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Sony’s Latest Pocket PlayStation Packs Dual Cams, Quad-Core Chip

Sony Computer Entertainment has disclosed further details about the PlayStation Portable 2, nicknamed the “Next-Generation Portable,” or NGP, at a press conference in Tokyo.

The Sony PlayStation Portable 2, or NPG

The Sony PlayStation Portable 2, or NPG

The NGP will have a 5-inch OLED front display and a multitouch pad in the rear, two thumbsticks, front and rear cameras, three motion sensors and access to the PlayStation Network.

Owners will be able to play PSP titles, “mini” PlayStation games, PS1 classics; video and comics from the PlayStation Store, Sony said.

Several models will reportedly be released, all with WiFi capability, but one will also provide 3G access.

Sony will release NGP games on proprietary Flash cards.

The NGP will be available in stores around the end of the year.

Sony Computer Entertainment America did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

Tech Specs for the NGP

The NGP will be based on a quad-core ARM Cortex A9 processor and will have an SGX543MP4+ graphics processing unit.

Its main user interface will be Sony’s LiveArea. This will replace the XrossMediaBar GUI used in the original PSP and the PlayStation 3. The XrossMediaBar is also used in Sony’s high-end TVs and some Sony Cyber-Shot cameras, as well as some Vaio laptops.

The NGP will measure about 182 by 18.6 by 83.5 mm. Its front screen measures 5 inches, has a resolution of 960 x 544 pixels, and renders about 16 million colors, Sony said.

The rear of the device is a capacitive multi-touch screen.

The NGP has built-in stereo speakers and a built-in mic. It has a six-axis motion sensing system consisting of a three-axis gyroscope and a three-axis accelerometer. It also has a three-axis electronic compass and built-in GPS.

Several versions of the NGP will be released later this year, all with WiFi, and one will include 3G, according to a report in EuroGamer.

Breaking New Ground?

Although the NGP will have a mic and cameras, it won’t double as a smartphone — at least not as it’s offered by Sony — Louis Ward, a research manager at IDC, told TechNewsWorld.

PSP2, front view

PSP2, front view

“You could conceivably hack it to do video calls, and I’m sure somebody will, but that’s not what Sony’s thinking about,” Ward explained. “You’re not going to hold it up to your ear with thumbsticks on it. I expect Sony Ericsson to put out a gaming device that will clearly be a phone first and foremost,” he added.

“This is the competitor to the iPod touch, and the iPhone competitor will be coming out shortly from Sony Ericsson,” Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld.

Sony Ericsson is expected to introduce a smartphone doubling as a gaming console at the forthcoming Mobile World Congress, to be held February in Barcelona, Spain.

“I’m intrigued by the wireless stuff because, at least for social networking and possibly some downloading of smaller games and so forth, it opens up the possibility of social-based gaming, as people are often not necessarily in range of WiFi networks,” Ward stated.

The NGP will be the first portable gaming console with a 3G chip, which means “you probably will have to sign up for a data plan,” Ward pointed out.

It’s likely the NGP will run on 3G GSM networks rather than CDMA, Ward speculated, but “I can’t be sure yet because there are no details on this.”

Games for the NGP

The NGP is expected to carry titles franchises like “Killzone,” “Uncharted” and “Call of Duty,” according to the PlayStation blog. Other games include “Hot Shots Golf,” “LittleBigPlanet” and “Reality Fighters.”

PSP2, top view

PSP2, top view

Sony also announced the PlayStation Suite, which will deliver titles from the original PlayStation library of games to devices running Android 2.3, aka “Gingerbread.”

“That makes sense,” IDC’s Ward said. “This will let them at very little expense expand the games experience to other devices.”

By extending the games to Gingerbread, Sony is “opening up development and lowering the barriers so they can capture developers for ‘Angry Birds’ and some of those little social games that people play for maybe 10 minutes a day,” Ward suggested.

Anime house Crunchyroll, whose offerings include “Bleach” and “Naruto Shippuden,” posted a request on the PlayStation blog asking whom to contact to discuss its plans to create a video app similar to Hulu or Netflix for the NGP.

However, Crunchyroll did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

The Sony User Experience

The NGP’s thumbsticks resolve a major complaint users had with the original PlayStation Portable.

While that improved the user experience somewhat, Sony’s plan to release new games for the NGP on proprietary Flash cards is not a good idea, Enderle pointed out.

“All Sony products tend to fall short on the user experience, and that’s what kills them,” he remarked. “The NGP is no different. Sony is in many ways living in the first part of the last decade in terms of how they’ll deliver content.”

Avoiding the Third Dimension

Sony didn’t include 3D in the NGP, and there’s speculation that this will be a disadvantage against Nintendo’s 3DS, which will offer 3D capability.

However, Sony may have good reasons for staying away from 3D, IDC’s Ward contended.

“The opportunity of 3D is there, but it might be too early, and I think Sony will look at what the 3DS does and, if it radically exceeds expectations, you might see a change in the next version of the NGP,” Ward said.

Sony’s decision to offer a touchscreen on the back of the NGP also made 3D technically unfeasible, Ward stated.

“You can’t do touchscreen with 3D and that’s why the top screen of the 3DS is not touch-sensitive but the lower screen is,” Ward explained. “Tapping on a 3D screen will damage it.”

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