Sony Unveils the NGP, the Next Evolution of Portable PlayStation Hardware

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As widely expected, Sony debuted their next mobile gaming device earlier today in Japan. Rumors have run hot and heavy over the last few months about what the so-called and elements of the PlayStation Meeting presentation have borne out some of the speculation.

Codenamed NGP for Next Generation Portable, the handheld sports two analog joysticks, a purported first for such a gaming system. It also boasts a five-inch OLED touchscreen and a corresponding touch panel on the rear of the unit. The NGP’s looks harken back to the first Playstation models, while The 3G connectivity that was first reported last year gets paired up with WiFi to create an ideally seamless online experience. Games (and presumably other content) will live on a new Flash cartridge format, which will co-exist in conjunction with digital distribution methods. The NGP’s elongated oval look harkens back to the industrial design of the earliest PSP model, leaving the flat, compact aesthetics of the PSPGo to languish.

Sony plans on making the device’s connectivity drive social networking and content discovery, too. The consumer electronics giant unveiled a new application called Near, which will built into the NGP. Near allows you to browse what other players in the vicinity have been playing and will link you back to the online PlayStation Network, where you’ll be able to buy the same game.

Representatives of prominent software partners were on hand to sing praises of the in-development platform and show off some of its capabilities. Renowned game designer Hideo Kojima showed off a port of PS3 best-seller Metal Gear Solid 4, explaining how easy it was to move the game from the powerful home console to the new handheld. Epic Games–fresh off of their iOS hit Infinity Blade–showed off a game called Dungeon Defenders, which was built using Epic’s Unreal Engine.

The NDP’s going to make a holiday debut in Japan, with no word on availability for North America or Europe. There was also no mention of price, a detail that will no doubt have to wait until this summer’s E3. Until then, find the full spec sheet below for your edification:

CPU
ARM® Cortex™-A9 core (4 core)
GPU
SGX543MP4+
ExternalDimensions
Approx. 182.0 x 18.6 x 83.5mm (width x height x depth) (tentative, excludes largest projection)
Screen
(Touch screen)
5 inches (16:9), 960 x 544, Approx. 16 million colors, OLED
Multi touch screen (capacitive type)
Rear touch pad
Multi touch pad (capacitive type)
Cameras
Front camera, Rear camera
Sound
Built-in stereo speakers
Built-in microphone
Sensors
Six-axis motion sensing system (three-axis gyroscope, three-axis accelerometer), Three-axis electronic compass
Location
Built-in GPS
Wi-Fi location service support
Keys/Switches
PS button
Power button
Directional buttons (Up/Down/Right/Left)
Action buttons (Triangle, Circle, Cross, Square)
Shoulder buttons (Right/Left)
Right stick, Left stick
START button, SELECT button
Volume buttons (+/-)
Wireless communications
Mobile network connectivity (3G)
IEEE 802.11b/g/n (n = 1×1)(Wi-Fi) (Infrastructure mode/Ad-hoc mode)
Bluetooth® 2.1+EDR (A2DP/AVRCP/HSP)