Eurogamer's Digital Foundry tech blog has released an article looking in-depth at the options surrounding new handheld hardware for Sony, Nintendo and Apple, and notes the possibility that with Apple already on an annual release schedule, Nintendo could be set to release new hardware next year as well.
"While the combination of crippling losses, the general economic crisis and the advent of motion control are enough to stall the release of true next-generation consoles, there's strong evidence to suggest 2010 won't be the hardware drought we thought it might be," writes Richard Leadbetter. "Both Sony and Nintendo are deep in development on a new wave of handheld devices that look set to deliver a substantial amount of gaming power in a pocket-sized form factor."
He went on to look at detail at the new hardware set to power the forthcoming Sony and Nintendo products - neither of which have yet been officially acknowledged by the respective companies - could include, starting with the NVIDIA's Tegra 2 chipset in a possible new DS console.
"Let's just say that it is a significant improvement, and a colossal jump in performance compared to the current DS," he explains, going on to detail various attributes the chipset will include. "Our sources can only speculate at this point, but suspect anything up to 300MHz is possible, depending on just how much the platform holders want to concentrate on battery power. The faster the chip, the more impact it has on battery life... NVIDIA is on the record as saying that Tegra 2 offers four times the power of its predecessor.
Meanwhile, his analysis of the technology behind Sony's much-rumoured PSP2 reveals lots of raw power for developers to play with.
"From what we've learned about the in-development PSP2, the device is going to be a technological monster," he writes. "Insiders in the mobile space are fully aware that a deal has been struck between Sony and IMG (creators of the PowerVR derivatives found in the iPhone) and, as previously reported by Eurogamer, a multi-core variant of the forthcoming SGX543 looks set to the GPU of choice for the new machine.
"A four-core version of the chip appears to be most likely, and while this sounds like overkill, at 45nm you'd be looking at die of around 20 square millimetres based on measurement derived from IMG's own whitepaper. That's significantly lower than the silicon used by the current-generation PSP's graphics unit, which should give some inkling of an idea on costs and power consumption.
"So how do the potential PSP2 and DS2 architectures match up? The performance difference is potentially astonishing," he continues, before noting of the PSP2 technology that "you really have to sit down and take a deep breath before reading the next bit: we're talking about a GPU with the potential to be a halfway house between the raw power of the original Xbox's graphics chip and the Xenos GPU found in the Xbox 360, without factoring in all the advantages of running on a much lower resolution screen.
"Could the PSPgo really be a stop-gap unit designed to extend the PSP lifespan until its successor is ready to launch?" he concludes. "It's a possibility, though we suspect Sony would want to launch in the same window as its competition. A 2010 release for the new Nintendo handheld is conceivably no problem - the design of the chipset would've been complete last year and NVIDIA will be in full production of Tegra 2 in a matter of months.
"Up against an annually evolving platform in the form of Apple's iPhone, it will be interesting to see how the next generation of fixed platforms compete. While the prospective chipsets for the new Nintendo and Sony consoles look positively mouth-watering, the success of the DS and iPhone in particular emphasise that superb graphical prowess counts for little in the hearts and minds of today's gamers."
The full Digital Foundry article is available on Eurogamer now.