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As portable gaming slowly becomes the domain of super-powered smartphones, traditional gaming companies such as Nintendo and Sony continue with their efforts in maintaining the lion’s share of the market with their distinct portable devices. Nintendo earlier this year released their next generation console, the Nintendo 3DS, to a lukewarm reception. Eyes then turned to Sony to see what the Japanese consumer electronics leader would bring to the table.
At the E3 Expo, Sony unveiled their latest portable gaming console, the Playstation Vita – a console that looked to magnify the gaming experience of their previous portable, the PSP, with numerous new features that took gaming beyond the controller environment. Of that feature set, the standouts include a five-inch OLED multi-touchscreen that provides an incredibly vibrant 16 million colors. To add a new level of functionality, the Playstation Vita also includes a touch-sensitive back. This touch panel located on the back of the Playstation Vita allows game developers to incorporate new actions into their games, as tracing your fingers along the backside of the system corresponds to movements on screen.
The Playstation Vita also incorporates all the bells and whistles of today’s high-end smartphones, including GPS, a three-axis gyroscope, a three-axis accelerometer and a three-axis electronic compass, with both 3G and WiFi connectivity (a WiFi-only model is also available).
From a technical perspective, the Playstation Vita is of great interest because it is the first portable computing device (apart from laptops) to incorporate a custom quad-core ARM-based processor. Sony has apparently turned to IBM once again for a customized processor to maximize its quad-core graphics processor. With the selection of a quad-core powerhouse, Sony hopes to differentiate itself not only from other gaming consoles, but also the gaming experience offered on tablets and high-end smartphones like the Apple iPhone 4S.
When we opened the Playstation Vita, the inside featured 4 separate PCBs that served different purposes. Two of the PCBs were relegated to the system’s analog and digital joysticks, another dedicated to the wireless communications of the Vita and a main board that housed the powerful processor, GPU and other components used to make the Vita functional.
The big design winners in the Playstation Vita were Toshiba, Qualcomm and Avago. Toshiba was able to leverage their relationship with Sony (the two worked together with IBM to develop the CELL processor) to aid in the manufacturing of the quad-core processor that powers the operations of the Vita. Toshiba also received design wins in providing the multichip memory package and the system memory of the device.
Qualcomm again wins a socket in a major consumer electronic device (their last being the Apple iPhone 4S) by providing their MDM6200 HSPA+ GSM modem solution. Unfortunately, it looks as though Sony decided to make the Vita a GSM-only device so CDMA customers will be out of luck hoping for their providers to offer the cellular-enabled version of the Vita. Qualcomm also scores another design win for the PM8028 power management IC, which we have seen in numerous devices this year.
Avago scored six socket wins in the Playstation Vita – recording a number of devices on the communications board. Other design winners include Kionix with their accelerometer and STMicroelectronics with two design wins.
Powering the Playstation Vita is a chip that is an industry-first for portable gaming (and handsets) - a quad-core ARM-based processor designed by the same partnership that brought out the CELL processor used in the Playstation 3. Manufactured in a joint effort between Sony and Toshiba, the CXD5315GG is a four core ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore processor. There was some speculation that Samsung would be the manufacturer but Sony looks to have chosen a fab that it had comfort with working in the past.
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