The announcement of the new PSP2 – or PlayStation NGP – included the revelation that the latest bit of gaming gadgetry would come with a quad-core processor and a quad-core GPU.
We were told that the CPU – the beating heart of the NGP – would be based on the new ARM Cortex A9 design and that anImagination TechnologiesSGX5 43MP4+ quad-core GPU would provide the visuals.
But why were these designs chosen for this next generation handheld? And, is the talk of the NGP being as powerful as the PS3 accurate?
ARM Cortex A9
First up is the ARM Cortex A9 – a design for a multicore processor that is intriguing the technology world.
With the first dual-core mobile phones only just hitting the market, the quad-core variant is yet to make an appearance in the wild.
Nvidia are one of the companies expected to make a quad-core processor using ARM's Cortex A9 design but the chip – which will probably be called Tegra 3 – is not slated to hit the market until the last quarter, which would just about fit the PSP2 timeline.
Tegra 3, however, would include GPU technology, whereas the NGP's specs point to a Imagination Technologies graphics component. So the processor could be a variant of Texas Instruments' OMAP4, for example.
ARM's official benchmarks for its Cortex A9 design suggests that a dual core configuration that is designed for performance rather than power can have a clock speed of up to 2,000Mhz.
Of course, the Sony NGP would need to be able to run for a decent length of time and without hefty cooling solutions, which means that the actual clock speed is difficult to nail down at the current time.
For reference, the PS3 runs on a Cell processor, offering 3.2Ghz of processing power.
Power versus performance
The reason that ARM designed chips have been chosen is the British company's impressive track record in offering processor designs more suitable for portable devices.
ARM has become a well established player in the mobile phone industry and, recently, Microsoft announced that the next iteration of Windows would also run on ARM chips as well as the standard x86 chipset that has been at the heart of computing for decades.
ARM designs mean good battery life – something which is still a huge consideration in every portable device – and this will be pivotal to the PlayStation NGP.
"The ARM Cortex A9 processor provides unprecedented levels of performance and power efficiency making it an ideal solution for designs requiring high performance inlow power or thermally constrained cost-sensitive devices," says ARM.
"The Cortex A9 MPCore processor provides the ability to extend peak performance to unprecedented levels while also supporting design flexibility and new features to further reduce and control the power consumption at the processor and system level."
Imagination Technologies PowerVR SGX5 43MP4+
The next component under the spotlight is the Imagination Technologies SGX5 43MP4+ quad-core graphics processor.
Imagination Technologies is another British company, which has both and Apple and Intel as substantial shareholders.
It's another company that has made waves in the mobile phone industry, and it is the PowerVR division that provides the SGX series5 GPU design for the NGP.
According to the company its SGX Series 5 is "a series of highly efficient graphics acceleration IP cores that meet the multimedia requirements of the next generation of consumer, communications and computing applications."
Again, the chip designs are scalable – allowing manufacturers to balance power use and performance – and has been designed to work for "very high performance consoles and computing devices."
"The family incorporates the revolutionary Universal Scalable Shader Engine (USSE), with a feature set that exceeds the requirements of OpenGL 2.0 and Microsoft Shader Model 3, enabling 2D, 3D and general purpose (GP-GPU) processing in a single core," adds Imagination Technologies' description.
Interestingly, the PowerVR SGX is a part of the Apple A4 system on a chip (SoC) used for the Apple iPad – although it is uses the 535 rather than the 543 listed in the PSP2 specifications.
Indeed, the iPad also uses ARM Cortex designs in its SoC – which means it will be particularly interesting to see how close the soon to be announced Apple iPad 2 comes to the kind of specs given for the NGP.
What is obvious from the specs given for the PSP2 (or Sony NGP to give it its codename) is that it should it be released today it would be by some margin the most powerful portable gaming device around – at least outside of gaming laptops.
But, when it finally arrives at the end of this year – or at least that's what we are anticipating, it is likely that many more devices will be utilising some, if not all of this technology.
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