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Game Boy SP brightens up

Game Boy SP brightens up

With a slew of sure-fire-hit games coming out this fall--Madden NFL 06, Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, SOCOM: Fireteam Bravo--the Sony PSP is finally getting some software that's up to the level of its impressive hardware capabilities. But the $250 device is still seeing strong competition from handheld-gaming Goliath Nintendo, which has three portable gaming decks on store shelves: the $130 touch screen DS, the new $100 ultratiny Game Boy Micro, and the aging $80 Game Boy Advance SP. In addition to its miniaturized size, the Micro offers a much brighter screen than the SP, which helps obviate its smaller size--2 inches vs. the SP's 3. The buying decision seemed obvious: get the Micro if you want smaller and brighter; stick with the SP if you want a larger, albeit duller, screen. (And, of course, step up to the DS or PSP if you want newer, cooler games--and can afford the larger price tag and form factor.)

That degree of clarity has been significantly muddied by IGN's report (as seen on Slashdot) that Nintendo has stealthily updated the SP's screen. The new version, found on the Graphite and Pearl Blue models that are shipping now, seems to be just as bright as the Micro's. In other words, the Micro's biggest selling point has been largely rendered moot. The "new" SPs still cost $80, giving you a screen that's 50 percent larger than the Micro's for 20 percent less cash.

Unfortunately, the upgraded SPs still lack a standard headphone jack, so you'll need to spring for an adapter. But that begs the question: why didn't Nintendo just upgrade the SP's screen and add a real headphone jack--or bundle the adapter in the box--and forego the Micro entirely? Yes, we still dig the Micro's eponymous form factor, but the little guy just lost a lot of its luster in the glow of the SP's brighter screen.

We'll be updating our reviews of the SP and the Micro as soon as we're able to check out the new SP for ourselves. Stay tuned.