Behold the PlayStation 3 - Sony has finally given the world a first look at its next generation games console, which is set for release midway through 2006.
While no price has been set, Sony has confirmed the PlayStation 3 (now its official name) will use Blu-ray discs as its media format, trumping the Xbox 360 which will still utilise DVD. Blu-ray discs can hold up to six times as much data as current-generation DVDs. It will also support CR-ROM, CD-RW, DVD, DVD-ROM, DVD-R, DVD+R formats.
And in another plus for current PlayStation owners, Sony says the PS3 will be backwards compatible with PS2 and original PlayStation games. It will also have slots for Memory Stick Duo, an SD slot, and a compact flash memory slot. It will also sport a slot for a detachable 2.5-inch HDD, somewhat similar the Xbox 360's.
Out of the box, the PS3 will have the capability to support seven Bluetooth controllers. It will also have six USB slots for peripherals: four up front and two in the back. The PS3 will also have two high definition HDMI outputs.
Sony also laid out the technical specs of the device. The PlayStation 3 will feature the much-vaunted Cell processor, which will run at 3.2GHz, giving the whole system 2.18 teraflops of overall performance. It will sport 256MB XDR main RAM at 3.2GHz, and it will have 256MB of GDDR VRAM at 700MHz.
Sony also unveiled the PS3's graphics chip, the RSX "Reality Synthesiser," which is based on Nvidia technology. The GPU will be capable of 128bit pixel precision, 1080p resolution, some of the highest HD resolution around. The RSX also has 512MB of graphics render memory and is capable of 100 billion shader operations and 51 billion dot products per second. It also has more than 300 million transistors, larger than any processor commercially available today. It will be manufactured using the 90nm process, with eight layers of metal. The RSX is more powerful than two GeForce 6800 Ultra video cards, which would cost roughly US$1000 total if purchased today.
The PlayStation 3 will also sport some hefty multimedia features, such as video chat, Internet access, digital photo viewing, and digital audio and video. Sony Computer Entertainment head Ken Kutaragi introduced it as a "supercomputer for computer entertainment". Speaking of video, Sony Computer Entertainment's Chief Technical Officer Masa Chatani was on hand to show off the PS3's panoramic video functions. Since the console has two HD outputs, it is can be hooked up to two side-by-side HDTVs to projecting video in a 32:9 extra-widescreen format (think Cinemascope in your living room). Like a gigantic version of the Nintendo DS, the dual digital outputs also allow for an extended game display, with the action on one screen and either game information or video chat on the second.
To show off the PlayStation 3's graphical brawn, Sony showed several game demos at its pre-E3 press conference, including an Unreal 3 tech demo of what appeared to be Unreal Tournament 2007. In what must come as a relief to developers, Epic Games' Tim Sweeney was on hand to vouch for the PS3, saying it was "easy to program for" and that Epic had received its first PS3 hardware two months ago. He proved the tech demo was real time by showing it again and by manipulating the camera and zooming in.
However, Sweeney's words were only the beginning. Later, Sony trotted out a whole host of publishers that are backing the PlayStation 3. And in the process, it confirmed several games for the console. Hideo Kojima introduced Konami's Metal Gear Solid 4, Capcom showed off Devil May Cry 4, Namco unveiled Tekken 6, Polyphony Digital trotted out Gran Turismo 5, SCEE showed off a brutal section of the next Killzone, and Rockstar Games mentioned that a Grand Theft Auto would be released for the console.
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