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Gaming

Sony tweaks PlayStation 2 design

The video game leader announces improvements aimed mainly at playback of DVD movies. For now, the new model is available in Japan only.

Video game leader Sony Computer Entertainment announced Monday that it has completed the first major redesign of its PlayStation 2 console, adding new features to improve playback of DVD movie discs.

The new version of the PS2 will be available in Japan starting May 15, Sony said in a statement. No date was set for availability in North America or Europe.

Improvements in the new version mostly focus on DVD playback. The new design will support most recordable DVD media, including DVD-R/RW and DVD+R/RW. The new PS2 will also support "progressive scan," a playback method used by some TV sets for clearer images, and it will come with a built-in infrared receiver for using a remote control to control DVD playback.

DVD playback has been a much bigger selling point for the PS2 in Japan than in the rest of the world. DVD players were still relatively expensive in Japan when the PS2 was introduced, and the PS2 became one of the cheapest ways to play DVDs.

The new version of the PlayStation 2 will also use a new cooling system that produces 75 percent less fan noise, according to Sony. The new design will also eliminate the console's IEEE 1394 "FireWire" port, which has seen limited use, mainly for high-speed networking of two or more consoles.

Sony has sold more than 50 million units of the PS2 to date, making it by far the most widespread of the current generation of game consoles. The PS2 competes with Microsoft's Xbox, which continues to sell poorly in Japan, and Nintendo's GameCube.