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Console Hardware

Hardware specs for alternative video game systems

While Sony's PlayStation, Microsoft's Xbox and Nintendo's Wii hold the lion's share of the gaming console market, alternative developers have worked hard to create exciting alternatives that offer gamers a world of new possibilities. Consoles like the Ouya, GameStick, NVIDIA Shield and many others are poised to make major inroads in the video game landscape. Many of these products have been developed with the help of crowdfunding, and they leverage a number of unique technologies to bring more choice to gamers.

The hardware specifications of these alternative systems vary, depending on the gaming platform they serve. Generally speaking, though, you will want to consider features like processor speed, hard drive space, connectivity and portability, and compatibility when you're comparing their tech specs.

Important Console Hardware Considerations

Here is a rundown of the major points of comparison to take into consideration when evaluating an alternative gaming console:

  • Processor speed. This is, perhaps, the single most important indicator of a gaming console's performance capabilities. Systems with faster processors are more readily able to handle complex system demands and tasks. They will also render media-rich gaming worlds with seamless responsiveness, optimizing your gaming experience, and helping you take advantage of the widest possible range of compatible games. Look for systems with processors that run at a minimum of 1.4 gigahertz -- the same threshold you should expect from a purpose-built gaming PC or Mac.
  • Memory. There are two types of memory to consider: RAM and hard drive memory. The more RAM your system has, the better it will be able to support your processor. RAM is the type of memory used for system tasks and operations, so it has a direct bearing on your gaming experience when you play the console. Hard drive space is an important but less crucial consideration, as it is often expandable. However, the more hard drive space you have, the more in-progress games you'll be able to save.
  • Connectivity. Depending on the console's design and the gaming platforms it supports, you may need to connect it to devices including televisions, smartphones, tablets or PCs. Thus, consider both the type and the number of connection ports, especially if the system requires wired controllers. Also, look at Internet connectivity. Nowadays, it goes without saying that you should expect a gaming console to offer wireless Internet connectivity, and you should also look at additional connectivity options such as Bluetooth compatibility.
  • Portability. Devices such as the GameStick offer unheard-of portability; the GameStick is about the size of a flash drive and you can simply plug it into the input port of any television, computer or compatible electronic device and start playing games. While the GameStick is the smallest alternative console, many alternative products offer similar portability -- it is part of what differentiates them from the "big three."
  • Compatibility. Most of the alternative consoles on the market are designed to run on Google's Android operating system. If you aren't going to be using the console with an Android device and you don't plan on purchasing a separate Android device to play it, look carefully to see what other operating systems and gaming platforms the device supports.

Video output capability is one other crucial consideration. As most of these devices work in tandem with televisions or computer monitors, you should look for 1080p HD video output at minimum. Some of them also offer other unique features. For example, the NVIDIA shield has a built-in GPS system that can help you locate the console in case you lose it or find your way in case you've strayed off the path en route to your game night!

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