8 Jun 2010

E3 2010 Hardware Preview

It's that time of the year again and the rumours are running wild. Surprisingly, in the past few days, several developers and publishers have been confirming some of those rumours and releasing some information to the public. Seems like their strategy this year is to make some announcements BEFORE E3, and then actually showing off gameplay or trailers during E3 itself. With that said, they are still some rumours and teasers floating around in cyberspace that have not been answered.

The most exciting E3 conventions (for me at least), have been those with major hardware announcements. This year, we would probably not see a PS4, Xbox720 or Wii 2, but we will be seeing hardware announcements in the handheld space.

The Nintendo 3DS has already been announced, but this E3 would give the world its first glimpse at the actual hardware and what it is capable of. The 3D screen itself would already be interesting enough on its own, but rumours began circulating that the handheld would have the processing power of a Gamecube (or Wii). Remember, the Gamecube trumps PS2 in terms of processing power, and the current PSP is extremely close to PS2 quality, so expect the 3DS to outperform the PSP. The question here, however, is by how much is it more powerful? Fresh rumours began appearing a few days ago on 2chan (an anonymous posting by someone who claims to be a developer) saying that the 3DS' processing power is closer to that of a PS3 or Xbox360. Someone did some math and came up with a reasoning for this. The 3DS has 2 screens running at 854x480 resolution. (edit: There's a rumour that one of the screens will be widescreen, while the other is 4:3. I think the pixel count would not change by much though.) That's a total of 800k pixels. For a modern HD-capable console, games typically run at 720p, with the total pixel count at about 900k pixels. If we assume that the 3D effect on the 3DS requires the rendering of a single scene twice, it will need to churn out 1.6 million pixels every time a home console does 900k pixels. Looking at this, it makes sense that the 3DS is going to need a lot of processing power in order to look good. My money is still on it being Gamecube-level graphics, but of course with a superior processor. Whether or not this processor is close to that of a PS3 or Xbox360 remains to be seen, but I doubt it.

The PSP2 is somewhat of a mystery right now. With so much attention on Nintendo's 3DS, people have forgotten earlier rumours about the processors behind both handhelds. Digital Foundry did a theoretical comparison of both processors and came up with the result that the PSP2 will have graphics exceeding the original Xbox, but below the Xbox360. Factor in the lower resolution screen and we'll have a PSP2 that is likely to have Xbox360's graphics. However, technically, the 3DS' processor is much less powerful than the PSP2's. This leads me to believe that either the 3DS graphics rumour are false, or the run at a much lower resolution than the expected 854x480. Or it might be both. Either way, it seems to me like both handhelds will have graphics very similar to each other, probably with PSP2 edging out slightly in terms of quality, and 3DS having a 3D display.

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