As expected, Sony announced their new gaming handheld in Tokyo today, which—as we already know—they’ve codenamed NGP (Next Generation Portable). Face it: the thing is sexy.  It has a 5-inch OLED screen with a resolution of 960x544.  While not quite full HD, images will be much clearer than the standard resolution of other handhelds. (If you're into spin, just call it a battery-saving feature.) Other nuts and bolts include: 3G connectivity, solid-state memory, cameras on the front and back, and a built-in microphone.

The controls, though, are where the NGP really shines. Unlike the original PSP, the new device has twin analog sticks (no nubs here), allowing you to move with one and free-look with the other. The screen is touch-sensitive, which is becoming the standard; what's unique here, though, is the inclusion of a touch panel on the bottom/back of the device. Finally, like so many smartphones, the NGP has motion-control technology integrated into it as well. Sony has clearly given gaming developers a plethora of interesting control schemes they can design around. 

The NGP will also feature a network called LiveArea where players can interact, show off their PSN trophies, and possibly even join games together. There's also Near, a location-based technology that will detect signals from other nearby NGP players and display information about them, such as which games they’ve played recently or how skilled they are. Uh, creepy. Games will be available for download via an online service called PS Suite. The NGP will also support games on flash memory sticks, assuaging any fears that the device would be digital media only. Several big-name franchise iterations have been confirmed for the budding handheld, including Uncharted, Call of Duty, Killzone, LittleBigPlanet, Resistance, and wipEout

It’s clear that the NGP is stuffed with impressive features, but it doesn't do 3D—while its main competitor, the Nintendo 3DS, has all of its eggs in the 3D basket. Pricing hasn't yet been announced for the NGP, though message boards across the interwebs are speculating somewhere in the $300-$500 range. Nintendo has the advantage in that it will be coming to market in March, close to nine months before the NGP...but we’ll see who this battle favors come the holiday season 2011. 

By Richie Procopio

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