With this morning’s unveiling of the Sony NGP and Nintendo’s 3DS finally getting an official launch date, we’ve got the first proper handheld gaming console fight since the release of the original Nintendo DS back in 2004.
Both are high-powered machines with innovative features and promising launch line-ups, but which should you be saving up for? Tech Digest lay all that is known about both devices on the table to give you a better idea of which is deserving of your cash.
Nintendo 3DS: PICA200 GPU, 3.52 inch widescreen display / 800×240 resolution (400 pixels for each eye during 3D gameplay) top 3D screen, 3.02 inch bottom touch-screen display / 320×240 resolution, 5.3 inches x 2.9 inches x 0.8 inches in overall size, three cameras (two on rear casing, one above top screen at 0.3 megapixel), stereo speakers, motion sensor / gyro sensor, 2.4ghz / 802.11 wi-fi.
Sony NGP: ARM Cortex-A9 core (4 core), SGX543MP4+ GPU, 182.0 x 18.6 x 83.5mm overall size, 5 inch OLED display (960 x 544 ), capacitive rear touch pad with multitouch controls, front and rear cameras, built-in microphone, built-in stereo speakers, Six-axis motion sensing system (three-axis gyroscope, three-axis accelerometer), three-axis electronic compass, built-in GPS, Wi-Fi, Mobile network connectivity (3G), IEEE 802.11b/g/n (n = 1×1)(Wi-Fi) (Infrastructure mode/Ad-hoc mode) and Bluetooth® 2.1+EDR.
The Nintendo 3DS’s headline hardware feature is its autostereoscopic 3D display, meaning you can enjoy 3D visuals from games and movies without the need for a pair of compatible 3D glasses. A slider on the console’s edge allows you to adjust the effect’s intensity, switching it off altogether if you prefer. Just like the DS, it’s a dual-screen affair, with the top display showing 3D visuals, the lower having touchscreen controls. There’s also traditional face and shoulder buttons, with both a digital pad and analogue stick as well as motion controls.
Graphics capabilities make a huge leap forward in the 3DS, sitting somewhere between the look of Gamecube and Wii titles, while the increased screen resolution (800 x 240) allows for very crisp and detailed visuals.
The Sony NGP packs in some really powerful graphics processing tech in the shape of an ARM Cortex-A9 core (4 core) and SGX543MP4+ GPU. It should make it capable of near PS3-quality visuals, which will shine on the console’s superb single 5-inch OLED touchscreen display (960 x 544).
Traditional face and shoulder buttons are supplemented by motion controls and an intriguing rear multitouch capacitive track pad, which, when used in conjunction with the hardware buttons, will allow for all manner of gesture based combination commands. The NGP also features twin analogue sticks, which should allow for precise camera control and intuitive accurate, movements in adventure and FPS titles.
Cameras and Augmented Reality
With both handhelds featuring front and rear cameras, taking a few snaps between gaming sessions is possible, as well as the likelihood of video chat over either 3G or Wi-Fi.
No word yet on the quality of the sensor in the Sony NGP, nor megapixel count. However, we do know that the dual-lens 3DS will be capable of taking 3D pictures, though it is clocked at a measly 0.3 megapixels.
Both will also be capable of Augmented Reality gaming thanks to these camera, though details on the implementation here are sketchy on both devices. The 3DS was demoed recently with a small cartridge which its cameras could recognise, warping whichever surface it was placed on when viewed through the device’s screen. The NGP hasn’t had a chance to show off its AR muscles yet, but the added GPS features give it some interesting location-aware potential too.
Connectivity, Stores and Online Platforms
Both consoles will feature Wi-Fi connectivity, though the Sony NGP is more fully equipped, throwing 3G and Bluetooth into the mix too, as well as the afore-mentioned GPS tracking capabilities. This means you’ll be able to play online with pals on both consoles, as well as download games from their respective digital stores: The PlayStation Network for the Sony NGP and the eShop for the 3DS.
Playing against pals on the 3DS should be particularly easy thanks to the SpotPass and StreetPass connectivity options. SpotPass allows the console to passively access Wi-Fi networks and update console information and notifications from pals, while the StreetPass works in a similar way, informing you of nearby 3DS players waiting for a game. You’ll also be able to exchange Mii avatar data using StreetPass.
The Sony NGP introduces the PlayStation Suite network, allowing games to be played across both the Sony NGP and Android tablets and smartphones too, more of which we’ll touch upon in the next section.
Though neither Nintendo nor Sony have spoken of connectivity possibilities between their handheld and home consoles, you can certainly expect to see some sort of link between the NGP and PS3 eventually. The Wii on the other hand is coming to the end of its console life-cycle, so we’d expect to see the 3DS partner with whatever home console follow-up Nintendo have in mind post-Wii.
Traditionally, the Nintendo brand has been seen as more kid friendly than Sony, but all that may be set to change with the Nintendo 3DS. Launch titles include two gruesome Resident Evil games (Mercenaries 3D and Revelations), Street Fighter IV 3D and Dead or Alive Dimensions, all of which will certainly appeal to the hardcore gamer. 30 games in all are due to touch down over the course of the month following the console’s launch.
Classic franchises such as Zelda (with the Ocarina of Time 3D remake) and Kid Icarus (with Kid Icarus: Uprising) will all fall within this window, and you can bet your bottom dollar that it wont be too long before Mario graces the console too. Backwards compatibility is promised with all Nintendo DS games, while the Virtual Console will give access to retro game downloads.
Details are slim on the Sony NGP titles, but a showreel that included Killzone, Reality Fighters, Smart As, Broken, Little Big Planet, Little Deviants, WipEout, Resistance, Hot Shots Golf, Gravity Daze and Uncharted gave a hint at what was to come.
The Sony NGP will also feature access to the newly revealed PlayStation Suite, which will provide cross-platform gaming to devices using the Android OS, be they smartphones or tablets. As the hardware limitations will vary wildly here, we expect these games to be rather simple; of the app variety rather than full retail quality.
Pricing and Launch Date
Nintendo’s 3DS will launch in Europe on March 25th and the US on March 27th. It’ll be available a month earlier in Japan, from February 26th. Though pricing will vary from retailer to retailer, somewhere in the region of £230 seems to be the going rate for the Nintendo 3DS pre-orders.
While it’s too early to say when the Sony NGP will hit stores, safe money would be on a pre-Christmas launch, giving enough time for the hype surrounding the 3DS to die down, while also giving ample opportunity for Sony to reap in some holiday cash. As is traditionally the case with Sony hardware launches, expect to see Japanese gamers get hold of the console first.
No pricing available for Sony’s console either yet, but a smartphone with similar OLED screen and connectivity options, let alone gaming capabilities, would set you back at least £250 as a conservative estimate. We’re pitching for somewhere around £300 for the Sony NGP, which would be very expensive, but we’re happy for Sony to prove us wrong on that count.