Sony announces PSP 2 aka NGP – looks awesome

It might seem like a strange thing to write about a gaming console on a tablet site, but seeing the specs of that thing it’s as much a gaming optimized tablet as it is anything else, and with the myriad of games available on Android and iOS these days the separation between markets is turning into an unimportant technicality. Put short, the PSP 2 is pure awesomeness- at least on paper. Read on to see the full details.

The PSP was a brilliant feat of engineering when it first came out…in 2005. This is 2011. Since then portable tech has leaped forward at an incredible pace, and we’ve seen the birth and evolution of some really impressive smartphones since then that have taken a big chunk out of the portable gaming maket. Still, PSP games still generally look better and are much easier to control than 3D games on smartphones, just not enough to justify the cost of a standalone console and the much higher cost of games- even after Sony introduced the download-based PSP Go. All of that however might be about to change as Sony just announced the PSP 2, codenamed NGP (Next Generation portable).

The specs on this thing is about as impressive now as the PSP was back in 2005. A 5″ 960×544 OLED screen is the center of attention, quadrupling the original resolution. While it’s just slightly lower than the iPhone 4 and on a larger screen (meaning lower resolution per inch) it’s still a ridiculous upgrade from the current generation as well as the 3DS, the latter of which has a 800×240 screen as it’s biggest asset (yes, it’s 3D, I don’t care). The screen itself doesn’t make good games though, and as the PS1-quality low-polygon graphics on smartphones have demonstrated you need to have hardware optimized for games, not just a screen to display them. The NGP handles this with a quad-core ARM Cortex A9 CPU (unknown clock speed) and a SGX543MP4+ GPU. It is said that this will result in PS3-quality graphics, which I can actually believe as the PS3 itself is getting older and new hardware will be more advanced (plus it’s running everything at a much lower resolution). They even showed off some unconverted PS3 cutscenes on the NGP at the unveiling.

Not only is the screen a capacitive touchscreen, but the back of the device is also a capacitive touch pad (not a screen) that allows for some creative uses. The original set of buttons are still there though, and are joined by a second analog stick- something that PSP owners have screamed for since the first PSP was launched. There’s also a gyroscope and an accelerometer, meaning it has the ability to sense movement on 6 different axis. Add to that Wifi, 3G, Bluetooth, magnetometer (compass) and GPS and you have all you need for location-aware online multiplayer gaming anywhere you go.

It will still use physical media for storage like the original PSP (though not the PSP Go), but UMD is out and an unknown type of proprietary flash memory is in. Some sites have commented on this being peculiar, however there are several reasons to still use this outdated distribution type: first off, the PSP Go had trouble finding retailers because retailers make money off games, not consoles, and the PSP Go didn’t have physical games- which is why it failed so badly it’s now half the MSRP and comes with 10 free games (and still won’t sell). The file size of games for this sort of device is also going to be a LOT higher than an old PSP game or an Android/iOS game, and while that isn’t a problem for many of us these days there are still a lot of people who have slow Internet connections. Even with a high speed Internet connection, imagine the cost of the flash memory needed to hold even a moderate amount of games on the device. The PSP Go has 16GBof storage and that only has to deal with 2005-sized games. Lastly, the flash cards will be able to hold additional data such as DLC, patches and save games which is a huge bonus that people who play DLC and patch heavy games will appreciate.

Besides, chances are that all old downloadable PSP games will work as well as download-only minigames and PS1 games that are currently available for the PSP and PSP Go, so you won’t be restricted to only using physical game media. Sony also announced PS Suite today, a software solution for Android that allows Android devices and the NGP to play Playstation-branded downloadable games. Whether this includes all content is unsure as far as I’ve managed to find out, but I’m pretty sure it will. No word if PS Suite will make it to iOS, Maemo, WP7 or any other platform but seeing that Sony uses Android for their Sony Ericsson phones it wasn’t a surprise to see that platform get this feature first.

Personally I can’t wait until this thing hits the market- which is said to be before Christmas this year. I love my PS3, and the way I see it this is a portable version of that to a bigger degree than the original PSP ever was. Again I can’t help but see the similarities to a tablet, with both the hardware, size and screen being only a few hardware buttons and another OS away from being any other Android tablet. The PSP had a web browser as well as some additional non-gaming software back in 2005, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this thing turned out to be Twitter/Facebook-connected and supported a few apps as well. Either way, it stands out from the crowd enough with it being a game console first and foremost, which I think it enough to make it a winner. I know I for sure will get in line to pick one up in a little under a year, and I just hope that there will be a Ratchet & Clank game for it at launch- after all, as much as I love my iPad it doesn’t have a R.Y.N.O

If you want to see more pictures and some videos of the NGP in action, head over to Engadget. The official press release is here.

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.