DS, iTouch, or Kindle?
May 15, 2009 8:18 AM   Subscribe

I'm thinking about getting a Personal Entertainment Device of some sort or other, and I'm looking for some anecdotal experience, pro/cons, etc. from people.

I've been doing a lot of traveling lately, and it doesn't show any signs of letting up - I need something to occupy myself on flights and in hotels. I have a laptop, an older iPod, and books, but I found myself watching Gran Torino three times in a row on my last transoceanic voyage after I read all my books and my batteries died.

Couple the above with a sudden gadget lust, and I've got three devices in mind: Nintendo DS, iPod Touch, or Kindle. I realize that they're all aimed at different markets/demographics, so I'm looking for any empirical evidence for or against each device, especially with regards to travel usage - cramped quarters, limited/no wifi connectivity, lack of available power outlets. Also, some specific questions:

-As an adult, "serious" gamer, am I going to be really disappointed with the games on the DS? (I do enjoy "casual" games, but I don't think I could spend seven hours on an airplane playing Peggle.)
-I see tech blogs nerdgasming over the iPhone all the time, but what about the Touch? Are there apps and "things to do" on the Touch that won't be diminished by lack of wifi?
-Are either the Touch or the Kindle really worth the price tag? I realize this is incredibly difficult to answer.
-The major pro I can see for the Kindle is not having to carry tons of books with me, but is that the only advantage? Is it going to give me eye strain like reading on a computer monitor will?

I guess the ultimate question would be - which of those three devices would you pick and why? Or is there something else out there that I'm overlooking?
posted by backseatpilot to Technology (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
iPhone gaming and Touch gaming are basically going to be exactly the same. Plus you still have movies, music, eBooks, etc, on the Touch.

For my money, the Touch is definitely worth it - I'd have one right now if I weren't about to buy an iPhone. Music, movies, books, games, and wi-fi web browsing for $250 is great.

The Kindle will definitely not strain your eyes. The screen basically looks like it was printed onto the device. You know those fake display stickers stores put on fake plastic-shell-only gadgets for you to pick up and hold? IMHO, it's like it's one of those, except it can update.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:23 AM on May 15, 2009

And, of course, the Touch is only $220, but everything else I said was true.

One thing to keep in mind is that the DS and Kindle will run for-freaking-ever on a single battery charge, while a Touch definitely won't last through an entire transoceanic trip. I tend to supplement my gadgets with physical books, but an external extra-battery pack may be in order if your use case is keeping yourself entertained with this gadget through an entire long-haul plane ride.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:25 AM on May 15, 2009

Is it going to give me eye strain like reading on a computer monitor will?

No. I don't have a Kindle, but I do have a Sony Reader, and reading text on an e-ink display like those devices have is nothing like reading on a traditional LCD. I stare at a computer all day at my job, so I know eyestrain, and the kind of display that the Kindle has is pretty much equivalent to reading actual paper.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:26 AM on May 15, 2009

...the Touch is $229. I cannot read.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:27 AM on May 15, 2009

Ipod Touch. Apps to cover just about anything. I'm not a gamer so I can't advise on that. My husband gave me mine for Christmas 2007 because he didn't really know what to give. Kind of a clueless shot in the dark. I think it's the best present I ever received, EVER. Now I keep it with me ALL THE TIME, and sing it's praises to anyone who will listen. I have a work-issue cell phone, but if I ever lose that perk I'll buy an Iphone for sure. I use mine to check email and facebook updates, download podcasts for later, carry around my pics, and I have weight-loss app Lose-It, that I use every day and has helped me drop 17 pounds so far. Not to mention the playlists and solitaire app. I don't use the book-reading app, but past mefi posts suggest it works as well as Kindle. I use the solitaire app. When the commercials say "There's an app for that!" I totally agree. I think it can do just about anything anyone would want. As for the wi-fi aspect, there are so many available networks around, I would think you could easily connect from so may places, I've never really missed it. Except for the GPS apps, I would like to have those. it comes loaded with Safari, and I've used it at my gym, at Starbucks, and sometimes just walking in my neighborhood.
posted by raisingsand at 8:34 AM on May 15, 2009

Nokia N800/N810?

Short on games, long on everything else.

Or maybe an Archos PMP will work for you?
posted by notyou at 8:37 AM on May 15, 2009

Haven't seen the PSP mentioned yet, which is my travel gadget of choice. Awesome screen, more mature games than the DS (even tho there are a lot fewer of them), and if you put a robust media card in it, you can fill it up with movies and TV shows and the like. Battery life is decent.
posted by jbickers at 8:41 AM on May 15, 2009

iPod Touch - it's the killer, and not even too bad for reading books. It's truly the best gadget I have ever bought
posted by hatmandu at 8:44 AM on May 15, 2009

I have a Kindle, the husband has an iTouch, we both have DSs. As a natural book fiend I love the kindle and use it very often. It's great for travel as well, the battery lasts ages (especially with wifi off) and there's little risk of annoying one's fellow passengers in cramped quarters. I hate reading off a computer or anything else backlit, and have experienced zero eyestrain with the Kindle.

The husband equally loves his iTouch. He's not much of a reader, but is very happy to watch movies, listen to music, do crosswords and play other games on it. It all depends on what you like to do more... I prefer the relax and read, he's more movie and game oriented.

Our DSs both sit in a drawer to be used for when our kids have friends over, if that tells you anything.
posted by Requiax at 8:45 AM on May 15, 2009

I love my DS, but I only ever use it for travel, never really when I'm at home (that's what the PS3/PC/Wii are for). There are definitely mature games for the DS (GTA Chinatown Wars, for example). And the battery life is great...it lasted the entire flight from NYC to Europe, and this was before I got charger grip thing, which is great. Also, homebrew on the DS is pretty cool, I've been able to play old Monkey Island games on it and other SCUMM games, if that's your thing. A couple threads to check out if you're interested from ask are here and here.

My wife has an iTouch, and she loves it and uses it pretty much everyday, but for travel she also takes her DS with her. So it kind of depends on what you want....if you want something more active than just listening/reading, I would go for the DS, and the inputs for gaming are about a billion times better than on the iTouch, and there is more variety and power for games as well.
posted by Grither at 8:57 AM on May 15, 2009

I have the DS, and with the right aftermarket hombrew kit (if you buy a used DS or DS Lite) or built in to the DSi, I can read text files, play music (yeah, I know, the DSi won't play MP3's), and play games all with a device that will last 10 hours on a charge, even with a battery that's been around a while. I'm sure if I had a iTouch, I'd be singing it's praises as well, but I go with what I have.
posted by deezil at 9:02 AM on May 15, 2009

I have an iPod Touch and I love it.

Assuming that you have Wi-Fi access sometime beforehand to load games and fun apps and such on your device, you're all set.

I find the iPod Touch really nice for watching movies, TV shows and the like, and you can find a ton of games that you can play for hours, just check the top lists in the App store.

As far as the DS goes, you can get lots of games that would entertain the "serious gamer" in you, provided you can get past the stigma that jbickers alluded to.

I can't speak to the Kindle personally but I've heard it's praises, and haven't seen any complaints about eye strain.

Bottom line: Go for the iPod Touch (that is, if you're only getting one) you won't regret it, it is well worth the price.
posted by WilliamWallace at 9:06 AM on May 15, 2009

Speaking to the library on the DS, there is so much there you're bound to find plenty of enjoyable titles. There are tons of RPGs(traditional and strategy), action, platforming, puzzle, etc.

The Touch is a great device, even for those like me who don't even use apps. The only problem is that the battery doesn't have too great a life if you're doing screen-intensive things like apps or movies.
posted by owtytrof at 9:13 AM on May 15, 2009

Have to vote for the iPod touch here. There are lots of really great games on the App Store, plus you can watch movies, listen to music, read books, etc. I think it is definitely the most versatile device of the three. However, as Tomorrowful mentioned, the battery life is less than ideal for a transcontinental flight, so you'll likely need to also invest in some external power solution like the Mophie Juice Pack.
posted by joshrholloway at 9:20 AM on May 15, 2009

the Touch really is amazing. I watch movies on my daily commute and have also used it on a few long trips. Video quality is excellent, and while most of the games probably won't hold your attention for more than a couple of hours, they can be a nice change-up from movie-watching.

As mentioned, the biggest problem would be battery life. You can probably go between 4 to 6 hours of movie watching unassisted. For longer trips, you can use an external battery pack like the Minty Boost.

And the Touch's versatility makes it useful throughout the day every day, not just while traveling.
posted by el-gregorio at 9:26 AM on May 15, 2009

Why DS? Why not a last-generation Gameboy GBA SP? The current price on Gamestop.com is $40 for a used system with AC adapter, and you can probably find a used bundle with games and whatnot. Just make sure to get the backlit version, as the frontlit one is a PITA to view properly.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:32 AM on May 15, 2009

Also, if you are looking for some sort of multimedia player, check Anything But iPod for a lot more options. The Touch is pretty swanky, from what I've heard, but there are plenty of alternatives, some with a few better features, depending on what you want.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:34 AM on May 15, 2009

I have the DS and the Kindle. Not the iPod. The DS is okay. I mostly play remakes of old school Japanese RPGs on mine. Beyond these, I find the game selection to be iffy. Plenty of games, but very few I actually want to play. I also find the screen a little small for gaming purposes because I am old and my eyes are crap. Usable to be sure, but small.

If books are an acceptable substitute for gaming, I'd recommend the Kindle over the DS. Note that your problems arose when you ran out of books. A properly loaded Kindle would keep you reading on a trip to Alpha Centauri. A transatlantic flight or two? No problem.

Another concern is battery life. All of these have to be recharged, but you can turn the Kindle's radio off and the batteries will last for days and days. (It doesn't use power to display the screen, only when it changes it. When you turn it off, it puts up a book-related image and leaves it there.) You might even be able to leave the charger at home and go your whole vacation on one charge. Again, as long as you leave the radio off. So I think it's probably the best solution for your problem, although you could probably make do with either of the others too.
posted by Naberius at 10:37 AM on May 15, 2009

I note also that you asked about price and utility on the Kindle. The price is tricky. I feel it could and should cost less, but at the same time I don't regret buying it. Lots of free books if you like the classics.

As for additional utility, it does have a web browser so you can surf the web, get your web-based e-mail etc. These would require the radio to be on, obviously, which means you'll have to recharge more often.

And as for how the Kindle works as a web tablet? Well, let's just say it's real good for reading books...
posted by Naberius at 10:43 AM on May 15, 2009

iPod Touch is the best all around personal entertainment device, assuming that you'll have reliable wifi access. I don't recommend the Kindle at this point, because frankly you don't know what you're buying. Amazon has shown it's willingness to turn off features at the behest of publishers who are deeply afraid of all things digital, and what works one day may be yanked from you the next.

Cory Doctorow also has some questions about digital rights management (DRM or copy protection) that are worth considering as well. The iPod, while still policed by Apple as gatekeeper to the App Store, hasn't done this kind of thing to date, and also doesn't kill off apps you've downloaded even if they get pulled from the store after.
posted by holycola at 11:24 AM on May 15, 2009

I have two of the three -- the Touch and the Kindle -- and they are both excellent at what they do. The Kindle is a great book reader --the screen in non-fatiguing, it hold more nbooks than you can read in a year and (highest praise) it disappears completely when you are using it. The fact that you can purchase and download books directly from Amazon on it from pretty much anywhere is also a great plus. And, if you are willing to connect it to your computer, it takes a number of formats other than Amazon's, such as .mobi and .txt files, so there are literally millions of books available. As mentioned by Naberius, ti does have a web browser, but I wouldn't advise buying it for that. It is slow and clunky -- a nice freebee but you would be unhappy if you paid for it.

The Touch is an elegant multimedia machine. It is great for movies and music, the screen is a nice size and the sound and picture quality is tops. You can get games, but from what I have seen they are a pretty low-end, and and I have not seen any I would play for long. But they are nice for short diversions and are not very expensive.

Both are way too expensive. They are grown-up toys and you pay for them like grown-up toys. I've heard people try to justify the Kindle based on the lower price of Kindle books, but you have to buy a lot of books to make up the $370 cost. If I had to pick one, it would be the Touch. The Kindle only replaces books -- and books are pretty easily available most places. There are fewer alternatives for the music and movies on your Touch. (A small advantage of having both is that the Touch has a Kindle app so that you can download and read your kindle app on your Touch. However, it suffers from all the previous attempts to put books on a mobile device -- the screen is too small and the backlighting hurts the eyes.)
posted by rtimmel at 11:45 AM on May 15, 2009

I have an ipod touch and a DS. I use my ipod touch all the time, for so many things... but the battery lasts longest if I only use it for music. Fortunately most airplanes have a USB power jack nowadays. I like the puzzle games on it, but otherwise for gaming purposes I stick with my DS.

I tend to use my DS mostly when I travel. Battery life is excellent, and you can pack a spare if you need to. If you're thinking of a DS, why not get one of those and an R4 Card? Then you can have a huge collection of games at your disposal, no getting bored/frustrated with the only one you have. And there's more you can do with that card, too - you can get the DS to play mp3s, for instance. Given that there's a new DS (DSi) out now, you can probably find the DSlite for cheap.
posted by lizbunny at 12:29 PM on May 15, 2009

I have an iPod Touch, a Nintendo DS, AND a Kindle 2! Here's my experience...

I bought the DS because I am a longtime gamer and thought I'd have a blast with it. I did - for a while. I bought all the top-rated games, but found myself bored with it fairly quickly. I would look forward to some gaming time, and when I got the time, I would play for half an hour and just have to put it away,

I bought the iPod Touch because I love Apple products and thought it was an amazing device. It is, but also, I rarely use it. When I'm within range of a wi-fi network, it's super cool to check mail on it, browse YouTube, etc, and some of the games are cool, but also, I get kinda bored with it... only so much Scrabble I can play before I need something else to do...

I got the Kindle 2 on the day it was released on February 24th (my birthday!) and absolutely love it. I honestly never get bored with a good book, and the Kindle serves that purpose wonderfully.... I have 98 books loaded on it right now, and from the 800-page novel "Drood" to Charlie Huston's wonderful and short "Caught Stealing", I've loved the experience. Downloading sample chapters from the Amazon store is addictive, and the Kindle even has a basic web browser (no video or audio, but fine for checking email and wikipedia).

My wife even bought her own Kindle a couple weeks ago, and we both seem to read a lot more than we used to.

Honestly, if you enjoy reading for pleasure at all, the Kindle is your best choice. Games and other gadgets can get tiresome, but a good book endures, and you can have 1000 good books within your Kindle!
posted by newfers at 1:15 PM on May 15, 2009

and btw, NO, the Kindle will not give you eye strain, which an iPod Touch will (one of the reasons I can't spend too much time on my Touch)
posted by newfers at 1:17 PM on May 15, 2009

I have an iPhone but it's almost the same thing for what you're talking about.

When I commute via rail or bus consistently I find that I burn out on watching movies/tv on the iPhone day after day. Part of that is consistent with my feelings about tv in general, but another part is that holding a little screen as I watch it gets tiresome. If you're doing more long hauls where you have a tray there's little stands and things, but I still find watching with my next craned downward to eventually get uncomfortable.

I'd like a Kindle but continue to not buy one because I make a lot of use of cheap or free media. I check books out from the library more than anything else, so for me the Kindle is a $300 payment in order to be able to pay more for my books and newspaper. If you tend to buy books then perhaps it makes less difference for you.

When I play games at home they tend to be FPS types on the XBox 360, but I'm really taking a liking to a lot of the fun little games on the iPhone. Flight Control, for example, has probably consumed as much of my time as L4D. And when they're $1 you can get a LOT of little games.
posted by phearlez at 1:30 PM on May 15, 2009

My suggestion: if gaming is the most important thing, get the DS. Otherwise, get the iPod touch.
posted by danb at 5:35 AM on May 16, 2009

I was going to get a Kindle a few weeks ago but then Amazon brought out the Kindle DX. I've decided that in this case, I'll wait a while and see how the e-reader market plays out over the next 12 months with increased competition from Plastic Logic etc. before jumping into the market....and I really, really want an e-reader.

Fortunately, the blessed Mrs. arcticseal got me an iTouch for my birthday last week and I love it. If you know you're going to have wifi most places you're going, then get it, tons of apps to play with and try out on the store. The screen for watching movies is pretty good compared to my 4 year old Archos AV500.

Reading is OK on the Amazon Kindle app and there's a bunch of free books on Amazon to download (working through a Conan-Doyle anthology right now), of course for reading it's nowhere near as friendly as a Kindle, but if I dim the backlighting, there's minimal eye strain. It's not for long reading stretches, but for 10 minutes reading waiting for a bus, it's fine.

I'm still planning on getting an e-reader, but the iTouch satisfies my gadget lust until the market shakes out some and prices drop.
posted by arcticseal at 8:23 AM on May 17, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses everyone. I just found out I can get a discount on my cell plan through work, so I think I'm going to wait for iPhone 3.0 to come out and get that.
posted by backseatpilot at 6:31 PM on June 4, 2009

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