With both Sony and Nintendo launching handheld game consoles this week at E3 Nokia is hoping to get the edge over them by getting its latest version of the so far ill-fated N-Gage handheld phone/games console into the hands of the public. But has the phone games console hybrid got what it takes to woo us away from the PSP and the Nintendo DS?

Criticised heavily on the first outing, a lot of the faults that restricted the player- mainly that you couldn't swap out the games without taking the phone apart, removing the battery and then putting it all back together again- have been fixed. With it also comes a slightly slimmer design and a longer battery life. The QD's power has been improved to offer up to 10 hours of game play on the 4,096 colour screen and if you're not playing games you can get around 5 hours of talk time from the phone.

As you'd expect, the games from the first version are compatible with the new model (otherwise this really would be doomed) and its good to see publishers like EA, Activision and Ubisoft are still involved offering games such as Fifa 2004, Spinter Cell, and Tony Hawk 4.

The games themselves are pretty faithful to the original full games from which the ports are derived and the graphics and processing power is equivalent to the Game Boy Advanced.

On the phone side of things, the Nokia card has been strongly played and Nokia users will be familiar with the phone's interface and menus. The phone offers dual band, Bluetooth and the ability to receive MMS messaging. However no camera has been included, not even as an additional option. Also lacking is an MP3 or radio, found on most of the recently released Nokia phones.

Verdict

With Sony and Nintendo launching new handheld devices the competition for the Nokia N-Gage QD Game Deck has just got a lot tougher. However neither of them will be out in the UK before Christmas giving this unit a mere 7 months to build up enough momentum to pose a challenge, however with the unit still shaking off criticisms of the past and both the PSP from Sony, and the DS from Nintendo boasts specs that far outshine those on the N-Gage we just don't think this will have enough capabilities to fend off the new challengers as of 2005.

Yes it has a phone built in, but then handheld devices aren't that big anyway. Like the Dreamcast and to a lesser extent the PS2, unfortunately the writing is likely to be already on the wall for the N-Gage in our opinion. It's a shame, so if you are going to opt for the phone-cum-games console then we suggest you enjoy it while you can, you've got nine months at the most before Nokia may be forced to pull the plug. We'd like to be wrong, but then the basic frills added to straightforward phones have been omitted, leaving the new N-Gage with little to fall back on.