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Sony reveals Next Generation Portable gaming system, coming by Christmas

David Hughes's picture

Long-rumored as being in the works, Sony has now pulled back the curtains on its 'Next Generation Porable' gaming system - and it's more powerful than any of the rumors previously suggested about the PSP2.

HULIQ had previously covered many of the rumors surrounding Sony's next generation of the Playstation Portable gaming system - most of which have been confirmed. Codenamed (for now) 'NGP' (for Next Generation Portable), Sony's new handheld has a 5-inch OLED touchscreen, 3G connectivity (along with wireless-N and Bluetooth 2.1), a GPS chip, and a six-axis accelerometer analogous to what is built into the Playstation Move.

The biggest detail revealed, however, is the massively powerful hardware underpinning the device. Tech blog Engadget was present at the Tokyo reveal which took place at 1 AM Eastern time, and says that this is the most powerful handheld device ever made, which is not overstating the facts. Though clock frequencies are unknown at this point, the NGP will have both a quad-core ARM Cortex A9 processor matched with a quad-core PowerVR GPU. Depending on the supplier, A9 designs can clock up to 1.2GHz per core and previous indications point to a frequency of around 200MHz for the GPU.

Worth noting is that both styles of silicon feature dual function processing - with the A9 having a rather robust GPU function and the PowerVR having the ability to do sequential CPU processing as well. This suggests that the NGP, much like the PS3, may be difficult for programmers to extract the full power of the device at launch, but as optimization for the device is learned it will give it the long legs that Sony typically demands of its platforms. As an initial tech demo, Sony demoed a cutscene apparently lifted straight from the PS3 version of Metal Gear Solid 4, which rendered natively on the NGP at 20fps. That framerate is not comfortable for normal gaming - which typically demands 30fps or more - but considering that the code was not optimized for the NGP at all, it is rather impressive.

The industrial design of the NGP is also quite a bit prettier than any previous mockups of the device, eliminating the awkward slide-out controls of the previous PSP. Though the emphasis is clearly on the multi-touch OLED screen, it is now flanked by two proper analog sticks and a new touch-panel mounted on the back of the device - allowing for controls exactly like the PS3 as well as brand-new schemes which take advantage of the touch-screen and panel. The screen's resolution is listed at 960 x 544. For comparison, the only major device on the market with a 5-in. display is the Dell Streak, whose screen is only 800 x 480.

When it comes to the games themselves, demos using Sony's well known franchises were used at the event (Killzone, Resistance, LittleBigPlanet, and Uncharted). Sony has not yet revealed the exact format that games will be delivered on, but something akin to microSD is a good bet - and the fragile UMD format of the first PSP has been ditched. This is bad news for owners of the first-generation (though digital games will be transferable to the NGP's 16GB of onboard memory), but is a good idea for the future of Sony's handheld platform.

Sony has also integrated the NGP with its existing Playstation Network, and the new LiveArea user interface allows for switching between games and the home screen without losing progress - something even the PS3 does not allow for. With 3G radio onboard, the NGP has a much bigger social networking potential than the previous generation's Wi-Fi only connectivity. Details about multi-player were not revealed, but it would be logical for Sony to offer an experience at least on par with the PS3.

The most important details - price and a release date - were not revealed at the event, short of promising a 'holiday' release window. A logical time for these to be firmed up would be at Sony's press conference during E3 in June, which would give plenty of time to build up anticipation before a November or December release date. Though this cedes a fair amount of time to Nintendo 3DS, it does give Sony time to gauge how well the 3DS sells at what is considered a 'too-high' $249 price point.

As more details emerge, HULIQ News will be sure to report on them.

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