTC Magic: Li-ion 1340mAh

TG01: Li-ion 1000mAh

The TG01 battery is tiny – possibly to keep the phone slim and light and possibly because the Snapdragon system is very efficient – but I am told you’ll get one day of heavy use out of it before you need to recharge. I suspect it’s not the best of the bunch, though.

For the others, the iPhone 3G S is much improved and should last a little longer; the N97 is the biggest and has been performing well in review; the Pre is a little concerning but unknown and the Magic has been ok – better than the G1 by a long shot but still just ok.

OS

Operating systems are a matter of personal choice but absolutely crucial to your enjoyment of the phone.

WINNER – iPhone 3G S: iPhone 3.0 OS
WINNER – Palm Pre: WebOS (Linux-based)

HTC Magic: Android Cupcake (1.5)

N97: S60 5th edition

TG01: Windows Mobile 6.1

From all the hype, the iPhone 3.0 OS and the Pre’s WebOS are supposed to be ace. You’ll love them both. Android, I’d say, is a very close runner – lot’s of fun but no way near as slick. The N97 suffers from lack of excitement in the OS department. We’ve known about Symbian 60 for years but it does work very well indeed. Bit of a Volvo.

And that leaves me with the TG01 and Windows Mobile. I hate Windows Mobile but that’s a personal choice. It’s clunky, fiddly and over-complicated and, until I’m shown otherwise, I want no part of it. It’ll suit some people out there but not many.

UI

Usability is fundamental to these machines. If they’re pain to play with, then you’ll learn to hate them. There’s no two ways about it.

iphone-3g-s.jpg

WINNER – iPhone 3G S: Capacitive multitouch screen
WINNER – Palm Pre: Capacitive multitouch screen + QWERTY

N97: Resistive touchscreen & QWERTY

HTC Magic: Capacitive touchscreen

TG01: Resistive touchscreen

If it weren’t for the keyboard on the Pre, I’d hand the prize to the iPhone’s legendarily user friendly system but the Pre is supposed to be a joy to get your fingers on too. It’s a serious battle royale there.

The N97 isn’t 100% responsive – more like 95% – but, again, it sits above the 99% Magic by virtue of the excellent QWERTY.

No one’s been allowed to touch a working model of the TG01 but I suspect it’s going to lose out in this department. I’m just not convinced that Tosh has the experience. I could be wrong. I hope I am.

Applications

The need for applications has become a real driver for the smartphone market and will soon become the number one feature usurping the public’s love for megapixels. So who’s got what the people need?

WINNER – iPhone 3G S: iTunes App Store

HTC Magic: Android Marketplace

Palm Pre: Palm suite & open source mobile applications

N97: Ovi Store

TG01: Windows Mobile Market

With 50,000 apps in the store and developers wetting their knickers for a piece, you just can’t touch iPhone. The Andriod Marketplace doesn’t even come close with the 5,000 they’ve got on offer and, at the time of writing, Ovi is a bit of a shambles despite the grand plans.

Other considerations

iPhone 3GS: Accelerometer, compass, video shooting, oil resistant screen, a world of supporting gadgetry, aGPS, Bluetooth

HTC Magic: Accelerometer, compass, video shooting, GPS, Bluetooth

Palm Pre: Accelerometer, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR with A2DP, touchstone induction charging, synchs with iTunes, aGPS

TG01: Accelerometer, aGPS, Bluetooth,

N97: aGPS, Bluetooth, video shooting,

Conclusions

Very, very tricky, this. I’d like to start in true reality TV style by saying that all the contestants have done a fantastic job and I genuinely mean it when I say that I’d be proud to carry any of them around in my pocket.

I think the objective choice is probably the iPhone 3G S. It scores consistently well in all the categories that really matter with second or third places at the worst. Now that the software allows for video capture, MMS and tethering – even though at a premium – there’s no department where it has a shocker any more.

Personally, I might rather plump for the Palm Pre just to have something a little different as much as anything else. It’s got a slightly better camera and screen which is important to me. It’s apparently as good an interface and experience as the iPhone plus you get a QWERTY as well. I’d be a little concerned by the lack of app support and probably find the small memory a little testing but I think the originality of choice would make up for it.

The other handset that gets close for me is the N97. If Ovi gets its act together, and I think it will, we’ll see a surprisingly large smug group of people carrying this phone around – more than the Pre, I should think. There is life beyond Apple.

The TG01 is the risky choice. I’d have to be really blown away by that screen and the speed of the processor to overlook the WinMob albatross. I slightly wonder if this mobile has specs better suited to a PMP than a telephone?

Lastly, and, quite surprisingly, I’d go for the HTC Magic. The trouble is that it doesn’t excel in any areas. Android is the thing it really has going for it but even there it’s beaten by both Palm and Apple in the key clashes.

I’m sure you’ll have your own opinions and this is by no means a definitive guide. You could look at a few other smaller issues but I believe these have been the most key. Send me a shout, drop me a comment. Which would you buy? Which do you own?

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Daniel SungiPhone 3G S vs Palm Pre vs Nokia N97 vs Toshiba TG01 vs HTC Magic – that's a lot of smartphones