Like the Tapwave Zodiac before it, the Gizmondo is a plucky David battling against the Goliaths of Sony and Nintendo in the mobile multimedia entertainment marketplace. The all-singing, all-dancing Gizmondo certainly has the raw power and features to outstrip the competition, but we felt it lacks the vaa vaa voom needed to set the world alight. Why? Read on.
Do it all
In brief, the Gizmondo is shaped like an oversized game pad and does almost everything. Its killer app is console quality gaming, thanks to a 400MHz processor and a 128bit GoForce 3D 4500 graphics chip from nVidia, but there's much more to it than that.
Based on the Windows CE operating system, the Gizmondo allows high-quality music and movies to be played. It supports better bit-rates than an iPod and is compatible with Mpeg4 for the best in movie playback. It can also run up to 30fps (frames per second) and playback is complemented by the excellent 2.8in TFT screen running at 240x320, although it's no match for the screen quality on the Sony PSP.
Media is stored on Secure Digital cards and it's possible to fit a movie on a 512MB card, which you'll have to purchase as an extra.
The hardware is designed for a satisfying gameplaying experience, with a D-pad on the left, four buttons on the right and two shoulder buttons that sit either side of a low-res 640x480 camera. There's only a mono speaker, so headphones will be needed for better audio - you might want to buy some new ones, because sound reproduction from the included pair isn't great.
A rechargeable lithium battery supplies power; this can be recharged using the bundled adapter.
The Gizmondo comes with a pay-as-you-go SIM card so you can send and receive SMS, MMS or email, and it supports GPRS (general packet radio service) for data transfer and multiplayer gaming. If that weren't enough there's also a built-in GPS (global positioning system), which is being marketed as the key to a new way of gaming (see boxout, right) although games will have to be specifically written to take advantage of this functionality. Did we also mention Bluetooth and WAP 2.0?
The dizzying feature set is held in check by a couple of big minus points. Unless you have the hands of a 10-year-old, the Gizmondo's buttons are surprisingly awkward to use, with the shoulder ones set at an ungrippable angle.
We also weren't enamoured with the stiff ‘piano keys' that run along the top of the device. As an ergonomic experience it's deeply unsatisfying. The Gizmondo also lacks the glamorous looks of its rivals.
The model we had suffered from quite a few crashes - we resorted to taking out the battery on more than one occasion. And despite all the communications technology involved, you can't actually make phone calls. You can get a £100 discount on the unit price if you're prepared to put up with adverts sent via the Smart Adds service, which claims to send only three adverts a day and not interrupt game play.
What the Gizmondo needs to sell itself to the public is a great set of games. However, while it matches the PSP for the number of titles, they don't make use of the raw hardware power that the Gizmondo offers.