everyone attending their annual E3 press conference by announcing a
handheld gaming platform. The PlayStation Personal (PSP) was unveiled by
none other than PlayStation inventor, Ken Kutaragi, who called the new
device a "Walkman for the 21st Century". Thats a huge claim,
but from the hardware description Kutaragi summed up, the PSP looks to
be perhaps the most formidable foe the Game Boy has encountered so far.
Although there were no prototypes or visualizations of what the unit
might actually look like, Kutaragi treated us to a detailed rundown of
most of the internal hardware. The PSP will be a disc-based unit, using
Universal Media Discs, which can store up to 1.8GB of information and is
about the size of a Gamecube disc. For comparisons sake, typical DVD-Rs
hold 4.7GB, and manufactured movie and game DVDs often contain about 9GB
of data. On the flip side, a typical Game Boy Advance title weighs in at
about 8-16MB. What does all this mean for the consumer? Probably lots of
cutscenes. Add in the fact that the PSP will utilize the cutting-edge
MPEG-4 format (probably most familiar to our readers in the Div-X form,
although theres no indication that PSP will use the actual Div-X
format). That means a single UMD could contain a feature-length film,
about 1800 minutes of music, or a handheld game so robust we have never
seen anything like it.
With all of this storage power, it will help that the PSP sports a
fully capable 3D processor. The 3D rendering power will pump out good
numbers of polygons and supports NURBS rendering, which should make
everything nice and smoothalthough the tech specs on the actual
processor arent quite filled in, this thing looks to possess graphics
processing strength somewhere between the PSone and the PS2, which
should open a whole new world of gorgeous graphics to portable gaming.
The PSP will also feature the largest screen on a portable system. It
will run at a 16:9 theatrical aspect ratio, and supports 480x272 pixel
resolution. Of course, having learned from portable systems of yore, the
screen will be backlit. Its very heartening to hear that Sony is
backing up the ability to create stunning visuals with the ability to
display stunning visuals.
Rounding out the system are a USB 2.0 connector and a slot for a Sony
memory stick, which will be used to save games. These input/output
options should allow for incredible expandability and, at the very
least, lightning quick game saves. It will be interesting to see how the
USB 2.0 port is used because such an option opens the door for various
forms of interoperability with home PCs, possibly PS2, and the bandwidth
is there to support high end video and audio applications and/or add-ons
as well. Finally, you wont have to spend all your nickels on batteries,
either, because the PSP features a built-in rechargeable battery,
similar to the GBA SP.
Sony didnt show us any images of the PSP unit, nor did they display
any prototypes or design concepts. But with a release date of late 2004,
it cant be too much longer before we begin seeing illustrations. Keep
an eye out.