Tale of two portables: Sony NGP vs. Nintendo 3DS

Let's compare what we know about the Nintendo 3DS and Sony's just-announced NGP, Next Generation Portable, or PSP2.

Jeff Bakalar Editor at Large
Jeff is CNET Editor at Large and a host for CNET video. He's regularly featured on CBS and CBSN. He founded the site's longest-running podcast, The 404 Show, which ran for 10 years. He's currently featured on Giant Bomb's Giant Beastcast podcast and has an unhealthy obsession with ice hockey and pinball.
Jeff Bakalar
4 min read


January hasn't even come to a close and we've already been introduced to two brand new portable gaming systems--one from from Nintendo and one from Sony.

At a press event in Tokyo yesterday, Sony revealed its latest endeavor in the portable gaming world with what it is calling the "Next Generation Portable." Boasting PlayStation 3-calibur graphics, two cameras, 3G connectivity, Sixaxis controls, and two touch-sensitive areas, the NGP looks nothing like any of the so-called leaked photos that have circulated on the Internet and is clearly not the same as the Xperia PlayStation Phone.

Now that we know what we can expect from both companies, let's take a look at how the two portable systems stack up.

It's safe to say the specs Sony has thrown around will clearly outpace the 3DS, as was the case with the companies' last generation of portables. However, as we all know, these details did not have any effect on sales. Sony has taken a page out of the Nintendo DS' book with its touch screen and pad features, but it's far too early to be able to fully grasp what these details really mean for gamers. The Uncharted gameplay video we posted earlier shows a few ways these gestures might be implemented.

The NGP showcases a 960x544-pixel OLED screen, which isn't quite high enough of a resolution to call it portable HD gaming, but judging from videos that are beginning to surface, it's safe to say titles will look spectacular. If the 3DS' main selling point is 3D, we'd imagine the NGP's is its ability to render close to PS3-quality games.

Sony's NGP (Next Generation Portable): The PSP2 (photos)

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The 3DS and NGP are heavily focused on connectivity, with both systems utilizing Wi-Fi, but the NGP will also allow for GPS, Bluetooth, and 3G data service. In response to the 3DS' Street Pass and Spot Pass player-matchmaking features, the NGP seems like it will revolve around location-based multiplayer functionality with a social feature called Live Area.

The NGP does appear a bit bulkier than the original PSP, as Sony has once again opted for the brick design. Its two analog thumbsticks are also a very welcome addition, as the PSP only featured one. On the other hand, the 3DS will introduce the first-ever analog stick on a Nintendo portable, located just above the D-pad.

Both devices have rear- and front-facing cameras, with the 3DS able to shoot and display 3D photos. We're a little cloudy on the extent of the NGP's camera functionality, but with 3G connectivity, the possibilities certainly seem endless.

New to Sony is the NGP's touch abilities which feature a front screen and rear pad that react to finger gestures. The 3DS' lower screen keeps the touch functionality found on all DS devices, but will still require a stylus for most applications. We really think the rear touch panel on the NGP has potential especially because it allows players to interact with the screen without getting in the way of one's line of sight. (More on the two touchscreen technologies here.)

Nintendo 3DS (photos)

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Word is the NGP will utilize flash storage-based games and will have backward-compatibility with original PSP and PSOne games that can be downloaded to the device through the PlayStation Store. Sony also said that the NGP may have the ability to play ported versions of PS3 games.

We know the 3DS is backward-compatible with DS and DSi downloadable games, and will offer Game Boy titles through a 3DS online store.

In terms of which franchises gamers can expect on the NGP, Sony has announced support from series like Uncharted, Killzone, Wipeout, Resistance, LittleBigPlanet, Hustle Kings, Hot Shots Golf, and Call of Duty as well as new titles such as Little Deviants, Reality Fighters, and Gravity Daze.

Launch and launch window titles for the 3DS include games like the Dead or Alive Dimensions, Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D, Pilotwings Resort, Nintendogs + Cats, Madden Football, and more. We've got some impressions of these games from last week's 3DS event.

The outlook
Sony has really loaded up the NGP with a feature set unlike anything we've seen on a portable gaming machine, but it will be interesting to see how developers and gamers utilize these tools. Sony notably left out a price for the NGP, but we're hoping the technology inside doesn't push it over the $300 threshold.

Nintendo will have a healthy head start as the 3DS hits the U.S. on March 27 for $250. While Sony left out a price tag for the NGP, anxious gamers can expect to get their hands on the device this holiday season.

Without a doubt, 2011 is shaping up to be a make-or-break year for portable-gaming-centric devices, with products like the iPhone and iPad creeping their way into what has historically been a binary market. Will the public embrace the 3DS and NGP and match sales of the last generation, or will the emergence of Apple's casual gaming offerings turn this into a bloody battle to the death?