Sony researcher Masanobu Okabe spilled the beans on some of the upcoming Playstation Portable’s specs at the recent Hot Chips conference. Sony’s entry into the hand held gaming market will come with a 333 MHz processor which has integrated graphics, a specialized core for video, a reconfigurable processing core that will enhance sound and 4 megabytes of integrated memory. Additionally the PSP will sport a 4.3-inch screen and play 1.8-gigabyte optical disks based on Sony’s Universal Media Disc standard.
Integrating all of these functions into a single piece of silicon will help reduce both power consumption and size, important characteristics in a handheld. Overall, the processor will run on 0.8 volts to 1.2 volts. Integration was a major characteristic of PlayStation 2 chips as well.
Half of the 4MB of integrated memory in the PSP chip will connect directly to the main microprocessor, while the other half will link to the media cores, Okabe said. The memory split is possible because the processor has a separate bus. The direct connection from the chip to the memory should help ensure that there’s a steady flow of data, he said.
Earlier presentations by Sony showed the chip with 8MB of integrated memory.
The graphics unit will be enhanced by Sony technology that will smooth out geometric wrinkles in graphical images, Okabe added.
The reconfigurable core inside the processor, called the Virtual Mobile Engine (VME), exists so that the main chip can make changes depending on its workload, offloading calculations or operations that tend to require a lot of power, if necessary. (Chips from Xilinx and other makers also have this capability.)
Like the integrated graphics core, the integrated VME runs at 166MHz. Sony first started integrating VMEs into products last year with the Network Walkman, a portable music device.
The graphics unit, the VME unit and the video unit are designed to power down independently when not in use, to cut energy consumption.
Still no word on what possible price point it’ll come with or an exact release date, but it sounds like Sony has a good contender in the PSP. It’ll be interesting to see how difficult it is to program for given the flexible nature of the processor.