How to Choose a Video Game Console

How to Choose a Video Game Console

Though buying a video game console may seem like an expensive purchase at first glance, it’s actually a great long-term entertainment solution for families. It’s an even better choice than ever, thanks to frequent price cuts and sales. But with so many systems to choose from, there are a few things to consider before buying a gaming system. Units currently on the market (e.g. the PlayStation 3, xbox 360, Wii, Nintendo DS/3DS and PlayStation Vita) offer a rich variety of content across multiple genres, including tons of educational and kid-friendly fare. Here’s what else you need to realize to successfully know how to buy a video game console.

There are lots of games for kids, but not everything is kid-friendly – Though video games are sometimes pigeonholed as a pastime for children, not all the software that’s for sale is appropriate for youngsters. Pay attention to the Electronics Software Rating Board (ESRB) rating on each game, and visit the ESRB’s website for detailed breakdowns of the potentially offensive content in each game. 

Most game consoles—including handheld game consoles, like the Nintendo 3DS and the PlayStation Vita—have parental controls that you can use to disallow children from playing games above a certain rating. With some parental control settings, you can also restrict the amount of time that your child is allowed to play. 

Some consoles sell add-on accessories that are ideal for family play—Microsoft’s Xbox 360 has a separate attachment called Kinect that allows you to play certain games using the motion of your whole body. It was engineered with families in mind, and there are lots of fun, kid-friendly games that utilize the accessory. You can buy the Kinect separately, though Microsoft also sells it as part of a bundle (a common industry practice which can provide cost savings when determining how to buy a video game console). 

The Wii is your cheapest console option, but has limited features – Nintendo found enormous success with its Wii console, thanks in no small part to the fact that the system is priced considerably lower than its direct competitors, the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360 (approximately $100 to $150 cheaper, depending on where you shop). That’s definitely something to keep in mind if you’re on a budget, though there are certain departments where the Wii is a little lacking. Its online features aren’t as robust as its competitors’, it doesn’t support HD graphic displays, and third-party support for the system isn’t very strong (“third parties” refer to game developers that aren’t Nintendo itself). The Wii might not be the best choice for a savvy game player who craves gameplay variety and/or a strong online presence, but the system still has wonderful games in many of Nintendo’s best-known franchises, including Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Kirby, Donkey Kong, and Metroid. Tablet-powered successor the Wii U will also be out by year-end (it’s backwards compatible with Wii games), which may affect your purchasing decision as well.

Game purchases don’t stop at retail, and some consoles have stronger online markets than others – Buying a video game no longer means trudging through the elements to reach a game store—not exclusively, anyway. Modern game consoles also offer a plethora of downloadable games, including brand new titles and some previously-released retro fare for anyone who’s nostalgic for the “good ol’ days” of gaming. The Wii has the Wii Shop Channel; the PlayStation 3 has the PlayStation Network (PSN); and the Xbox 360 has Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA). Again, each online market has its strengths and weaknesses. XBLA and PSN are great for downloading original games, but if you want to play all those awesome NES, SNES, and Nintendo 64 games that were released in the past, you’ll have to go on the Wii Shop channel! 

Don’t forget, mobile phones and tablets have a lot of cheap, fun games – Finally, if you have a mobile phone, particularly an iPhone, at your disposal, you already have access to a huge library of cheap (and free!) games. Tablets like the iPad are also striving to compete directly with consoles, and a short search through online stores like the App Store will yield a selection of decently-priced, high-quality games. You may even find some reasons to skip the console race entirely.

For more advice on buying a game console, visit:

So Many Game Consoles: Which to Buy? at PC World

Parents, Take Control of Your Game Console at Tucson Citizen  

10 Tips for Taking Better Photos

10 Tips for Taking Better Photos

Even though we now have the luxury of digital cameras and smartphones to help us take as many pictures as we want to make sure we get just the right shot, digital photographers are still faced with many pictures that are better off being quickly deleted rather than saved and shared. If you’re looking to help add some intrigue and interest to your digital shots, here are ten tips for taking better digital pictures that will surely help you improve your overall quality of photos, no matter what your subject.

Stoop to their level – Whether it’s a static object on the ground, pets or kids, get down low to take a picture from the level of your subject. Your pictures will reflect this different perspective, and provide an added layer of interest as you look at things from a slightly different angle.

Flash is your friend – Just because you’re outdoors doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use the flash. In fact, using a flash outdoors is a great way to use the natural sunlight to properly illuminate objects at a distance while placing a light focus on your subjects in the foreground.

Get up close – Familiarize yourself with your camera’s macro focus setting, and take pictures from very close to your subject. If you think about the way your eyes work, you are focused on a certain depth while others are visible but slightly blurry. Macro focus is a great way to replicate this feeling with nearby objects.

Try different positions – Tile the camera sideways, or even take some crooked pictures. Many digital cameras have some sort of “fisheye” effect around the judges, so taking vertical pictures or shots that fit the entire subject may help capture a more realistic perspective on your subjects.

Move away from the middle – Experiment with placing your subject at various parts of the frame, whether it’s the left or right third, or perhaps in a corner.  Help gain a better perspective on the overall world and circumstance by making sure the photo’s focus is somewhere besides the middle of the frame.

Watch the light – Be aware of where the sun is (and isn’t), or where other light sources may come into play. If you’re taking photos of people, you may want to take photos with the sun in their faces, but be aware of not only your shadow but also whether or not they all have to squint. Observe light patterns and adjust your photo composition accordingly.  And take lots of photos during the golden hour right before sunset. There’s a reason professionals often schedule photo sessions for this time of day when the sun is low and the light is spectacular.

Decide whether to observe or take charge – Depending on the situation, you may either want to let events happen as they are, or manage your photo composition and subjects. Decide what you’re going to do, and realize that moments only happen once, so do whatever it is you need to do to ensure you incorporate all the photo elements you want into your pictures.

Use a tripod – Tripods don’t have to be three feet tall and cumbersome. There are portable tripods for less than $5 that can fit in your pocket and help provide a steady hand for pictures. Better yet, with a portable tripod, you can use your camera’s auto-timer and take pictures with the whole family or group – no need to omit the photographer or solicit a random European tourist to snap photos for you.

Utilize camera settings – Learn about basic functions that can transform bright light or sunset pictures with a simple switch.  Many cameras have pre-set options for different light situations or sporting events, as well as assisted modes which provide many of the features of “automatic” while providing tweaks to focus and aperture. The best way to learn about all these is to experiment.

Don’t overzoom – Zooming can be a great way to help force focus and find something really far away, but for the average sharpshooter, zooming can lead to missed pictures or blurry results if the auto shutter settings have been slowed down at all.  Unless you really need to zoom, use it with care and know that you can crop the picture if necessary.

The Best Tablet PCs Money Can Buy

The Best Tablet PCs Money Can Buy

When Apple unveiled the first iPad in 2009, it drew some scorn. “It’s just a big iPhone,” said critics. “Who’s going to want it?” As it turns out, a lot of people. The iPad’s popularity drove other smartphone manufacturers to develop their own tablet computers and now there’s a huge selection at shopper’s disposal. But which are the best tablet PCs money can buy? Good question: The answer depends on what you want to do with the devices in question, and which operating system you prefer—not to mention your personal budget. All tablets are extremely convenient for mobile surfing, games, applications, and e-book reading, but some boast specialties as well. 

Here are the five best tablet PCs currently on the market: 

Apple New iPad (aka the iPad 3) – The iPad remains the best-known tablet, and it’s not hard to see why. It utilizes iOS, the same operating system that runs the iPhone and iPod Touch, which makes it comfortably familiar to use. The iPad’s universal interface also makes it a snap to download new applications: Everything is done through the App Store, same as the iPhone. The iPad’s connection to the App Store and its plethora of software programs makes it the number one choice for music, movies, productivity, TV, games and more.

Asus Transformer Pad – Unfortunately, the Transformer Pad doesn’t turn into a little robot on command, but it’s still a good tablet. It runs on Android, and can typically for under $400 USD. It’s a more economical choice for anyone looking to pick up a tablet for work and web browsing. 

Sony Tablet S – The Sony Tablet S also runs on Android, and it’s an excellent alternative for anyone who’s not a fan of iOS. Fans of retro PlayStation games will especially appreciate the tablet’s ability to download and play certain PSOne and PSP titles, including Crash Bandicoot, Wild ARMs, and Jumping Flash. 

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 – The quality of Samsung’s mobile offerings is enough to keep Apple on its toes, and the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is no exception. It’s light, it’s thin, and it’s 1280 by 800-pixel resolution screen makes it ideal for web surfing and e-book reading, as well as enjoy killer multimedia content.

Kindle Fire – Amazon’s Android-based Kindle Fire eReader is smaller than the iPad, but far cheaper too (typically selling for $199.99 USD). Its portability makes it easy to tote around as an e-book reader, to say nothing of its direct access to the Amazon Appstorem and ability to play video and music on-demand. The Kindle Fire can also be used to surf the web and play games, making it a worthy iPad alternative that costs far less.

For more a detailed breakdown of these tablets, visit: 

Best 5 Tablets on CNET

How to Buy the Best Tablet at PCMag.com

Side-by-Side Tablet Comparison at Popular Mechanics