Sony PSP 'Next Generation Portable' Looks Stunning, Plays PS3 Games

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Picture This, Store That

While the NGP doesn't do 3D, it does include dual cameras, one front and one rear. If you squint at the picture above, you can just make out the frontside lens, parked along the right-side geometry buttons circle at 10:00.

Turn the NGP around and you'll discover the second camera, as well as the NGP's conspicuously absent UMD drive. UMD discs are out, flash media sticks and downloads, in, though why Sony's bothering with flash storage at all seems a little off-message. I'm guessing the sticks are Sony's gift to their retail partners, while at the same time continuing to grow their online store.

Speaking of, the NGP is backwards compatible with PSP games, but lacking a UMD drive, your only way to get them will be as PlayStation Store downloads. Consider that fair warning if you'd hoped to cart your UMD library over.

As Powerful as a PS3

When Sony suggested the NGP would be capable of PS3-like visuals, they weren't fooling around. Various game developers took the stage during today's presser to showcase their NGP projects, demonstrating actual PS3 games running on the new handheld hardware. According to Sony, that's because the NGP is basically "like the PS3" in all the ways that matter.

How easy is it to put a PS3 game on the NGP? The company's including an "export" feature in its game development kit, one that's designed to aid developers who want to quickly migrate PS3 games to the handheld with minimal rendering changes. Still sound far-fetched? Believe it. At one point Hideo Kojima was demonstrating Metal Gear Solid 4 running smoothly on the handheld.

What's under the hood delivering all the power? An ARM Cortex-A9 quad core CPU and an SGX543 quad core GPU. Apple's rumored to be employing slower dual core versions of the SGX543 in its forthcoming iPad and iPhone model updates.

Sony calls the SGX543 "roughly 4x as powerful as any portable you've previously seen."

Best of the Rest

Like the PSP, the NGP will include WiFi, but add 3G and GPS (location tracking) technologies as well as a 3-axis electronic compass.

No word on carriers or pricing (or if it'll cost anything at all at all), but Sony described 3G communication activities that sounded awfully Nintendo 3DS-like. Imagine, for instance, a feature (Sony calls it "Near") that tracks and displays where you've traveled, say you're out for a drive through town. "Near" can also detect what other NGP users are playing or up to in your vicinity.

Location-based gaming? Augmented reality? Social networking? How about "all of the above." It's clear, given any of these features, that Sony intends to compete directly with Nintendo this time around, and not just in terms of visual horsepower.

All That's Missing... pricing. Sony's mum so far. I wouldn't be surprised if they came in high, say $300 or even $350, but I'd be pleasantly surprised if they opted to go toe-to-toe with Nintendo and introduce at $250.

And yes, I'm impressed. Exhausted because I didn't sleep tonight, reeling with questions I'll explore in a followup later today, but definitely impressed.

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