For some gamers, the idea of traveling sends shivers down their spine. Being away from their home console of choice for an extended period of time is a tough pill to swallow.
While I don't suffer from the junkie-like symptoms that I've heard horror stories about, I can sympathize with someone who sees time away from home as lost gaming hours.
Surely someone had to be working on a solution to this conundrum. How do we take the home console out of the home? Better yet, how do we do this and make it practical? Video game systems aren't exactly meant to be portable, similar to the way a PC tower isn't mobile.
I've seen a fair share of attempted answers, but the best one by far has got to be what GAEMS is doing. GAEMS is a company that manufactures "PGEs," or Personal Gaming Environments.
I've had a GAEMS Vanguard PGE for a few months now and it definitely draws a fair amount of attention. Most frequently I'm asked, "What the hell is that?"
"It's an Xbox suitcase," I commonly reply. Because, well, it is. Inside a heavy-duty plastic shell lies a 19-inch 720p LED display built into one side. Opposite the screen is a foam-padded bottom that acts as a resting bay for an Xbox 360 (slim or original) or either of the two PlayStation 3 slim models. Two Velcro straps keep the console in place for travel.
GAEMS also makes a smaller, 15.5-inch 720p EL-LED PGE called the Sentry. It retails for $250 while the Vanguard, the PGE I tested, sells for $350.
That's basically all there is to it. Two foam sleeves are also included that sit on the sides of the console for traveling. They're perfect for carrying the mess of wires and controllers you'll need to lug around with you as well. A short HDMI cable that connects a console to the built-in screen is provided. There aren't any other interfaces for connecting a device. The HDMI port is up front on the screen, seated next to a pair of headphone ports.
Setting up the Vanguard can take just a few minutes. That's the beauty of this thing. But the big question has got to be mileage. Does the Vanguard hold up over time after the initial novelty has expired?
Depending on how you care for it, the short answer is yes. I took my Vanguard with me almost everywhere (save for a camping trip) that I traveled. It's been with me back and forth to Las Vegas, to two destination weddings, and on countless overnight trips. Cars, trains, buses, or planes -- it doesn't matter. The Vanguard is built for being on the move.
Now, while I had no deal-breaking problems transporting the Vanguard wherever I went, I quickly discovered it's not meant to be used in transit. You'll need a minimum of two outlets -- one for the screen and one for the console. There's no room for this to be used to play games on a bus, let alone a plane, unless you have one of those ultrafancy first-class cubicles that they let you do Pilates in.
You need about 3 square feet of real estate in front of you for a comfortable experience and you'd better be sure whatever you're resting the PGE on is sturdy. Why? Because the Vanguard is very heavy. By itself it only weighs 9 pounds. With an Xbox 360, controller, and wires, it's close to 20 pounds.
An interesting set of details worth noting about my experience flying with the Vanguard: while it may be acceptable as a carry-on piece of luggage (it's FAA-approved), the PGE is not immune to drawing attention. Both ways on my trip to Las Vegas the Vanguard was inspected thoroughly -- coming home I was even asked to plug it in and turn it on.
You'll also risk being asked to check the PGE when traveling. Luckily I wasn't. I'm not sure how it would have fared riding in the belly of a plane.